Achill Island

Irish Journal, after Heinrich Böll

In 1964, Böll said,
“You can recognize the humanity of a country by what ends up in its garbage bins.
By the everyday items, by what could still be used but is disposed of.
By the kind of poetry it throws away.
By what is deemed worthy of destruction”.

Poetry is one of the first things to end up in the trash cans when a country loses its freedom.

Early one morning I awoke to the haunting sound of a lone sheep, lost, perhaps, after a day with strong winds and heavy rainfall. Would it find its mates again? Achill Island’s landscape is enchanting and forever changing.

At the Minaun Bar, Mary, the welcoming publican tells me about her childhood memories of the Böll family (Böll would let her keep the change after filling up his car at the petrol pump outside the bar.

The Irish-German writer Hugo Hamilton describes the views from Böll’s cottage, ‘.. sometimes it is all blurred with rain… sometimes you can see for miles, right across the bay to the Mayo coastline…’

It is easy to get lost on this island, lost in the marshes, lost at night, lost in thought, lost in books or while gazing at Böll’s map of Achill in his former study.