Graduations ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 202

I’m writing this post today because I’m not sure how I’ll be fixed for writing anything tomorrow!

Tonight is a BIG Graduation Night for a group of us from Ireland who completed a brilliant online course from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  The course was a Postgraduate Certificate in Sense of Place: Heritage Tourism and pushed us all not only to the pins of our collars but frayed the collars in the process.

I was never much of a person for graduations in my ‘youth’ and when I look back I wonder how I could have skipped my BSc Graduation from Trinity College, Dublin in 1979.  I thought it was crazy getting all dressed up in a gown and sitting around for hours on a lovely sunny summer’s day when I could be at the beach.

Fast forward to 1991, and I did the full biz for my PhD which I had worked on part-time for what seemed like a 100 years. I think it was the sense of the 100 years and the whole history of  the thing that lured me to that conferring.

My mother came to stay with me in my ‘bedsit’ for a few days and the preparations were real mother-daughter time with the pair of us acting like kids and tripping over each other in the tiny room that had seen me grind out the ‘tome’ on an old typewriter!

Father, being a complete home bird, just flew in for the day on the train from Waterford and had to rush off to catch the train back a few minutes after the ceremony ended. I knew, though, by his witty remarks about my ‘get up’ that he was intensely proud and vastly relieved that the piece of paper had f i n a l l y been collected!  I can vividly remember him saying just before he left: Oh, once a student, always a student. You’ll never stop after this.

Graduation Photo, 1991 Photo by: Frank Tubridy
Graduation Photo, 1991
Photo by: Frank Tubridy

So, maybe it’s age but I’m really looking forward to this ‘Graduation’ that we’re having tonight at the Copper Coast Geopark Centre in Bonmahon. How glorious to have that lovely drive along the Copper Coast to get there and home. I’ve been grinning to myself all morning wondering how we’ll all look in our Harry Potterish gowns.

Most of all, this course is living proof that one can make amazing friends through online courses. We have been hauling each other through the various hoops during the year and always intended to have a right bash if we ever came out the other end.

What Sense of Place means most today is the realisation that the fruits of labour become even sweeter the further one travels along the highways, byways and laneways of life.

What’s your perspective on Graduations of whatever description?

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’