The Green and Gold
By Gerald Burwell | Photography by Romona Robbins
Many thoughts may come to mind when contemplating Ireland. Most likely, they would involve lush grassy fields, fluffy white sheep, an old Celtic cross, a four-leaf clover, or an intriguing and lonely castle ruin. If you believe in the fanciful, you might envision a leprechaun or even a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
A focus of numerous historical, political, and religious conquests, Ireland has a turbulent past that dates back to about 8000 BC. Throughout its history, like most European nations, the citizens of Ireland were disproportionately divided into the “haves” and the “have-nots,” with the majority of the country’s wealth in the hands of a very few. This condition only exacerbated the devastating impact of the Great Famine of the 1840s, when Ireland lost about 25 percent of its population to death and to the emigration that followed over the next century.
It was during this period that some of Ireland’s most treasured writers emerged: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett. The latter three were recipients of Nobel Prizes. As some say, “In times of adversity, comes ingenuity.”
The Ireland of today is, by leaps and bounds, in a much better place than it was in those days. It is a country of surprising paradoxes; it is traditional, yet modern, and it is rugged, yet beautiful. And, although Ireland is mostly rural, it is far from the poor country that it once was. Its educational system is ranked among the world’s top ten and, in the past decade, Ireland has become one of Europe’s premier software producing countries.
But even with its prosperous and growing high-tech and financial industries, Ireland’s most valuable resources are probably its people and the natural beauty of the country itself. With roughly the same size and population as the state of Maine, tourism has become one of Ireland’s top industries. If you have never had the pleasure of visiting Ireland or you have but haven’t been there within the past fifteen to twenty years, then you are truly missing out on one of the most charming and memorable travel experiences to be had.
This past summer, VIE made plans to hop the Atlantic to a different kind of emerald shore. As we prepared for the trip, we discovered that several other friends and colleagues from Northwest Florida were on their way to explore the Emerald Isle. The following pages are the accounts of the three distinctly different escapades.
— V —VIE visits Ireland. from VIE Magazine on Vimeo.