Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Family History

We stayed an extra day at the Dan O'Hara Heritage Center to relax and enjoy the lovely town of Clifden.  We had some laundry to do too, and I wanted a night to soak in a tub with seaweed bath salts and enjoy some mead.  I'm glad we did, because the guided tractor tour of the grounds left a big impression on me.

It's very strange to be in someone's home knowing that they were forced out by the landlord and as a consequence half the family died on the way to America.  Dan O'Hara himself died soon after, and his four remaining children were fostered.  I don't think anyone knows what ultimately happened to them.  

Dan O'Hara had a very simple, and by our standards harsh life, but he loved his home and his family and enjoyed a good livelihood by his own measure.  He had all he needed--sheep, cows, chickens, peat, good water and potatoes--and was reduced to selling matches on the street.  It's not a distant abstract to me imagining the loss of home and family, never to be found again.  Despite this grim and sobering story, I can still enjoy the land and the welcome given by its owners and devoted caretakers.  If anyone reading this manages to make it to Connemara, I highly recommend visiting and if possible staying overnight.

Tomorrow we're heading in the vague direction of Sligo.  The weather was beautiful this morning and afternoon, but we've got rain and wind now so I'd better plan something that's indoors, just in case we don't get fair conditions back again.  


Anonymous said...

Your link said he was evicted for non-payment of rent. He put bigger windows in and that (probably changed the tax assessment) the rent had to go up.. He had to pay for transport to New York so I'm guessing that he was 'indigent' when he arrived.


Kami said...

That's true re: windows tax. The tax on windows was harsh and I doubt that Dan O'Hara realized the tax would be so high. In fact the tax was so weird and high that it started the now-famous term 'daylight robbery'. People would put in windows or expand them, only to have to brick them over completely. Unfortunately Dan couldn't even make that first payment and was thrown out.

We visited a beautiful huge house once owned by a reputed witch that had most of its windows filled in with stone for this same reason. That tenant was able to pay the first tax, but not successive ones.

There was also at one point a roof tax. People with extra buildings on a property often deliberately burned the roofs on barns, old castles (whimper!) and butler/gardener homes to avoid paying the roof tax. Sometimes these taxes weren't known until someone put up a roof or put in a new window, which led to disasters like the O'Hara family suffered.