Posts Tagged With: Ireland

Castlespotting at Caherush, Co Clare.

Caherush Point on the coast of County Clare, was my home in Ireland for over five years.  I walkled its shores many times revelling in its biological and geological diversity and its history; of farming and fishing, and seaweed gathering and quarrying.  I had heard persistent stories of a castle at Caherush Point but  I had never been able to find it or anything of its ruins. I decided to fix that situation before I left and in the week before my departure I went castlespotting.

I had a vague idea of where it was. Indeed the townland name holds a big clue. Caherush is from the Irish Chathair Rois which means ‘castle of the woods’ or ‘castle of the promontory’.  So I looked for a promonontory; any woods are long gone. Through this clever bit of deductive thinking I identified an obvious candidate on a grassy knoll that protruded onto the rock platform at almost its most westerly point.

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Caherush Point.  The site of Castle Caherush, an O’Brien family Tower House.

There was little there thought to hang your hat on, until I spotted, half buried and overgrown, the remains of walls built from flat stones with sharp right angles that almost certainly would have been foundations or some sort of retaining wall.  Other flat stones arranged into a wall can be seen at the top of the cliff face looking south from the rock platform.  These are the only evidence of a former tower house, much of which was probably washed into the sea centuries ago on this exposed point.

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Parts of walls, probably from foundations of Caherush Castle.  Looking across Mal Bay to Spanish Point.

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Part of a wall of flat stones seen from the rock platform looking south.

There is virtually nothing in the historic record.  But we do know the castle was occupied in 1573, as it was then that Turlough O’Brien and twelve men obtained refuge there when they escaped after being badly beaten in a battle with the northern tribes of Clare, led by Teige MacMurrough. I could find nothing else and 19th century archaeologists, such as Westrop, give it only passing mention.

What I found really interesting though is that the site is also the location of a kitchen midden. The castle appears to have been built on top of it.  Kitchen middens, which are essentially prehistoric rubbish heaps are located in a number of spots along the Clare coast especially at Lahinch, Fisher Street and Fanore.  Finds in these middens include hammer stones, scrapers, flints and axes along with shellfish and animal bones. Dating shows these are Neolithic (4,000 to 2,500 BC), though there are both earlier and later middens known.

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Kitchen Midden exposed at Caherush Point.  Probably dating from Neolithic times

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Close up of Kitchen Midden.  Comprises mostly shells.  One fragment of bone in the foreground.

At Caherush, much of the midden appears lost with only a small portion exposed. Taking care not to cause damage, I had my own little dig and found shellfish, fragments of (animal) bone and even a fragment of a large tooth.  No stone artifacts but this assemblage is consistent with it being of the same age as the other Clare middens.  I took a few photos and carefully replaced and buried the material back in the hole.

So Caherush Point was settled perhaps 5,000 years ago and who knows who has lived at this spot in the intervening centuries. Cattle graze contentedly now over the Point and, with the continuing ravages of the sea, I expect that in just a few centuries, or perhaps even decades, all evidence of the castle on the promontory and its previous occupants will be gone.

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

Ireland in Four Days (and Five Years). Day 4. Wondrous Wicklow.

I left you at the end of Day 3 with me pulling into a parking bay at Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains at around 2 am.  That was my bed for the night.  After a very broken four hours of, what could only loosely be described as sleep, during which my poor little car was buffeted constantly by winds and rain, my hopes (and my reason for spending the night up here) of glorious sunrise shots were somewhat dashed.  The rain had stopped but the hills were lost in mist and only the sheep seemed to be happy.

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Good Morning.  Sally Gap, Wicklow

It was now 6:30 am. I was here now, and sun was predicted to arrive around midday.  So there was nothing for it but to wait.  I walked, I drove and, once my fingers had warmed up I practiced the whistle. And waited at the Roof of Wicklow, until eventually the sun began to make tentative forays.  The plus side of it was that there was a lovely soft light for photographing the hills and valleys, waterfalls and the gorgeous heather and I tried to make the best of that.

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The wild mountain heather in the early morning mist

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Will ye go Lassie go?

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To pluck wild mountain thyme

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All around the bloomin heather

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By yon pure crystal fountain

By 10 am I was rewarded, and I discovered Lough Tay sparkling in the dappled light.  Lough Tay is also known as Guinness Lake (because of its resemblance to a pint of the dark stuff complete with its creamy head).  The sand though is not original.  It was brought in from the coast by the owners (surprise, surprise, the Guinness family).  There is no doubt it deserves its spot as one of the most photographed views in Wicklow.  It is a corrie lake that lies in a glacial valley at the foot of Luggala Mountain.  Luggala Estate, historic home of the Guinness’, is part of the estate and lies in the verdant valley to the north.

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Lough Tay, Guinness Lake.  The Guinness mansion (the only building in the picture) is on the far right.

I am glad I waited, but it was time to move on now and I headed on to Glendalough.

The main purpose of the visit was to see the old mine workings.  But as I drove through the tiny village I heard the sound of pipes.  I had to stop.  I stood and listened to the lone piper sitting under a blue sky, next to a spectacular double arched gateway.

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Pat Connery, lone piper at the gateway to Glendalough

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Singing and playing the pipes is not easy.  Pat Connery at Glendalough

This was Pat Connery and it was beautiful playing, lost for the most part on an unappreciative crowd, who would scurry past, stop to snap a selfie and head up the steps and through the gate, intent on getting back to the bus on time.  I chatted to to Pat, who has been playing this spot for years.  She was using a set of C pipes, which for the uninitiated have a deeper more plaintive sound than the regular concert pitch pipes.  She also sang beautifully, while playing (no mean feat).

Thanking Pat I too headed up those steps.  What I hadn’t realized was that this was the portal to the Glendlough monastic ruins.  In fact it is Ireland’s only surviving example of such a medieval gateway.  I hadn’t intended to stop as I had visited five years ago but hey the music, the sunshine, a warm Irish day; how could I not pop in for another look.  I never posted photos of Glendalough back then because I wasn’t happy with them.  Here was my chance to fix that.

Glendalough is truly special.  Wandering its many sites and catching glimpses of its magic mountain setting will be, despite the fact that half of Europe, America and Asia are there with you,  one of your treasured memories of Ireland.  Even the name is evocative as it comes from the Irish Gleann da locha (Glen of the two lakes)  The site was founded by St Kevin and most of the surviving buildings date from 10th to 12th Century.  That’s old.  Since then it has experienced attacks from the Vikings, the sacking of the monastery in 1214 by the Normans  and its total destruction by the English in 1398.  Reconstruction of some of the ruins was started in 1878 and now you can visit a round tower, seven churches, two High Crosses and much more.  I’m not going to go through all its attractions but I have selected just a few pictures to give you, my readers,  some idea of the extent of these ruins and the calming ambience that you will feel when you are there.

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One of the best round towers in Ireland.  Beautifully preserved and original except that the roof was rebuilt in 1878 from stones that had fallen.  Built 10th century.

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View of Glendalough past St Kevin’s Kitchen (wasn’t a kitchen) to the mountains beyond.

 

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View of the cathedral, built between the 10th and 13th century.   THe round tower perfectly framed through the window.

