Donegal County Council invited Jan Voster and Cathal Ó Searcaigh
to work together to record and celebrate the changing way of life and
landscape of Caiseal na gCorr, the artists were strangers neither to us
nor to each other. Jan Voster is fascinated by that place and he has photographed
that area time and again since he first came to Donegal. It was Jan who
proposed the project which led to this book.
He has come back to Caiseal na gCorr each season over the past two years
to capture the area in all its moods. He suggested that Cathal get involved,
and the two went around the Glen together. Cathal told him of the history
of each individual part of the Glen and of the people who lived there,
Jan listening and absorbing.
Oliver McDonagh recently wrote that, as a historian, he could exercise
his love of words only in the lower pastures, not on the bright,
sunglanced uplands. As one of Irelands foremost poets, Cathal
is at home in the sun-glanced uplands, in every sense; his prose is equally
delightful, as his pieces in this book show. Jans photographs of
the Donegal landscape, captured especially in his Landscape of Remembrance
exhibition and book of 1995, seek to evoke things which are gone but are
not fully gone, a quality he finds in Donegal in contrast to more developed
parts of Europe. Cathal himself has written about Jans work: his
intimate touch with nature, with the green spirit of mountain and moor
gives his pictures that marvellous clarity: a rapt contemplation.
Cathal has been a catalyst in bringing many artists to his dúchas,
as well as encouraging local people to open up to their artistic sides.
Equally important has been his use of words in transmitting the heritage
of the area to future generations. Jan has taken admirable care in making
the images, in choosing what to include from the vast number he has taken
of Caiseal na gCorr over the lifetime of this project (and indeed since
the mid-1980s), the order in which they should appear in the book, and
their relationship with the text. Coming from an environment which has
been industrialised and urbanised for centuries, he brings a different
eye, but one which knows this landscape well.
I congratulate Jan and Cathal for their beautiful and telling images and
words. I also congratulate Traolach Ó Fionnáin who has stewarded
this project through its various stages. He has been more than a project
manager for this project; at times he has been like an anxious farmer
in the Glen during lambing season. For the two artists and for Traolach
it has all been an extremely worthwhile venture, and I commend this book
to the reader as an invaluable record of a way of life that will soon
be no more.
Cathal prays that a door of kindness be always open in our hearts;
this book will help to keep that door ajar.