Family & Famine

County Mayo, in the north-west of Ireland is not on the itinerary of many visitors to Ireland but it was one of the places I was very keen to visit as it was the birthplace of my great-grandfather.  Killala, a small village on the shore of Killala Bay was where his father ran a shop.  Although I did not have specific details about any particular locations relevant to the family, I enjoyed walking around the village and seeing some of the sights.

The Round Tower

IMG_1075A stone cottageIMG_1086Boats near the pierIMG_1065Church of Ireland – Cathedral of St PatrickIMG_1084We then headed south through magnificent coastal and mountain scenery but this was tempered by two tragic sights.

The first is a sculpture at Murrisk, between Westport and Louisburgh.  It is the Great Famine National Monument and is a replica of one the so-called “coffin ships” which carried starving emigrants to America.  Many of them died during the voyage, hence the name.  The sculpture shows skeletons hanging from the rigging and is a grim reminder of the horrors of that time.

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A few miles further on we saw this simple gray stone cross by the side of the road.

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It is in memory of the 600 starving people who walked 12 miles to request food from their landlord who refused and more than 200 of them died on the return journey in this remote and desolate valley overlooking Doo Lough (Black Lake).  People walk this route every year to remember those who perished and Archbishop Desmond Tutu made the walk not long before the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

We continued south through Connemara where there was stunning scenery at every turn and this an area I would love to explore in more depth.

After a long day we reached our next stop at Kinvara, near Galway.

Although I did not see the sun set, it was shining over Galway Bay.

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