Emphasizing the Irish connection

Moira Magee enjoying her new home in Roddickton

Published on March 17, 2017

Moira Magee found herself drawn to a land she had never been before. The Northern Peninsula was a place she had only ever heard about but an idiosyncratic quest has brought her to this land she is now calling her home.

In June 2016, Magee packed up and headed to the town of Roddickton-Bide Arm, straight out of Sudbury, Ontario.

She had previously visited Newfoundland and Labrador in 2002 but did not reach the Northern Peninsula. She decided at that time that this was the place she would retire.

It was risky to move somewhere sight unseen, but she by no means has any regrets.

Since settling into her new home, Magee, 55, has been awestruck by the sense of family and community that pervades Roddickton-Bide Arm. And it reminds her of nothing less than her parents’ homeland across the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Ireland.

“They’re (the people of the Northern Peninsula) entirely family-oriented,” she said. “Their ties, and their connection, and their loyalty to family is beautiful to see.”

And then there’s the way the people of Newfoundland and Labrador welcome you.

“They welcome you by feeding you.”

Whenever you enter a home, you’re always immediately offered tea, or coffee, or something to eat. It was the same when she visited Northern Ireland.

“They feed you as a way of showing that they want to meet your basic needs,” said Magee. “And everybody’s basic need is just kindness, food, and shelter. And they meet it. You can go anywhere and the door is open.”

Indeed, there are many ties that bind the two small islands on either side of the Atlantic. And that’s in the blood of the people, it’s in the rugged terrain of the land, and it’s in the culture, the music and the spirit.    


Resolving the mythology of Finn MacCool

It was one landmark, in particular, that drew her to Roddickton-Bide Arm and it relates back to Ireland’s rich mythology.

One of Magee’s fondest childhood memories was visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The legend has it that a giant named Finn MacCool built this causeway by throwing all these rocks into the ocean to cross over to Scotland to meet another giant named Benan Donner.

According to Magee, in the mythology, Finn MacCool is supposed to be the hero and Benan Donner the antagonist. But in the end, they both turn out to be good guys.

However, according to Magee, there has always been a missing link in Irish folk culture: no one knows where the giants are today.

And she says it’s always been her mission to find them.

So she was lucky then to learn about the mountain, overlooking Roddickton, known locally as the “Sleeping Giant”.

This was one of the things that drew her there in the first place, for it’s Magee’s theory that this giant is Finn MacCool.

“Where did Finn MacCool go?” she asks. “I say Finn MacCool went right across the sea from Ireland to Newfoundland because it was beautiful there and peaceful. And there he laid down.”

But not only that, within the formation of the rock, you can pick out two faces presumably lying on their backs in different directions. In Magee’s mind there are actually two giants. The other being MacCool’s old Scottish rival Benan Donner.

“They both laid down and they’re both mates now,” she explained.

Since arriving and becoming acquainted with the Sleeping Giant, Magee has placed large boulders around her lawn. She put this here as a causeway that mimics the Giant’s Causeway located in Northern Ireland. Even water lies in between each stone as in the Irish causeway.

“People thought I was nutty because I was bringing in truckload after truckload of boulders and throwing them onto my lawn,” she said. “And here people get rid of rocks, they don’t put them there.”

But she did it on behalf of the Sleeping Giant.


On tourism

Magee believes that great opportunities exist for tourism in the Northern Peninsula by harnessing this legend and other aspects of Newfoundland and Irish culture.

She even believes that there could be a second Irish loop in the province, this one located on the Northern Peninsula, cycling from Plum Point, across route 432 to the Roddickton-Bide Arm area, up to the St. Anthony area, and back down route 430 to Plum Point.

In fact, Magee intends to introduce herself to people in communities along these routes and collect stories in an attempt to help spread the culture and make it more visible.

What can be emphasized above all else, in Magee’s experience, thus far is the kindness.

“If you looked at the most predominant characteristic, it is kindness,” she said. “It’s unbelievable and I love it here.”