Tuesday, July 7, 2009


“Celtic Tiger” is a term describing Ireland in its period of rapid economic growth that began in the mid 1990s and transformed the country from one of Europe's poorer nations into one of the wealthiest. It’s a bit different now … since the economy has pretty well tanked during the past few years. However great changes took place during the surge … all basically for the better … yet somehow you’d wish certain things could be kept as is. (Being from Boston it might be necessary to make a note that the word ‘Celtic’ is pronounced with a ‘K’ sound (Keltic) not a ‘S’ sound (seltic) like in Boston’s roundball athletic team.)

On a trip to Donegal last September I came upon and painted an old thatched cottage. Thatchers are dying out and are taking their secrets and their talents with them. The tatch on many older thatched homes has been stripped and replaced with tin, slate or tile. And many others are left to the elements … or retired to serve as storage and work sheds.

I call this painting “Celtic Tiger”. Note the old homestead, which had served nobly and well as a family home for many generations. At the right an old abandoned tractor also sits in rustation, its glory days have also gone by.

Then sweeping to the left … there’s the sheep. The rest of the flock are in the far field but … there’s always the one that’s a bit different now, isn’t there? Very Irish.

Still on the sweep to the left … ladders, planks and saw horses are visible in and around the open doorway, jammed into areas where, for many years, and for many generations life began, evolved and passed. That life cycle is over and the home is now a storage area and workshop.

Up above … roof-grass is growing in the thatch. Without heat from the turf-fireplace the thatch besomes Impacted by seeds blown in by the Gaelic winds … and the thatch becomes prey to the Irish weather and bog-like dampness that characterizes the island nation. In time the thatch becomes so laden with soil, seed and rain … that the weight is too much for the slender timbers … also weakened by the dampness … and the thatch roofs collapse.

Back to the painting. Further to the left, sitting majestically behind a tall fieldstone gate post … the Mercedes … powerful and proud as a ‘tiger’. And beyond the Mercedes … unseen but implicit … the new family home … a handsome Irish McMansion completing the storyline for the “Celtic Tiger”.

So now … a toast to the ‘thatched houses’ … beautiful in their settings and economic necessities in their day … that now have become impractical as the new wave of “Internet Ireland’ took the youth from the green fields of home into the greener fields of finance. Still, the thatched cottage epitomizes visual Ireland … alongside the cross-patch meadows and grazing fields with their 48 shades of green. To the thatch and to the ‘Celtic Tiger’ … Slante!
-- Dan McCole

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