It's a long long way from Clare to here - the troubles, icons, tribes and the thunder of the mountain of life with Fergal Smith in The Celtic flatlands.
Its 1980, its cold, grey and damp, Belfast Northern Ireland. There is fighting in the streets, a war, a horrible war, a horrible political war. ‘The Troubles’ spanned three decades, hundreds of people lost their lives. The Irish people wanted Northern Ireland to join The Republic Of Ireland and the British wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Things were not good, Irish prisoners of war were dying of self starvation in British prisons because they were mistreated and their voices were not being heard. Innocent people were being bombed and killed on both sides of the Irish Sea, they were bleak years that will never be forgotten, many died and are still mourned, their lives ended. An 18 year old Miss Smith, left she went to the ocean, to county Mayo and fell in love with Mr Smith, a slight tall man from London, they made a new life in ‘foreign lands’, away from the smog, smoke and the concrete, away from the bombs, murder and hatred. They started a small organic farm and 30 years later, still in love, healthy, their hands strong and with three children they are some of the most respected organic growers in Ireland.
Fergal one of there children became the icon of surfing in Europe, he’s a small and beautiful man, filled with wisdom, he is the hard working son of a farmer. Born in the 80’s, in the country with fresh organic food, not hungry but passionate, his parents aren’t rich, he doesn't travel or have a tan, he wont talk about surfing and he likes the cold. I grow vegetables with Fergal, we surf together and want to live in a community together. Last year we grew 26 types of potatoes and 80 types of fruits and vegetables, we started a little organic community project, its small, we work hard in the rain and the wind, we buy the seeds, the shit and the tools, we eat really well and give the food away. When the waves are good we surf. Our Tribe, our partners, cats, dogs, chickens, pigs, we want to be change we wish to see in the world.
Co Clare is the small, flat, treeless county, in the middle west coast. The end of autumn is close, the clocks gone back, its wet, the wind is wild, it is the Ireland that you imagine and we live the Irish you imagine, the house is on the top of a hill, the walls are thick, it gets dark early. Animals, begging to be allowed into the warmth, the open stove, the heat that keeps our hearts and souls alive in the dark months. This life I thought was gone, past, living only in almost forgotten memories. Outside it is much the same apart from pockets of Americanism that have crept into the culture, the food is expensive and bad, its packaged, meat based and could last years, fuel and electricity is overpriced, half the houses are badly built. They were made in the Celtic tiger (boom times), there is poverty, there is debt but everybody smiles, they are happy people. The towns are real, full of kind and warm-hearted Celtic people. There is a greyness to the edges, a shade, but there is beauty full of a thousand colours, a history full of a thousand songs and stories, a forever in every community.
Be the change we wish to see in the world? Mostly we spend our days, talking shit the field, we talk a lot, even whilst Fergal away in the midlands with his partner we talk for hours each day. His partner a philosophical woman, strong with a huge smile and a kind heart, she really gets it. There is a Norse feeling to their life, without the brutal wars and fighting. When they met Fergal had made a pact to be a monk, to live forever at Lackamore (the house where we all lived) to live without women, to live for the service of others, to be abstinence from worldly pleasures (excluding getting really barrelled) and to be buried on the hill. He believed it was going to be the rest of his life, he really did. When Fergal believes something it is his everything, it is his real world. During the Celtic Tiger Fergal used to ride for Relentless, drive the company land-rover, painted black with tinted windows, he would tow surf into mountain sized waves. It makes you question him, well it made him question him. The greenest man in surfing drove a Land-Rover and towed a jet-ski, but isn't that the biggest lesson to us, the man with the corporate contract from coca cola, gave it all up, stopped flying, towing, stopped non organic, stopped GMO, stopped meat and slavery and spends his days helping others. Didn’t he have the most to lose, we talk about those days often and as Levon Helm says ‘at all costs just laugh’. He said when he would drive to his parents farm in the country they would ask him to park the 4x4 around the corner as not to embarrass them. We talk about all parts of being and what life is about and it always comes back to fear. We discuss our basic impulsions and desires, his clean living, his stance on the environment and emotional calmness. This comes from working on his spiritual self, he meditates every day, spent months in yoga retreats, doesn't do social media and spends lonely nights at sea. This has all been achieved, it is not some blessing from the Celtic gods, it is trained living, his actions express his priorities, he wakes up early, walks his dog, and works on the farm, he works until dark, he likes tea and cake and loves a chat. He finally gave into love and him and Sally will soon be joined by another member of the Smith clan, a boy or a girl we don’t know, they won’t tell us the name. Whatever it will be, it will bring light into the world.
