Monday, January 07, 2013

They're all documented. Dennis Nielsen did the same, only I can draw better than him.

It feels like ages since I have posted but it seems that as I was on holiday, my brain was too. So, Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had very restful breaks. After three weeks on holiday, coming back to work today wasn't as horrendous as I had feared it might be, but I think January is still going to be pretty hideous. Ah well, I'll survive by making life as fun as possible outside of work, I suppose.

In any case, it was a wonderfully relaxed holiday with nothing to do except take endless photos of the dog and watch TV.

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You definitely want to give me that shortbread, don't you?

I didn't go out for New Year's Eve, opting instead to drink cava, eat tasty Fivemiletown cheese and watch The Bourne Identity with Nic and my parents. It was perfect, and it meant I didn't have a hangover the next day and so I was able to enjoy a day out.

If you're from Northern Ireland, a visit to the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh is practically mandatory. It's a rite of passage to go on a school trip there, but it's one that I had somehow managed to miss. I mean, we went to Loughry College (a training school for farmers) twice, but WHATEVS. This is something I have long bemoaned so as it was mild and dry, off we went.

To be honest, I think I might have oversold it slightly to Nic, based on how it had been sold to me when I was at primary school. I promised him that we'd go back in time, then get on a boat, and then be in AMERICA. And that's not strictly how it happened. Not strictly.

We did have an excellent day. None of us were expecting the park to be as big as it was, and Nic wasn't prepared for how interactive it was. My Dad really enjoyed exploring all of the buildings and putting turf on every single fire and generally making a nuisance of himself at every turn. The museum is about Irish emigration to America in the 19th Century and the loose thread that connects it all is the story of Thomas Mellon, whose family emigrated when he was five years old. You follow a path through the park and around various buildings, some of which are reconstructions of buildings from the time but many of which are the original buildings, which have been moved to the park. That's pretty mind-blowing. It's great craic altogether. Some of the houses have volunteers dressed in period clothing (but not pretending to be in character, thankfully) and they're able to tell you specific details about each building as well as more general facts about life at that time. So that's really cool.

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 Nic at the first cottage. This one was brought to the park from the foot of the Sperrins - a family of 10 people lived in this tiny cottage.


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 Castletown National School
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Eugene giving us a sermon from the pulpit of the Meeting House 
After you've gone round the 'old world' you end up at a mocked-up village. This isn't based on any one village, as far as I can tell, but it does have period shop fronts and you can even go into some of the shops! I think this was my favourite bit of the whole experience because I loved looking in the shop windows (yes, I know) and the shop fronts themselves are so pretty.

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Nic on Ulster Street

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You know I said Daddy made a nuisance of himself everywhere we went? This is him after he climbed behind the counter in the Post Office
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Here I am in the doorway of the pharmacy

The village leads to the docks, where you can pick up your ticket in a building transported from Great Georges Street in Belfast, and board a ship to take you to Baltimore. This bit was amazing - the boat itself isn't moving or anything and it's only a small portion, but you can see what it was like for the many people who took the 8-12 week passage to America. This is even more sobering when you learn that between 1700 and 1900 over 2 million people from Ulster alone emigrated to America! The boat is pretty grim. Nic loved it, and we had an extra treat in the shape of my Dad's friend Bill who had joined us - he was a shipbuilder (he was involved in restoring The Amistad) so he was able to investigate the replica boat and tell us all about that, too.

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 Off to Baltimore
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Nic on deck 
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and me on deck
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Daddy testing out the accomodations

And when we got off the ship, we were in America! Admittedly it still looked a lot like Omagh, but the signs said we were in Baltimore, and then in Pennsylvania. I think by this stage I was feeling a bit tired and cold, as it made slightly less of an impact on me, but I did enjoy the log cabins that had been transported from Pennsylvania, and my Dad loved the big barn.

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Daddy climbing the barn - being a nuisance, as usual

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But he was pleased with himself when he got up there.Photobucket
This two-storey log cabin is a replica of the one in Pennsylvania that Thomas Mellon's family built - there are still people living in it to this day

It was an absolutely brilliant day out - and they are in the process of expanding the park so I'd love to go back one day. And if you're in or visiting Northern Ireland and you haven't been before, you should definitely go. It's only £7 in!

It was a great day out, made even better by getting home and putting my pyjamas on. Which is what I'm off to do now! I'll be back later in the week, though, and hopefully with a new sewing project to show you all.