We thank Dympna Kirke (formerly of West End, Millstreet) for sharing this fascinating feature on the direct link both Dympna and her Students had in the recent highly prestigious Bloom Event 2019. Dympna writes: “Seán – I spoke to you about a Postcard Garden I did for Bord Bia Bloom 2019 with the students of Loreto College, St. Stephen’s Green. These Postcard Gardens are open to all organisations nationwide. The gardens are chosen based on the quality of the submission and the likelihood of the garden to meet the standards set out by the organisers of the festival. The Postcard Gardens are 3m wide, 2.4m high and 2m deep. This year Bord Bia Bloom received many submissions but could only accept a maximum of 14 Postcard Gardens so we were delighted to be accepted.
The theme of our garden was the Famine in Ireland 1845 – 1852 and was entitled ‘The Great Hunger’. As you will know – after the failure of the potato upon which the native population was largely dependent one million people died of starvation during these years and the same number was forced to emigrate. Our objective was to present that figure visually so that people could really understand the numbers involved. We did this by displaying the script of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘The Great Hunger’ and repeating it on a continuous loop until a person could see one million characters on the back panel. Each letter represented a human being who died of starvation during these years and also a person who was forced to emigrate.
The key word in our garden was ‘authenticity’ so the potato foliage seen in the garden is a direct descendent of the original famine potato – the lumper. The water feature which is a central feature of the garden features what we believe to be an original famine pot. This pot is over 170 years old and we believe it may have saved many lives during those sad years. Incredibly – I found the pot – completely unwanted and unable to be sold – among broken concrete blocks and broken bricks in a scrapyard in Dublin. I simply couldn’t believe it. I sent photos of the pot to experts in the field who concurred with me in the belief that this was an original famine pot. This was of course going to be our central water feature and as you can see from the image it worked out very well. If this pot could tell a story….it started out being cast by the Quakers in Derbyshire and was sent to Ireland to help with the famine effort. It went to either a workhouse or was placed on the roadside to help feed the starving. Over the many decades it was found useful in either a farm or a factory and was used as a film prop over the years. In recent years it has been largely defunct and was dumped in a scrapyard in a place where broken/unsaleable items are left. However, In the past week it has been viewed by the President and his wife Sabina, over 100,000 people and been the centrefold picture in the Irish Independent of 5th June 2019. The pot has come a long way since being cast 170 years ago.
The garden is bordered by cut stone which was brought from the West of Ireland. The girls themselves built the stone walls using the basic principles of dry stone wall building and the planting is comprised of plants which one would associate with the West of Ireland which was particularly badly hit by the famine and the policy of mass eviction and export of food.
Our garden received a Highly Commended award from the Bloom judges but apart from awards it got a huge response from the public and caught the attention of the President and Sabina. I have attached a photo of myself with the girls and the President on opening day. We had a very successful week indeed at Bloom 2019 and I really do think that this experience will stay with these teenage girls for a very long time.
I’m also attaching some images of the garden itself and I hope your readers will find it interesting.” Sincere congratulations to Dympna and her wonderfully dedicated Students. It’s truly uplifting to learn of a direct link with Millstreet and Bloom 2019. (S.R.)