Inch and the CINE Project

Connected Culture and Natural Heritage in a Northern Environment (CINE) is a collaborative digital heritage project between 9 partners and 10 associated partners from Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Donegal County Museum and the Ulster University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Sytems have been working together on the CINE Project since its inception in 2017. The focus for the final months of the project in 2020 was to create a co-produced virtual exhibition with a new community in Donegal, specifically in this case-study, the island of Inch. This website is the culmination of that co-production, designed by Jorge Alvarez, with text and images by Guy Le Jeune, CINE Project facilitator.

And having got this far, the words from now on are more personal. There are many people to thank for their contributions, support, kind words and hospitality, from Inch and beyond the island. In no particular order, both the project and I would like to offer our gratitude to Patricia, Boyd, Bridie, John, Noel, Susan, John, David, Aideen, Margaret, Paddy, Tina, Georgina, Martina, Donal, Kenny, Jim, Malachy, Patrick, Sheilagh, Maria, Tony, James, Stewart, Richard, Peter, Colin, Ian, Billy, Mary, Dominic, Maureen, Seamus, Emer, David, Roisin, Karen, James, Daragh, Jo, Greer, Niamh, Robin, Tammy, Judi, Hoani, Bryan and Janet, David, Nat Fahan Parish, and all the other islanders who have nodded, waved, dug out photos, and sent words of encouragement. If I have missed you out, please let me know!

Some people have asked why we chose Inch. I could say it was because the island met certain parameters – rural, maritime heritage, a rich history, a small community. But to be honest, Inch chose the project. As I circled the map, I was drawn closer and closer to the island... and that might be the fairies at Dunfinn, the ghost of the King buried in Carnaghan, or the spirits of my own Wagstaff relations, the builders of the Farland Bank. Whatever drew me to Inch, it was not so much a choice, but an invitation from the island, and one I am happy to have heeded.

Some have also asked why we chose to look at the whole history of the island, rather than concentrating a certain site or era.
That question can be answered by looking at three farms.

Boyd Bryce owns the land at Strahack, including the old graveyard. But the graveyard was split in two by British military sappers in the late 19th Century, when they were rebuilding Inch Fort. Boyd also owns the land around Dunfinn, where an 18th Century mill pond sits beside an Iron Age ringfort.

Donal Doherty farms the land on which O’Doherty’s Castle sits, the castle sketched by William Smith when he was on Inch, supervising the construction of Inch Fort, and Donal’s land is also where Kirke’s 1689 encampment may have been located.

Kenneth Bryce’s farm is criss-crossed with 18th Century, underground mill races, but is also the site of the King’s Grave, as well as the Cuckoo Rock, one of the places named on every map of Inch.

Every acre on Inch has a dozen stories to tell, from prehistory to now. Attempting to tell just one of those stories, without recounting the other tales that wind through the fields of the island, felt disrespectful to Inch’s extraordinary heritage.

Any engagement with a community begins tentatively with knocking on doors, wandering roads and chance meetings. On Inch this process lasted a month before our first public meeting, where sixty people turned up on a cold January evening. From that moment, I knew the project would be exceptional, but little did I know the riches of history and heritage I would uncover in the weeks afterwards.

And at some point, during the project, the facilitator’s role changes. You become an advocate for the community, and which is more, a part of that community. The CINE project is now another link in the long history of Inch, Inis na n-Osirí, the island of the oysters. I have made friends. I have been humbled by the generosity and warmth of the islanders, and I have felt privileged to have been a part of the island’s history, even if it were for only a few short weeks.

There is much we have missed, much more that I would have liked to include. There are still photos in drawers, fading documents in envelopes, oral histories to hear, poems and stories, and more to read. Covid-19 has halted the project somewhat prematurely, but I hope there may be an opportunity somewhere down the line to collect what is missing, and to fill in the gaps. For now, thank you, to the community of Inch. You have been the most wonderful travellers on this journey through your history and I hope we can keep in touch. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Guy Le Jeune, April 2020

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