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St Kevin’s Kitchen I.  It was in fact a church.

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St Kevin’s Kitchen II.  Note the corbelled stone roof.  Same technique as used in beehive huts.

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Inside the cathedral showing beautiful stonework on the archway.

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One of two high crosses.  One is in the Visitors Centre.  This one sits in place in the cemetery.  It is unadorned and known as St Kevins Cross and was carved from a single piece of granite.

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The Priests’ House.  Reconstructed from the original stones based on  a 1779 sketch. Compelte with romanesque arch.

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Archaelogy at the site continues today with a team at work from UCD.

Now I headed to the trailhead for the Miners Way.  It leaves from the eastern end of the Upper Lake where there is a beautiful beach (this time natural I think) and skirts the northern bank.  I had the tall straight timbers of a Scots Pine forest on my right and the deep blue waters of the lake on my left.

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View from the beach at the east end of the Upper Lake at Glendalough.  Looking west.

 

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The Miners’ Way walk takes you along the northern bank of the Lake through a Scots Pine forest

As I approached the end of the lake it opened up to a stunning U-shaped valley carved by a glacier 15,000 years ago.

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At the western end of the Upper Lake.  A classic U shaped valley carved by a glacier.

Another kilometre on and the ruins of the mine buildings come into view.

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View of the ‘Mine Village’.  Actually the mine processing plant.

They call it the ‘Mine Village’ but its not really.  It is the ruins of the processing plant the ore extracted from the surrounding hills was processed and the lead and silver removed. No one actually lived here; it is believed the mine workers walked in every day from Larragh a distance of 6 km.  What is preserved here are the remains of the ore dressing floor (dressing is another name for processing whereby the ore is crushed, chemicals are added that assist in separating the ore from the waste, and then it is filtered and dried).  The most prominent building is the ruin of the the Cornish rolls crusher house, built in 1855. Part of it was recently rebuilt in an effort to forestall further deterioration.  The rolls crusher mechanism itself is well preserved and lies a short distance away on the valley floor.  It is such a thrill to wander round these ruins. 

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View of the crusker on the left and mine buildings on the right.  Old shafts and mullock heaps can be seeon on the ridge,  A tramway (nothing remains) brought the broken ore to the crusher

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A view of the mine area from the west looking up the Upper Lake.  The white heaps are tailings (material  that remains after the valuable minerals are removed)

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The Cornish Rolls Crusher building

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It is said that this is the best preserved example of a Cornish rolls crusher in Ireland. 

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Tailings from the Glendalough processing plant.  Timbers in centre of picture are believed to have supported the tramway used to transport ore from the mine shafts.

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A specimen of lead ore showing galena.

Mining also took place in the Glendasan Valley to the north of Glendalough on the other side of Camaderry Mountain.  The main mineral vein cuts through the mountain between the two valleys and mine workings along the veing connected the two valleys.

So I had to go and have a look there.  Another beautiful U-shaped valley greeted me.  This time however we are at the top of the valley where there are the remains of another ore dressing plant.  I can see other mines in the distance and on the mountain sides so I followed the river downstream. 

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Glendasan Valley.  View down the valley from the ruins of the Hero Mine processing plant

Unfortunately the telltale evidence of historic mining along the river does not tell a pretty story of environmental responsibility.  Much of the mining is very old, nearly 200 years, so I suppose that is some excuse, but some dates from the middle of the 20th century when they should have known better,  Tailings and waste stockpiles are scattered along the river valley and, in places, the river flows right through them or has found a path around them.  Considering the high levels of lead, one can only speculate on what this has done to the water quality.  There is no way approval would be given for a mine treatment plant to operate on the bed of the river theses days.           

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Glendasan Valley with tailings and mine spoil in the river bed

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Glendasan Valley 

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Mine workings on the north side of the Glendasan Valley and the processing plant ruins on the river bed.

One last story that I came across during my reserch.  With the increase in the mining workforce in the 1850s,  demand for housing increased and the mining company built some houses for their workers. One row of houses close to the mining works is said to have once housed eight musicians and was thus given the name ‘Fiddlers Row’.  Love it.

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This row of houses was built in the 1850s and housed mine workers.  Due to the number of musicians it was known as Fiddler’s Row.

After walking maybe 10km around these two sites I was totally exhausted and a bit of a chill was coming into the air so well satisfied, I decided to end my jaunt here.

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The unusual bridge across the Glendasan River

A four day journey across the country and through 5,000 years of history.  Thanks for coming on the trip with me.  I hope I have planted a little seed for those who have never been here and for those who know this place well, maybe I have given you some new ideas or a changed perspective.

For the time being that is the end of my travels in Ireland.  But there will be more.  Ireland’s like that – you keep coming back.  Try and keep me away.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ireland in Four Days (and Five Years). Day 3. On to Wicklow.

It’s Day 3 of my final roadtrip, in southeast Ireland.  Check out my earlier blogs as to how I got to Boris Carlow;  that just rolls off the tongue so beautifully I just have to keep repeating it. Boris Carlow.  By rights I should go home.  The forecast is not good, but I want to visit a nearby dolmen and the castle at Carlow and I’ve decided after that to head on to Avoca in Wicklow to see the old copper mines.  The sun was trying to break through so I hit the road at 9am.

It was only 30km to the Brownshill Dolmen, which lies only 4km east of Carlow town  There are over 1,000 dolmens in Ireland but this one is right up there with the best.  It is located in the middle of a large field (by Irish standards) and you know you are dealing with something unusual when  you can see it 400m away poking up over a 2m high crop  of ‘field beans’ (a fodder crop I had never seen before).

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Brownshill Dolmen, visible over a crop of field beans.

What makes this one unusual is the size of the granite capstone; it is approximately 5 x 6 x 2 m.  Estimates of its weight vary, so let’s sort this out once and for all.  Volume, based on the above estimate, is 60 cubic metres.  Using a specific gravity of 2.7 (average for granite) and the formula

Tonnage = Volume x SG

we get a tonnage of 162 tonnes.  So that’s my guess, which happens to be greater than the estimates I have read, which range between 100 and 150 tonnes.

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Front view of Brownshill Dolmen, showing its massive size compared with the two portal stones and the gatestone.

That is monstrous and certainly the largest in Ireland.  It is a portal tomb dating from 3,000BC.  The front sits on two vertical standing stones (portal stones) and between them is a gatestone. It slopes back to almost ground level where the rear of the capstone is supdported by a prostrate backstone.

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Rear view of Brownshill Dolmen showing prostrate backstone.

Of course, the most asked question is “how did they get it up there?”.  Well here is my theory.  Most people assume that it was brought here from somewhere else.  Well it was, but by ice.  I think it is a glacial erratic and was dumped here after the glaciers melted about 12,000 years ago.  Somehow, and I have no idea how, the front of the stone was lifted and supported with earth and stones until it reached the height of the portal stones (probably also glacial erratics) which were placed under the capstone to support it. The same would then hav been done with the backstone What we can be sure of is that it was built with sheer druidpower.

Now, time to  Follow Me Up to Carlow. I had to get that in. For those not familiar with the phrase it is the refrain from a 19th century song that describes The Battle of Glenmalure in Wicklow, fought on 25 August 1580, when a Catholic force demolished the British during the Desmond Rebellions. Just love the lyrics including this line….

