The Fieldschool in Ireland

IMG_0300We arrived in Dublin, tired but in good spirits. Only one student had travel problems–her plane was delayed in Newark and she had to fly in a day late. We’re well into day 2 and she’s expected to arrive (after a series of delays, missed buses, etc) later this afternoon.

I met with the field school students for pre-departure training in early December. It was the very end of the semester and not the best time to learn something new. The training was also briefer than I would have liked (in an ideal world, pre-fieldwork training should be about 20 hours, we met for 10). But knowing that we’d all be together for the first 10 days (same hostel), I assumed that we could work through some of the finer points of fieldwork on site.

After our rendezvous at the Dublin airport, we took a coach to Achill Island, stopping at the Michael Davitt museum en route. We had a lost purse/passport scare (it was left at a rest stop on the highway), but luckily we were able to get back there and find it without a crisis.

Today we headed out to the Deserted Villiage, a once neolithic village that lasted into the 1950s. It was a moist foggy day, and we were thankful it was windy with no rain. The remains of the stacked stone cottages (ancient tiny houses that looked to be about 200 square feet and home to 8-15 and a few cows) dotted the hillside. The remains are largely walls in various states of decay–the thatch roofing has long gone. I was impressed with the amount of freshwater. There were small streams draining from the hills, and even a natural spring. There were sheep grazing freely amongst the village remains. In fact, everywhere we went today we found sheep–on the roadsides (the bus driver pulled over several times to let the sheep pass) in the fields, and even in the backyard of the Valley House.

When we returned from the Deserted Village, we grabbed a quick lunch and had an afternoon session with harpist Laoise Kelley, who talked about the harp as Ireland’s national symbol and provided a lovely history of the Achill Harp festival. She also played a variety of traditional harp tunes. It was magical.

Tonight we’ll head to a local pub for the welcome dinner and music. And our lost student made it to Achill during the harp concert, so we’re all here and ready to officially kick-off the fieldschool

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