Javi’s Journals – The pursuit of the Irish-Scottish Connection
Welcome to my new post of Javi’s Journals, at Aberdeen International Youth Festival.
Last week was really intense for me and for my personal exploration of the Celtic connections in my search for Scottish idiosyncrasy. Aberdeen is not as isolated as it might seem on the map – you can fly to Dublin or Belfast in around an hour and for a reasonable price with budget airlines – so I took the opportunity to visit the ‘fat’ or ‘fertile’ land, as it may have been known in ancient times, nowadays known as Ireland.
Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Javier Burón
My partner Miroslava and I embarked on this adventure to discover ‘Éire’ beyond the Leprechauns, Guinness, and Ryanair.
Unfortunately, because of the dates we chose, it meant that I missed the Fundraising Concert that my mates at AIYF successfully organised on Friday (10th March). However, with the beauty of social media, I managed to get the updates as if I was really there watching the Aberdeen Bhangra Crew, Albyn School Choir, Kyle McDonald from The Capollos, Millicent, Aberdeen Music Service Brass band, and Zoe Faulkner, all performing their sets!
AIYF Fundraising Concert, at Queen’s Cross Church.
In the end the event managed to raise £1,090! A fantastic result for an amazing night that I was really sorry to miss, but sometimes life is about learning to accept that you don’t have the gift for being everywhere at once.
Our first stop was Galway, a small city on the west coast that achieved fame (especially among the female population!) after the movie P.S. I love you and the song Galway Girl. But I was blown away by its old and colourful buildings, the traditional shops with picturesque signs, and its vibrant music.
Quay Street, Galway. Photo: Javier Burón.
Of course, a huge part of the Celtic tradition is found in the pubs at night, so I had no choice but to give it a try! So as I was deciding whether Guinness truly tastes different in its homeland, I was also enjoying the old melodies of the traditional bands in the pubs; The Quays, Murphy’s, or Taaffes – but as a friend once told me, “going to a genuine pub in Ireland is an experience on its own,” so I won’t spoil it for you… (however, I’ll leave here this video to give you a rough idea).
The next day we explored the Cliffs of Moher. They are absolutely spectacular, there was something hypnotic in the crashing of the waves on the cliffs and it is no surprise that people thought that for many centuries this place was considered the end of the world because you couldn’t see anything past the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean.
Our happy place was sitting on the ‘edge of the world’ on a lovely sunny day, it gave us the peace we needed in the fast-paced & hectic lifestyle we live nowadays.
Dublin felt different. The taste of a European and cosmopolitan capital, the epicentre of the activity in the island, it has something for everyone: history, culture, architecture, shopping and nightlife.
Personally, I enjoyed walking around and learning about the turbulent past of Éire, visiting the sites of historical value like Dublin Castle, Trinity College and St Patrick’s Cathedral. There, I could learn about The Great Famine in the 19th Century, the subsequent massive emigrations, the birth of the Irish Free State in 1922 after 8 centuries of English rule, the religious tensions… it still feels recent, still very present in their folk songs, embedded in the walls of the city, in the stories of the locals. A huge contrast with the Ireland’s obviously open and prosperous character.
Students at the Trinity College. Photo: Javier Burón.
And now let’s talk about pubs. If you’re looking to discover some gems off the beaten track and skip the well-known bars crowded with tourists, then you’ll be happy to discover, just off the River Liffey, on Chapel Street, many “local” bars such as The Black Sheep, McNeil’s, or Slattery’s, where U2, Thin Lizzy, or The Pogues used to play at their humble beginnings.
Mural in Donegall Street Place, Belfast. Photo: Javier Burón.
Our last stop of this trip was Belfast. The sadly notorious history over the last 100 years in these part of the island makes it an incredibly attractive city for people interested in politics. The impressive “peace walls” separating the Catholic and Protestant communities and the explicit murals offering different interpretations of history gives us an idea of what was happening during that time in Northern Ireland. There are some great political tours that will give you a good insight into this dark period, showing you how people lived through this segregation.
International Walls, Divis Street, Belfast. Photo: Javier Burón.
And so, while we were sipping the last of my Guinness, chatting with some locals, I was thinking about my colleagues at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, who were no doubt rocking away to the music, catching up with the audience and performers and trying their luck at the raffle!
If I had to sum up my adventure I would conclude:
The best thing was: the people and the music.
The worst thing was: not enough time!
This trip has taught me so much about what it is like to be Celtic, immersed in its treacherous and exciting past, learning about its struggles that are still prevalent today and its connections to Scotland. Some might argue there are some similarities with these two Celtic countries in terms of their landscapes, music, pubs, people, history… But still so many differences.
Cliffs of Moher. Photo: Javier Burón.
Like a half English, half Mexican lady told me in Dublin: “I have found that Scottish and Irish are very much like Latinos: happy, extrovert, easy-going… except living in cold lands”.
Feicfidh mé ar ball thú (see you later!)
Javi’s Journals blog is written by Javier Buron, working as a volunteer at Aberdeen International Youth Festival from February 2017.
Javier moved to Aberdeen in 2015 to complete his studies with the MSc Corporate Communication and Public Affairs at Robert Gordon University, after his BA in Journalism at Valladolid, Spain, and an Erasmus year at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. He has worked as a guitarist for six years and as a journalist in Spain before coming to Aberdeen to study.« Back