Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stone Walls and Famine Walls


            Easily over-looked by the locals of Ireland, yet strangely conspicuous and peculiar to the visitor, the stone walls of southwest Ireland divide the landscape into a quilted pattern of beautiful greens, browns and occasionally yellows. Tourists and visitors often inquire about these short, unstable, beautiful walls. One may initially propose the walls serve as a division of property. Perhaps, they serve as an organizational method for various types of livestock. However, the real reason for this magnificent display of stone walls across the Irish landscape is a practical and annoyingly obvious vindication one may be embarrassed of not thinking of immediately. 
The rocky soil in an area on the Island of Inishmore of the Aran Islands
                The soil in some parts of Ireland- the southwest, for example, is very rocky by nature. The soil needed to be cleared of all the stones in order for the land to be farmed. The stones were then used to make the walls we can now see today crawling along the hills and through the valleys of Ireland. The stones found in the ground were typically carboniferous limestone, especially in areas such as Galway, Clare and the Burren. Building these walls required no special skills beyond those acquired through the passing down of generations. No mortar is involved with building these walls. The larger stones are placed on the bottom and they become smaller once you get towards to top. Each stone is fitted as carefully as possible. The walls can easily fall down and often need to be repaired.
The Burren
              While visiting the Burren, one may wonder about the solitary walls that creep up the surrounding hills appearing to be there for no reason at all. The truth about those particular walls is dismal and heavy spirited. During the infamous Potato Famine beginning in 1845, those walls were built by starving and impoverished men working for a work scheme run by local churches and landlords who would pay in small amounts of food. The Irish are a proud people and would not receive any charity without working for it. While this was the main reason for the Famine walls, it was not the only reason. These walls also served the usual, practical purpose of ridding the local soil of the stones so the land there could be farmed.
         The stone walls of Ireland are a beautiful and extraordinary display of the hardworking mentality of the Irish people. They are also a breath-taking site there to remind both locals and visitors of the histories of the brilliant country in which they were built.



Sources:
"STONE WALLS." DOCHARA.COM . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jul 2011. <http://www.dochara.com/places-to-visit/odd-unusual/stone-walls-2/>.

 

2 comments:

  1. heartbreaking. I heard from my Mom, who spent portions of her childhood in Ireland, that these walls were often made because the British forced them to make them. If they didn't build them, regardless of their age, they wouldn't be fed.. That is heartbreaking.

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  2. "The Irish are a proud people and would not receive any charity without working for it."

    This is white washed nonsense. The British government refused to give out food unless it was worked for based on beliefs that the Irish were a lazy race who needed the firm hand of the English masters

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