It’s not every day you meet a Celtic witch – but Lorraine O’Dwyer is just that, as well as a tour guide and, now, a published author.
Her new book, Gorey, A hidden and sometimes horrible (hi)story of Gorey, takes you on a ramble around the town. Lorraine brings the streets and building to life with stories of the characters that populated the area, from Thomas Ram, who established the first charter for the town in 1619, to the yeoman soldiers who drank in Browne’s pub, from Jonathan Swift to French’s pub.
“The book includes stories about the workhouse: in 1851, 4000 people lived in Gorey and 1420 of them were in the workhouse. I’ve also included old photos and images to show the layers of history in Gorey.”
Intriguingly, it could be said the Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was the first holidaymaker in the area, as he owned the iron wood (Kilanerin) and hunted in New Ross!
Later, the big breakthrough came with the arrival of the railway in Gorey in November 1863 – according to Lorraine in the book, “people came from miles around to witness the train arriving in Gorey for the first time. For many, it was the first chance to see the Industrial Revolution first hand.”
Add to that the coaches to Courtown run by the Redmonds and Webbs and you can see that Gorey always had an eye on the tourist market and sharing our beaches with visitors!
and authentic experiences around the county of Wexford highlight the best of the county, from organic producers to blacksmiths, ghost stories to gastro events.
“I’m motivated by a love of stories and gallivanting,” says Lorraine, adding that her business is a perfect fit with Ireland’s Ancient East. “I love history, I love food, I grew up in hospitality – my dad was a hotelier – and I was always coming up with tours and recommendations for our guests.”
Today, she works mostly with international visitors and proudly uses accommodation in Gorey as their base. “Gorey is the gateway to Ireland’s Ancient East in the south east. We’re an hour from Dublin, and an hour from Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford – and it’s a lively bustling town that’s attractive to tourists.”
Whether it’s food tours in North Wexford or a trip down around Hook Head and Kilmore Quay, trusty Gobhnait, Lorraine’s one-woman show lifts the spirits. Sometimes literally!
“As a witch, I follow the beliefs of our Celtic ancestors. Witches traditionally would know folklore and believe we’re the guardians of the land. We honour the four pagan holidays: Imbolc in February, Bealtaine in May, Lunasa in August, and Samhain in November. On the tours, some people call me the Witch of Wexford.”
And, yes, she has black cats – six of them!
Lorraine’s book, Gorey, A hidden and sometimes horrible (hi)story of Gorey, is for sale in Gorey Visitor Centre, on Gorey’s Main Street. Price €10.
Interview: Deirdre O’Flynn