UCC PhD student research: Contemporary Pilgrimage in Ireland

Contemporary Pilgrimage in Ireland: A Cultural Geographic Perspective

Pilgrims ascending Croagh Patrick on the annual pilgrimage day, Reek Sunday

Pilgrims ascending Croagh Patrick on the annual pilgrimage day, Reek Sunday

By Richard Scriven, Department of Geography
Graduated in June 2015
Follow Richard on Twitter: @CorkGeog

There has been a marked increase in the numbers of people participating in pilgrimages globally in recent decades. Ireland is no different with thousands of people go on some form of pilgrimage annually. These are rich, meaningful journeys that are undertaken by those seeking blessings, healing, comfort and authentic experiences. My research examines these journeys within Ireland and considers how they shape the places and people involved. As a geographer, I am fascinated by human-environment relationships. I study how people, through their actions and ideas, shape the world around them and how environments influence and define people. In the performing of pilgrimage, it can be seen that people are ‘making’ holy places and that the locations are, also, defining people as pilgrims.

My methodology is a qualitative ethnography that involves observer participation and interviews with pilgrims. By attending the pilgrimages and participating with other people, I can get a first-hand appreciation of what is involved. I use cameras and camcorders to capture the performances and events of the pilgrimage. The images and audio-visual recordings allow me to vividly present the riches of these practices as a distinct socio-cultural phenomenon. The fieldwork is complemented by interviews in which I discuss pilgrims’ motivations and experiences. These accounts enable me to explore of the meanings and significance of pilgrimage and illustrate the importance they hold for many people.

My work focuses on, Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo, Lough Derg, Co. Donegal, and four holy wells in Munster. On the last Sunday in July, Reek Sunday, thousands of pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick in the modern manifestation of a festival stretching back to the Celtic harvest celebration of Lughnasadh. This large scale devotion is a unique event in Western Europe with people from all over Ireland traveling to ascend the steep peak and get Roman Catholic Mass on the summit. Lough Derg or St Patrick’s Purgatory is a three-day pilgrimage during which pilgrims withdraw from the world on a lake-island, fasting, going barefoot, keeping a 24 hour vigil and completing sets of prayers in the continuation of a centuries old tradition. Ireland has over 3,000 holy wells, many of which act as sites of local devotion and pilgrimage. Religious beliefs in patron saints and folk practices combine in these activities as people come to collect the holy well water and pray for special intentions on feast days.

My research demonstrates the enduring role of pilgrimage and the importance of the multifaceted relationships between and place. In combining my geographical concepts, the rich audio-visual materials produced in fieldwork, and the accounts of research participants, I provide new insights and appreciations of pilgrimage in contemporary Ireland.

Pilgrims prayer sets of prayers on the island pilgrimage of Lough Derg, Co. Donegal.

Pilgrims prayer sets of prayers on the island pilgrimage of Lough Derg, Co. Donegal.


UCC Computer Science course offers you the chance to successfully change career direction


By Kirsty Hilliard, Higher Diploma in Applied Computing Technology, 2014

* Come to our Postgrad Computer Science Information Evening on Tuesday 24th June 5:30pm to 7:30pm *

My initial qualification was a degree in Archaeology from UCC. I graduated into the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008 only to find that the Archaeological industry had collapsed alongside the construction industry. I subsequently found a management level position in retail and worked for several big names over the next few years. There was a lot of competition for higher level management jobs and I moved to the UK in the hopes of getting more experience over there. My partner was offered a great opportunity back here in Ireland so we came home again and I found it very difficult to re-enter the workforce, even at entry level positions, as there were so many people desperate for work for after years of recession.

There seemed to be a lot of articles and reports on the news that IT based industries had more vacancies than they had qualified people applying for them so I looked at ways of breaking into that sector. I started a Java programming course and soon after discovered the UCC H-Dip program that was starting in September. I told one of my friends about it at the course to see if she would be interested and we both applied and got in.

What had interested me in the UCC H-Dip was the range of different topics that it covered, there were many areas one could branch out from, rather than being cornered into one specialisation right from the start. We learned basic scripts and commands for operating systems and Networks, good for administration, programming in several languages, which helps not only your CV but improve ones won logical reasoning skills. We also covered modules in Databases and Excel which are multi-industry essentials these days.

Aside from the study, the people I met during my year were one of the best parts. The Lecturers were very understanding and always willing to answer questions or explain something again, you could really tell that they wanted us to do well. I always found them to be very encouraging about getting into the industry and they pointed out practices that would be helpful out in the ‘real-world’ whenever we came across one. I consider myself extremely lucky in the classmates that I had. There was always a great atmosphere in the Lab and we worked well together making sure no-one was struggling on anything. I think it helped that we were all relatively mature, having done college already and worked for a few years, not to mention that we all came in with the same goal of getting into IT so we were all serious about doing well.

After an intense year, just before my exams I was offered a place on the Graduate program for Lidl in the IT stream which was a huge weight off my shoulders and an affirmation of sorts for taking on the course in the first place. Currently I am doing my 6 month rotation in the Service and Support division of the IT department and I sometimes surprise myself at what I know and can do as a result of the H-Dip. I work with a lot of specialists and it is very handy for me to have the range of knowledge I do when troubleshooting a problem as I can see things from multiple directions not just one.

I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment and the biggest one we face is changing how our employees work on a daily basis. Currently they are reliant on excel and it’s not quite meeting our business needs, so I have been charged with developing suitable Databases with a Java based front end to help make their life easier and their work faster by taking the weight off their laptop processors, all thanks to what was written on my CV under this course!

info evening

UCC Computer Science course offers you a stronger technical skillset for your career


By Aideen Sinnott, Higher Diploma in Applied Computing Technology, 2015

* Come to our Postgrad Computer Science Information Evening on Tuesday 24th June 5:30pm to 7:30pm *

I worked for many years on the business side of an IT company. I loved working with technical employees and learned a great deal from them. Both reading and experience showed me that there were many people like myself, with business acumen but without technical skills.  My goal when coming back to do the Higher Diploma in Computing Technology was to upgrade my skills so that I would have a strong business/technical profile that would enable me to continue growing in an interesting and hopefully “cutting-edge” career.

Attending the same lectures as Computer Science students at UCC was a bonus.  Not only was our learning on a par with the Computer Science class but we had the opportunity to be taught by some exceptional lecturers.  We got a really good grounding in Computer Science and the technical ability to design, create and manage a database-driven web site as well as other essential computing knowledge.

Initially, I had intended to engage in further study to specialise before returning to employment.  Guidance from a particularly inspirational professor led me to pursue my own learning project which I intend to focus on now.  The way that I think about business has changed during this year.  I can see that my background, now enhanced by a new way of thinking will help me in any business environment to creatively use technical concepts to solve business issues.

info evening

Postgraduate Cafe for UCC Research Students


Postgraduate Café for UCC Research Students – Summer 2015

On Wednesday July 1st from 11am to 1pm we will be sponsoring the first Postgrad Cafe for UCC Research Students in the Postgraduate Common Room, No. 4 Carrigside

DAY: Wednesday July 1st

TIME: 11am to 1pm

WHERE: Postgraduate Common Room, No. 4 Carrigside (no. 17 grid reference F6 on this map)

We will provide coffee, tea, biscuits and handmade Irish chocolate, yes handmade Irish chocolate by Ó’Conaill’s Cork.

This is a chance for UCC research postgraduate students to meet other students and use the university postgraduate common room. This is a friendly and comfortable environment to meet other students for both social and academic conversations. We encourage our students to come along, enjoy a hot drink and meet some of the UCC research student community.

Please email graduatestudies@ucc.ie for more information.