I’ve been wanting to write this down for quite a while – for a year, actually. There is a place in Donegal which, to me, represents memory and memory studies combined. But in a bizarre turn of events, it is all but remembered in the wider world.
The place is called Ray Church (Teampall Ráithe). These beautiful ruins sit right outside Falcarragh, in the openness of Ireland’s rolling greenness, which soon turns into the ocean’s deep blue. St Fionnán founded this church in the 6th century, says the legend, and the ruins date back to the 1500’s.
This is a site of a 17th century massacre. One Sunday morning, during mass, the entire congregation inside Ray Church was slaughtered by Cromwellian soldiers. This came to be known as the Massacre of Ray (Marfach Ráithe). Its victims are buried nearby. These days, the place is strangely and deeply peaceful – not unlike Drobitsky Yar.
Inserting the words “Massacre of Ray” into Google gives me a total of 38 (thirty-eight) hits as of today, 27 July 2012. Without quotation marks, it returns 45 500 000 hits, pointing primarily to the Texas Chain Saw Massacre (a 1974 horror film). Changing the order of the two words is even less effective. And the Gaelic name, Marfach Ráithe, brings back a grand total of 8 hits from the entire world wide web.
A few dozen hits for murder of a crowd during prayer. I’m writing this post to tackle those numbers at least a bit. But it wasn’t ‘only’ this event that rendered the ruins of Ray Church meaningful (after all, the entire continent is flooded with blood if one digs deep enough); it was also this little old desk I found right outside the church fence. I have no idea where it came from. This image – a school-desk facing historical ruins, a memory site, in the middle of vast fields– imprinted itself in my mind last summer. That’s what I meant when I referred to perceiving memory and memory studies through an image. We just need to remember to sit down and listen. Even for just a bit.