|The Famine Cottage, Slea Head Drive, Fahan, Ventry, Dingle,
Co. Kerry. Tel: 066 9156241 Mobile: 087 7622617
|Cottage and Sheepdog Trials||To find out more about working sheepdogs click here|
|Now located in the Slea Head famine cottages are working sheepdog performances. Visitors can view a local sheep-farmer skilfully working his sheepdogs in gathering and controlling sheep movement. Click here to visit www.dinglesheepdogs.com. This skill has been handed down from generation to generation as sheep have been kept on the mountain (Mount Eagle) for hundreds of years. This is the only location in West Kerry offering such an attraction. Visitors are given valuable insights into the sheep-farmers way of working which intrigues most visitors.....how could local farmers forecast the weather long go, tell the time when many of the poor could not afford a watch or even how they managed to communicate with relatives living ten miles away.|
|It is hard to believe that, until recently, this cottage had
been home to a number of visitors to the area. Some came here seeking a return
to a simpler lifestyle, others such as photographers and writers seeking
inspiration from this house and its surroundings. Now it lies empty, keeper of
the untold secrets of its past, and a testament to the skill of the men who
On a beautiful summers day, when the sun shines, one can feel the heartbreak the Kavanagh family must have felt when leaving this idyllic spot, heading for the Emigration Ships.
|- Maps - Contact Information - Opening Times -|
|On the other hand, if you were here on a cold, blustery and wet winter's night you would appreciate how difficult it must have been for anybody to eke out a living on this mountainside. At times like these, emigration was a welcome option.|
|Pictured above is the entrance to the beehive hut located at the rear of the cottage. This old stone hut is traditionally called "Puicín na Muice" and was used as a small shed to keep the family's pig.|
|The Famine Cottage|
|Life on the Farm|
diet of the majority of West Kerry families at this time was the potato ("an
práta"). Eight acres of two varieties of potato were grown at the time,
one for the family and one for the animals. Animal manure ("oíleach")
and seaweed ("feamaineach") were used as fertiliser. Those entrusted with the
task of gathering the seaweed would have to rise when first tide went out as it
was on a first come first served basis that the collection of the seaweed
operated and other households were trying to get the natural fertiliser. The
potatoes were set in the Spring. Using potatoes from the previous year's crop
which had developed sprouts (known as "sciollháin") the future crop was
planted in raised ridges known as "leaba phrátaí" (potato beds).
When the stalk ("an gas") of the potato died in the Autumn this meant it was
time to harvest the crop. The potatoes or spuds were then stored in a shallow
hole covered with straw, during the winter months.
During the Famine years holdings were either too small or due to penal laws, Catholics would have to pay taxes to be allowed the privilege of owning farm animals. Later on though the milking of cows by hand was another daily chore to be undertaken. The stalls used to tie the cow during milking can be seen in "Tigh na mBá".
In the days before clocks and barometers, the only way of telling time or forecasting the weather was by looking at nature and the land. The Sun would give the inhabitants the best chance of telling time, as it rose above the prehistoric fort below the cottage at noon. It was harder again to forecast the weather, but a lot more important as it played a vital role in working the land or fishing the seas. By looking across Dingle Bay at South Kerry, if the villagers could see the houses on the opposite Peninsula clearly, they knew they were in for a rough stormy night. And if a cormorant, a seabird, was seen to fly high over the land and not the sea, it presaged a violent stormy night. At first sight of this bird, the inhabitants would gather wood, and water and settle down for the night.
|The villagers of Fahan would have to draw water from a nearby stream, as there were no pumps or springs in the vicinity. However this stream was located 300 yards from the cottage. During the summer months the stream would periodically dry up. This meant that the residents of the cottage would have to go to the next nearest spring, which was located at the base of the Dún Beag cliffs. This was a particularly dangerous chore and was generally carried out by the women of the village.|
|The Hard Life|
generations of families who lived in this house had to endure extreme hardships
especially during the Famine years. One family that lived in the cottage had an
especially sad and tragic tale to tell. During the mid to late 1800's Mary
Long's brother was living in the house. He and his wife had the bad fortune of
having six of their children die at birth. Whether this was due to poor health
and living conditions of the time is unknown.
However as none of the children had been baptized before death, the Catholic church would not allow them to be buried in a graveyard of the church. The parents had no choice but to bury all six children on their own land. They were all laid to rest just a few hundred yards from the cottage where a simple but crude stone cross marks their grave.
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