Monthly Archives: February 2017

Life Wasn’t Meant to be Easy Part 2. The Search for St Ruth’s Bush.

I recently blogged on my troubles finding the Bealin Cross. Well not wanting to labour a point but on the same day I had a similar interesting experience trying to find St Ruth’s Bush.

Really I knew nothing about St Ruth’s Bush, except that it is the name of a lovely reel.  Of course in my ignorance I imagined it was referring to a Saint in the mould of St Brigid.  Perhaps the Patron Saint of Gardening.  But I made no enquiries.  Well I was wrong.  Not only was Saint Ruth not a Saint but she wasn’t a she!  I’ll come back to that in a moment but first a bit of Irish History.

Driving in Ireland I like to travel off the motorway as much as possible so coming home from the North on a recent road trip, just past Balinasloe in Co Galway, I saw a turnoff to Aughrim.  Aha my chance to visit the site of the Battle of Aughrim.  Another tune name but to my shame I knew nothing about this battle.  In fact it was the definitive battle of the War of the Kings, the battle between the Jacobites, supporting Catholic James II and the English/Dutch backed Williamites.  The battle was fought on July 12th 1692 and ended badly for the Irish and their French allies.  A total of 7,000 were killed in the worst massacre on Irish soil. Ironically, the battle was going well for the Irish until fate intervened. Firstly they had been supplied with the wrong musket balls which didn’t fit their guns, but even worse their leader was decapitated by a stray and fortuitous canon ball. Leaderless, the Irish disintegrated and the battle was lost.

Their leader was Charles Chalmont,  The Marquis de St Ruth.  Saint Ruth.

This defeat led to a series of devastating events for Ireland. The surrender at Limerick, The Treaty of Limerick, the repudiation of that Treaty by the Protestant dominated Irish Parliament, and the subsequent penal laws and centuries of British domination of Ireland.

So back to St Ruth and his Bush.  The Bush was planted in an open field and reputedly marks the spot where St. Ruth fell from his horse after his head was blown off.  I was determined to find this bush.  It was marked on the self guided battle tour and referred to in all the guide books.  No problem I thought.

So I get myself to the right area and find a sign adjacent to a field.  This must be it.  Looking for some guidance I saw none but started wandering aimlessly across the paddock.  Looking for a bush.  Not looking promising as I was rescued by a voice from an adjacent house.  “Can I help you?”

“Oh  you won’t find St Ruth’s Bush there.  It’s too boggy.  No one goes that way.”  She directed me back up the road I had come to a yellow house and told me to walk through an adjacent gate and across the paddock.  So I did this.  Mind you there was no signage here but there was a beautiful steel stile,  which took me into an empty paddock.  In the distance I saw another stile, so I headed that way.  No bush anywhere.  Now I was joined by a flock of friendly sheep very keen on following my progress.  Across that stile I was in another empty paddock.  No signs and no bush.  I walked to the other end of the paddock.  Nothing.  My companions were no help.  I was perplexed and retraced my steps.  I then caught a glimpse of a stile in a side fence and this proved to lead to the holy grail.


My friendly companions


Here there was a sign.  However this was just a viewing platform and in the middle of the paddock in the distance was a fenced off compound surrounding some very unimpressive weeds.  I had found it.  The memorial to this pivotal event in Irish History and the worst military disaster in the country was some straggly undergrowth in the middle of a boggy field.



St Ruth’s Bush


Sorry but the photo is just as unimpressive.  It was raining and as it got heavier, I hurriedly retreated.  With a mixture of satisfaction though that I had found it and sobering reflection on its significance.  There are a number of other sites to visit in the vicinity and each in its own way takes you back to the horrible events of that day and the devastating significance to the Irish people.  A lonely bridge, a ruined castle and empty paddocks all tell a sordid but sad story.


Attibrassil Bridge


Ruins of Aughrim Castle


When I play the evocative tune The Battle of Aughrim now, it is hard not to think of those 7,ooo souls and the millions who suffered as a consequence.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Wasn’t Meant to be Easy Part 1. Finding the Bealin Cross


Life wasn’t meant to be easy.

These were the infamous words of a former Opposition leader of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, back in 1975 as he engineered the dismissal of the Labour Government of Gough Whitlam and had himself installed.  That’s not really important here but his words came to me as I scoured up and down the wet, foggy hills of Westmeath looking for a High Cross.

I had no particular reason to seek out this cross and I knew nothing about it but my trusty road atlas has a spot marked called Twyford Cross and it wasn’t much of a detour so I thought I would visit.

First though, it is nowhere near Twyford.  It was closer to Baylin on the map, so I went there to start my search. Google Maps has no mention of it so I was in the dark but I thought the gods were with me because as I approached the village there was one of those nice brown signs for naïve tourists like me which said Baylin Cross.

That’ll do. I headed down the lane until it stopped abruptly at two locked gates, after just a few hundred metres. No sign of anything that resembled a High Cross. How could I have missed it? I drove back and forth a couple of times. There was nothing that would indicate a cross.  This was just a rural, suburban street.

Ok time to Google it. I found a couple of brief descriptions of the Bealin Cross, which I assumed was the same. One seemed helpful. It described at length, how this guy went on a goose chase looking for it until he asked someone, who told him to cross a stile and it was on a hill behind the houses. This guy found it, why couldn’t I?  I went up and down a couple more times looking for a stile. No stile. It was wet and foggy and miserable (have I already mentioned that?) and I saw no one around to ask. Not wanting to give up I pulled off the road to have a think. In front of me was a spanking new cattle drenching pen and a bright red gate to the side. Cattle drenching pen? Stile? Just maybe!


The access point for the High Cross.  Through the red gate.

So on a hunch I went in there. Round the corner and aah there’s a hill. Fifty metres further walking I saw the cross.


I know I have been long winded but I just wanted to stress that sometimes if you want to find something in Ireland, it can require persistence and a dose of luck. I love it that there is heritage everywhere. Megalithic monuments, ring forts, dolmens, ruined castles, abbeys and crosses. That of course is one of the reasons to visit Ireland. The Irish have preserved these monuments and are generous with access to them. Many are on the major tourist itineraries and have bold signage, car parks, interpretive centres and entrance fees. Many do not. These are the ones I like to visit. But as in the case of the Bealin Cross it can be a challenge. It almost seems to me that while farmers and the ‘authorities’ are happy to allow you access, they are not going to make it easy for you by telling you where it is; so no parking, no signs and definitely no interpretive centres.

So Bealin Cross. Was it worth the effort? It is called the Bealin (Baylin) Cross because it was once in Baylin but it was moved to the townland of Twyford. It is around 2 metres high it is beautifully decorated though somewhat worn. After all it is believed to have been constructed in around 800AD. Yes I haven’t left a ‘1’ off the front. It is 1,200 years old. It is thought to have been built originally for nearby Clonmacnoise.  There are interlaced creatures with birdlike heads running up the East side and a stunning celtic knot at the centre.

Though they are hard to make out other images include a hunting scene with a dog biting a deer’s leg. Each side has different images.


Personally I find it remarkable that it still exists and sits on a hill exposed to the elements. Not hidden away in a museum or church but in its ‘natural’ environment for anyone to discover and enjoy (if they have suitable orienteering skills).

The photos are pretty ordinary as was the weather and once I found it, my time there was short as the heavens opened up.

Of course it was worth it but on this occasion perhaps the journey was more interesting than the destination.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at