Gortnagrough Folk Museum has been called Ballydehob’s Best Kept Secret, but it could equally be called its Most Delightful Discovery. Leita and Tommy Camier have devoted years to building a huge, quirky, fascinating collection that will transport you back to your childhood, or perhaps your grandparents’ childhood. Follow the Bantry road (N71) north from Ballydehob, turn left when you see the Ceramix factory sign, then follow the signs to the Gortnagrough Museum. Call in advance if you can: 028 37274 or 086 356 3681. It’s pronounced Gurt-na-Grew.
While the emphasis of the collection is on local and West Cork history and on farm machinery, many of the items will bring back memories, no matter where you grew up. Close your eyes for a minute and conjure up a picture of the little tin box that your father used to produce to fix the puncture on your bicycle tyre; or the tobacco tin your grandad opened when he needed to fill his pipe for a contemplative puff by the fire; or the funny old caddy your mother kept the tea in, that had belonged to her mother; or, if you’re as old as I am, the school desk you sat at, with the inkwell that was filled by the teacher once a week. You’ll find all of those here.
How many of these do you remember?
By the way – thanks to Meticulous Mick for the coaching in how to set up a slideshow.
There are older items here too – eighteenth century bibles, little cages for coalmine canaries, famine soup pots, equipment used by tailors and cobblers, dolls loved by little Edwardian girls and clocks that adorned Victorian mantlepieces.
The Irish, as everyone knows, had a grand tradition of Waking the Dead. The body, first, had to be washed and dressed. Special linens, often passed down through generations and kept beautifully white, were used to dress the body, but also the bed and surrounding furniture. Mirrors and clocks, especially, had to be covered. Leita showed us an old suitcase that contained a treasure trove of this linen.
Among the artefacts are books and books of cuttings, old photographs, recipes, shop accounts, advertisements, journals and articles, all lovingly collated and saved in plastic covers. Careful – you might get so caught up in browing among this eclectic collection that the rest of your party has moved on to the farm machinery before you notice.
Tommy and Leita know the use of every item of machinery on their property. A lot of it is still in working order and they bring it to the Thrashing or to country fairs – to demonstrate old winnowing techniques, or to make butter.
Now so – next time you’re in Ballydehob, or if you live there and have never been, make sure to pay a visit to the Gortnagrough Folk Museum. I can think of few more satisfying ways of spending an agreeable afternoon while immersing yourself in Irish country lore. Tell Leita that the Roaringwater Journal sent you!