The people who interacted with the landscape and its resources, both mineralogical and biological, over centuries have developed practices, skills and crafts that are inherently linked to their culture and to the landscape. These elements are sometimes referred to as local folklore, crafts, musical style or accents, specific expressions and vocabulary or even dialects of the national languages. They can be seen as local tradition passed on from generation to generation and are constantly reimagined by the local communities in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history. They provide people with a sense of identity, connection to place and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
There are three cultural heritage elements inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage for Ireland. They are the Irish traditional sport of hurling and the construction and practice of two musical instruments: the Irish Harp and the Uilleann pipes. Of these, Irish harping is actively taught in the region during the Ceol na Locha festival in Tourmakeady every summer. Other musicians practicing both the harp or the uilleann pipes can be heard at regular music sessions in local venues. Hurling is an important part of the cultural and sporting life of County Galway, although Gaelic Football is more popular in the region. There are also numerous handball alleys in the region.
The Irish department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage established in 2019 a national Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Today 38 cultural heritage elements are on this inventory. They include local crafts and practices like Headford Lacemaking (promoted by the Headford Lace Project based in the County Galway town in the geopark region), basket making, the art and practice of falconry, traditional sheep farming and sheep dog training, beekeeping, Irish traditional music and dry stone construction.
Elements of this intangible heritage are still very much alive in the geopark region. There are local craftsmen and women involved with traditional basket making using locally grown willows (Hogan Baskets), farmers breeding and training sheepdogs to carry on the tradition hill sheep farming (Joyce Country Sheepdogs, Killary Sheep Farm, Connemara Hill Lamb and Connemara Mountain Lamb), processing and dying wool produced by the local sheep and dyed using local plants (Joyce Country Wool), and making use of wildflowers and local products in the restaurants to give a taste of the landscape.
The natural beauty of our landscape has also inspired artists over centuries. From poets being inspired by the ever changing lights and weathers (Wittgenstein, George Moore, Oscar Wilde and many others), to drawers, painters and modern photographers capturing the emotion they experienced and finally to filmmakers immortalising the region in such features as The Quiet Man and The Field.
As part of our June 2021 conference, two workshops were produced about ‘Local Songs and Tunes’ and ‘Traditional Craft and Modern Art’ in our region, showing how the natural beauty of our landscape has inspired things such as songs and how local craftsmen use the local resources to create their products.
The ‘Local Songs and Tunes’ workshop features the singer and accordion player Mary Staunton who introduces the video which showcases local musicians, singers and composers. The video also features Sheona Ní Mháille singing and talking to Barbara Philbin in her Maire Luke’s pub about the local music culture. It also showcases a new song from Barney McCabe on both Loughs Mask and Corrib and another from Philip Doddy on Lough Carra. Watch the workshop by clicking here.
The ‘Traditional Craft and Modern Art’ workshop features Clodagh Doyle, Keeper of the Irish Folklife Division based at the National Museum of Ireland Country Life at Turlough House, Co. Mayo, who introduces the video exploring modern production of traditional crafts in the region. The video also features Joe Hogan of Hogan Baskets and Carina Coyne of Joyce Country Wool both from the Lough Nafooey area, Clémence Guiraut of Coolin Soaps in the Clonbur area and Ester Kiely and Ger Hassett of the Headford Lace Project. Watch the workshop by clicking here.