The village of Murrisk lies between the shores of Clew Bay and the iconic pilgrimage mountain of Croagh Patrick. Positioned between structures of recent and ancient past history, you also discover a few Irish horses grazing on pasture ground, including a frisky colt showing off for the on-looking tourists.
A sobering sight in Murrisk is a reflective monument known as the National Famine Memorial. The haunting bronze sculpture by artist John Behan, depicts a coffin ship with rigging of human skeletons and bones. During the years 1845-1850 between 500,000 and 1 million people died from hunger and epidemics due to the potatoe famine and politics of the day. Many more escaped their country and emigrated mainly to the United States and Canada. They crossed the Atlantic in overloaded ships. The conditions were so hard that many people died during the trip, thus the name "coffin ships". It is estimated that tens of thousands of Irish rest on the bottom of the world's oceans, their lives extinguished because of filthy and congested conditions on the ships with inadequate clean water and food, causing fever and disease.
The monument was commissioned "To honor the memory of all who died, suffered and emigrated due to the Great Famine of 1845-1850 and the victims of all famines".
In traveling from Murrisk to Westport, our tour bus passed this country scene where a herder was working his dogs in gathering a band of sheep. It was fascinating to watch these dogs who efficiently followed the signals of the herder and grouped them according to direction given them. It is said that one good sheep dog is better than 10 men trying to do the same job. A dog with the right directive, can move in sync with the herder and using instinct and skill can gather a scattered flock into a collective band of sheep.
One of my favorite villages was the charming town of Westport with its flowers, colors, lights and fun atmosphere. One of the town's outstanding features is the elegant tree-lined boulevard, known as the Mall. Westport was overall winner of 2001, 2006 and 2008 "National Tidy Towns Award'. In 2012, award-winning Westport was crowned "The Best Place to Live in Ireland, Ireland's Tidiest Large Town, Ireland's Best Kept Large Town and the Retail Excellence Best Town in Ireland".
Matt Molloy's in Westport was a great pub experience that is uniquely Ireland. The music was toe-tapping and wonderfully executed by young musicians playing to the crowd. Nimble hands and fingers played stringed instruments in a blur of synchronized energy. Pub life and music starts at 9:00 p.m. and lasts through 2:00 a.m in Ireland as it is all over Europe. It was worth the late hour to enjoy this part of Irish culture.
Join me at The Turn-Up Patch for another adventure in two more weeks - Monday, October 13. Until then, here is an Irish blessing for you....
May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always carry a shilling or two.
May the sun always play on your windowpane.
May a rainbow chase after each spot of rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness and cheer you.