Rooster of a fighting stock 

Would you let a Saxon cock

Crow out upon an Irish rock 

Fly up and teach him manners.

Carlow lies on the Barrow River, the same river that flows through New Ross and that is guarded by the Hook Head Lighthouse. (Check out my blog on Day 1).  My goal here was Carlow Castle, another of those built by the Norman strongman, William Marshall. It was built around 1210, to guard the vital river crossing.

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View of Carlow Castle from the west.

The original structure was pretty unique for Irish castles.  It was rectangular and had towers on each corner and appears to have been modelled on a Norman castle in France.  It survived pretty much intact until 1814 when a Dr Middleton accidentally blew it up in trying to convert it to a lunatic asylum (was a lunatic in charge of the asylum?).  All but the western wall and its two corner towers was destroyed. You do get a bit of a sense of the grandeur of the original building, though from what is left today.

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Two of the four corner towers of Carlow Castle that have survived

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View of the castle from the south showing the extensive damage caused to the building in 1814

I took a little walk along the river.   Graiguecullen Bridge crosses the Barrow, and dates to 1569 though it was significantly altered and widened since then.

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Graiguecullen Bridge dating from 1569 crosses the Barrow.  In the distance is the lime kiln tower of the old sugar factory.

In 1703 the decision was made to make the Barrow navigable.  This involved developing the non tidal stretch of the river from St. Mullins to Athy, (Co. Kildare), a stretch of 68 kilometres and requiring 23 locks. The locks are all functioning today and many have the original stonework.  I visited the lock at Craiguecullen and found an original milestone with the distances to Athy (12 Miles) and St Mullins. After Athy, it links up with the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal for another 45 kilometres, with 9 locks, to the mainline of the Grand Canal. That meant you could travel from New Ross in Waterford to Dublin by boat.  The Barrow ceased to operate commercially in 1959 and is now used for recreation only.

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Lock on Barrow River at Graiguecullen.

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Original (?) milestone with distance to Athy.

Looking north from the river the skyline of Carlow is dominated by an unusual looking tall steel tower which looks like nothing I have seen.  So I decided to find out what it was.  It was easy enough to locate, but it  but it sits on a wasteland with a high fence around it so I was none the wiser about what it actually was.

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Carlow limekiln tower

Turns out it is a limekiln and was part of the infrastructure of a sugar factory.  Yes, really, sugar. Ireland once had a vibrant sugar industry base on sugar beet, and Carlow was the centre of it.  A factory was set up here in 1926 and other factories followed in the 1930s in Mallow, Thurles and Tuam.  By 1936 there were 28,000 farmers growing sugar beet across 22 counties.  At its peak during the early 1980s Ireland produced 220,000 tonnes of sugar a year.   When EU subsidies were withdrawn in 2005 the Carlow plant closed and the only other remaining factory in Mallow also closed the following year, bringing an end to an industry that still supported 4, 000 growers.

The tower is twelve levels tall. Access was by steps around the outside with walkways at each irregularly spaced level.  I have no idea how it works.  Anyone out there know?  All trace of the factory other than the tower is gone.  In 2016 it too nearly disappeared when it was taken off the protected list.  It was saved at the last minute; but the battle between those who consider it part of the area’s heritage and those who consider it an eyesore continues.  A real shame if it is demolished. It would make a totally unique and challenging lookout tower.

Back on the road now to my next destination, a 60km drive to Avoca in Co Wicklow.  A quick stop first, about 20 km from Carlow, for another dolmen.  Haroldstown Dolmen is a beautiful example of a portal tomb and sits in the middle of a field, visible from the road adn easily accessible for a closer look.

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Haroldstown Portal Tomb

 

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Haroldstown Portal Tomb.  Side elevation.

My reason for going to Avoca was to check out its mining heritage.  As I have learnt more over the last five years I have been really surprised how rich Ireland is in historic mining sites and I have visited and blogged on a number of these including Arigna in Leitrim, Allihies and Mizen in Cork, the Copper Coast of Waterford, Silvermines in Tipperary and Muckross in Killarney. Really more should be made of in terms of its heritage value.

But as usual I got distracted.  Most tourists visit Avoca to see the Meeting of the Waters, the fabled location where the Irish bard, Thomas Moore, wrote perhaps his most famous song.  So that was my first stop.  The name comes from the site being the confluence of the Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers to form the Avoca River

There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet
As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet,
Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.

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The Meeting of the Waters. The Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers meet to from the Avoca River, heading off into the distance.

It is a pretty spot there is no doubt. A small park marks the spot, with plenty of reminders of Thomas Moore’s historic presence.  There are monuments and the remains of a tree under which he is said to have written his words.   

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Bridge over the Avonbeg River at the Meetng of the Waters

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Monument to Thomas Moore and remains of a tree that he is said to have sat under to pen his words.

But for me the most moving ‘monument’ was another tree, this one alive, leaning out over the water.  Evoking the female form, it seemed to capture the spirit of the place.   I call the photo Undressed Timber.  Nature imitating Life imitating Art.  

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A tree at the Meeting of the Waters.  Undressed Timber.

I headed down the Avoca River valley to look for other treasures, lead, silver and copper, perhaps far from Thomas Moore’s mind.  Just a few hundred metres on and I could see a beautifully preserved Cornish Engine House, on the ridge above the valley.  I pulled up next to the Farriers Hotel, another indicator of times gone by.

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Farrier’s Inn near Avoca

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Cornish Engine House viewed from the Avon River

The Engine houses are a telltale sign that there was an underground mine nearby.  These marvellous buildings are a feature of mining areas throughout Ireland where they housed the steam driven engines that drove the beam pumps used to dewater the mines and to crush the ore.  I find the stone and brick buildings as architecturally impressive as the ecclesiastical ruins that get far more attention in the conventional built landscape.

 

I tried to get closer to the building but I was defeated by a high cyclone fence and the rugged terrain.  The only other remnant of mining at the site are two bins which stored ore before loading into trucks to take to the processing plant.

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Restored ore bins used to stockpile ore brought up from underground

Mining is believed to have started for copper here, in the Bronze Age (commencing 2,500 BC).  It is believed that it was still a mining centre in 50AD when the location appeared on a Greek map by Ptolomy.  From the 12th to 17th century iron was produced.  From 1750 it was mined for lead and modern copper mining started in 1812.

Continuing my search  I could see plenty of mine dumps and another Engine House from the top of the next ridge, but again I was thwarted in trying to get closer. I am sure there is a road up there but I’ll have to come back when I have more time.

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Distant mine workings. Another engine house appears among the mine dumps

Before leaving the mining area I went to visit the nearby Mottee Stone.  it is a giant granite boulder sitting on the top of a hill with 360 degree view over  the five counties surrounding Wicklow.

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Mottee Rock and the view over Wicklow

The huge rock is another glacial erratic (like the capstone at Brownshill) deposited by a melting glacier. We don’t know how far the stone was carried but the underlying geology here is slate.  The nearest similar granite is 13 km away at Glenmalure.  Iron rungs have been set into the stone to act as a ladder, which allows you to climb the 2.4 metres to the top.   The story goes that the local landowner wanted to impress his intended wife with the size of his estate, so he got some miners from Avoca to put them there so she could get a better view of the size of his holding.

