Landscape as Witness - Field Trip: Day 12
Today I was able to conduct my first 'interview' of the trip, with the owner of a B&B just outside Ballyvaughan. I put 'interview' in apostrophes because the format is more like an informal conversation that just so happens to be recorded. I do my best to make this clear from the very beginning, just to put the other person at ease. People tend to act a certain way when they are being interviewed, they can become more rigid and their responses tend to very carefully thought out. The aim of these 'interviews' is for the person to forget that they are being recorded. This is also one of the reasons why I choose not to film these conversations. Although it would be beneficial to have a visual representation, I felt that the disadvantages far outweighed the advantages. As with the interview setting, a person is bound to act/speak differently when there is a camera pointing at them. Because of this, I felt that an authentic, relaxed conversation would be much more beneficial than a slightly more rigid, controlled one. Often people are a tad suspicious when a complete stranger approaches them to request an 'interview', and understandably so. It helped that I had already conversed with the owner of the B&B previously, so the atmosphere remained relaxed and open throughout our conversation.
To say that this person has helped with the furthering of my research would be an understatement. I had already known how much knowledge he had of the area and its history, so I had been relishing the idea of discussing my project with him. Straight away he was able to point out the locations of three Public Works Scheme constructions that were built around Ballyvaughan, which he marked out for me on the map that I had brought along with me.
He was also able to explain why Ballyvaughan wasn't really catered for during the famine years, in comparison to the various other towns and villages around North Clare. The building of these famine constructions largely depended on the landlord of the area. If the landlord was active and had an interest in looking after the people living on his land, more of these constructions would take place. However, the landlord of Ballyvaughan at the time was a gambler, with little to no interest for the wellbeing of his tenants. This could partly explain why there weren't many constructions built as part of the Public Works Scheme around the area.
I was also informed that not one, but two workhouses were built in Ballyvaughan during the famine (1851), something that was highly unusual at the time. It is theorised that they were mainly built to draw the diseased/starving peasants away from other areas, which highlights how the village of Ballyvaughan used to be regarded. One of these workhouses was eventually torn down, and the stone from it was used to build the local promenade. The other warehouse still remains standing to this day, located in the village on some private land.
After this incredibly successful and beneficial conversation, I began to make my way back up to the research facility in Carron. Unfortunately, with about 5km to go my bike chain jammed. Usually this can be rectified easily enough, but on this particular occasion one of the links in the chain had completely wedged itself between the cassette and the spoke protector, and no amount of force could dislodge it. Thankfully I didn't have too far a walk, and was even able to freewheel down the occasional decline on my way back. The weather also helped, as the majority of the showers had occurred earlier on in the day. On returning I was able to unjam the chain with help of a fellow researcher, who is also staying at the facility. It was yet another reminder of how dependant I am on my bike, with many of places that I am required to travel being unreachable by foot.