Stone Cottage Ruins.  This is the stone cottage in Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland, where Bridget McNulty, my paternal Grandmother, was born and raised.  It had a thatched roof, no electricity or indoor plumbing, and was heated by burning peat in the fireplace.  This property, still owned by the McNulty Clan, also was farmed and grazed.  Peat, a geologically young fossil fuel, was cut and dried in summer, to be used for year-round heating and cooking.  Peat is still burned in Ireland to heat homes and pubs.  Its smoke has a sweet, musty odor.  Many young people who grew up in rural places like this left for the jobs and modern conveniences of cities and towns, and the family homestead eventually fell into ruins.

Bridget McNulty immigrated to the United States during the Irish Civil War in 1922.  After the war, the island was divided into the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign nation, and Northern Ireland, that remains in essence a colony of the United Kingdom, where  numerous acts of violence and terrorism have occurred.  This conflict, now largely political, is deeply rooted in religion.  The Sinn Fein web site provides a Catholic perspective.  The Democratic Unionist Party web site offers a Protestant perspective.   Both sides have committed atrocities.  It is ironic, unlike the racial hatred that exists on our planet, that both sides are caucasians of Christian belief.  During my tour, I observed that Northern Ireland was occupied by many British soldiers with machine guns, while police in most rural areas of the free Republic did not even carry side arms.  I hope that peace will someday fill this emerald gem of an island, but recent events are rather discouraging.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1992.  I shot this detailed artwork of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a para-military arm of the Protestant cause.  The picture speaks for itself.  I also observed that graffiti of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a para-military arm of the Catholic cause, was hastily spray painted around Belfast.  Heavily armed British security forces manned checkpoints in city streets.  Some government buildings and Protestant apartment complexes were surrounded by barbed wire, topped with surveillance cameras, and patrolled by British soldiers.  I saw several buildings that had been blown up and/or burned out.  The situation in Londonderry, or Derry as the Catholics call it, was similar to Belfast.

More Belfast graffiti.

If you like the Family Coats of Arms at the top of my home page, and if you have an Irish surname or just like cool Irish stuff, go here and check out the free downloads.  I purchased a very nice McQuillan Family screen saver from this site.