The waters of the River Shannon flow with a million stories, with tales from mythology, folklore, ancient saints battling monsters, along with stories from more recent centuries – from the tragic tale of the Colleen Bawn, to the arduous work of those who toiled to build Shannon Airport. As this year’s Heritage Week theme is Sharing Stories, Making Connections we couldn’t think of a more fitting way than to gather together for a storytelling evening at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
We really enjoyed hearing some of those tales yesterday evening (22nd August 2018), in the perfectly atmospheric surroundings of MacNamara’s Pub in Bunratty Castle Folk Park, where a great crowd of people from communities around the Shannon Estuary in County Clare gathered to share stories and to enjoy the wonderful warm hospitality of the pub, with lovely tea and scones and a warm fire. A perfect setting for storytelling.
Abarta Heritage are currently working with Clare County Council on the Shannon Estuary Way Recording Project. This exciting project involves the development of a visitor journey along the Shannon Estuary, it is our job to help Clare County Council to work with local communities in the area to assess the potential for heritage tourism, to research the heritage of the region and to help to engage and empower local communities with their heritage to create a model of meaningful and sustainable tourism.
The Shannon Estuary is a truly beautiful place. There are many fascinating stories to be told about the river and the people who live along its banks, and we were delighted to hear some of the tales like the local story about the Sea Monster at Labasheeda, the Colleen Bawn, Tom Mangan and his pedal boat adventure stories about life on the river, the ancient fish traps at Clarecastle and punt boats, the gandelows and more. The evening began with Clare County Council Heritage Officer Congella McGuire, who introduced everyone and informed people about the overall project. Congella also told the tragic and haunting tale of the Colleen Bawn, a woman betrayed by her cruel husband. Eric Shaw of Clarecastle told us about the remarkable ‘punt gun’ a type of giant shotgun mounted on a boat that was used to bring down dozens of ducks and geese at a time. Eric told us of Clarecastle & Ballyea Heritage & Wildlife Group‘s work to restore two rare examples of punt guns from the 19th century, along with a punt boat from the 1960s. The group are holding an exhibition for Heritage Week with the guns as a centrepiece, along with a number of historic images and information on life on the Shannon. The exhibition is free of charge, and will be held on 23 August, 6:45pm – 9pm and 26 August, 12:45pm – 2pm. For more details please see their Heritage Week listing here.
Fintan Ginnane held us all in thrall as he told us of life on the islands of the Shannon Estuary. Fintan is from Horse Island, and told remarkable tales of daily life and the unique spirit of the islanders. Abarta’s Róisín then told the (rather gruesome) tale of how Saint’s Island got its name, Róisín found the story in the excellent Clare Folk Tales book, and we were absolutely thrilled to have Ruth Marshall who was the author with us. Ruth held us all spellbound as she told the story of Saint Senán and how he battled the serpent of Scattery Island. We also heard tragic tales from the time of the Famine, and how so many left through emigration. We also heard more recent, but no less fascinating, tales of the hard work to build Shannon Airport, and of the first aviation pioneers in the area.
It was a really wonderful evening, and we really wish to thank everyone who came along and who were so generous with their stories. We would also like to thank Congella McGuire for all of her support, and a special thanks to Marie and all the team at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park who gave us such a wonderful venue!