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.