I had the amazing opportunity to go to Ireland with two aunts who were fulfilling a lifelong dream of going to where their grandparents came from. My one aunt is an accredited genealogist who had traced our family tree back to the 1300s. We would stop by museums and seeing a large picture of someone and reading the plaque about them she would say ‘oh, we’re related to him’ and would then proceed to tell me the exact family line that connected us to this museum worthy family member. My other aunt is a renowned artist specializing in very intricate watercolor paintings and she would notice the little details of everywhere we went. She saw places and things as a intermixing combination of color and light and would point out the incredible beauty of heather covered rocks or the birds passing the clouds. Between these two women, I saw Ireland in an entirely different way than I would have by myself.
We were driving through County Donegal where so much of our family had come from and we spotted a shop called O’Dorherty’s Handwoven Tweeds. Excitement perked because their mother’s maiden name was Dorherty. The genealogist aunt said we should stop so she could see if there were any connections in our family and my artist aunt thought there would beautiful patterns that she would like to see. So we stopped the car and made our way into the shop. We were greeted by the man himself, who had been in business for over 40 years handmaking his beautiful wool and tweed. He showed us how he weaves the fabric by hand on a large loom on what must be a painstaking process. We were completely mesmerized by his steady hands working the wool creating such beautiful pieces. He walked through his shop with us as we picked out more and more fabric. Then he said that he owned a small pub next door and took us over to see it. He gave us the tour of the pub and gave us some coasters as a mementos which we tucked happily in our woolen laden bags.
It turns out that he was not related to us after all, but by the time we left we still felt like family. To this day, the skirts that I made from the beautiful wool that I bought here are my favorite and they still retain the integrity of the fabric. And every time I wear them I think of Donegal and of meeting the warm and welcoming Eddie O’Dorherty and his incredible talent for making the most beautiful woolens and tweeds.