THE TWO IRELANDS
(By Filson Young, in the London Daily Mail.)
Donegal, August 17. (abridged)
There are two Irelands, one of smiling, one of miserable, aspect. The first is known to the many, the second to the few; the first greets the tourist at every turn, the second is discovered only by those who leave the beaten tracks, and, travelling far from the railways and even from the roads, come face to face with the naked life of mountain, bog, and shore. And the first is exploited and displayed, while the second is hidden.
There are some very simple facts about Ireland which at this moment cannot be too widely known. Before facing the dark side, let us dispose of the first, the prosperous Ireland, which, standing as it does in the foreground of the picture, obscures the view and interrupts the attention of those who think they have seen the country.
To say that it is a strip of Ireland’s eastern seaboard that is prosperous, is only one, and an imperfect way of stating the case. It would be nearer the mark to say that what we take for prosperity in Ireland is but the stir and bustle of market-places that exist only by virtue of their proximity to Europe. In the eastern seaports we find this stir and bustle. In the western, never.
Beyond earshot of bustling centres of artificial trade you are enfolded by the stillness and emptiness of rural Ireland. The green fields sleep in the sun. Empty cabins proclaim from their boarded-up windows – a thousand tragedies of failure and departure. It is a silent and vacant country.
Into the stately waterways of Cork, of Galway, of Limerick, the sea twice a day comes brimming up, filling with its inexhaustible flood the spaces between the imposing empty warehouses. The beautiful buildings, raised when Ireland had a population and a trade, are crumbling and deserted great chambers. These western ports, so nobly furnished by nature, and by man, so entirely unvisited, save by the punctual tides, are imposing monuments of a decay that is vast and complete.
Never a tide rises but it carries away with it something priceless, vital, irreplaceable — the life of the country. And even away from the great ruinous ports along a coast unmatched in the world for its bays and inlets and roadsteads, you may note the blight of desolation and mark the sea’s revenges.