A Poem Spreads its Wings

You know Alastair Cook who did the beautiful cover of Wherever We Live Now? He has made a filmpoem out of the first piece in the book Visiting the Dunbrody Famine Ship and you can see it

here

I hope you like it as much as I do. If you do you can hear Alastair talk about the filmpoem project

here

For those who haven’t heard me do it, the Dunbrody is a ship which was used to carry emigrants from Ireland to America after the famine. It has since been restored, and you can see it in the harbour at New Ross, in County Wexford. It’s a harrowing experience. If you were a cabin passenger, the accommodation was tiny, but you were allowed up on deck, if the weather was calm. If you were steerage, however, you weren’t allowed up except at your designated cooking times, and you were allocated a bunk to a family. There wouldn’t have been room for my Foleys to lie down anywhere for the whole five weeks – and we’re a tiny family by and large.

There’s also a database which claims to record all the emigrantsbetween 1848 and about 1930. It’s very comprehensive, but I can’t find my Foleys on it. We have always believed that their ship was wrecked, but statistically they probably died of TB or hunger or anything else they might have caught in the hell-hole of steerage.

The Irish are used to diaspora people coming back looking for their roots. It’s a bit more than nostalgia. I found I couldn’t settle in Sctland until I had some idea where I’d come from, and now I’m quite at home. I thought that this was just one way, but it occurred to me when I was at New Ross and Waterford, that the Irish are also bereft. While I’m asking “where do I come from? Where do I belong?” they are asking “Where did you go? what happened to you?” The chain that connects us has seekers at both ends.

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