It’s not easy being a blow-in

I have always struggled with my English versus Irishness. I own both passports. I have lived long term in both. But I am an outsider here, in the land of my birth.

I feel at home in the mystic landscapes of this island. Where I am most drawn to is this county in which I live, which has a long anglo-Irish history going back many hundreds of years. County Cork is known locally as The People’s Republic of Cork – and really this is how it feels. Our own land. (We have a reputation, according to Wikipedia, for going on about how great it is… but it is!) The people of Cork are known as the Rebels, and that’s what we are. The county has attracted a vast number of “blow-ins” over the years: a band of peaceful misfits, creatives, free-thinking land-lovers, hippies and cheese makers mainly from England and Scotland, and a good few Americans and Germans to boot.

A view of the Beara mountains from Bere Island where we were  just on holiday.

We love this place. We pay our taxes. We call it home. We help start schools, organise events, enrich our communities. But every time I, and every other person with an English accent opens our mouths we mark our card. We are blow-ins, we don’t really belong. We are not from here. Sure, every culture, down to the smallest village has a version of “you’re-not-from-here-itis”. However, us English in Ireland have an extra black mark: we are, by dint of our heritage responsible for the crimes of our forebears: the house raids, battles, political domination, potato famine… I represent the unwanted oppressor, the colonist…

So it was not obvious that the visit by a little old lady with a bad taste in hats and handbags would make any difference to me… or all the other blow-ins who call this precious country home. And yet, it seems agreed by English and Irish alike, that the visit of the English Sovereign to this island last week sowed some seeds of peace, helping us to re-evaluate communally the damage of the past.  This seems to have begun to heal rifts and long-standing hurt. I am not saying that all the history will disappear overnight. But that it is being discussed, that wrongs are being acknowledged is a first step. As humans we have a poor track record of living peaceably together, of getting on with new arrivals into our countries, of forgiving and forgetting. I always was very proud of South Africa for instigating the Peace and Reconciliation tribunals – it was an act of extreme spiritual and political maturity. Would that all nations could follow suit.

May we work on sowing seeds of peace and reconciliation in our communities and families and extending a warm welcome to those who “aren’t from round here”… long live the blow-in and all the gifts of diversity that they bring.

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  1. Seán and Helen
    Seán and Helen05-22-2011

    Well written Lucy.

  2. Lou

    I know what you mean about feeling an outsider. I was born and brought up in Shetland, and although my mother was a born and bred Shetlander, my dad was from ‘south’. This at times did make you feel like you didn’t really belong, especially as people were so preoccupied with ‘who are your folk?’. Here in Australia it feels so different. It is a nation of blow ins and generally the backgrounds and cultures of others is accepted and embraced.

  3. Anonymous

    Nail on the head, but Lucy, it’s not because you’re not from Ireland; it’s because you’re not from Cork! I moved to Cork a few years ago and haven’t made one friend here. I have given up completely on making friends with any Cork people because I have found them to be completely inward looking and downright rude to anyone not born and bred in the county.

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