It is a long, low white cottage that sits beside an inlet of the sea. Originally a small Irish cottage, it is now doubled in length. It sits in its own small garden and a low, stone wall protects it from a road and then another stone wall and then the sea. The tide comes in and out twice a day in what is a finger reaching into surrounding fields. The waters are part of Clew Bay on Mayo’s west coast. The encircling horizon is low hills in the foreground and mountains in the distance, the hills of Corraun and the Nephin Beg range.
It is an idyllic spot. It is my sister, Sheila’s home.
Good stone flags make the floor throughout. There is a kitchen, a lounge, a hallway, a bathroom, a study, a corridor and two bedrooms. If you sit in the lounge when the tide is in, and look out of the window you would think that you were at sea, as your eye carries you over the window sill straight onto water.
You have to pay for a view like that and a few years ago a high tide and strong westerly winds brought the sea water into the house. But all is well again now.
The cottage has been home to my sister and her husband, Karl for twenty-five years. They came here from Dusseldorf in Germany. They had lived on the northern edge of that city, right beside the open country and the local woods. I enjoyed many visits there and was introduced to good German beer and tasty German schnitzel and other table delights in lovely local taverns. Later life brought them here to Mayo and to this beautiful spot on Clew Bay.
The pull of Mayo has been very strong on our family. My other sister, Tricia also lives in Westport, and my mother came back here in her later years, when widowed to live beside her eldest daughter. For some years, my brother, too had a holiday cottage in the county, which I was able to enjoy when bringing my own family back to this ancestral place.
How strange it is that my father’s father, a Westport man, had to leave his native home and say goodbye to all he loved and to come to England and to Lancashire and spend his life, working in dark mines, while we his grandchildren found our way back again to the green fields and the stonewalls of Mayo.
How lucky we have been.
18 May 2022