Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Sheela na Gigs of County Clare: An embarassment or a treasure?

I was shown my first Sheela-na-Gig way back when I first arrived in Ireland. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it wasn’t pointed out to me.  High above the entrance door on the ruins of the Kilnaboy Church in North Clare. It was difficult to make out and my guide was perhaps too embarrassed to explain it in detail. However this first exposure aroused  my interest (ha, no pun intended).

Indeed my introduction to the Sheela was perhaps symbolic of the historical ambivalence and difficulty their existence has caused in Irish culture. Embarrassment at talking about them and trying to explain them and tolerance and acceptance of them in very public locations and seemingly incongruous places such as churches and castles.

So what are they?  As in most of these things much is conjecture with theories of their origin falling into two camps.  Firstly it is thought they came from Europe in the 11th or 12th Centuries and were introduced into areas of Ireland conquered by the Normans.  In this case their location on churches and the grotesque features of the figures, even by medieval standards, suggests that they represented female lust as hideous and sinfully corrupting.

An alternative theory is that they may be of pagan origin and represent  Goddess-like figures that are in some way symbolic of fertility and fecundity. They seem to appear in 11th-12th century churches but are reused in structures built much later.  They may even date back further at least to the time of the Irish conversion to Christianity.

The name seems to be Irish (‘Sila’ means girl but can mean Hag or witch) and one translation is ‘Woman of the Breasts’. The name however is modern, probably dating from 1840.  No one is sure what they may have been called contemporaneously.    There is an interesting Australian connection here.  The slang term ‘Sheila’ is a generic term for a woman or girl.  “She was a bonzer Shiela!”.  It is thought to have come over with Irish convicts.

The Sheelas are usually very explicit female exhibitionist figures with legs wide apart and the vulva displayed, sometimes spread by the fingers.  There are similar goddess-like figures in other cultures but here they are unique and identifiably of Celtic/Irish origin.

Why they are placed above doors in churches or castles is not definitively known and it is possible that in medieval times their original significance was lost and they were used simply as a warning against evil and sin.

It is a miracle that some actually remain in situ. Most have been removed to a less public place, or hidden in a back garden, or disposed of or made their way to private collections or a museum. Many are missing.

Clare has nine known Sheelas.  Three are in situ as near as one can tell. One is in the Museum at Ennis, one was relocated into a bridge in 1796, one has been moved to another location in a castle, one has been moved to the back garden of a bank and two are missing.

So that is seven.  I decided to visit all seven.  This little adventure on its own told me a lot about Ireland and the Irish.  So here is the result of my endeavours.

I have already mentioned Kilnaboy.  Kilnaboy is one of the better known and most accessible in situ Sheelas in Ireland.  The parish lies in the heart of the Burren and is close to many well known megalithic monuments including Ireland’s best known portal tomb at Poulnabrone.  The church is highly significant and is said to date back to the 11th-century but was repaired in 1715. It has a number of interesting features including a large Cross of Lorraine in raised stonework on one gable and the ruins of a round tower in the grounds.  The Sheela is located over the arched entrance to the Church.  It is a little worn but complete and in remarkably good condition considering it may have been exposed to the elements for 900 years!  There is no fanfare, no sign and if you  didn’t know about it you could easily miss it.



Kilnaboy Church. Sheela na gig located over arched entrance


Kilnaboy. Sheela na gig. Detail.

Rath lies between  Ennis and Corofin and is near Dysert O’Dea castle.  Here lie the ruins of a monastic site that dates back to the 6th Century. The current church buildings date from the 15th century but incorporate stonework from the 9th or 10th century. The Sheela na gig is located in a large fragment, originally used as a window sill, and possibly dating from the 12th century. The stone is inserted upside down in a wall of the church and shows a female figure outside the main intricately carved dsign. It is considerably worn but recognisable.


Church ruins at Rath


Carved stonework block in wall of church at Rath.  Block is upside down.  Sheela na gig is on the right side.


Detail of carved stonework.  Rotated back to upright.  Sheela na gig is on left


Drawing of carved stonework


Sheela na gig at Rath.  Detail.

