Corca Dhuibhne rears powerful women. I have elderly neighbours here who grew up living lives that would flatten me in a week. They kept house, looked after kids and old people, milked cows, made butter, cared for calves, raised poultry, grew their own food, and baked and cooked with great skill over open turf fires on stone hearths. As children they walked barefoot to school. As adults they often went barefoot too, and worked in the fields with the men; a friend of mine remembers women with legs and ankles cut raw by the stinging wind. Electricity and piped water didn't come to the houses in this village till the nineteen sixties. In the days before they got here, women washed everything by hand, carrying water from the spring, and boiling it on the fire. Last winter, during a week of power-cuts, I got an inkling of what that meant. And I just had to wash dishes. They washed laundry too, for households of up to fifteen people, and dried it on lines or on bushes. Living miles from he…
Green shoots force their way through the debris of winter storms.
Sunlight freckles on green growth in the ditches.
And here in the westernmost mainland parish in Ireland, the St Patrick's Day celebrations crackle with energy and excitement, amalgamating the triumph of the Christian saint over the druids with the triumph of the Good Goddess over darkness, and the joyous return of life to the land.
However, St. Patrick's personal association with the colour green and the dear
little shamrock isn't altogether straightforward. In fact, wearing red, not green, for St. Patrick's day has a time-honoured heritage in Ireland. It was recorded in 1681 that 'the poorer people' in Ireland wore
shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. But others, we're told, wore crosses -
and the first reference, in 1628, describes Irish soldiers wearing St. Patrick's Day crosses made of red ribbon 'after their country manner…