Folk Dance, Gaeilge, and walking Achill Island

December 30 we spent the day at the Valley House, as our folk education came to us. We started the day with Emma Fallon, a native Irish (Gaeilge) speaker who came to give us a bit of history of Gaeilge and the status of language in Ireland. We capped the discussion with a basic lesson in Gaeilge greetings (Dia Duit/Hello) and the months and days of the week.

After lunch, Eileen O’Connor, an Irish Dance instructor, came to talk about this evolution of Irish traditional dance. That was fascinating, but she took the time to teach us three different dances, and bless Eileen O’Connor’s heart, she got everyone in the group up pounding the floor. It was great exercise and a lot of fun.

Today (New Year’s Eve) we spent the morning doing class-related activities (talking about proper formatting of paperwork and submitting documents in format. Folklorists doing ethnographic work are the first archivists of any project, so this essential to proper collections.

We met a group of local islanders who call themselves the Sunday Steppers. I thought we were going to meet another dance troupe (ha!), but it turns out that they’re a walking group that meets at least every Sunday to walk together, rotating through each of Achill Island’s 13 villages.

The steppers Cathy, Joan and Brita, took us on an amazing walk to the seashore and lakes just minutes away from the Valley House. We started at three and saw the sunset on the beach. It was amazing.

We then headed out for a New Year’s dinner at Gielty’s pub, followed by fireworks at midnight and a procession of locals who follow the neighborhood bagpipe band through the village. The procession stopped at various points along the way (local pubs and neighborhoods), then ended with the island’s different pipe bands meeting up and playing together.

So we ended 2019 and began 2020 with two breathtaking landscapes.

Emma Fallon teaching basic Gaeilge
Dusk on Achill
Along the beach
Achill Sunset
Neighborhood sheep
Mary Beth and Leigh working on Field notes. The students are always working on field notes!

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