At Clenagh, close to the bank of the River Fergus near Newmarket-on-Fergus is the ruins of the Clenagh Castle. This is a large reasonably well preserved Tower House which was the home of the McMahon family. Date of construction is not clear but it was last occupied 200 years ago. The tower is now surrounded by farm buildings and locked gates and the yard is incongruously used for storage of bales of silage and farm machinery. Luckily on this wet and windy day the gate was unlocked and I could sneak in.

The Sheela wasn’t located where I thought it would be – near the well preserved entrance. It took quite a bit of searching.  I found it close to the ground carved into a quoin at the corner of the structure. There is no way of knowing the date but the style appears unique with spindly legs.  It is reasonably well preserved with a very clear outline but details are worn. There is evidence of rubbing. To me it looks like this is carved in situ into the stone which would make it much younger than the others. But hey I’m no expert.. Again no signage, and definitely no invitation to view.



The castle at Clenagh.  The grounds are used to store silage and farm machinery and it is not open to the public.


Clenagh Castle.  Sheela na Gig is located on corner of building near a more recent brick wall.


Clenagh Castle.  Sheela na Gig.  Detail.


Ballyportry is a Tower House from the 15th Century. It is near Corofin. Formerly the seat of the O’Briens. I visited it but as it is privately owned could not gain access. Of course I could have stayed there for 2-3,000 Euros for three nights. But no point really as the Sheela na gig from here is on public display in the Clare Museum. It was found in the castle grounds and removed in 1942. I checked it out. It is very well preserved and has many unusual features. An over large head, teeth being bared, big rounded ears and holding open what appears to be her anus.


Ballyportry Castle.  Privately owned.


Sheela na Gig from Ballyportry Castle.  Now on display in Clare Museum.

Killaloe sits right on the eastern edge of Clare and is separated from Ballina in Tipperary by the Shannon River.  It is the ancestral birthplace of Brian Boru.  And there is also St Flannan’s Cathedral. Across the road from the Cathedral is the AIB Bank. So what you ask. Well in the back garden of the bank is a Holy Well and next to this, leaning against a stone wall, is part of a Sheela which purportedly came from the Church.

To get access I spoke to Rebecca at the Customer Information desk and after much rooting around she found the key and I was given admittance. No special treatment, just another service offered by the bank. Seriously, I was amused that an historic treasure would be located in the grounds of a bank and that, amazingly, tourists find their way there and are given access. Ireland!

This figure is headless and considerably worn. but large and, depending how you catch the light, quite detailed.



The AIB bank in Killaloe viewed from the grounds of the church.


Holy well in the back garden of the AIB Bank, Killaloe.  Sheela na Gig fragment is on the right of the entrance.


Killaloe Sheela na Gig. Detail.  Head is missing.


Bunratty is a very well known Castle and Folk Park and a major tourist attraction in Clare not far from Limerick. High up in a wall in the Great Hall of the Castle is a Sheela. It is in good condition but its location is such that it is hard to view. I am guessing it was moved from somewhere, perhaps an earlier castle structure and relocated during the construction of the current Castle to a place where it was not so conspicuous.

Interestingly the current castle is the fourth on this site and was built in 1425 by the MacNamara’s (again!)  but then greatly expanded by the O’Neills (again!) around 1500. The earliest castle is believed to date to 1251, though the site had been settled since 977. Exactly where the Sheela na Gig fits in is unknown. It is somewhat insensitively painted black and stands out starkly from the lime washed wall so the tourists can see it.  It seems to be in good condition.  This was the most unsatisfying Sheela I saw.  I hated that you had to put a telephoto lens on to see it.  And for feck’s sake – painted black!



Bunratty Castle



Bunratty Castle.  Sheela na Gig


Bunratty Castle.  Sheela na Gig.  Detail.

Lastly, there is a doubtful Sheela inserted as a panel into a bridge at Clonlara.  The panel is inscribed ‘1769’ which relates to the date of construction of the bridge.  The Sheela comes from an unknown site and is quite defaced.  Only the head and arms are distinct.


Bridge at Clonlara


Clonlara.  Sheela na Gig on stone panel inserted into wall of bridge.




Clonlara.  Sheela na Gig.  Detail.

A final thought.  I find it fascinating that the Church has placed these extremely confronting figures at their portals for centuries and yet preach a moral purity. It seems a trifle dissembling. But I suppose we should be grateful that this unusual window into medieval and pre-medieval thinking and practice in Ireland has been preserved at least in a fragmentary way.


