By Pauline O’Riordan
Living in Dublin on the east coast of Ireland means I have access to many beaches in the bay area and beyond. My favorite place is Bray, County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland. It is a seaglasser’s paradise because the slowly eroding cliffs include materials from a disused landfill site. It is also the site of a glass factory that closed in 1952, where at the end of each day the leftover pieces were dumped into the sea. The access to this beach requires a bum slide—and in wet weather this can be very difficult—but it is well worth the trouble!
During the last three years, I have spent many happy hours there, usually with the beach to myself, and the weight of sea glass I collect—often up to 6 kilos (13 pounds)—dictates when I leave each time.
I discovered beachcombing in the autumn of my life and have a particular interest in glass and pottery. I had no interest in making jewelry, wind chimes, or attractive displays.
My happiness came during the search and subsequent examination and storage of the loot in labeled plastic containers.
Slowly one shelf in a kitchen cupboard became two, and one cupboard became two, so something had to be done. By joining sea glass sites, I discovered many people were landlocked, so I had the idea of gifting my treasures. The big question was how to pay for the postage.
I came up with what I think is one of my best ideas: I absorb the postal costs and ask that the equivalent be donated to a local animal welfare shelter, thrift shop, or veterinarian.
To date, my postage costs have benefited animals worldwide by almost 2,500 euros.
Some of my pieces are jewelry quality, in particular the Hag Stones. A talented lady designs and sells items using them and all proceeds go to various worthy causes. I get frequent photos and updates of the money raised, making me glow inside and believe me, that feeling is worth a lot more than the cost of postage.
I charge postage for the second and subsequent gift packets because our postal service decided to hike up the costs and in order for me to keep gifting I have no alternative. Most packets weigh 1 to 2 kilos (2 to 4 pounds), but some of my huge chunks—some weighing 5 pounds—have been mailed around the world and are greatly loved and admired in their new homes.
Recently I’ve arranged to take visitors to local beaches in the knowledge that they will be impressed with the variety of finds. If visitors are on a tight schedule, it saves time when you are personally shown where and how to get to a good beach. Typically my visitors have rented a car and include a beachcombing trip on their itinerary, or they are on a tour and fit in a visit to Bray before or after the tour. We also sometimes visit the beaches in Skerries, just a half hour from the Dublin Airport.
I like to think I’m an Ambassador for Ireland and send visitors back to their own countries with good memories of the beaches—not just of the rain!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2019 issue.
Hi Pauline, I live not far from Bray and would love it if you would take me on an excursion to show me how to get down to that particular spot! After the lockdowns are over, of course!
Well done, I feel you are a kindred spirit as I have been collecting beach stones, an urge I got when walking my dogs which got out of hand.
I am trying to make jewellery which I would like to sell and give a percentage to animal charities.
I haven’t found any sea glass down here in a Wexford. Would you have any advice also on sources for identifying Irish beach stones ? The books I bought are more general.
I am thrilled that you are helping the animals & veternarians. Thank you & may God bless you & assist you in continuing your work.
I so much wish I was there with you!