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Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

Impression of Time in the West of Ireland

Author Name

Tess McArdle

Author Program

Ireland: Dublin

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2015

Two decades. That’s really as far as I can look back and comprehend. Well I guess to be fair I have some sort of idea what it was like six decades ago. My parents were little babies and people drove cars and watched television and maybe even laughed at funny jokes. That’s accessible enough. Then there are my grandparents: I know them and I talk to them, we even laugh at jokes and watch television. But when I think about when my grandparents were born I’m suddenly looking back to roughly a century ago and picturing daily life becomes strictly up to my imagination. The culture and the norms become more foreign.

On a recent weekend trip to the west of Ireland, I was struck by the areas incomprehensible scope of history. We visited the largest of the three Aran Islands, a striking and literally rock-solid Island called Inishmore. Our first stop on the island was to a fort called Dun Aengus. The remains of this fort are situated on the edge of a 300-foot cliff and date back to the prehistoric times of the Iron Age. The word prehistoric here pretty nicely sums up my amazement with the fort. It is before what we would even call history. It is estimated that the construction of the fort was completed in 500 BCE. If I did my math correctly, or at least somewhat correctly, that is 2,500 years ago or 25 centuries ago. In an effort to understand what that means I put it in terms of my already baffling relationship to the time when my grandparents were born. My experimental mathematic equation brings me to a time when my grandparents were babies X 25. I can’t say that this equation is much help but it does at least put my confusion into a somewhat tangible scale.

Not only am I perplexed by the life of this prehistoric time, so are the experts. The exact date and purpose of the fort are unknown and have only been speculated. Though I struggle to make sense of the past, what I do know is that it is a breathtaking landscape filled with mystery and stunning views. My favorite part of the experience was laying on a piece of the cliff edge that jutted out over the powerful ocean. As I filled my lungs with the ocean air, the landscape came to life. I get the impression that the people who once called the area their home probably laughed at funny jokes too.