Anyway Ireland is full of mysteries and Sheela-na-Gigs are another one. I suggest if you come to Ireland you make a point of chasing down your nearest Hag in the Wall.  There’s sure to be one near you.  There are 140 of them.  The search will be as much of an adventure as the discovery.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Legend, the Master and the Pupil. Culture Night. Ennistymon 2016.

So, What’s an Australian blogger doing writing about Irish Culture? Well any culture really. OK Let’s get the jokes over.

What is the difference between yoghurt and Australia?         Yoghurt has a little culture

“I don’t despair about the cultural scene in Australia, because there isn’t one here to despair about.” said the dancer Sir Robert Helpmann in the mid-1960s,

And I could go on.

As of now, though I think Australians punch above their weight in artistic endeavours as we do in sport.   Hollywood and Broadway are filled with Australian actors. I hear Australian music all the time on radio and people don’t even know it is. “Oh are ACDC Aussie?” “Love that classic Irish song Band Played Waltzing Matilda” etc….

So there. I am going to talk about Culture Night here in Ireland anyway.

Culture Night this year was Friday 16th September and it is an annual fixture sponsored by the Irish Government. It’s a terrific innovation. Free events are held all around the country covering all branches of the arts. In fact 3,000 of them in 1,300 venues. I chose to spend the evening in and around Ennistymon in West Clare.



Ennistymon is a pretty town hidden in the hills at the southern end of the Burren. The town dates from the 18th century and is built around a bridge crossing of the Cullenagh River and its famed Cascades. It has always been a market town but the famine hit hard with 5,000 dying in its various workhouses in the five years from 1847.  Subsequently it prospered and is now a lively centre of commerce. The “Troubles” came to Ennistymon in 1922 when the British, in reprisal for the ambush at Rineen, near Miltown Malbay (which killed six Black and Tans), burned a number of pubs and houses.  The only troubles now are whether a bridge widening should be permitted at Blake’s Corner.

It is noted for the pretty shop fronts but as in most Irish villages and towns today the struggle for survival in rural Ireland is evident in many of the abandoned shops.

I visited an art exhibition in the Old Court House. It was an exhibition by Clare based artist Martina Cleary. There were really three exhibitions. Each with a different personality. One explored her attempt over ten days to recreate the search in 1926 in Paris by poet and author Andre Breton.  He became infatuated with a girl called Nadja and it became the subject of a book. She has created a number of panels using maps and photographs where she retraces and reinterprets the story. I loved the way she blended her own photos with contemporary photos, mainly old postcards.

This was a theme similarly explored in the exhibition of the photos of Dorothea Lange, a renowned photographer for Life Magazine, who came to Clare in 1954. Martina has revisited the places and themes to create modern versions of these images, many in black and white and many with a suitcase which was her constant companion. She has also cleverly woven her own images with historical images in a number of long collages.

I loved this exhibition. The pieces were quite eclectic and inventive in the use of multimedia, postcards, photographs, rocks, string, paper, books and found objects. One piece I particularly loved was of an open book with the words and images flowing out of it.


I can’t actually recommend you go see it because it was its last day.  Sorry about that.  but do keep an eye out for her.

I then decided to treat myself to a nice meal at Byrne’s Restaurant overlooking the Falls. I was very impressed. I am a sucker for duck and will order it whenever it is on the menu. This duck confit was one of the best meals I have had in Ireland. Well done to the chef at Byrne’s and others for keeping alive the culinary arts in remote Ireland.


On my walk back to the car I stumbled upon a street session at the market square organised by the local Comhaltas Branch. There were some familiar faces there and I was asked to join. So a quick trip to the car and I had my fiddle, trying to balance it with my camera to get these few shots. I never cease to be amazed by the quality of musicianship and dancing I keep coming across in Clare. This was a classic example of the depth of the musical culture here and how vibrant it is today.


But my main destination for the evening was Kilshanny House, so my stay was short. This is a pub on its own in the middle of nowhere just a few kilometres from Ennistymon. These sort of pubs are a dying breed and struggle to survive but fair play to owners Mary and Aidan who have promoted good food and music to attract clientele.