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Cronnebane Mine viewed from Mottee Rock

The most obvious feature in the view though is the large open cut and spoils heaps of the Cronnebane Mine. This is a later phase of mining completed between 1970 and 1982 when 8 million tonees of 0.6%Cu ore was extracted.

Heading towards Avoca village I passed the Old Castlemacadam Church overlooking the Avoca Vale near the village.  It looked different so I stopped.  Built in 1819 for the Church of Ireland it was abandoned after only a short life in 1870.  It is a solid structure with a belfry tower in good condition though unroofed and is surrounded by a graveyard full of interest.

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Old Castlemacadam Church

I found the external walls of the church interesting too.  They hold evidence of changing aesthetics and a number of different finishes.  The bare stone initially was covered with a render. Sometime later it was covered with a layer of slate shingles cemented onto the render.  Then another layer of render was placed over the top of the slates, leaving them in place.  This was scored with diagonal lines and there appeared to be another thin layer of render over the top of this.  It reminded me of a house I once bought in Leichhardt in Sydney.  I decided to renovate and lifted the carpet in the living room.  Underneath were two more layers of carpet and then a layer of lino over the now rotten floorboards.

As I said the church itself was built in 1819 but the graveyard has many 18th century headstones, the oldest is 1711.  So presumably there was an older church on the site.  No idea whether it also was Church of Ireland.  There are a lot of table grave slabs, way more than I have seen at other graveyards I have visited.   I am wondering if this is more of a protestant thing.

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Table slab graves

One thing I have seen in many cemeteries is a lack of engraved headstones from the 1840s to the 1870s.  I put this down to the effects of the famines and the extreme poverty meant many could not afford an engraved headstone.  There were often mass graves with no identifation or graves with simple markers that are now just illegible stones.  Here though are a number of engraved headstones from that period that are a poignant reminder of the terrible hurt that was inflicted on many families.  We can tell so much from a simple gravestone.  A couple of examples

John Dowling buried his 7 year old son John in September 1841. He died three years later at the age of 41

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The headstone for John Dowling and his son.

Solomon Delaney was patriarch of the Delaney family. He died in 1824 at 63, and his wife Mary followed two years later aged 70.  They had 3 sons. John, Edward and William  Edward died early, in 1927 aged 27 years. Edward’s wife. Mary died soon after in 1829 aged 25. William died in 1843 (47) but was predeceased by his wife Ann as the famine took hold in 1840.    Their daughter Mary also died at this time. The gravestone simply says she “died young”.  John erected the headstone so he survived them all.

And perhaps most poignant of all is John Webster who lost his five children.  Mary (1843) aged 1, John (1846) aged 3, Thomas (1849) aged 6 months, Henrietta (1853) aged 1 day and Nanny (1857) aged 18 years Clearly the ravages of the famine affected catholic and protestant alike.

It was now nearly five o’clock and I was starving so I headed to the village of Avoca for a meal at the local pub.  Fitzgerald’s Pub.

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The pretty village of Avoca nestled on the the Avoca River.

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Fitzgerald’s Pub Avoca

It’s probably familiar to you if you were addicted to the late 90s BBC TV series Ballykissangel, as I was.   Avoca is Ballykissangel.   It was mostly set in this cute village.  Fitzgeralds’ Pub used to be the Fountain but it had a makeover for the show and they just kept it  Across the rooad is Hendley’s Store and the very familiar church up the road where Father Peter Clifford used to hear confession and the Priest’s House which is now a Gift Shop. The curved street will be very familiar to you if you were a fan of  the show.

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Hendley’s Store has hardly changed.

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The church and the Priest’s House

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The main street of Ballykissangel

I had dinner in the pub and just so I felt really at home, episodes of Ballykissangel were on constant reruns on a big screen in the dining room.  I watched Episode 2 of Series 1 when Jenny, an ex flame of  Father Peter arrives in town and sets off the rumour mill while Peter is busy trying to save a caravan family from harassment from Quigley, the town entrepreneur, who keeps dumping manure at the site.  Remember it?  There’s no sound and as I demolish a near perfect beef stew, I follow the action reading the subtitles.

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Continual reruns of Ballykissangel in the restaurant at Fitzgeralds

Tempted to stay and watch Episode 3 but I resisted.  One last walk through the town and I was back in the car heading to Bray where I heard there was a session at the Hibernia.  Three days without music and I was starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms.

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The beach at Bray

While I waited I took a walk along the seafront.  A lovely promenade runs the full length of the bouldery beach and the road is lined with cafes, bars, hotels and swish looking tenement houses.  One building of particular interest was owned by Oscar Wilde, who inherited it from his father in 1876.  It was built by Sir William and Lady Jane around 1850, as a holiday home and was later to become the Strand Hotel.

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Strand Hotel.  Former home of Oscar Wilde

It was a  great night of tunes with musicians Gerry and Paddy and a bar full of interesting people.  After they found out I was Australian, I ended up singing Aussie songs all nght. It was over all too soon and at 1 am I was out on the street.

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Paddy and Gerry, my musical comrades for the night.  

Literally.  I had actually neglected to book any accommodation.  I think part of it was my resistance to paying 99 euro for a night at a B&B.  Prices in Ireland have got ridiculous.  Resigned to a night in the back of the car. I was reluctant to park up on the seafront at Bray so I decided to drive to Sally Gap, 20-odd kilometres away.  Then I would be up on the mountain to catch the sunrise.  So that became Plan A.

While I was playing music however, the sunny day had turned into misty rain and as I gained elevation into the Wicklow Hills, the misty rain turned into foggy misty rain. With the limited visibility I pulled into the first roadside parking bay where there were no other campervans or cars parked  and settled in for, I have to say, a rather uncomfortable night.

I’ll tell you how it all panned out in my final post.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland, Sessions, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ireland in Four Days (and Five Years) Day 2. Wexford to Borris Carlow.

What a fabulous start to Day 2.

I was up before dawn to share with the sun its struggle to shine through the narrow band of cloud that hovered unhelpfully at the horizon.  It would break through for a few moments here and there and the golden light would turn mundane walls, abandoned houses and mown hay fields into memorable works of art.  I headed north from my overnight stop at Hook’s Head through the open but stunning countryside. Every few miles there was something that grabbed my attention sufficiently to point my camera in that direction.

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Hay bales as far as the eye can see

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Abandoned house Templetown

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Abandoned old farm building

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Hay bales come in all shapes

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A horse at full stretch having its morning run.

I’d seen Loftus Hall on the way down and had intended to visit, but it had closed the day before, for the season.  That is really annoying; when you tour Ireland in the late Summer and, despite the weather being as good as anything in June or July, you find so many attractions close at the end of August.  I had to be content with photographing it from distance or through the grand locked gates.

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Loftus Hall from a distance

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Loftus Hall.  As close as I could get.

