Music Brings Communities Together

In every place I visited, I felt a strong sense of community among the people in Ireland. Each place appeared to be a close-knit community with everyone knowing one another. Irish communities were even welcoming to visitors and new members. In each community I encountered, music was a major tie between members of the community. Music brings communities together whether its people who play music or people who enjoy listening to music. Typically, traditional Irish music is played at a pub where community members gather to enjoy. 

 Music is important in Irish communities now and dating back centuries ago. In the 1800s, families lived in small cottages with only 4 bedrooms for 8-20 people on many acres of land. The community would gather in one home and share stories and songs. However, music was different in the 1800s. As one of our tour guides, Dearbhaill explained,“People would tell a song or say a song they would not sing a song.” Although the music was slightly different, it was still a common tie that connected the community together like in Ireland today.

In Cloughjordan, Westport, Inisheer, and Inishmore a sense of community through music was evident. When we were visiting Cloughjordan, it was biodiversity week and musicians put on a concert for people to listen to songs about nature. After the concert, the musicians moved to the local pub for more people in the community to enjoy. This was a common practice in other communities in Ireland. In Westport, many pubs had live music for people to listen and enjoy. Likewise, in Inishmore and Inisheer the pubs had traditional Irish music. In both islands, at the pubs, a group of musicians sat around a table and played together and took turns performing solos. People who were not necessarily with the musicians were invited to join in and play with them and play their instruments. In Irish communities throughout history and to today, music is a tie that brings the community together. 

A Community in Unity

Every country is made up of various communities. In Ireland, one unpopular style of community I experienced was an ecovillage in Cloughjordan. Our tour guide, Úna, told me that despite their eco-friendly efforts, “A lot of people move here more for the strong sense of community” versus a passion to help the environment. I found this interesting because previously, I assumed everyone who lived here did so because they were passionate about nature. In this community, people decide to not cut the grass excessively and ride a bike instead of driving. They also have community places where people can leave items they no longer had a use for, such as toys, movies, and crafts. This demonstrates a strong sense of closeness because people were comfortable sharing, repurposing, and donating their personal belongings without expecting anything in return.

The ecovillage knows the grass can always be longer on the other side.

Another example of the strong sense of community here was in the Cloughjordan pubs. People would sit in a circle and share their musical abilities by singing and playing instruments freely. They helped one another finish songs by either jumping in to sing a verse or accompanying an instrument. The community was supportive and open-minded, even towards new people. Anyone who wanted to sing or play music was encouraged to and received support afterward.

This farmer is working selflessly. It is his contribution to the community.

Also, the farmers demonstrate an understanding of community because their work is selfless. They work long, stressful hours in strenuous conditions to provide food and resources to the village. They make a low minimum wage pay that does not match the physical labor they exert.

The ecovillage loves and supports Mother Nature. People and animals here can rejoice unified in one community because every creature is respected. Even Pa’s Django Ecohostel composts food in an effort to keep the community in the best condition possible because that will benefit everyone. By the end of my time at the ecovillage, I learned that this population as well as Cloughjordan as a whole, both exhibit a strong and healthy sense of community through their efforts to make their home a prosperous environment for everyone.

Ireland is a complex country that holds many different types of communities, specifically an ecovillage that offers many benefits to the people who live there.

“Tell A Song”

Walking into a bar in America, you instantly get hit with bass pounding music. You have to create a new way to communicate with your friends because you cannot hear the person directly next to you, unless you get close to their ear and scream into it. American bars typically are filled with people who are there to see how drunk they can get. Looking across the bar you would probably see more strangers than people you recognized. Typically, everyone stays with the friend group that they came with, and does not bother to get to know the other people who are there. Americans in these settings do not create a sense of community, but rather, a sense of solidarity.

Walking into my first Irish pub in Cloughjordan, I could instantly feel a sense of community.  Eight musicians were seated in the back of the bar with all their instruments in hand and drinks placed on the table in front of them. Their playlist consisted of traditional Irish songs, on top of their own personal compositions.  If a song was played that was well known by everybody, then everyone would join in. It was never restricted to just one person singing. The most common question I received was, “Do you play any instruments?” Hinting that they wanted me to participate in their songs. The only breaks that were taken, were in between songs to have a couple sips of beer and a chat with the fellow musicians. 

