Updated: Mar 1, 2020
On the fourth weekend of September I once again headed off to Inis Oirr (Inisheer) on the Aran Islands for this year’s Feile na gCloch (Festival of Stone).
The festival is organised and run by the country’s most knowledgeable and experienced drystone waller, Patrick McAfee, in conjunction with the wonderful Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer of Galway County Council and Paddy Crowe, manager of the Inis Oirr Cooperative.
Every year this event seems to get bigger and bigger, as does the list of international experts and speakers at the event. This year saw John Shaw-Rimmington of Dry Stone Walls Across Canada, Tomas Lipps of the Stone Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Alexandra Morosco of Stonefest, Seattle, and Scott Hackney of Marenakos Stone, Seattle and co-director of Stonefest share their knowledge as well as giving inspirational presentations on some of the amazing things happening with stone in many different parts of the world.
There were many other international people in attendance at the stone festival, including people from France, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Ukraine, England ,Finland and the USA.
Also in attendance was seven of the eight person committee of the Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland (Ken Curran, Sunny Wieler, Tom Pollard, Alex Panteleyenko, Rory Noone, Noel O’Shaughnassey and Francis Coady) who briefly explained their plans and aspirations for the association, which was met with a positive response. The eight member of the committee (Malachy Sheehan) was unable to attend this years Feile.
This years build was a large vertical stitch retaining wall (at least 150 tonnes)up to 12 feet (3.6Metres) high on one end. This wall style was traditional to the island, and the most effective method of building retaining walls.
Looking down at the retaining wall it is very easy to see why drystone retaining walls don’t need any drainage pipes or gravel, as the entire structure is free draining (one of the many benefits of building in the dry stone method)
Because of the large number of participants this year, Nick Aitken and George Gunn, both well seasoned wallers and instructors from Scotland, very kindly took separate groups of people to train at walls beside the cooperative and near the harbour.
After three days of building one massive new retaining wall was completed, two free standing walls were rebuilt and a large quantity of Guinness and soup were consumed. But most importantly, new friendships were made, and the passion and respect for the traditional craft of dry stone walling continued to grow and be cared for in this country.
One of my favourite things to do when out on the island is to go off on a solitary wander, either early in the morning or late in the evening, to enjoy the spectacular scenery as well as the abundance of outstanding drystone walls the island has to offer..
Like all the other regular attendants of Feile na gCloch, I am already looking forward to next years Feile. If you would like to see my post on last years event click here. I also recommend checking out Louise Price of Limewinow’s blog post on this years event. If you would like to keep up to date with Dry stone walling in Ireland or wish to find out about next years event, check out The Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland web page http://dswaireland.ning.com/ and feel free to sign up as a member too.
Sorry for my absence from my blog over the past few months. I have been very busy working on my new big Stone Art project. I will share more about this when I have it completed. I still have plenty of interesting things to write about and will try to get posting more often again.