'It’s us they’re talking about' 2003 Issue 6 : Changed Times
Clonmany, Co. Donegal, 24th 27th June 2004

Donegal is changing before my eyes. This change is a little too fast for me. Now living in the Sperrins in neighbouring Tyrone, I often feel overwhelmed by the change. It is no more evident than in the landscape around us. We must chart these changes if we are to make sense of it all.
The McGlinchey Summer School was established to explore and explain life and change in the Inishowen Peninsula, in memory of the weaver Charles McGlinchey, whose recollections were recorded by local schoolteacher Patrick Kavanagh and subsequently edited by Brian Friel, under the title “The Last of the Name” – a classic that I would recommend to all.

Clonmany and its environs can be viewed as a microcosm of all of Ireland, in its rapidly changing face and yet it is totally distinctive.
The sign of culture in any society is its ability to reflect upon itself. “It’s us they’re talking about” Issue No. 6 has the talks of the2003 theme of “Changed Times” – essential reading for all not just interested in our past but in our future.

The topics are varied but focused and close to the heart of the community. Rural electrification, education, transport, broadcasting, fishing and landscape are just a few of the papers given by speakers at the 6th Summer School but it also includes reminiscences of Charles McGlinchey by local people and a beautiful interview by Margaret Farren with a senior citizen entitled “Slowing down along the Mountain Road”.

Summer schools often have the name of being highbrowed and academic – the McGlinchey strikes the right balance.

There is a growing demand for books dealing seriously with the land, the people and in the cultural history of Ireland going behind and beyond political history. Social history should be concerned not so much with events as with links between these events. This total heritage, these links between these events are superbly dealt with in this publication. It deals with the issues on the ground in the intimacy of a small region – the Inishowen peninsula. A history of Ireland must be based on a study of the relationship between the land and the people.

Des Doherty recalls in great detail what we all take for granted, the coming of electricity. The struggles of the Inishowen shirt industry which will no doubt touch all families is outlined by Sean Tighe, as will Susan Parkes’ article on the education system. These are the type of events that are all linked and rooted in the local experience. John Hume takes change on the wider stage of Europe and he would question our place in that landscape.

This community is concerned first and foremost with its continuity and as a wholesome society; it does not judge and cannot be judged purely by economic standards.
The underlying theme of a changing landscape is central to the work. The Inishowen landscape holds a great place in all our hearts. The distinctiveness of an area is tied to the landscape, as much if not more, than to its people – the people will pass but the landscape remains as our sense of continuity.

This is very ably discussed by Mary Cawley in her essay “The Rural Idyll - Continuity and Change in the Countryside”. The landscape can reveal, represent and symbolise so much : the social, political, economic factors that make the place we live in. This issue of “It’s us they’re talking about”makes us question what is happening to us as a people and as a land.

Having spent some time in Italy this summer, one quickly realises that we cannot compete with the built heritage of the Roman culture and its historical buildings. But what we have in Ireland – our landscape – is what makes us unique and it is this priceless asset which is most under threat.

Underlying the Summer School is a community searching, a community developing and trying to make sense of the change around us. This McGlinchey Summer School publication sets a standard for other areas to follow.

Liam Campbell
Film Productions Ltd.


  Charles McGlinchey
  Patrick Kavanagh
  School Manuscripts
  'Last Of The Name'
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