One of my most inspiring memories is of baking bread with my granny, in the home where my father was born and raised on the island. Smothered in a dusting of flour and baking soda, my neck stretched and my stance balanced on tip toes so I could lean into the warmth of her embrace, I pronounced for the first time the romantic notion that would become synonymous with my regular musings. When I grow up, I said, I’m going to build a big house beside you and come and look after you.
She died when I was nine so the reality is that I can never look after her, but my heart thumps that little bit harder knowing that she can watch over me, guiding me from a shared presence. Finally, after so many years of saying I was going to do it and never actually doing it, it's happening, a new home, a creation drawn from my heart and soul is being built at Mullindress, Rathlin Island.
Its bricks and mortar are a lifeline, and its beating heart will echo my children's and their children's and so our roots will bind and strengthen and our narrative will grow, our family continuing to build on the solid foundations of past generations who have paved the way for us. My lovely siblings, parents and nephews, nieces and great nephews, will join us in warming ourselves in front of the big old open fire where we can share our past and create a future built on new possibilities.
For those of you unfamiliar with the island Rathlin, the island, just off the north east coast of Ireland, is at the centre of everything. Here's a wee blurb from the Rathlin community website as a way of providing some Kevin MacLeod style background information.
"The island has County Antrim to the south, the Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal to the west, the island of Islay in the Hebrides to the north, and the Mull of Kintyre in mainland Scotland to the east."
As I mentioned, my father was born on the Island, on Mount Grand, and he grew up there with his four siblings. As children we visited regularly, my mother, although from Scotland, as rooted in the island as my dad and guiding us to love and share its warmth, spending summers in a big old house jam packed with people and history and, with electricity not reaching the island until 1992, no power. As a result, candles and ghost stories were the fabric of our exciting self created adventures.
My uncle still lives in that same home, its bright light standing proudly on Mount Grand, the house watching over Mullindress, a small townland within the protective arms of my father's birthplace. Dad's godfather lived in Mullindress, and when the family left, sadly heading for the mainland due to personal circumstances, my grandfather took over the farm, a hub of back-breaking hard work that he and my uncle nurtured and strengthened. (I am creating a momument to their farming heritage in the garden, a legacy of breathtaking beauty, but more of that on another occassion...)
At Mullindress, the home where Joseph, and Sarah and Molly lived and entertained with their tales and ceilidhs and little clay pipes, the story continues. The old dwelling will become my home and the picture below is me standing on the shoulders of the house, more than fifty years on from the final goodbye of its previous tenants.
As a child of an Irish father and a Scottish mother, it is betwixt and between, just like me.
So, sentimental stuff out of the way, here's what's happening. With a lot of graft (building in another country, on a remote island, up a hill accessed by a single track lane isn't altogether easy, but who wants easy, right?) the dwelling above will soon look like this...well, actually, that would spoil the surprise, you'll just have to wait and see!!
For the moment though, it looks like this!
Farewell, Mullindress dwelling, hello brave new world. I salute your welcome and your passion. I'm all yours, furnishing your narrative and sharing your journey. I hope you'll join me too.
Next week, the founds!