They would have been happy this night. Blackie O’Connell the renowned Ennis based piper and the doyen of the local piping world was hosting Davy Spillane. Davy, a master whistle and piper set the trad world alight with Donal Lunny and Christy Moore and the extraordinary sound of Moving Hearts in 1982.  He provided many solo albums and collaborations since. With massive names such as Kate Bush, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Enya, Steve Winwood and Chris Rea. And Riverdance. And that tune Equinox on Bringing it All Back Home from 1991. A huge favourite of mine and almost an anthem for me.

He lives in West Clare but rarely plays publicly now, so this was a chance to see and hear him.  Blackie and Davey were the stars, though a number of other local pipers participated. The word had got out and the pub was nicely full. I saw many fellow musicians in the audience.

From almost the first note without any fanfare you could tell this was going to be different.  It was music from another realm. Fast or slow it didn’t matter. As the night wore on Blackie and Dave entered into a special place. They sat close together, facing each other, their pipes almost physically entwining just as their sublime music did. This music came from inside them and we were allowed to witness it. It was totally absorbing and spellbinding. Energy and fire. Many times, the other musicians just stopped and listened. And then Davy would play that Low Whistle. Extraordinary sound with incredible economy of finger movement. It wasn’t just Davy though. It made you realise what a phenomenal piper Blackie is.  During a break he wowed the crowd with the full version of the Fox Chase. Barking dogs and all.


Oliver, Blackie’s dad, came over and whispered in my ear at one stage, “have you ever heard anything like this before?” And this wasn’t just a proud dad talking. I know, speaking to Blackie afterwards that it was special for him too.ig3c8775a_1ig3c8781

The two masters were joined for a couple of tunes by Kevin Nunane.  Kevin, didn’t look ten yet and is a student of Blackie’s. This is the future of piping and to have the three generations of pipers there playing was as profound an expression of the depth of Irish Culture as you will ever see. The Legend, the Master and the Pupil.


I’ll leave it to WB Yeats to have the last word

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,                                                                                                                                 
And never was piping so gay.


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An Explanation


Subscribers to my blog may have seen a post go up earlier today which was Protected and required a password.  From time to time you may see such posts.  They are blogs that for one reason or another aren’t ready for public release but that I may wish to share privately.  There will however be very few of them.  Be assured my blog will remain public and open.  And thank you so much to my subscribers in particular who have stuck with me for the last 2 1/2 years. I have many more adventures to share with you.



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Protected: Tale of two sessions

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Categories: Real Ireland, Sessions, Trad Irish Music

Where the ocean kisses Ireland and the waves caress its shore : of seaweed and báirnachs.

Where the ocean kisses Ireland and the waves caress its shore
The feeling it came over me to stay forever more

These words are from a Saw Doctor’s song, The Green and Red of Mayo. OK, they are about Mayo but they could just as easily have been written about Clare. Or about my house which is right there on the rocks; where the ocean kisses Ireland.


At the moment it is a hive of activity. Seaweed harvesting is in full swing and there are regulars who visit the shore to collect winkles or báirnach (limpets) or drop in a line hoping for a pollock or mackerel.

Gerard Talty runs the seaweed farm and his pasture is right at my front lawn. He has developed a thriving business exporting at least a dozen products made from seaweed collected at Caherush and nearby and processed right here on the Clogher Road. Talk about coals to Newcastle, Japan is one of his biggest customers.

One bright day recently I went out to chat to the guys. There were three generations of Talty’s working the weed. Ger, his father Mikey and son Evan. That in itself is pretty unique.  Currently they are harvesting the kelp. Laminaria.  Ger is a great advocate for seaweed and he extolled the many properties of this particular variety of kelp. It eats cellulite; you can bathe in it; it is rich in magnesium; it has a chemical make-up that is closest to human blood. It is chock full of chlorophyll. Or you can cook any number of delicious things with it. There’s carrageen and dillisk and sea lettuce and all the rest too but today it was about kelp. Something I didn’t know about kelp was that the fifth taste, umami, was recognised in kelp in 1908 though it was nearly a hundred years later before it was given credence as a distinct taste alongside bitter, sweet, salty and sour.  This came with the discovery of umami taste receptors in the tongue and the stomach.IG3C6789IG3C6853IG3C6754IG3C6771IG3C6836

Seaweed farming has a long history in West Ireland. A poem, probably dating from the twelfth century, describes monks harvesting dillisk from the rocks and distributing it to the poor as one of their daily duties. It was used as a food and a medicine, as chewing tobacco, ingested to eliminate worms, and was recommended as a remedy for ‘women’s longing’ whatever that was.  Seaweed manure was particularly important in areas with poor soil, and conflicts were fought over seaweed rights and access.


