An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, August 02, 2005  

Second sad story

There's a gorgeous guest house called Delphi lodge down in Mayo. It's run by totally charming anglo-irishy types and we had an hilarious stay there some years ago. It's one of these places where all the guests sit at dinner together at one big table and we met some really interesting people.

We set off to stay there again last year and left the child with my mother. We were looking forward to the drive through Mayo as its really haunting: barren mountains and little civilisation. The part from Louisburgh to Delphi is particularly lovely. We half knew there was some story about a famous famine walk along this route and I asked my mother about it before we left. "Oh yes, the people walked from Louisburgh out to Delphi for food. It was very tragic". Why? "They all died". It appears they went to Delphi House in search of food and were sent away. On the way back to Louisburgh a storm got up and they were all blown into a lake and died.

We drove in silence along the road and when we pulled into the drive of the luxury guest house, we stopped, looked at each other and reversed. We both imagined famine victim ghosts haunting the entire area, not to mention our room with a lake view.

I really want to stay there again as the hospitality is excellent. But maybe next year.

posted by Sarah | 10:52 13 comments
Reading "Star of the Sea"?
nooooooooo, it looks far too grim. I'm far too sensitive to do coffin ships and concentration camp books (and documentaries)
Good for you Sarah. I hope it'll bring you luck. We live in the past a little too much in this country, but that doesn't mean we should forget it either.

And life is far to short for people to be reading Joseph O'Connor. Oh dear me.
Heh...did you miss the irony when you combine:

"It appears they went to Delphi House in search of food and were sent away"


"I really want to stay there again as the hospitality is excellent."
I did! Amazing what 150 years can do for a place...btw Prince Charles stayed in it a few years ago on a very quiet visit. His thank you letter is pinned up.
"they were all blown into a lake" how the hell do you get blown into a lake? even if you have no strength you could simply lie down.

the story is probably false. anyway any of the big houses we like to spend our weekends away in were built on the misery of the peasantry. I would have thought that was a given.
Check out the famine memorial between Ennistymon and Lahich, very very upsetting, especially if you are a parent. Incidently on the hill across the road from the memorial you can clearly see a famine pit which contains a few thousand people... On that note make sure to make a healthy donation to a charity that is working with the unfortunate of Niger.

I did give Concern €100. Was this enough? I gave the Red Cross €100 for the Tsunami and had given Concern another €100 just before Christmas. Never sure what the correct amount is. On the one hand I battle with my overdraft constantly but on the other I think: well I have an overdraft because I spent money on what are essentially luxury items so therefore I should have no qualms about increasing the overdraft even more for necessities i.e. helping poor people. What do other people give? Am I mean? The ST money is modest although very useful; my husband is a public servant. Nevertheless, €300 is hardly a 10th of our income which I think is what Islam recommends as appropriate alms for the poor. Although, now that I think of it, I've given about the same to the parish and will probably pay the same again before the year is out. If I gave another 300 or so to Goal etc before year end that would be €1200 over a year. Is this enough? Maybe there's a column in that.....
You are right there is a great column in that, I will look forward to reading it!

Ps: if every adult in Ireland gave €100, I think that would go a very long way to raising the $40 million needed
Hello Sarah,

A few pedantic points about your Delphi experience. Peter and Jane Mantle, who own Delphi Lodge, are emphatically not "anglo-irishy types". They are English. Peter used to be a financial journalist in London, and was attracted here intially through his interest in fishing.

Tom is wrong to question the truth of the famine story, though no doubt correct to question your description of people literally being blown into the lake. The incident is very well documented. It took place, I think, in 1847.

Of course, Delphi Lodge was obviously not an upmarket b & b in the 1840s. It was a hunting lodge owned by the Marquess Of Sligo. The people trekked out to Delphi from Louisburgh, not actually in search of food but to make a case for relief to the Poor Law guardians who were meeting there. Their pleas were rejected, and on the return journey, a great many of them, already weakened by hunger and general ill-health, failed to make it after a terrible storm had blown up. Anyone who knows the valley in question will be aware what a bleak place it is.

I have known the road from Louisburgh across the mountain since I was a small child, and have always felt it extremely eerie.

I am not sure where you begin and end with ethics, but obviously the current owners of Delphi, save for the accident of being English, had nothing to do with the famine. I am not sure either what you could make of the curious fact that the present Marquess of Sligo (Jeremy Browne) has devoted his working life to developing one of the main tourist attractions in the west of Ireland, Westport House. You might want to boycott (now there's a word) his ghastly zoo on grounds of good taste, but he has been an excellent employer in the face of major problems in maintaining the house and grounds of Westport.

The country is littered with post-colonial relics of various sorts, people as well as buildings and places. I dont't think anyone should have a problem with this. Would you, for instance, decline an invitation to visit the President at home on the basis that she lives in the building that symbolised more than any other, along with Dublin Castle, the iniquities of British rule?

Sorry for going on at such length. I've just started my holidays, and had time on my hands this morning, whilst looking after the baby. Frances is in bed, in case you are wondering!

All the best to you and the family.
thank you for your contribution alan. Now of course the cycle of guilt continues. Peter is an incredibly charming man so I could either feel guilty for staying there or guilty for not.... I will definitely go back..just that day we were still coping with the history. Withe regard to English vs Anglo-Irish my ear is not refined enough to distinguish the accents....your's is unmistakably on the anglo-irish side ;-). On another note, can I acknowledge on the men's vs women's home duties that you have always excelled on the child-minding front. One of my babies is asleep, the other is watching Dallas. I bought Bear DVD's and the stupid player is very sensitive and keeps breaking.
I don't think Tom really believes anyone died in the famine, more that it was made up by Sinn Fein. The sentence "they were all blown into the lake" did strike me as funny though, sort of thing a child says.
Anyway, Sarah, while accepting that turning around at the gates might have been prompted by something current in your mindset, it is still a fairly unsustainable viewpoint. Any place anywhere, in particular on this tragic island of ours, is tainted in some way with something someone finds distasteful or unfortunate. It's unavoidable. We tried burning down the big houses, but in reality is a question of accommodating the past while remembering it. Isn't it a better story that the descendants of the soup kitchen masses are arriving to take tea and eat luxury meals in the houses of the gentry where the owners act as effective butlers? i think so.
Before I get more comments like this better make two things clear. Our decision not to stay was not based on blame or high minded principle. We just felt haunted by the memories of the victims. It just seemed creepy to stay there as opposed to unethical. The drive itself is, as has been described, eerie, and I could just see ghosts everywhere.
Also, I am sure they weren't all physically blown into the lake. It's just part of the story. and who ever let the facts get in the way of a good story?
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