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Entrance gates to Loftus Hall

Loftus HalI is a large country house, with a reputation for being haunted by the devil. The Most Haunted House in the country says the sign at the gate. Prior to the construction of the current house, an earlier mansion, Redmond House, had been occupied by the Redmond family since 1170.   They successfully repelled an attack by the British during the Confederate War in 1642. Twice more the house was attacked by Cromwell but eventually it succumbed in 1650.  The land was confiscated and granted to the Loftus family who occupied it until the 20th century.  Later owners included the Sisters of Providence who ran it as a girls’ school, the Deveraux family who converted it to a luxury hotel in the 1980s and, it is rumored, Bono who bought it in 2008.  It is now run as a tourist attraction with emphasis on paranormal experiences.  Well it seems the ghosts can rest for a while now until the crowds return next summer.

One abandoned house intrigued me. At the cross at Graigue Little, Templetown stood a ruinous house in a very sad state.  Unroofed in part and unloved, it was overgrown with ivy and bushes and pigeons had taken up residence.

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Mary Anne’s house at Graigue Little, Templetown.

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Home for the pigeons

Four laminated notices are  attached to a timbered up window.   These notices from Wiklow County Council declared the house a dangerous structure and ordered the owner, I’ll call her Mary Anne, to obrain expert reports and do works to make it safe.  It was not a demolition order because at the same time she was ordered to preserve heritage features, in particular the Victorian post box (it has the letters VR).

A challenge to be sure.  Mary Anne is given 1 month to seek the expert’s advice and 6 months to complete the works from receipt of the notice.  Inexplicably the notice is undated, so I guess that’ll turn out to be 6 months of Irish time.  I would love to go back in a year and see if any progress has been made.

Every ruin has a story.  Just a little further on, I saw another stone structure in a field near the road.   It was a tower of some sort but was like nothing I had seen.  It had only a portion of the wall remaining, but you could clearly see sloping walls suggesting a conical structure.

I was baffled; I approached a car driving out from a nearby house.  The helpful driver told me it was the remains of a windmill for grinding corn which made perfect sense.  Turns out there are 112 windmills on the official list of windmills in Ireland, some still standing others ruined. None known in Clare apparently.

Here’s another ruin and another story.  St Dubhan’s Church is a little gem and the story is worth telling. The church was founded by a Welshman, Dubhan, related to an Anglo Saxon king, who arrived in 452 AD.  As an aside, these early monks had a predilection for fires (signal fires that is) and it is believed that they travelled to the coast to light beacons to guide passing ships, until Hook Lighthouse was built in the 1100s. That’s Impressive.  That spot at Hook Head has been used to keep shipping safe for over 1,500 years.  Anyway, back to the church.

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St Dubhan’s Church and graveyard.

The current stone church replaced a wooden building in 11th century.  Recent restoration costing €100,000 has been completed, in particular, on the bellcote which was toppled in a storm around 40 years ago.  You see them on churches still today – a stone or metal frame for allowing bells to swing free; the double tower at St Dubhan’s has now been reinstated.   I don’t remember seeing a bellcote in any other ancient church ruin.  I imagine they would have had trouble surviving.  I also found it interesting that the red smudges on the walls of the nave are believed to be original paint from the 14th century.

 

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The restored bellcote at St Dubhan’s

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The bellcote at St Dubhan’s.  Note also the red paint from the 14th Century under the bright patch on the left wall

Speaking of restoration there is a 10-year project, locally funded, to restore the Hook Head walls.  These are very ancient and define the lands of the Loftus Hall demesne.   I particularly liked the distinctive rounded turrets on either side of gates.  In one instance I found a particularly elaborate one with an orb at a ruined house.  Just one; the other one appears lost.  The design is very similar to the towers on either side of the main gates at Loftus Hall.

Heading north I saw a brown sign pointing to Baginbun Headland.  Something made me veer off my route and take the detour. I think it was the pictograms of a beach and a tower? As I approached, I saw the tower.  A well preserved Martello Tower, built at the beginning of the 19th century to protect Ireland from a Napoleonic invasion.  It was off limits though as it is a private residence.

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Martello Tower on the headland at Baginbun Beach

The beach though was something else indeed.  It immediately jumped into my top 10 beaches in Ireland list.  It is secluded and you don’t have any idea of what awaits you until you descend the ramp from the small car park.  Golden sand broken by occasional rocky outcrops fringe the shore. At its southern end is the headland where sits the tower and another much smaller headland separates it from the broad gentle curve of more beach, fading into the distance to the north.  On this calm day there was hardly a ripple on the ocean.

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Baginbun Beach looking north

I tried not to disturb a group of a dozen or so doing their morning yoga as I walked past the cliffside rock exposures of steeply dipping and heavily faulted sediments.  Structural Geology 101.   But as I was to discover there is more to Baginbun than its peaceful ambience.

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Morning yoga at Baginbun Beach

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Cliffside exposures of steeply dipping interbedded sediments showing extensive faulting.

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Structural Geology 101

It was about 8am now and a quad vehicle arrived on the beach with a load of kayaks. Locals Graham and Kimberly proceeded to unload the kayaks onto the beach.  I wondered aloud whether they would have any takers in this remote spot on a Monday morning.

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Kayaks await the morning rush at Baginbun Beach

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Graham and Kimberly. Owners of The Irish Experience, which runs Sea Kayak tours of Baginbun.

“We’re booked out for two days” said Graham.  He explained that he runs a company based on the Hook Head peninsula, called The Irish Experience, and that they do group tours that explore the heritage of the headland from the water and visit the sea arches and marine life around the point.

Heritage?  It turns out that this spot is of huge significance in the history of Ireland.  It is where a group of around 100 Anglo-Normans, under the leadership of Raymond Le Gros, Strongbow’s second-in-command, landed in May 1170. It was the first Norman presence in Ireland and is celebrated in the well-known medieval couplet:

‘At the creek of Baginbun. Ireland was lost and won’.

With his 100 men he defeated the Irish force of 3,000, apparently by rounding up a herd of cattle and driving them into the enemy, capturing or killing about 1,000.  People that is, not cattle.  Even the very un-Irish name, Baginbun, says Graham, comes from an Anglo Norman mash up of the names of the first ships, ‘Le Bag’ and ‘Le Bun’.

Graham pointed out a mound on the cliff above the beach, which is the remains of the fort they built to protect their position.  Unfortunately, and controversially, a local landowner has placed a gate on the line of the fort and closed the headland off to visitors.  The only way to see it easily is with Graham’s tour from the water.

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Remains of Anglo Norman fort wall at Ballybungan.  Dates from 1170 AD

Much as I would have loved to, my schedule was not flexible enough to wait the three days to join the tour.  Next time I will book.  Thanks, Graham, for opening my eyes to another hidden Irish story that would have otherwise escaped me.

Baginbun Beach is right near the village of Fethard-on-Sea.  In the middle of the village is yet another fifteenth century castle ruin, Fethard Castle.  The original site was granted to an Anglo-Norman knight, Harvey de Montmorency (Strongbow’s brother-in-law) following the arrival of the Normans. He passed it on to the Church in Canterbury (England) who gifted it to Richard de Londres on the condition he would be build a castle there. That castle is long gone. The present castle was  granted to Sir Nicholas Loftus (of Loftus Hall) in 1634 and it was occupied by them until the early 20th century.

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Fethard Castle

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Fethard Castle, view from the other side.

