Saturday, February 10, 2007

Visiting Donegal

We took a group trip to Donegal last Sunday to visit an ancient ring fort, an old WWI/WWII base, a beach, and a pair of cute little towns whose names I forget entirely. I snapped a bunch of photos, but I'm experiencing a spot of significant computer trouble so I can't share them yet.

The inside of the ring fort was closed due to renovations (yes, renovations. I don't know either). I had a good look at the outside. Very sturdily constructed, I have to say-- even after all this time, it's not at all in ruins or anything. It looks like it could have been put up ten years ago. I'd like to go back sometime when the inside's open, but I don't know if that'll happen before I leave.

The base was a British base during WWI, and during WWII the Irish used it as a defense point to keep warring nations from violating their neutrality. I snapped some neat pictures of gun posts and other military fortifications, but what interested me most was the ghost-town remains of the base's living spaces.

The barracks, the bathhouses, the mess hall... little if any effort has been made to preserve most of them. They're just falling slowly to shambles with the passage of time. To walk through them is to walk through the ruins of a life two and three generations gone. That's why I found it so fascinating. I can imagine the lives lived in those corrugated metal buildings. When I look at the piles of rotted wood that were once front stoops, I can picture the people who might have gathered on them. In the empty twilight beyond the broken barracks windows, I can imagine the sounds of people stumbling out of bed and muttering at the bugler. What's left of the canteen makes me wonder who prepared the food here, and how they answered the inevitable complaints.

Like the historical costumes I'm so fond of, these ruins make up a 'left-handed' history. There's no denying that wars and powerful, famous people were a part of it, but the heart of this history is working people. It's the history of enlisted men. Of cooks, mechanics, musicians, clerks, and nurses instead of generals and politicians. The history of the people behind the uniforms.

Many of the people who were sationed there are dead now. Those shambling, overgrown buildings speak for a part of their life in a way that history books never will. It's chilling, in a way, to see them in such ruin. I don't know if they'd carry the same weight of history if they'd been taken care of, and yet it speaks volumes about the present that no one saw fit to preserve them. I suppose I'm not the only one who's taken an aweful lot of pictures, though. In that way I suppose they're preserved after all.

We didn't dawdle long on the beach, and we certainly weren't fool enough to go near the water (cold!), but I got some lovely pictures of the rocks and of my groupmates. The towns proved useful for acquiring batteries and ice cream, but mostly they were just towns. They reminded me a bit of Ballycastle.

The rest of the week has been fairly uneventful, computer problems aside. My fiction writing has gotten a bit sidetracked, but hopefully I can get back on task once I get my laptop back up and running (early this week, hopefully).

1 comment:

Ron said...

I forgot and left this on the LJ feed of this post as well, but here it is again. Sounds like a good trip. I look forward to pics once you get fully digitized again. Your description of walking through the base reminds me of my trip to Ellis Island before it was restored - the space being reclaimed by nature that had once been full of immigrants seeking a new life in the States, with all of the family histories before their arrivals and afterwards