This morning, I met with Carmel Kelly from just outside of Banagher. Ten years ago, Carmel opened her own baking operation in an old concrete building on her family's property. Every morning she wakes up at 5 to begin her baking--mixing as many as 70 loaves of soda bread by hand, not to mention her scones.
Carmel's stories are lovely, and you'll be able to listen to them in the archive, but what I want to write about is the kindness of strangers. I've written about this before in other places, but I think the concept deserves another mention here as it has shaped this project from beginning to end.
It's incredible really, to reflect for a moment on the generosity that has been extended to us throughout our stay in Offaly. Person after person, family after family have willingly invited us into their homes and shared their stories. Once inside their homes there is always the requisite offer of a cup of tea and I've been met with my fair share of soda bread. This exchange, of tea and bread has been enormously valuable throughout this process. Even when people met each other in cafes, the concept is the same, a ritual of sharing stories over a comforting drink and a slice of hearty bread.
Over bread and tea people's barriers are able to come down, trust can be built and confidences shared. These moments make our responsibility to our storytellers all the more important. The people who we have interviewed have shared not only their time, they have also welcomed us into their homes.
I'm humbled by their generosity.