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  • Columbia Hillen

Spring at our feet, but we step on it

I live by the sea. I also live nearby an enchanted forest that sings to me every day.

They say that the first people who inhabited Donegal, the Tuatha de Danann, were of the elf kind. And they say that elves sang to the trees and flowers and turned them into homes. That’s how strong their connection with nature was.

Donegal still retains such magical places, like Ballyconnell House, hidden away, ignored and left to the past, but coming alive once you take the time to wander through its ancient grounds, listen to the wind combing through the branches of the old trees and lean down to smell the flowers at your feet.

Built in the 1600s by a Dutch family, the house was once a house of song, hosting a fantastic Irish music school, which closed almost ten years ago "from lack of funding."

But the grounds are still enjoyed not only by walkers, nature lovers but also by the local Cloughaneely Golf Club. And was the site of a fabulous ‘Evil Eye Festival’ (Féile na Súile Nimhe) organised by Kathleen Gallagher and her devoted team.

Recent news that it may be closed to the public to be turned into a Catholic-church run drug addiction clinic, with hundreds of thousand of euro of public money poured into it, made me ponder - how different we are from the ancestors of this land and how much we have changed… that we cannot see the flowers we have and let anyone come and stamp on them…how we don’t value what our forbearers left us and allow even the most innocent of joys to be taken away little by little…

I smell the scent of these tiny flowers now, as come next Spring, they might be locked up inside another “wall of authority.”


One of the biggest mistakes the Communist regime I grew up in made was to destroy what the previous regime had built instead of seeing its value and develop it.

Years later, here in Donegal, I’m experiencing deja-vu… and I don’t wonder anymore why the young and beautiful are leaving this lovely place. But I do wonder who will be left wondering where have all the flowers gone…

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