Throughout the songs you can hear the beat of a drum. However, no drum was in sight, until later in the night. When a drum was lacking, the beat of the drum was created by the musicians and audience tapping or stomping their foot to the beat of the song. This allowed even the non-musical people to contribute to the composition. The audience engaged with the musicians by singing along, and some even contributed their own pieces. As I was an outsider in this pub, the people sitting around me tried to get to know me and my story. People asked me what I was studying, how long I was here for, if I played any music, and how I am enjoying the music. While this was a casual conversation, the effort that was put into the conversation by the locals was heartwarming. You could really tell that they were interested in getting to know me. For those who did know each other, they used this space as a place to catch up with neighbors, locals and old friends. Anyone who was not a regular here, quickly became part of the local community. Leaving that pub for the first time, I felt like I was part of the Cloughjordan community.

Digging deeper into the music culture of Ireland I learned the phrase, “Tell a song.” Dearbhaill, from Cnoc Suain, explained that the phrase, “Tell a song”, was used in place of “Sing a song.” “Tell a song,” implied that the words are more important than the singing itself. Sitting in various pubs I could hear the musicians use this phrase. When people were immigrating during the famine, their Irish music was taken with them. Leaving Ireland with a void, that could only be filled with music. Slowly the music began to reemerge, rejoining the Irish community. Irish music brings people together during the good and the bad times, to create a wholesome community. 

An Irish Community, Through Thick and Thin

Irish Flag, swinging from a boat passing the Cliffs of Moher

A woman on the radio explains, with a choked voice, an abortion she underwent at a young age. Her story was told in the growing aftermath of the vote which took place May 25, and the initial polls revealed that it would be a yes to repealing the 8th amendment, a law which banned abortion in Ireland. The woman on the radio admitted she was afraid most people would vote no, to keep the amendment in place. Upon hearing this was not the case, the woman stated, “It’s incredible. I should have had more faith in the Irish people.”

In the two weeks I travelled in Ireland, I frequently felt an overwhelming sense of community among the Irish. I stayed in several towns that were located in more rural areas, and it seemed that most people living there appeared to be extremely friendly with each other. The first example of this I experienced was at Ryan’s Corner House, a pub in Cloughjordan. A group of us went to this pub to buy a drink, and it immediately became clear that the Irish living there were relatively close with one another. Nearly every time someone entered the pub, a group of people already seated would greet that person by name. This was a complete change from the bars in the United States, where most are only familiar with the people they came with. While not every town in Ireland may have that same familiarity as Cloughjordan, I experienced similar instances in other places around the country. In Ennis, there was a pub called Yolo with an outside seating area. There was a group of older Irish men smoking, and I saw them offer lights and cigarettes to other people around them, some of whom were complete strangers. There was a band performing at that same pub, and they played one traditional Irish song that I did not recognize. The other people at the pub, clearly Irish, all began singing along to this song together.

The Irish people at that pub in Ennis, like many other pubs I visited along the way, all seemed to share something interpersonal that I, an outsider of the country, could not relate to. It was refreshing to see people with such a strong sense of community. Even more refreshing was to see that this sense of community did not seem to fall apart during instances of tension, like the woman on the radio explained. To me, the vote revealed the strength of the Irish community.

Tight-Knit Community

Ecovillage Center

“Not only do we know our neighbors names, and their children’s names, we know their pets’ names, too” Davey, an Ecovillage resident, exclaims proudly. He holds up his weathered hands, showing off where he calls home, as he stands in the center of the Ecovillage.

Smaller than my high school, the Ecovillage, located inside the village of Cloughjordan, is populated with a mere one hundred adults and fifty children. The village has fifty five homes and ten businesses. Each house differs drastically from the one next to it. Each is made from a different material and has a different layout. While walking through the village I pass a white washed apartment style building and next to it is an A-frame with blue shingles. At first glance, it appears as if the village has no congruencies. However, that is not the case. One of the reasons for the tight-knit community is because each and every resident has a common goal: to lower their own environmental and energy impacts on the earth.

As we pass each house, Davey gives us a detailed description of the owners. He tells us about where the people are from, their kids’ ages and names, etc. Sadly, this makes me realize how many of my neighbors names I do not know, let alone their occupations and ages.

The Ecovillage has one foot in the last century and the other in the digital age. It supports the best of both worlds. Davey puts it perfectly, “We have plenty of friends on Facebook, but none within our own neighborhoods.” Children run freely up and down the streets, instead of sitting inside their houses on their digital devices. The residents are often found sitting outside on picnic tables, enjoying the warm weather and mingling with each other. Aside from the positive environmental impacts the Ecovillage is accomplishing, it also is achieving a high sense of community for its residents, that cities such as Dublin and Galway are losing.

