I love heading off on road trips and I love exploring places that I’ve never been to before. There’s also something about autumnal skies that add to the journey. I left home before the sun woke up and took a drive to Louisburgh in County Mayo, as I reached Knocknashee – the hill of the fairies the sun was starting to rise. I wish I’d filmed the drive because at points it was like the sky was on fire and at other times there were the most beautiful bright rainbows.
I took a wrong turn (of course) – if you know me you will know that I have zero sense of direction. I ended up down a narrow lane, with little cottages and a couple of people walking. I got the friendliest of smiles and waves and there was one person I wish I’d stopped to chat to, he looked like such a character. I passed an egg stall with an honesty box and trees full of robins and other birds.
I ended up on the right road and the drive is spectacular, the long and winding road, surrounded by cloud covered mountains, with just the sheep for company. I parked by the Famine memorial, as spectacular as this location is it’s important to remember those who lost their lives. The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mór ) is the biggest tragedy to have hit Ireland, in 1849 hundreds of people made their way from Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge where they were told they’d be given food, they were turned away. Already weak and starving when they started out on their journey, most of them didn’t make it back.
It’s an extremely moving place, it doesn’t bear thinking about what happened to those families, and how it was allowed to happen. The inscription on the stone cross uses a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: ‘How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?’
The name of Doolough comes from the lake, known locally as the “Black lake” or in Irish as “Dubh Loch”. I stood watching the clouds pass over and the lake change colour, glimmers of light in the dark water.
I made my way back to Louisburgh, my head full of thoughts of the Doolough Tragedy.