Local People, Local Wisdom: Marguerite McQuaid, Bandon

In this photo series West Cork photographer Aoise Tutty Jackson uses her informal and fresh style to connect with, and share the wisdom of, people in our community.

Marguerite McQuaid set up Creative Bandon in 2016, alongside Zoe Tennyson, and is fiercely committed to strengthening community and supporting artists through their work. 

Although she grew up in Glasgow to two Irish parents, Marguerite spent a lot of time in the family home in Rossinver, Co Leitrim during her younger years. She was heavily influenced by her midwife grandmother who had a strong sense of justice and was a wonderful storyteller. Leitrim was always her spiritual home. Since 2000, she has been living in Bandon, moving here during a big life transition: She gave up her work in the charity sector and began to tune into food and more natural ways of living.

“My mother had a difficult time during the troubles in Scotland, she was shamed for being Irish in her workplace. I got a strong sense of justice from my mum and my grandmother – they had a real sense of integrity. My mother had to swallow that hurt, and I took that on. When things are wrong, it’s up to each and every one of us to challenge them. There’s often this attitude ‘Let’s not make trouble’ but sometimes things need to be said.

“I feel as though I’ve been very lucky to arrive in Bandon, it gave me a new lease on life. I’ve had so many great opportunities and met so many people of like minds. 

“I love foraging, and honouring the way the earth expresses itself in every season. I think it’s important to take our lead from Mother Earth – we wouldn’t be in half the trouble we were in if we just nurtured the Earth, cared for her instead of trying to control her. 

Halloween has always been quite special for me because it is a real marker that you need to start pulling in your energy and reflecting on things. Being led by the seasons is so important – like eating wild garlic in the Spring when we need to cleanse our blood. We’re all part of a great cycle that never ends and that’s a wonderful gift. 

Manchán Magan says the Irish bible is written in the landscape and it’s up to us to pay attention and decipher it. We really need green spaces, we need nature. It’s medicine. I’ve been part of a group rediscovering two ancient pre-Christian twin wells in Bandon’s Town Park – a Lady’s well and a Brigid’s well. They would have had great veneration for water.  Wells were seen as portals to the next world. 

With Creative Bandon we’ve been working hard to promote an inclusive Bandon – it’s really important for older people. We did an intergenerational project between older people and transition year students and what was incredible was how much they had in common. It was getting out in nature that helped them to see this. I don’t think there’s anything more important than looking after community, and artists provide a great way of doing this. I feel they should be centre place in terms of offering solutions, so we work hard to support them. 

“I think it’s really sad that what we value as a society is what pays well, but that’s not what counts. Caring for people, our older people and young people is really what matters isn’t it? 

“It’s important to try and think about where others are coming from. It’s really easy to just reduce things to ‘us’ and ‘them’ but it’s just ‘Us’ really. If one suffers, we all suffer.

“If I was passing on advice to the next generation I’d tell them ‘You’re meant to be here – you are needed, you have a part to play.’”

WCP Staff

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