Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31-Ireland's terrible beauty

I wrote this while waiting for a flight to Ireland from JFK Airport in New York: In less than 12 hours, I will arrive in the land that my great-grandfathers left over a hundred years ago. I am making a sentimental journey to the Ireland of my mother's memory and my ancestors' discontent...a journey deep into what makes up my being. The first photograph is from Connemara in the west - the incredible Cliffs of Moher. More photographs can be seen in my Celtic gallery.

Three books about the Irish experience of the 19th and 20th centuries, in particular the Irish diaspora, had a lasting effect on me and, I am sure, influenced how I experienced Ireland toward the end of "The Troubles" in the 1980s. "The Great Hunger" by Cecil Woodham-Smith describes the Irish famine of 1845-1852 that killed more than a million people and drove many more to Australia, New Zealand, and the United States - including my great-grandparents. The other two books are both by Leon Uris: his novel "Trinity" and a non-fiction work with his photographer wife Jill, "Ireland: A Terrible Beauty."

William Butler Yeats coined "terrible beauty" in a poem about Ireland following the 1916 "Easter uprising" that signaled the beginning of a free Ireland: "a terrible beauty is born." What many called "the troubles" continued well into the 1980s because Ulster, the province that is now Northern Ireland, remained part of the United Kingdom.

Gerry Tuite, now an businessman in Ireland, was jailed for his involvement with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and a prison break. Nicky Kelly was a politician who was charged for his alleged part in a train robbery and became a symbol of injustice. A graffiti campaign was launched throughout Ireland. This one was in the west near the Ring of Kerry. Nicky was pardoned and released in 1984. He is still involved in local politics and serves as mayor of an Irish town.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. One day...I have been saying that forever...but one day.