In honor of my grandfather, the patriarch of my family who is going through some health issues at the moment, I wanted to show the cottage his father was born in back in the 1800’s in County Armagh. I gave my Grampa a copy of this photo a year ago for his 89th birthday, and it sits on the mantle at his beach house. There’s something very calming about it, the dusty sky against the cool grass, the mellow cows looking out over the rolling pasture that’s lush like a jungle but calm as still water.
You can see the little shelter in the trees behind the cows. Abandoned and now dilapidated, the house is most likely sinking into the mud. Unfortunately I didn’t venture down to it because cousin Eileen wouldn’t let me (“Ya don’t ‘ave the right shoes ta go down ther now do yeh, eh!?”) so I swore I’d come back to Ireland eventually with my dad and some Wellies and wade through the swampy sod to investigate the old digs. Perhaps it would be entirely intact and filled with treasures from my family, or it might look like the house in Trainspotting, filled with hypodermic syringes and missing teeth. Most likely it’s just a rickety, barren structure wrapped in the smell of damp wood and manure, that whistles with the wind and acts as a fortress for squirrels, foxes, and stoats. (What’s a stoat? Something of a fat weasel with a stubbly tail, here’s a baby for your pleasure). Either way, I am damn determined to get back there one day and unravel the mystery of the remnants of the Harvey Shanty because it’s one piece of the puzzle of my roots. Now that I have seen it with my own eyes, and survived the winding roads down to it without actually touching it, I’m transfixed upon it.
Perhaps even next summer I will go back to Armagh, this time prepared with mud boots and a video camera to actually capture the family history I thought I would remember and carry out a proper investigation. A girl can dream.