Ireland Illuminated: Baylor Travels to the Emerald Isle

The Baylor Libraries are providing a unique opportunity to illuminate the Emerald Isle for the participants of an 11-day tour through the cities and countrysides of Ireland.  This inclusive trip will highlight the rich culture, history and thriving modern identity of this special place.

Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray, assistant professor of medieval literature and French, is acting as a special guide for the tour.  One can tell that Dr. Murray loves her native home by the passionate way she describes “her.”

“My favorite image of Ireland is of a large mountain, rising up from the sea. You can’t see the top of it because a blanket of mist is hiding it, yet sunbeams pierce their way down through the clouds,“ Dr. Murray said.  “We chose to make the theme of our trip ‘Ireland Illuminated’ because light has always played an important part in Celtic culture.  Not only will we visit some of the most famous and beautiful monastic sites, we will also see some of Ireland’s most famous illuminated (i.e., decorated) manuscripts.”

One such manuscript is the famous Book of Kells, which is located at TrinityCollege in Dublin.

“A medieval visitor to Ireland claimed that the Book of Kells was so beautiful that it could not have been the work of a man... it must have been created by an angel,” Dr. Murray said.

Dr. Murray is excited about sharing her homeland with the group, showing people around and chatting informally about Ireland, her people and her traditions.  Dr. Murray was actually born just a few minutes away from the Giant’s Causeway, which visitors will see on day six of the tour.

“Over the years, Ireland has become a large part of my research and teaching,” Dr. Murray said.  “I look forward to sharing some ancient tales and more modern, personal experiences with everyone.”

John Wilson, director of library advancement, had a unique reason for creating this tour.

“I was having a conversation with Professor Beth Willingham about the usefulness of facsimiles in courses here at Baylor.  She seriously got me thinking about this trip and thus, drawing attention to the need for purchasing this type of material for classroom use,” Wilson said.  “I have also seen how our students come alive and learn when they can see and touch this material. It is an amazing transformation for them in their scholarly endeavors.”

Babs Baugh, president of the Alumni Association and owner of Independent Traveler in San Antonio, arranged the trip.

“Traveling always stretches your life, your view of the world, your ability to deal with different circumstances.  You become more alert, more interesting and more alive,” Baugh said.  “And traveling with friends is the best because you can share the joy at the moment --- and remember the beauty, the discovery and even the misadventures together when you get home.”

Dr. Murray agrees with Baugh.

“You’re going to have the time of your life. There’s nothing like it, and you get to discover Ireland with a group of Baylor friends,” she said. She also adds, “You haven't really lived until you’ve heard someone play the tin whistle!”

-Mary Goolsby
Library Advancement