What’s a “Gaeltacht”?

Today turned out unexpectedly busy. I had a meeting this morning with the WIT nursing faculty member who supervises MGA’s School of Health Sciences study abroad here, then lunch and some moving-around of money, then an errand downtown, a visit to WIT’s “other” accommodations at Manor Village where the Health Sciences students stay when they are here, and to cap off the day, a lesson on traditional Irish food and drinks concluding with an Irish-coffee-making demonstration. In other words it’s 7:30 p.m., the World Cup semifinal is on, and I amĀ tired. But triumphant!

Yesterday we visited An Rinn (Anglicized as “Ring,” which isn’t correct becauseĀ rinn means “peninsula,”), which is Co. Waterford’s Gaeltacht. A Gaeltacht (pronounced roughly like “gwell-tocked”) is an Irish-speaking region. Our tour guide for the day, Liam, works for Colaiste na Rinne, the gaelscoill (Irish-language school) in An Rinn, and is an expert on local history. We were welcomed to Colaiste na Rinne for tea and scones before setting off to tour around An Rinn and Ardmore. We visited several historic sites in Ardmore relating to St. Declan. He is credited–alongside St. Patrick but less well known–with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and he founded a monastery in Ardmore. Between the St. Declan sites we visited a famine graveyard, where hundreds of famine victims were buried in unmarked pits. The memorial monuments at the site are relatively recent; Liam says that Irish people do not want to remember the famine because it was associated with poverty and insecurity. I can’t say I blame them, but being there and knowing the history is deeply moving.

To complete the day we walked up and around the Ardmore cliffs. The cliff walk is a little strenuous and covers about 3 miles, but it is worth the effort because the views are so beautiful. The run of good weather is continuing and we made the most of it again yesterday–then we all slept very well last night.

On with the photos and then on to tomorrow and our last field trip for this year!

Listening to Liam.

Perched on the seawall at Ardmore.

Walking into the famine graveyard.

The famine memorial

St. Declan’s Stone: According to legend, Declan received a golden bell from heaven while saying a Mass. He wanted to bring it to Ireland from Rome but left it behind because it was too big. When he sailed to Ireland from Wales, the bell appeared, floating on this boulder, as he entered the harbor. Pilgrims now climb through the space under the stone to receive physical healing and spiritual benefits.

At St. Declan’s Well, thought to have been a hermitage for him and now a pilgrimage site for believers.

On the Ardmore cliff walk.

One more St. Declan site: a cathedral dating to the 12th century.

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