Ireland’s Glencolmcille Folk Village offers a glimpse into daily life as it was during past centuries. The Folk Village Museum is a cluster of several small cottages, called a ‘clachan’, perched on a hillside overlooking the sandy curve of Glen Bay Beach in South West Donegal. Designed, built and maintained by the local people, it is one of Ireland’s best living-history museums. Recently we spoke with manager Margaret Cunningham.
What are your own roots?
I was brought up in Carrick Village on the foot hills of Sliabh Liag. My family are all local apart from my Grandmother who came here from Monaghan to learn Irish and never met my Grandfather who was teaching Irish. On both sides of my family was a strong sense of Culture and education, my people were fishermen, weavers, spinners, knitters, teachers and I am aware that my Grandfather had a great passion for Archaeology as I do myself. I am a fiddler, guitarist, a traditional singer, tapestry weaver photographer and have a great love for where I come from and our native language of course all of these passions are derived by my surroundings and a passed down heritage and tradition.
How and when did you get involved with The Folk Village?
After working as a Tapestry weaver with an Artist weaving collective, Taipeis Gael for eleven years The Folk Village was seeking a new manager in 2004, it was at a time when I had been seeking a new challenge but one that was still rooted in Glencolmcille. What is the project’s mandate? The project’s mandate was to be a manager a team leader, administrator ,marketing person and most of all the face of The Folk Village to help nurture the resources that were there already, make the most of them and bring the museum with strength and purpose into it’ s 50th year in 2017.
What are the challenges of the job?
It can be challenging getting visitors to take the leap of faith and travel to Glencolmcille they are travelling to Sliabh Liag just out the road from us but very often missing the spectacular beauty of Glencolmcille and of course The Folk Village, Glencolmcille is right on the edge of The Wild Atlantic, when people take the time to come and take the tour of our coastline and our Folk Village they are shocked at the mind blowing beauty and furthermore shocked at how under visited it is.
What are the rewards?
The rewards of working at the Glencolmcille Folk Village are outstanding, the location, the people I work with. I love the reaction of the visitors when they discover our Village but in particular the beauty of our product itself and the value I get out of saving a very special piece of Irish history.
Who is your typical visitor?
Our typical visitor is the person usually with a respect for culture and tradition,also the great escaper wanting to get away fro the rat race that is life and see what it was like to live when life was tougher but the people were more in touch with reality and themselves.
What do they experience?
They experience a great Irish welcome, an authentic Ireland and a way of living that is long gone, they muse over the idea whether it was better in the various stages over the past 200 years to be living in or now.
What are your future plans for The Folk Village?
We are celebrating 50 years in 2017. Our future plans are always to nurture what we have been entrusted to look after. We aim to develop the cultural visitor’s experience where the public can participate more hands-on in our museum in terms of workshops and cultural packages. In a sense get a local to adopt a tourist for a couple of hours at the Village have an afternoons fun, learning and relaxation.