In archaeological terms Ireland is a child. There were no humans on the island in the paleolithic. We have no history of neanderthals, homo habilis, homo erectus or earlier australopithecenes. In the grand history of man we arrived on the island as fully formed modern day humans. The earliest people arrived between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. They probably walked here over land-bridges left by the retreating ice sheets of the last great ice age.
At the same time the history of Ireland is ancient. We have great monuments and burial mounds that pre-date Stonehenge and the Pyramids. We occupy a landscape that is steeped in history and sense of place. We are well rooted in our environment and secure in our place in the world.
Tourists come to Ireland and take a quick spin around what is a small island. They tick off the boxes on their holiday to-do list; The Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway, Dublin Castle, Irelands Ancient East, Killarney, Queen Maeves Grave, Yeats Tombstone, the Guinness Brewery, Rock of Cashel etc. In the new world that is how you have vacations, you go from tourist attraction to tourist attraction.
The odd time you meed a real world traveler who understands how to see Ireland properly. Ireland is to be found in the fields and ditches, down back alleys and up mountain sides. It is a country of many small attractions, each one having its own story. The trick is to find the local historian who can walk a site with you and bring it to life.
Then you go to the pub and discuss the important things; sport, politics, religion, the shape of a girls ankle and the fall of a sparrow. On your way home, if you are very sensitive to your surroundings, you may even be lucky enough to turn out a shadow that could be a fox, or a fairy, a banshee or the shade of a long dead king.
At Currabwee; by Francis Ledwidge
Every night at Currabwee
Little men with leather hats
Mend the boots of Faery
From the tough wings of the bats.
So my mother told to me,
And she is wise you will agree. .
Louder than a cricket’s wing
All night long their hammer’s glee
Times the merry songs they sing
Of Ireland glorious and free.
So I heard Joseph Plunkett say,
You know he heard them but last May.
And when the night is very cold
They warm their hands against the light
Of stars that make the waters gold
Where they are labouring all the night.
So Pearse said, and he knew the truth,
Among the stars he spent his youth.
And I, myself, have often heard
Their singing as the stars went by,
For am I not of those who reared
The banner of old Ireland high,
From Dublin town to Turkey’s shores,
And where the Vardar loudly roars?