Connemara

I lived in Clifden, Connemara, from April '95 to October '03. My Dad Eoin grew up there, and when he died in December '94 me and my brother Gav inherited the art gallery he had set up in 1988 in "Nana's", the old guesthouse and Lavelle Hotel overflow building. The Lavelle Art Gallery is still going strong, getting a fresh coat of luminous yellow paint every two years.

At the end of our first season running the gallery I bought a Windows 95 Gateway 2000 PC. The web was becoming something you couldn't ignore, and I wanted to be part of it. Inspired by Yahoo!'s daring attempt to create a directory of sites, me, Gav and cousin Robert Joyce drew up bold plans to make a directory-type site about Connemara. But like tragic geniuses cursed for being too far ahead of the slowly-turning world, we floundered in a quagmire of self-doubt and procrastination, and failed to get our finger out.

Brian Kelly
FlickrMaam Cross Connemara, by Brian Kelly

No such faffing about the following year: with my new crew of Justin and Eugene, in October '96 I set up a portal-type website for the area: Connemara.net. You can read about that time in 'An Ancient History of Connemara.net'.

Some of my best memories from Clifden come from doing BasketHouse, the open mike collective night we ran in Mullarkey's Bar (and the Darcy Inn in the winter). Tired of hearing the same shit country and western music coming out of EJ's and fed an endless diet of samey pub rock in Humpty's and Guy's, a few of us decided we'd do our own brand of gonzo entertainment. Dublin indie heads, American backpackers, Cleggan poets, bruisingly untalented local stoners, and unsung local bards all filed up to the stage for a go. It petered out by about 2000, but the first 3 years were magic. Last time I was in Mullarkey's, in June '09, it was still going but in name only. It wasn't an open mike any more.

Of course, you can't talk about Connemara without singing the wonders of the landscape. Even though I didn't manage to explore every nook and cranny - maybe only the great Tim Robinson can lay claim to that - I can say that I've seen enough to feel satisfied that, except for parts of south Connemara and the Islands, I know the area pretty well. As I sit at my desk in a Brisbane office, I can drift back for hours on The Man's dollar to what seems like an endless Summer of heather- and foxglove-lined bike rides, sometimes with friends but more often alone, digital camera in hand, ready to capture the capricious mood changes. Just like my Dad had done years before with me and Gavin in tow. Except his camera was analog, obviously.

Living in Clifden is very much defined by the seasons. Running an art gallery, selling figurative landscapes to tourists - well, from October to the following April, your income migrates south with the birds. That's what gave me the time to develop my interest in the web, and to drive around shilling my services as a website developer to the B&Bs, Hotels, and Guesthouses from Roundstone to Leenane.

Flickr photo
FlickrClifden at night, by Connemara Publications.

I made some great friends there: Martin "Shoegaze" Finke, Noel "Onions" Mannion, Mary Hession, Declan "Deggsy" Weir, Eugene Adams, and Sensei Gerry "Kickmiaz" Coyne.

Noel took over Connemara.net in early 2012 and gave it the shot in the arm it badly needed. Nonetheless, for years I had pumped photos, articles, and the odd video into the site as a way of learning web development, and about Connemara, and I still maintain some of the old content at Connemara.com.

I get back there every two years, last time was June 2013, next time probably (northern hemisphere) Summer 2015.