Welcoming Bunch

“Is she being sarcastic or is it just me?” is the question I asked the table members as the serves in multiple restaurants asked the us “Are you Happy” and then commented “good, you are all happy”. At first I thought the servers were being rude or sarcastic, even having to ask others at the table to repeat what the server had just said. In the urban neighborhood that I am from, if a server were to ask “are you happy” they were usually being sarcastic and rude. However, the complete opposite to my urban interpretation the servers in Ireland just wanted to make sure the table was all set and actually happy with the service at the moment as they consistently checked into the table. This is only one of the many ways the Ireland community was different than my community. The communities in Ireland were welcoming and friendly, making one feel at home.

The Ireland communities have a sense of togetherness within the towns and the villages. In the ecovillage, everyone knew each other, acted like a family and were all so welcoming of others. Not just the owner of the hostel, but the farmers, community members and even the children in which would on their own introduced themselves to outsiders. One of the ecovillage little girls asked me about the sports I play and why I was visiting Ireland. I was surprised as being raised in the United States I was taught to not speak to any strangers and most children today are extremely shy when strangers approach. Not only were people friendly and approachable in the ecovillage but even in towns like Westport, where in the morning every person that passed by said good morning and or stopped for a short conversation.

As Americans, we really stood out at the pubs and I realized it even more as one Irish man said” why are you all on your phones” and that is when I turned around and looked at our study abroad group and every person was on their phone on some kind of social media. But when looking at the other side of the pub not one Irish person was on their phone or even had it near them, unless in their pockets of course. Every Irish person was either talking to someone next to them or just dancing with another person to the live music playing.However, there are those people like in every country who are the bad of the bunch. While in a Westport Pub another student’s money was stolen. She did not realize it until she was trying to enter the nightclub and could not pay the entrance fee because all her euros were gone. Even though there was the one person at the pub who acted in an unfriendly manner by stealing a visitor’s money, there were employees and other people at the nightclub who reminded us with their acts that it was just that one person from the pub not the whole bunch.


Bombers’ Bombshell About Business

The World-Famous Railway Bar

Imagine the size of a small village, how many people would you think that to be? 5000? Maybe even 2500. Imagine a village with under 500 people, and in that town a village of just around 100 people. That is the town of Cloughjordan, smack in the middle of the Irish countryside you have this scenic village where everybody knows everyone and visitors are far and few inbetween. When we first arrived in this town we were skeptical to be sure “what even is there to do in a place this small?” wondered just about everyone, “how do people even live here?” I thought to myself. But over the course of the next few days I began to see, people here live very fulfilled. Of course the fact that it was our first day in Ireland, a few of my friends and I decided to find a local establishment to quench our extreme thirst, as well as to get a lay of the (very small) land.

Bomber (on left) the owner of the Railway Pub, and one of the happiest men I have ever met


We walked into the pub and were greeted by a very nice man who I later learned went by the nickname of “Bomber”. Our party of stereotypical Americans sat down and we began to talk with bomber, at first about where we came from, why we were here, the usual. But then we asked him about life in Cloughjordan, he said it was “slow, not a lot of excitement, but it’s a nice community, everyone in here is friendly, I can’t complain.” When asked about running his pub, bomber said that “because we only really have locals that come here, business isn’t “booming” I own the pub so I just have to pay for upkeep, but even so it’s next to no profit. I could close the place down and by next week I would be making more money than I ever did thanks to government benefits, but if you want the real reason why I keep it open it’s because I love everyone in this town far too much, it’s a way for us all to come together, and that is what makes it all worthwhile for me.” This seems to be the case for many of the fine Irish people, they care more about the wellbeing of their community than just for themselves, something that is not normally the case back in the United States, the sense of community and unity in Ireland seems to be prevalent no matter where you go, and I find that to be absolutely amazing.


If you ever find yourself in Cloughjordan, make sure to give Bomber a visit, he said one of his favorite things about his pub is being able to hear stories from all around the world.