I popped down to the water nearby, a cute little harbour.  Every seaside community has their maritime tragedies I have found.  Fethard seems to have had more than its share.  Here a lifeboat shed was built for the local fishermen to honour the tragic loss of nine crew of a lifeboat in 1914.

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Lifebout Cottage at Fethard

Another plaque right at the harbour recalls the deaths of five fishermen in one of the worst modern fishing tragedies in 2002 and reminds us that even today the sea remains a treacherous place.

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Harbour at Fethard-on-Sea.  Plaque to fishermen lost in 2002 is on left wall.

My next destination was Tintern Abbey.  But I had to stop at this roadside ‘museum’ near Saltmills, which I passed on the way.  To most people this is a junk heap.  I get that, but I don’t see it in quite the same way as most people.  This front yard to me is a window into what must have been an extraordinary and fascinating life.  A boat, a crane, a hopper bin and all sorts of unidentifiable bits and pieces now competing with the ravages of nature and time for existence.

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Open air ‘museum’ near Satlmills.

How did this man acquire this stuff and how did it end up neglected and forgotten? The crane intrigued me.  It was made by Grafton & Co of Bedford in England.  They produced cranes from 1883 to the mid-20th century.  This one looks old, possibly older than 1900, and would have been steam driven.  It is massive.  How did it get here?

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Early steam driven Grafton Crane

Perhaps even more interesting is an unidentifiable (to me) vintage car.  It seems to be much larger that a normal family car and though only 4-door is long enough for a third row of seats.  A huge boot and the doors, both front and rear open forward.  What I am told are called Suicide Doors.  Suicide doors on the front are pretty rare apparently.  I would love to know the story behind the car and how it ended up here.

A few minutes later I was at Tintern Abbey.  As I lined up my camera for the first photo of this impressive structure, I cursed the short-sightedness of the managers for allowing parking immediately adjacent to the building.  Might sound like a real first world problem but you can’t get a decent shot of a 15th century building without including a 21st century car.  There is plenty of parking space a short walk away. Anyway, I got over that and searched for another angle that avoided cars and scaffolding.

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Front view of Tintern Abbey

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Rear view of Tintern Abbey with battlement walls added later.

This Abbey, like Dunbrody, which I visited on Day 1, is Cistercian and was founded c1200 by William, the Earl Marshall  (who we also met on Day 1, and was obviously a busy man with a hand in Templetown Church and the Hook lighthouse as well).  There’s a great story about how Marshall, who was having a tricky crossing from Wales vowed that if he arrived safely he would build an abbey where he landed. He did and it became became know as Tintern de Vots (Tintern of the Vow) to distinguish it from the other Tintern Abbey in Wales.   The remains consist of a nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister.   I particularly liked the so called Lady’s Chapel has beautiful vauling and carvings adn a display of the wattle and daub walls that survive in the castle.

The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536 and it passed into the possession of the Colclough family, who held it until the 1950s. and used as their family home.  ‘My home is my castle’.  There were many modifications to the building over the years (centuries) including the construction of the battlements in the 17th century.  They also constructed the battlement bridge nearby and a flour mill.

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Bridge over the Tintern River to access the Abbey

The Colcloughs were smart.  Sir Thomas, a catholic, married twice. First to a protestant with whom he had 11 children (Martha died in 1609 aged 34, perhaps of exhaustion after so many kids), then to a catholic who produced four more children before his death in 1624.  This double lineage meant the owner of the estate could be changed to Catholic or Protestant, depending on the prevailing political winds, enabling them to avoid the confiscation of the estate.

Another contribution of the Colcloughs (inexplicably pronounced Coke-lee by the way) was the creation of a walled garden around 1812.  Located about half a kilometre from the House it had become a ruin with the planting of a Sitka Spruce forest within its walls.  A community group commenced restoration in July 2010.  It is now a treat.  The original layout has been reinstated and this was only made possible by the existence of an historic map which showed the garden as it was in 1838.  Paths through the garden, the location of the stream, five bridges, the outer enclosure. the location of fruit trees and the division between the Ornamental and the Kitchen gardens are all now as they were then. I loved the way that diamond shaped beds were identified by research into soil distribution. So many surprises.  Plantings are themed with parts of the garden showing yellows, reds and pinks.  A wonderful hour was spent here.

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Being led up the Garden Path.  Colclough Walled Garden

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Colclough Garden.  Faithfully reconstructed stream, bridges,  fruit trees and diamond shaped beds in the Ornamental Garden.

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Vegetable beds in the Kitchen Garden

I ummed and ahhed about going to my next destination, Johnstown Castle.  Not because I had had my fill of castles but because it seemed very commercial and a bit like a theme park.  But I went because I knew if I didn’t I would regret it.  When I walked through the gate my suspicions were confirmed.  A reception desk like a four star hotel, a gift shop a full-on restaurant, an agricultural museum, but I suppose I’m being a bit churlish as I guess most visitors would rave about how great the facilities were.  I went in hoping that none of this would impact on my visit.  Actually there was no drama.  The site is so big and there is so much of interest that you are not that aware of the numbers.  I booked the guided tour as I wanted to see inside the house, and that meant a three-quarter hour wait, which gave me time to enjoy the extraordinary gardens and lakes that surround the house.

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Johnsstown Castle

I think to understand this place we need to talk, again, a bit about the history.  The estate itself dates back to the 12th century, when the Anglo-Norman family, the Esmondes settled there. They constructed a tower house on the grounds, and this ruin still stands today, a few hundred metres from the main castle which came much much later.

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The original Tower House of the Emondes on the grounds of Johnstown Castle

Time to bring Cromwell back into the story.  I haven’t said much about the man but, because of his abhorrent behaviour and that of his troops, his name is mud throughout Ireland.  It struck me once, when doing a tour of Kilkenny years ago, how deep this feeling is.  The passionate hatred of the tour guide in describing his atrocities there was palpable; as if it happened yesterday and not nearly 400 years ago. That said, Cromwell was particularly brutal in Wexford.  After the sacking of Wexford Town, his army ran amok, massacring 1,500 civilians.  It is believed that Cromwell stayed at Johnstown using the grounds to prepare for the attack on Wexford Town.

It was during the Cromwellian years that the Catholic Esmonde family were expelled.  The estate was acquired by the Grogan family in 1682.  Cornelious Grogan, the then owner of the estate in 1798 was hanged and beheaded on Wexford Bridge for his part in the Rebellion. After his execution, his estate in Johnstown was seized by the crown.

In 1810, Cornelius’ youngest brother, John Knox, managed to regain control of Johnstown Castle after he paid the crown a heavy fine. It was then that the castle, lakes and gardens came into existence.   By the 1860s Johnstown Castle estate was at its peak and comprised of a large demesne of over 1,000 acres. It had a deer park, the castle, pleasure grounds, a farm and two ornamaental lakes and a sunken garden. The walled gardens and hothouses were originally laid out between 1844-1851 and retain their early design today.

A walk around the gardens is just wonderful. Astonishing views of the grand, almost over-the-top fairytale castle sitting on the shore of the lake appear between the trees. The castle is sited so it can be seen from the end of the Upper Lake.

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Jonestown Castle seen looking down the Upper Lake

Many wonderful touches enhance the experience.  An observation tower on the lake edge designed to get a perfect view of the castle through its narrow window.