Be the change we wish to see in the world, we wish to see people eating healthy, we wish to see people united, we wish to see more trees growing and more animals being free, we wish to see more communication and more love. We live in a commune, we share common interests, possessions and resources we share the same vision of how we would like to live and change the little bit of the world we live in. Fergal would like to see no more jet skis or Land-rovers, would like people to fly less but he is the first to understand that it is a difficult change to make, capitalist propaganda and the social pressures from even the closest people around us makes living outside of the box difficult, there is no judgement, no negative energy towards those who don’t do as he does, this is hard, to feel so passionately, to make so many changes to your own life, to live within a set of boundaries but be so happy to those who live outside of them, this is the challenge, this is admirable.
Surfing is normal and natural and it is part of our being, its why we have all chosen to live here, to be close to the mighty cliffs, close to the thunder of the mountain, Alieens, under the Cliffs of Moher, 700ft sheer, this is why we chose our commune, this is why we found each other, with our silent nod to Mickey, our brother who first made the place his love and muse, to Rivie, our sister who made us feel at home and gave generously and all our friends that we call family, but those magical cliffs, that have kept us alive, that have remained silent and kept its smile discreet, the vertical madness that stands so closely to our dreams. Fergal who believes that it is nature that owns the land, that it is inherited by each new born, that ownership is arrogant, he has with a hidden smirk a natural affection and well versed judgement become the current wolf of the magical lair, an inspiration, kind and driven has helped shade the worlds love affair with the wave that moved our minds, that broke backs, egos, boats and boards. She is the dog that doesn't bark and he the terrified master, not scared, but humble in the knowledge that she is the ultimate, and she just another forgotten nook in the almost limitless ocean.
There are aspirations and we dream, we don’t want to hide in the forest with dream catchers and tie-dyed t-shirts, we want to live in environmentally friendly homes with nice people and welcome the world, we want to help others cross boundaries, we are the children of the tide and we will push on, we should be living together and eating food from our garden, Eco-Homes shouldn’t be the second homes of city folk with 7 figure salaries, they should belong to everyone, poisonless food in supermarkets in poor neighbourhoods and in every school, each and every change we make and everything we do we should be being conscious of every soul. Things that are important to us, to Fergal and Mitch Corbett, friends, waves, food, family, but for Ferg its mostly food. Fergal is the farming man, his hands are in the ground, this half inherited, known before his conscious life dawned was something he would do for the most part of his life and he has, like most creatures of the wild experienced famine, each week he fasts for at least a day, to clean his body, to relate to nature, to remove the shit from his blood, three meals a day is franchised conditioning, they make rich people money. Veganism is hard for some people to understand and Ferg believes in it, he is not quite there. Those that get it, salute one another with pride, and each nod is a great feeling, we are friendly animals and eat animal friendly food, we are approached often with doubts, with curiosity and fear but always lovingness and within all of us there is a understanding of each other, of wanting to welcome each person.
As the weeks go by and the days become shorter we realise there is too much messing around and that if something is to happen you just have to do it. The most important job is that we eat well and look after the ground, keep the soil full of nutrient rich minerals from organic, local places, this Autumn we spent 40 days just shovelling seaweed off the beach into the feild, it is part of the movement, part of the romance, because to be in love with everything, you have to work with love.