Kindness of the Eco-Village

When I first arrived in the eco-village in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, I was not sure what to expect, what even was an eco-village? At first it looked like an ordinary town, small stores, colorful bright houses, and pubs, but as I got a closer look around the town I began to understand what an eco-village actually was. A place where people come together and live their life in an environmental friendly way. People come from many different places in order to live there, and those living in the eco-village follow a mission statement, “if we do not do the impossible, we shall do the unthinkable.” In other words, if we do things together it is possible to build a livable, safe and fun community. Since everyone living in the eco-village has similar morals, values and beliefs they get along very well with each other and lean on each other when in need. It is really important for the eco-village to be in a community within a town because it shows that people can be eco friendly in a way that does not leave you secluded from the rest of civilization. While I was staying in the eco-village I met a young woman black haired women named Johanna, her home was currently being built in the eco-village and during this time she was living in small hut with her husband and two small children. Johanna was an amazing chef but due to her living conditions she did not have a kitchen. The hostel in the eco-village allowed her to use their community kitchen to cook whenever she wanted as long as in return she occasionally cooked for guests. Johana made my classmate’s lunch and dessert occasionally and it was always amazing. She picked fresh fruits and vegetables using the community farm which was set up in August 2008. This farm is over 40 acres outside Cloughjordan and 12 acres in the eco-village. For a small fee of 64 euros a month, families are able to go to the farm and pick from a wide range of vegetables and use them for their meals. During the evenings, many people who live in the eco-village come together at a local pub and sing along to traditional Irish music. The pubs and bars in Ireland are very different from the bars in the United States. In Ireland, the pubs are full of a wide age range of people who sing and play a wide range of instruments such as the fiddle, flute, pennywhistle, and bodhrán. After a long day at work locals are able to come together, talk to each other and sing along to traditional Irish music.


“We have loads of friends on Facebook, but none in our streets”. During my time in the tightest knit community I have ever experienced, this quote was something that stuck with me the most. In a time when people measure their friends based on their social media followers, the ecosystem showed me the true meaning of friendship and community. While traveling through the rural parts of Ireland, we saw different examples of communities, and some stood together stronger than others. The ecovillage in Cloughjordan was our first experience witnessing an Irish community. With only one hundred and fifty people living in the eco village, they all knew each other very well, enough to know everyone’s background story. Residents of the eco village, have the same interest and ways of living. They share a bond of trying to shrink down their ecological footprint, and help save our planet. Their sense of community stuck with me, because it is one unlike any I have seen in America. Yes, there are rural towns that come together, but not every neighbor has the same goal in mind. The eco villages goal is to raise awareness about the global climate change and ways to live in an eco friendly environment. While

staying at the hostel in the eco village, we experienced how the residents live. It gave us a great first hand experience and opened our eyes to see how much water we waste, and some realized their personal lack of recycling back in the states. Not only do they all have the same goal in mind, but they all act like a giant family. All the kids played outside together, riding their bikes, playing basketball and teaching themselves how to unicycle. Even with access to technology, the kids played outside and enjoyed playing with their friends. As much as we experienced communities, we became one. Many of us Roger Williams’ students came on this trip knowing maybe one person and having a few familiar faces. Despite our different backgrounds and majors, we came together to become a community that represented Roger Williams outside of the classroom. I am thankful we also were able to become part of the ecovillages’ community during our short period of time spent there together.  

Working as a Community


Many people say they want to live their life the most adequate way possible. Cloughjordan, located in the western part of Ireland strives to actually achieve this goal. In this town there is an ecovillage, that works together towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. Everyone that lives there has a different role towards helping the community live a more sustainable lifestyle, this task simply could not be done only by one person. For example, there are a variety of business people to help the community’s economy. Pa, the owner of Django helps draw people into the ecovillage and gives them a place to stay at his hostel. One of the the natives of the ecovillage told a group of us about a “one of a kind bakery.” At the top of a large hill, the ecovillage meets the town Cloughjordan. There is a famous shop that makes fresh bread. One of the men that works there uses a tactic from hundreds of years ago to cook his bread. He is the only person in Ireland to continue to make bread this way. This is another popular business in the area that brings in people and money.

As the days went by in the ecovillage we were introduced to a variety of people that lived in the village. This was not simply because we were formally introduced, but because everyone in the village had something positive and informative to say about one of their neighbors. A friendly women who gave us a tour around the village told us we were going to meet Peadar one of the days we were in the village. Peadar is in the charge of the more political part of village. He speaks to groups of students and visitors about how to decrease their carbon footprint when they go back to America or their home country. He explains to visitors that a carbon footprint is how many “planets” you take up by your use of food, carbon emissions, energy, water, and electricity. His passion towards this change is clear. At many points in his discussion Peadar asked us “How can you do this in America?” While he tries to enforce his beliefs to different groups of people his friend and coworker comes with him to help inform people about the ecovillage and to support Peadar and his work. Nothing in the ecovillage is accomplished by a single person, everything is a group effort. Visiting Cloughjordan I would not have learned as much as I did about everyone’s role in their community if it wasn’t for everyone’s openness and positivity about one another and where they lived.