History Field Trip

Our trip to West Cork During the month of October, the 5th and 6th year humanities students were fortunate to be taken on a day trip to West Cork. The break from studies was a much welcomed treat for all the students and teachers who came along but needless to say the trip was extremely informative. Our first stop was the Clonakilty cinema.  We were extremely lucky to be given the privilege of having the cinema theatre all to ourselves for a private screening of the recently released Irish film ‘Black’47’. The movie dramatically depicts the harsh reality of the Irish famine. The movie told the tale of an Irish ranger who returned to Ireland to find his mother had died of starvation and his brother sentenced to death by the British. He originally planned to emigrate to America with the last few surviving members of his family but an unexpected event caused him to start a vendetta against the British establishment in Ireland. This gruesome but effective film illustrates the power struggle in Ireland and the blatant mistreatment and mismanagement of the Irish population by the British government. The films violent scenes  highlights the tense feelings between the Irish peasants and the wealthy British landlords during the times of hunger and desperation. This movie effectively brought the pain and anguish we read about in books and see in paintings to life. The movie was well received by all the students who mutually agreed that the movie helped them to understand the harshness of the famine, in particular during the year 1847. We then continued our journey further into west Cork. We arrived in the beautifully scenic town of Skibbereen where we were given an hour to explore and get a bite to eat. We found plenty of arty and simplistic cafes where we could sit and relax. Around 2:30 pm we entered the Skibbereen arts centre, Uillinn. The exhibition that we had come to see was the ‘Coming home, Art and the Great Hunger’. It had been an exceptionally well received exhibition all over Ireland and had been on show in Dublin Castle previously. So far it has had over 25,000 visitors to view the art and sculptures.  Upon our arrival we were split into two groups. Each group was taken to see a different part of the exhibition. The first group saw a short film explaining the famine. We were extremely grateful to have seen the movie ‘Black’47’  before the exhibition as we were able to draw similarities between the film and the more historically accurate short film. The first group was then taken to the art galleries. There were many paintings that portrayed scenes of the famine but also paintings that pictured happy, healthy peasants from the time period of the famine. Our guide explained to us that this was due to the demand during the time. The only people wealthy enough to afford paintings during the famine were the British landlords and it was safe to say they didn't want to see paintings illustrating starving and sick peasants on their walls. The more recent paintings showed the famine more realistically. One painting that I found particularly effective showed a scene of a mother and father burying their child who had evidently  died of hunger or fever. What struck me the most was the fact that the father had been painted in a way that he was looking directly at the viewer.  His hollowed eyes and accusing looks gave the viewer the feeling he was blaming them for the death of his child. This accusing look represented the feeling of hatred that these peasants would have felt towards their British rulers as they exported all the food from the starving nation.  The group was then taken to the third floor where we viewed sculptures created to commemorate the famine. The sculpture that I found most impressive was a sculpture that had all the names of the people who died in quarantine in America engraved on it. The sculptor had stated that if he was to engrave all the names of those who had died due to the famine onto the sculpture he would have had to sculpt 5000 sculptures. This puts into perspective the vast numbers that died during the famine.

 The Trip to West Cork was well worthwhile and everyone who went had a superb day. I would highly recommend the film and the exhibition as it is of incalculable value to gaining a true insight into the severity and the effect the famine had on our country.

Aoife Kelly (Y6)

Maria Brosnan