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Washing Bay, Northern Ireland September 21st 2023 – Come Home Journal #31

A reckoning of the journey (turas) to tour Dancing Shadows in Ireland, a retrospective of my film works as part of the Come Home project.

A good laugh and a long sleep. It’s all you’ll ever need.

The names of places in Ireland are layers and layers and layers of story after story. They are often stories of power, cultural overlays and descriptions of locations or happenings. And who might or might not agree with those descriptions. So I am prepared to accept contradiction, different spellings, old and new languages. And you dear ready will need to accept the fact that I might not be in the place I said I’d be, but if I’m not I’ll be close by. So by my reckoning I’m staying in Washing Bay!

At Portadown Railway Station I stand by the pick up place and wait for my cousin Nuala and daughter Lucy to pick me up. Nuala is so completely unchanged since years earlier I’d recognise her in a lineup! Lucy however is grown into a grand young woman, full of verve she is a force of nature. We talk about butter, her favourite food as a child, and still tops. We pick up the incredible Aimee from school and I get a tour complete with map and history! Aimee is so shy to start, but soon we are filmmaking, dancing, telling jokes and laughing up the place. What incredible wonders children are.

Later that evening the siblings take me for dinner with their da Jim. They talk faster as the night goes on, I should have drunk more! No I shouldn’t I was in hysterics most of the night. The good laugh had been had, then it was a big sleep I was after.

The next day I’m allocated a driver and guide, one of the family, to find the house where my dad grew up. The woman at the house invites us in. A solid box with thick cool walls textured by history. Then Simon takes me to the castle where we find the man with the keys to the castle. He takes us on a tour rarely grants even to locals. Simon says it’s the luck I carry with me. I do feel very lucky!

I believe the Irish work to make connections. Like whales and dolphins find their mob sending and resending sonar, the Irish keep asking each other questions about people they might know, to circle in until they locate a lynchpin and then they circle out again.

“Ahhh you’re the Black River Town McCuskey’s”

“And you’re the Moy McGurk’s”

Sorted they can know ask about your place, your family, hows the old ones and wheres old Brendan got to. It’s a small place everyone keeps saying. But it’s such a deep place.

In Australia we connect first to country, place and where you are from and then who your ancestors are. And gratefully this knowledge and culture is of First Nations people.

That night we are visited by more cousins. Next day tours of Loch Neagh. So proud of this land and water and how hard they work together to ensure their families future and the future of this land. Later Gary introduces me to Seamus Heaney, one of the major poets of the 20th century, at a new cultural centre names for him. Seamus, not Gary.

We get lost there listening to Seamus himself reading his poetry. Gary eventually finds me in the carpark trying to get a score update on the footy finals. Collingwood are playing for a place in the finals.* Don’t judge me!

It’s a small country sure, dotted with thin places.**


*We win by a point! The grannie beckons.

**Thin places – are spaces and moments where the distance between the worlds seems almost touch.

IMAGE CREDIT: Loch Neagh by Erin M McCuskey

Image journal Collection – Ireland –  Flickr Album – Album – Washing Bay


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