Meeting Montana in Co.Waterford ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 96

Yesterday this blog literally came alive. A few months back,  I posted a piece about the stunning Copper Coast in Co. Waterford from where many miners emigrated in the 19th Century to Butte, Montana in America when the Copper mines in Bonmahon closed down.

I sent it to the Montana Standard and received a number of emails from people with a passionate interest in the whole subject as they are descendants of Bonmahon miners.

Well, yesterday, I had the amazing experience of  meeting with a 70-year-old man, his daughter and two of his grandchildren and escorting them along the Copper Coast. We drove in convoy but the 70-year-old man whose great grandfather had worked in the mines was sitting beside me in my car. We chatted away and then there was a haunting silence as the mine works at Tankardstown came into view. Mining was nothing new to this man as he had worked in the mining industry in Butte but Ireland, Co. Waterford and the Copper Coast were totally new to him.  I wondered what was running through his heart and soul in those quiet minutes. Maybe one day he will tell me or maybe it will remain indescribable.

We drove to the little village of Kill, which was central to his great-grandfather’s story and as we waited for a delicious meal at Kirwan’s pub, he slipped out to soak in the sense of the place where his great-grandfather had been baptised and probably lived. I bade them farewell back in Bonmahon at the heart of where the miners had lived and a few hours later I went to a sreening of  a series of  splendid short films,   The Copper Coast Miners, made by Art Hand Productions.  Sitting in the Copper Coast Geopark at the showing, I realised that I had come thousands of miles yesterday in terms of gaining insight into the significance of the mining community of Bonmahon and how it has touched so many people in a host of different ways.

Moments before screening of 'The Copper Coast Miners'
Moments before screening of ‘The Copper Coast Miners’

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

6 thoughts on “Meeting Montana in Co.Waterford ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 96”

  1. Jean:
    Glad that you met and showed your area to my cousin and his family. Thanks for showing them your area.
    Neil in Montana

    1. Neil, great to hear from you. The pleasure was absolutely all mine. It was one of those days that will stand out in my memory forever. Hope to see you you over here someday.

  2. What a lovely story – it made me tearful to think of this eldery man arriving in the place of his ancestors. Weren’t you great to chauffeur him and to lead the convoy! I had never heard of the Copper Coast in my life, (born, reared, educated in Ireland) until I went to a geology museum in the South of France, about 6 years ago and then tried to make sense of the French information! A further recent discovery was that many miners from the Beara Peninsula also went to Butte, Montana.Both of these ‘discoveries’ cause me to question the type of history that is taught in our education system – all politics and nothing about ‘real ‘ people.There is so much we know nothing about! Thank you for this lovely post and for making lifetime memories for one special person.

    1. SV, thanks for writing. I agree that ‘real’ people tended to get left out of Irish history and maybe still do, to some extent. I hope things have changed. my
      Yesterday’s experience with my Montana connections was wonderful. It certainly didn’t involve any ‘greatness’ on my part. Apart from anything, I am so proud of the Copper Coast and its beauty ~ you’d swear I own it!

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