though gorgeous, the Doo Lough Valley is known for one of the more devastating tragedies I heard about the Famine.
in March 1849, destitute tenants of Louisburgh were told to walk to the lodge at Delphi (where they were told they would meet an inspector who would determine whether they could continue receiving assistance). some six hundred people set out on the twelve-mile walk along a beautiful but desolate valley. when they arrived at Delphi Lodge, they were turned away. (the inspector was supposed to show up in Louisburgh, but went on to Delphi Lodge for some reason instead.) the people were already devestatingly weak from malnutrition and years of living under the oppression of the Famine. numbers are disputed (at least between the places i checked), but on the walk back from Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh as many as 200 people died. there’s a stone cross commemorating the tragedy just over the road from where i am standing in this picture. every year there is a Memorial Walk, and in 1988 (just prior to the abolition of apartheid) Desmond Tutu participated.
that’s the thing about Connemara; because it was so dependant on the potato, the area was particularly affected by the Famine. it seems that around every corner there is some reminder of tragedy on some scale. but in spite of that, life has moved on; can’t dwell on tragedy and loss forever, even if it has dramatically shaped the present and fundamentally altered the course that events might take.
(Joseph O’Connor has an interesting historical fiction novel that personalizes the effects of the Famine, in which the characters hail from Connemara (the nearest town is Clifden, and the Big City is Galway): Star of the Sea.)