Ireland’s tradition of kelp harvesting dates back to the seventeenth century. It was burnt in stone kilns, the ruins of which are still visible in places. The ash that remained was used for glazing pottery and for making glass and soap and then later to produce iodine. This latter discovery kept the tradition alive until World War II. Now the tradition is continued by people like the Taltys.

I spoke to Ger’s dad Mikey. A resident on the Clogher Road for 79 years. And still driving the 1969 Massey Ferguson to harvest the weed. He remembers when the tractor replaced the horse and cart. I’ve seen him doing any number of farm chores, including driving the excavator onto the beach to clear drains or transporting silage and of course helping with the seaweed harvest.


We had just a few minutes before an errant shower interfered with the dialogue but there is nothing Mikey doesn’t know about this bay. He told me the best way to cook báirnach or where I can find evidence of them eating báirnach in the 11th century in the middens of a castle around the point.  And more surprisingly how Point Caherush was a major quarrying operation back in the 50s. This was intriguing and prompted me to investigate further. I will blog on this another time.

So with the tractor loaded and the threat of imminent rain, the operation concluded for the day. Ger told me that this kelp was the best for seaweed baths. Slippery; and hot water brings out the beneficial nutrients. “That’s what you get down at Trump’s” he said, referring to the Donald Trump owned resort at Doonbeg, ten km away.IG3C6867

I think I might go and take a bath.

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Achill Island – a story of butterfly collections, Jehova’s Witnesses and old postcards.

During late July I spent a week on Achill Island in the west of Co Mayo. My reason for being there of course was music, a Summer School called Scoil Achla. This was my third time and I have spoken at length about it in my previous blogs. Indeed raved about it, so I won’t repeat that here. Just type Achill into the search box!  This time though I didn’t attend classes and to say I needed a break after the summer touring would be putting it too mildly. This was the perfect place to spend time away from the music but to have it on tap at the same time. At least that was my intention.

After my previous visits I thought I knew Achill. But what I discovered here was another Achill, not the one I had written about before. Oh that was all here too, the wonderful music and the undeniable beauty of this place as a Summer holiday destination.  So let’s get that over with.  Here are some shots that showcase Achill Island.  Hopefully you will hop onto the internet, book your accommodation and plan your trip as soon as possible.  But before you do read on……


This time I got to know the people.  I met some genuine Achill characters, people that shape the place now and reflect where it has come from.  In particular there was John O’Shea, quintessentially Ireland and quintessentially Achill. A more delightful person you will struggle to meet. He lives in the appropriately named “Beach House” and he welcomes you to his house with his whole being. Never short of a quip, or a quick riposte, or a yarn he would entertain and educate for hours given the chance. I was introduced by a friend and we connected straight away. He has a passionate interest in the history of Achill and collects photos, postcards, books and ephemera relating to this. This parallels my own interest in the early history of the Goldfields of Western Australia as well as our similar collecting interests.


So I spent quite a bit of time in his home as he generously allowed me to view his collections and we swapped stories.  He talked of the original settlement and the sale of the Island to the Rev Nangle and the establishment of the first village. Paintings by Alexander Williams and postcards dating  from 1903 to the First World War speak eloquently of an Achill which though much has disappeared is readily identifiable today. IG3C4770IG3C4778

One story that stuck with me was of a cruel landlord. Many of his tenants were killed in a tragic accident that took 25 lives. Because these families had lost their breadwinners and could not pay the rent they were evicted. This was 1847! in the height of the famine. He showed me a wooden bowl and a spoon made of horn, from this time, used to eat soup. This puts stories like this into harsh reality.IG3C6257

John is a truly charming man with a great line of patter and is quite one with the ladies. He is legendary for inviting visitors to the island to view his ‘butterfly collection’.  So for his 77th birthday his many friends on the island got together and created a butterfly collection for him. Each butterfly is cleverly designed to tell a story and is an individual work of art and he now proudly displays his ‘real’ butterfly collection.IG3C4755IG3C4744

He is also a man of spirit, a spirit I suspect comes from a harsh life in a remote place. He single handedly appealed a decision of his home insurers following their refusal to pay for storm damage and has taken it all the way to the High Court where he has tasted victory against the whole legal system railed against him. What we would call an Aussie Battler.

