It’s a familiar scene, parents, children, grandparents, uncles and aunts gathered around a cosy fire, the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the background and the merry sound of laughter echoing through the house. Step off the big screen, out of the big American home and the reality is somewhat different.
The Irish word Meitheal means ‘work team’ and was used to describe the practice, in rural Ireland, of neighbours helping one another during harvest time. Using the concept that many hands make light work, this communal work ethic benefited everyone involved. Flash forward several decades to the arrival of the Celtic Tiger. Things were good in Ireland, money was gushing in and people were too busy counting their cash to consider their neighbours. A distinct ‘me féin’ attitude prevailed and the spirit of Meitheal retreated into the shadows of the ambitious tiger. Then came the crash that took the wind from our sails, yet, as with everything in life, there is a silver lining to this murky, dismal cloud and that is the return of the community, the return of Meitheal.
On my last visit to Waterford we couldn’t get out of the car for the rain. I promised I’d return in sunnier times and this weekend seemed as good as any. We packed our bags, heading southward bound and here’s my first tip – come off the motorway at Cahir and weave through the countryside, over the Knockmealdown Mts via the Vee Drive. The narrow, winding road offers wonderful views over the lush fields of Tipperary and as you head further south, Cork is laid out before you.