In all 30 years of visiting Connemara I had never stopped at Letterfrack. Nearby Renvyle, Tullycross, Cleggan, Kylemore Abbey and the town of Clifden are all well-known and well-trodden areas. But letter tails? No, I just couldn’t go there.
After all, etterfrack was a place of darkness, a place where children suffered unimaginable pain and abuse. Here was a place whose name was synonymous with its infamous industrial school and all the suffering and pain inflicted on so many youngsters there.
So each time I drove straight through, looking neither left nor right, until I was out of the village and bathed again in the healing beauty of the Connemara countryside.
However, that changed last week.
The bookstore was the carrot. Books at One is just behind the former industrial school building and is housed in a small building with a patio that was once a blacksmith’s shop. It’s a gem of a place.
Opened last summer by Vincent Murphy and Mary Ruddy, this is a bookstore that perfectly illustrates that size doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s small, but boy does it punch well above its square footage.
While the books themselves are a delight – well categorized, beautifully displayed, and with a great children’s section – there’s also the added delight of an outdoor cafe courtyard, complete with colorful chairs, vases of wild flowers, and a beautiful, specially commissioned bench adorned is design contains countless literary references to Connemara.
After discovering this particular little bookworm, it was Vincent Murphy who then pointed me to another must-see from Letterfrack.
“You should check out the student exhibit,” he said, pointing to the old school building that now houses the letterfrack wing of the multi-campus Atlantic Technological University, where furniture design is a specialty.
So the next day I stopped again in Letterfrack and went to the exhibition. How would you describe the pieces of furniture on display? Exquisite. Such workmanship, such detail, such absolute beauty.
And the day after that visit, as I climbed the trail along one of the trails in Connemara National Park, I reflected on letterfrack’s dichotomy with its juxtaposition of historic, appalling abuse and contemporary, life-enhancing aestheticism.
For all those who suffered there and still carry the painful memories of those horrific childhood days, Letterfrack will forever cast its long, dark shadow over their lives.
And yet, last week, as I gazed at these exquisite pieces of furniture, strolled amidst the stunning national park scenery above Letterfrack, and sipped coffee in the colorful and flower-bedecked courtyard of Books at One, I couldn’t help but think that, in the end, it’s a good thing that Evil has triumphed in this little corner of Connemara, the beast has been defeated and beauty has finally triumphed.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/good-triumphs-over-evil-in-a-little-corner-of-connemara-41904215.html In a little corner of Connemara, good triumphs over evil