A row of statues, peacocks wandering the lawns, manicured lawns and lots of nooks and crannies to explore.  The walled garden is about 4 acres, very formal and quite different to Colclough.

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One of a number of statues that line the promenade.

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A peacock that thinks it’s a statue.

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The Walled Garden

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Original greenhouse in the Walled Garden

We gathered for a fairly crowded tour of the house at the appointed time.  Our guide was Megan, living here for a year and from the States.  What a difference to have a knowledgeable and engaging guide to show you around.  I have mixed feelings though, as I tour houses such as these.  Much of the furniture and decorations are original and, if not, then in keeping with the time.  There is an overwhelming feeling of extravagance and luxury, which grates somewhat when you think that this was achieved off the backs of their tenants who at the same  time, were starving to death outside the castle walls.  Putting that aside for the moment the tour was worth every cent as a window into life in the Big House.  My favourite was, surprise surprise, the library with its beautiful carved bookcases and its hidden door that led to the drawing room.

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Guide Megan, shows us into the drawing room via the false door in the library

The drawing room had cleverly placed mirrors that made it look huge. There were original artworks of members of the family adorning many of the walls.  I loved the bay window with the desk – the perfect study nook. And then there was a hidden tunnel which allow meat to be brought directly to the kitchen from the Meat House. One room of the house is set up as a laboratory to reflect its use since the 1940s by the Department of Agriculture (which owns the site) as a research facility.

Leaving the castle and, with the day disappearing, I had to forego a planned visit to Wexford Town and continue my drive up the Slaney River.  But just out of Wexford I came across the ruin of Ferrycarrig Castle.  Built in the 15th century by the Roche family to guard the river ferry crossing before there was a bridge (a wooden bridge was not constructed until 1795).

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Ferrycarrig Castle

The Roches lost their castle and lands to Cromwell, of course, and as far as I know  the castle has been uninhabited since.  On the other side of the bridge is an incongruous looking round tower which looks horribly out of place.  All is not what it seems.  It is in fact a monument erected in 1858 to those from Wexford who fought in the Crimean war.

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Crimean War monument Ferrycarrig

It is now part of the Irish National Heritage Park – a theme park which takes you on a journey through Irish history to the Norman invasion in the 12th century.  Family oriented, it has reconstructed examples Mesolithic and Neolithic houses, megalithic dolmens, bronze age stone circles, ringforts,  high crosses, early Christian monasteries and crannogs.  These are the bread and butter of my travels around Ireland so, preferring the real thing, I thought I’d give it a miss but if you’re pressed for time it may be an option.

Before leaving Ferrycarrig, some movement in the water caught my eye. It was a seal and she popped her head out of the water.  We made eye contact and she just stared at me.  She soon tired though of this pointless and non-productive activity and disappeared into the river.  I waited for a few minutes but her departure it would appear was permanent.  Now I know the fisherfolk of Wexford Harbour are not keen on seals in the harbour but it was a lovely surprise.

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My seal friend

The road north took me through Bree.  Nothing to do with cheese, though given the richness of the soil they probably do produce wonderful brie. No it was strawberries that grabbed my attention.  Wexford and strawberries; two words nearly synonymous in Ireland.  Who hasn’t seen the little van that pops up every summer just outside Ennis (and probably all over Ireland) selling strawberries and new potatoes?  Well there were acres of polytunnels housing row after row of the luscious treats.  Shh! Don’t tell but I can confirm that they are the best strawberries I have tasted.  Well I had to didn’t i? In the interests journalistic integrity and accurate travel reporting.

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Strawberry Fields Forever

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Wexford strawberries

A little further down the road and still in Wexford I caught a glimpse of an overgrown ruin in a field.  I made my way over the traditional Irish single strand electric fence to find an enigmatic temple-like structure.  It had a portico with doric columns but nothing to give any clue to what it was.  It was so overgrown there was no way to get inside.  I would be grateful for any information from my readers as to what this intriguing building may have been used for and when.

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Ruined building of unknown origin

I had given John (the Aussie I had met yesterday) a call and he was waiting for me at Borris.  That’s Borris-not-in-Ossory, but Borris-in-Carlow.  This was definitely no horror movie though.  John’s abode was a whitewashed classic Irish cottage down a narrow boreen with views towards Mt Leinster and the hills beyond.  The house was surrounded by a beautifully tended garden that wrapped around the contours and which John had spent the afternoon mowing.  The evening disappeared rapidly as we shared a bowl of delicious beef curry and I joined him on some tunes on my fiddle with John, who played bouzouki.  I was very grateful for that overheard conversation.

Day 3 you can Follow me up to Carlow and then beyond to Wicklow.  Coming soon.

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

Ireland in Four Days (and Five Years). Day 1. From Tipperary to Hook Head

This is first for me.  For the last five years I have written blogs about my travels, but I have never written a travel blog.  What I mean is that I have talked about places I’ve visited and experienced but have never  written a travel diary as such.  As I prepare to leave Ireland, I am madly trying to see places that I have neglected or counties that I have not explored.  Wexford is the only county I have never visited.  Time to fix that.

Before planning any road trip, I am keen to ensure the best possible light for my photography, so I am an avid consumer of weather apps and unless there are other constraints (such as a music festival) I am lucky enought to be able to pick my time.  The hourly forecasts have become remarkably reliable as a predictor of sunshine, so on this particular Saturday, late in August it looked good for Sunday and Monday.  Next morning, I headed off with the plan of an overnighter to Hook Head.

A quik aside.  Travelling Ireland is in my mind unique.  It is compact and chock full of rich and varied experiences that cover millenia and everything is pretty accessible.  For me though, it’s not just about ticking monuments and sights off a list, it’s about the people you meet on the way, the side roads you take, the discoveries you make and colliding with the unexpected.  I wanted to post this to show those contemplating a visit that you can do so much better than just consulting the Lonely Planet guide book or leaving it in the hands of your tour operator.  And you can do so much more in limited time than anywhere else in the world.  If you can though you have to be flexible.  My planned two day trip to Hook Head ended up being a four day journey that took me through Tipperary, Wexford, Carlow and Wicklow.  In the process I saw pretty much everything that Ireland can offer.

I’m not expecting the average visitor would want to cram as much as this into a visit.  Perhaps you want to linger longer at one place.  I find each stop speaks to me about how long I have  to stay.  You just have to listen.  Some I was there only 15 minutes, others for 4 hours.  In Wicklow on the last afternoon, I walked for 12 km, unable to call it quits.

Most of the places on this visit I have never been to before. You see, even in an Ireland where I have been relentlessly touring for five years you can still do that.  There are constants but nothing is the same.  You never tire of the stunning scenery and the prehistoric or historic legacy that screams at you of conquerors, wars, pestilence, struggle and achievement.  Sure you can go to high profile, developed sites, where you can get a packaged and potted version of Ireland’s history, but for myself I like the Ireland that is hdden or the Ireland I discover by chatting to people on the way,

So, enough talk, do up your seatbelt and lets go.

