I walk along the slow river from Graiguenamanagh to Borris. It is a nice walk, the sun is shining and the path is level. To get to Borris, the path makes a bit of a detour, making me walk 3 km more then necessary. A gate leads to a shortcut. As I stand there pondering my options, a swift walking man comes towards me. I ask him about the detour. “Ah. well”, he says, “that’s because the owner does not allow people to walk on the grounds of his estate”. The estate is a beautiful wooded area with age old beech and oak trees. Ritchie, as the man is called, invites me to walk with him. He says to me: “The owner is a bit erratic, he knows me, and I am usually allowed to walk through. So he won’t shoot me. But be careful, he might shoot you though”. Half of it is Irish humour, half is meant seriously. Ownership of land, and especially when having a lot of it and status go with it, is an important thing here. Ritchie says that the all the land and the whole village of Borris formerly belonged to the lord who governed it. He believes the lords that governed Borris did so with understanding benevolence and that the village prospered with it.
Ritchie says goodbye when we enter the village. Walk up, any green place is OK to camp out, he says. It’s an orderly small village, with a lovely small park along the main street. The weather forecast is bad, so the large trees and picnic area promise a reasonable place to stay for the night. I do walk into the local pub, just to check whether there may be other places to camp and to have some human company. They agree that the park will do well, but some minutes later John, the pub owner and some of the guests show me a place in the pub’s garden. Safer, they say. Just then, it starts to rain.
I ask John whether there may be another place, like a barn, so that I don’t have to pack up wet in the morning. “Should have said that before”, he says, and he shows me into a garage filled with coffins and a hearse. The local pub owner is also the local undertaker.
The small Monday night crowd at the pub is friendly. Connor has been the bank manager for decades in the village. He quit when the crisis started to affect the local people, many of whom are his friends. He had a bypass two years ago. He wants to walk to Santiago, to give something back. He says: “this is a small village, people look after each other, no one wants to or needs to stand out. We all know our places here”. I can almost see how a benevolent lord would have thrived here.