I had a number of working titles for this one: From Bull to Show; The Field; Richard
It’s been a roller coaster of a summer that has culminated with us making the difficult but correct decision to depart Carrick and relocate the whole operation to Ardara, the pretty market town of festivals just a 18 minutes away.
The straw that broke our camel’s back was the decision by the man whose sheep remain on the Bull Field litigating a dispute on the land’s ownership. The timing of the litigation after full planning has been granted more than suggests a link to the “dead hand on the tiller” and the orchestrated campaign that for 3 years we have been subjected too. It felt more like John B Keane’s “The Field” every day, and we often joked that I should avoid waterfalls. The decidedly underhand tactics by people who should know better and would claim to be seeking development for the area and the sanctimonious emails and protestations received since the announcement really take some believing but there you have it.
It became clear to us in June that a resolution wasn’t possible on the Bull Field and Moira and I set about searching for alternative sites. Given the orchestrated nature of the campaign against us in Glencolmcille by a few well-connected individuals we made the call early on that the new site would not be in the parish under any circumstance. So further afield it was to be and but for a few good men (and they know who they are) in Ardara it may well have been outside the county.
The “Show Field” or the “Hotel Home Field” it was to be. Moira and I would quietly walk through Ardara discussing, visualising, planning for how it might work and when we were convinced we pulled the board together for a call.
We needed to get everyone agreed that if we make the call on Ardara that a sudden rush to settle in the Bull Field doesn’t derail this. We agreed, and Moira and I met Hugh, Gavin and Stephen at the distillery on a Thursday night, by Saturday we had agreed Heads of Terms with Hugh and signed and on the Monday I walked the Donegal Road out of Ardara with Stephen and met the neighbours. Word was out. On Tuesday morning we pulled the team in to discuss the move. Understandably a whole gamut of emotions.
On Wednesday night we went to the regular Carrick Development Committee meeting. Normally there would be the committee plus a couple of interested locals today there was getting on for one hundred. The big (the long-awaited playground) and the little (a couple of vacancies in the FAS scheme) was discussed and under AOB a question from the floor about the distillery moving. I gave an update and explained the decision, the legal position and our decision to move as well as tactics used against us.
The outpouring of emotion from the community has been completely overwhelming and heartfelt. The decision to move alone is a hugely emotional one, we have invested so much in the area physically, emotionally, financially it is our home and if you ever doubted it what we have witnessed since has shown us the absolute best of the community.
Moi and I were just not prepared for this reaction, for us this was an opportunity to fulfil our dream and hope that it has some catalytic effect in the area that would be part of a wider success. That people took Silkie, An Dúlamán and us into their community is something we are truly grateful for.
But how to help … it was Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” quote that gives you the answer – not some pithy statements to the media, we chose to go to the subsequent public meetings to be with the community, tell our story, answer questions openly and directly and hope that the community would understand.
Two talks that have a profound impact on me that I commend to everyone who has 20 minutes to listen to them are:
These talks help me centre on what’s right, what’s authentic and point us all to a community that has less secrecy, less silence, less judging. It has been emotionally exhausting for Moira, me and the children but our hope is that sad though this decision is for Carrick that there is still a catalytic effect that gets the views of the community better heard and that we develop a better vision of the future as the opportunity is still there to seize.
We have seen a coming together and unity in Carrick since the announcement to move the distillery to Ardara. It feels wholehearted and that has to be a good thing.