A lasting memory for me was of how he handled a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses at his front door. They arrived moments after me so I was standing in the foyer listening. There was a father and his daughter. Two other daughters in the car if they needed the heavy artilery. They said they were from Germany but initially didn’t say what they wanted. The man’s first question to John was whether he had a God. A man of faith, John answered he did. “Does your God have a name?” John was well aware where they were headed and he dodged around the answer, quoting passages from the Bible, which completely threw the evangelist’s well rehearsed patter. The man was searching for passages to respond with on his tablet (that’s the android version not one of stone!) but was not able to recover. At the same time he charmed the daughter with handshakes and blessings and she could do nothing but smile. He had them on the ropes now as he asked whether they were Jehovah’s Witnesses knowing full well they were. When they affirmed, “Yes”, he said, “I have read the Watchtower and I think you have a different view of God to me”.  As the man tried to fight back then came the knock-out punch. “I’m so sorry I don’t have time to talk with you, my Australian cousin is here”.  I bet they don’t meet many like that.


There were so many highlights of my time on Achill. Here are a few that randomly jumped into my brain

  • Having a sean nós dancing lesson in one of the local pubs, from Pauline, a local artist and then being joined by some random punters for an impromptu performance.


  • Fired up by this I then did two proper sean nós dance workshops offered by the School. Thanks Pauline for dragging me along.

  • And then a bit of a dance on Keel Beach.IG3C6400
  • The Red Fox Gallery and Press and Frances and Antic-Ham who run it. Two people in such obvious harmony and in harmony with their special place over looking Doogart. Francis collects polaroid cameras and they produce the most stunning Polaroid photography and art in book form.IG3C5493

  • A walk on Keem Beach, one of the most beautiful in IrelandIG3C4870IG3C4910aIG3C5206

  • The constant mist that hangs over the hills; lifts like a dancer lifting her skirt and just as quickly letting it fall.  And occasionally she puts on a spectacular show in the evening light.  IG3C4617IG3C5555IG3C5469IG3C6091IG3C5549IG3C6301IG3C5313

  • Impromptu sessions in quiet pubs.

  • Noisy sessions in packed pubsIG3C5411IG3C5410IG3C5414IG3C5349

  • A lovely vegetarian meal with my new friends at Pauline’s house with views over Keel and then songs and tunesIG3C6282IG3C629413918672_10153802382657634_1999679985_o

  • Hot soup in the Beehive CaféIG3C6106

  • the labyrinth at the end of Keel beach. Mirroring the twists and turns of life and our endeavours to reach the centre.  IG3C6442IG3C6430

  • The evening light turning the cliffs yellow and red and reflecting on the shallow strand.IG3C6321IG3C5908IG3C5920IG3C5930IG3C5947

  • Fish and chips for my birthday at Geilty’s Pub. The best I have tasted in Ireland.  And at the same meal, my introduction to banoffee!

  • Nutella and banana pancakes sold from a caravan at the camping ground at Keel. No pictures sorry.  Too busy scoffing them down.
  • The sound of Paul Dooley’s Brian Boru harp,  Absolutely entrancing to all ages….IG3C5685a

  • Brendan Begley singingIG3C5579

  • Sessions in the Wave Crest Hotel, which only opens for the Scoil Acla week.IG3C5595

  • The Richview Hostel and the many international visitors who inhabited it

  • A swim in Keel Beach with Bridge and Siofra. Everyone else was wearing wetsuits! Still can’t believe I did that.13879371_1016935231760452_1295093538081463806_n

  • And I was still talking to Bridge afterwards so it was pizza with them at Pure Magic CafeIG3C5545

  • A visit to the workshop of Johnny Butler who took the time to show me how Uilleann pipes were made. A true craftsman.

  • A couple of hours at the Inishbiggle Festival including tunes in the tent and skipping rope.

Actually there’s a whole lot more but that gives you the gist.  I have said enough.  If you have lasted this long then you deserve a medal.  Achill is a special place and a special time.


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