Landscape as Witness - Field Trip: Day 7
As I have mentioned previously, oral history plays a huge role in my research. I partly converse with locals about their knowledge of the famine just so that I can locate the whereabouts of famine constructions that I am hoping to photograph. However, I also do this so I can observe their sometimes lack of knowledge on the subject. So far, the latter has been much more prevalent.
I began today with the names of three people who could possibly aid me with my research, two men from New Quay and another from Flaggy Shore. I didn't have any addresses, but I was equipped with detailed directions supplied by locals. Upon arriving in New Quay I discovered that there was a funeral taking place at the local church, which explained why nobody was home at the first house I called into. A neighbour noticed me and advised that I call back in a couple of hours, as the funeral had only just begun. I made my way further into New Quay and managed to catch the second man at his home before he left to attend the same funeral. Although he was going to be busy working on his house over the next week, he kindly agreed to talk to me about my project this day week, between 4-6pm.
After organising that meeting I cycled on to Flaggy Shore, where the weather took a turn for the worse. There had been a bit of a breeze on my way down to Bellharbour, but by this stage the wind had really picked up. As well as that the heavens had now opened, starting with a light shower before it really began pouring down. I called into a local café to seek shelter from the downpour, and asked for directions while I was there. Unfortunately I was informed that the man I had been hoping to talk to had been recently diagnosed with Alzheimers, and would be unable to assist me. However, the owner of the café was able to give me the name of a man in Ballyvaughan who was also known to have great knowledge of the history of the area. She also informed me of the lobster pond in Flaggy Shore. This pond was once known to be crammed full of oysters and lobsters, and local lore says that during the famine times it was common to see people reaching into the pond in a desperate attempt to catch something to sustain themselves.
On my return to New Quay I discovered that I had called into the wrong house earlier, and was sent further up the road. Once I found the man in question, he informed me that he knew nothing about the famine, nor could he think of many people around the area who did. Furthermore, he said that the subject was never talked about, and that they were never taught about it in school. He claimed that the coastal areas weren't hit as badly as other areas of the country during the famine, and that this may explain the lack of memories that had been passed down to him. This could very well be true. A common theory is that those who were affected by the famine either emigrated or died, leaving the surviving population in Ireland with a sense of guilt and shame for having gained from the tragic event. The history was then suppressed in an attempt to forget and move on.