Sunday morning’s start was later than I hoped, due to a session in Miltown Malbay the previous night.  My destination for the night was Hook Head, about four hours drive.  Plenty of time but nothing was set in stone.   That’s the way I like to travel these days.  I never know where I will end up and around five or six in the evening, I look for an Airbnb or B&B that suits or I just sleep in the car.  I find that travelling to a BB puts an artificial constraint to the day and makes it difficult to be where you want to be for the evening light, or for an early start and the predawn light that the photographer in me craves.

I’ve left Clare behind as I travel through Limerick when just near the village of Pallasgreen close to the Tipperary border, I noticed a brown sign  Very useful these brown signs.  Bob’s Fifth Law of Travel –

Brown sign + Google = discovery.

Kilduff Castle it said.  An evocative ruin of a 1550 Tower House, it was the home of the Hurley family until 1660s, when forced out by Cromwell,  Destroyed in 1688 during the Jacobite war it has been left in ruins ever since.  Access is restricted due to its perilous state.  Something tells me there will be a lot less of it next time I visit.

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Kilduff Castle

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Kilduff Castle.  Beyond repair?

Then it was on to Cahir Castle, Tipperary.  There has been a fort at this location since the 3rd century but the castle that stands today was built in the 12th century by Conor O’Brien on a limestone rock jutting out of the river. Almost growing out of that rock it has been the site of countless attacks and sieges for centuries.

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Cahir Castle.

The powerful Anglo-Norman family, the Butlers, came into the possession of the castle in 1375 .  It was thought to be impregnable but, it was subsequently captured three times in its history: twice without a shot being fired.  It fell to Devereux, Earl of Essex, in 1599 after it had been battered for three days with artillery; it surrendered without a fight to Inchiquin in 1647 and again to Cromwell in 1650.  That man again!

Through all this though the Butlers managed to retain control until 1961, the last Lord Cahir died, and the castle reverted to the State.

It has looked the way it looks now since 1599 and is remarkably well preserved retaining its impressive keep tower, its original portcullis gate and winch mechanism and much of its defensive structure such as machiolations and canon.  I even spotted a garderobe chute (tipping its contents straight into the river).

The forecast of sunshine for the afternoon was spot on and the River Suir was sparkling. The ducks and geese were having as much fun as the visiting Dutch or Greeks.  To my mind, as with many of the ‘touristy’ reconstructed or restored castles it is a bit sterile and looks for all the world like a film set, which, not surprisingly, it has been for such films as Excalibur, Barry Lyndon and Tristan and Iseult.  And recently it was the location for a new film, ’The Green Knight’, a fantasy re-telling of the story of Sir Gawain who embarks upon a quest to confront the titular Green Knight. There is no denying the stunning views from every vantage point though.

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Caher Castle and the geese and ducks on the River SuirEnter a caption

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The Banquet Room, Cahir Castle

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View over the town of Cahir from the CastleEnter a caption

A short distance away, but in a parallel world, is the chocolate-box pretty of the Swiss House.  Not Swiss but given that name by the locals due to its idiosyncratic architectural style known as ‘cottage orné’ which resembled in their mind a Swiss chalet.  It was built in 1810 by the same Butlers, owners of the castle, as a rustic getaway.

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The Swiss Cottage at Cahir Castle

The style was meant to reflect the disorder in nature and blend in, so the roof isn’t level, windows are of different sizes and external oak timbers are meant to resemble roots.  A verandah surrounds it and makes it look bigger than it is.  The patterns in the trellis work change constantly as you move around and the house never looks the same from any angle. The iron fence of intertwining branches dates from 1850.  A Yew tree adjacent to the house is believed to be 1,000 years old making it one of the oldest in Ireland..  The cottage is now owned by the State and managed by OPW.  No time for a tour inside, but nevertheless a charming and very non-Irish looking diversion.

It was time to head on through Tipperary towards my destination of Wexford.  But one surprising deviation first.  My road took me through Carrick-on-Suir.  Some context here before I go on.  This is one of the most passionate of the hurling places in Ireland.  The county is renowned for its excellence in this most Irish of sports.   The weekend before, Tipp had won the All Ireland for the 27th time. The celebrations were still going on on the street.  I stopped at a place, which I later learned was named Sean Tracy Park.  [The name is in honour of Tipperary man Seán Treacy, one of the leaders of the IRA who was killed in October 1920, in Dublin, in a shootout.  His name is revered in West Tipperary and associated with hurling.]

It was festooned with bunting and flags and numerous placards of hurlers in a coordinated display of blue and yellow.  The bright sunshine had brought people onto the street, everywhere talking hurling and reliving the glory.  As I clicked away I heard a voice. “Are we gonna be on News of the World?”.  I had to disappoint him that it was only the News of Australia.  He told me that following their Senior win they had just won the Under 20s and that they were going for the Trifecta, with the Ladies playing the next weekend.

I learnt a lot that afternoon.  Of the passion for a uniquely Irish game and of a corner of the world where there was a real community spirit. In a world where many of us live our lives in reclusive isolation in front of a TV screen or on a hand held screen this was a refreshing flashback to a community existence where fences between houses don’t exist. I recalled vague memories of growing up in Sydney in the fifties, where life was lived outside, the street was your front yard and there were endless games of cricket.

I knew Tipperary was one of the Big Three in hurling.  In fact they won the very first All Ireland in 1887 and have won another 26 since including this year’s.  Preeminence in hurling is seen as a simple fact of life in Tipperary.  Michael Cusack, the founder of the GAA, once said   “Tipperary was the benchmark by which every other county would be judged.”  Looking at the street display I asked my friend from earlier, “Is all of Tipp like this”.  “Ah no he said.  “Carrick on Suir is special.”  As if to confirm this, I later found a reference to an article  from the Tipperary Advocate  of 1887 decrying the violence  in the game.  It reported “disgraceful scenes” in Clonmel when a game against Carrick developed into a brawl and ending in a bout of stone-throwing. The Gardai were called but it was a sense of continuing bitterness that Carrick men were blamed with no arrests of anyone from Clonmel.  It was a much more peaceful scene on this sunny Sunday 132 years later.  I wished him luck for the Trifecta and resumed my journey.

But I couldn’t leave Carrick on Suir without visiting Ormond Castle. Another of Butler’s many properties.  This one was a fortified Tudor Manor House (Ireland’s only such building) dating from 1560s.  What I found really interesting though is how this elegant building integrated and incorporated an earlier fortified castle dating from the 14th century and and not one but two Tower Houses of different ages.  Here I wished I’d had more time to look inside at the splendour of Thomas Butler’s house, built, it is said. to impress Queen Elizabeth I (for whom he had a bit of a thing).  Sadly she never came to visit.

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Front view of Ormond Manor House

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Rear viewo Ormond House taken from the 14th Century castle and showing the two tower houses.

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The 16th century Manor House abuts against one ot the earlier Tower Houses.

Leavng Carrick on Suir, to get to Wexford you must travel along the River Suir in Kilkenny until it meets the Barrow (the second longest river in Ireland) and then follow that north to its first crossing at New Ross.  On the way at Granagh, you are confronted by an impressive bridge over the Suir .  Just before the bridge is yet another castle, Castle Granagh, also known by the perhaps less threatening name, Granny Castle.  Another strategically placed defensive site on a bend of the Suir just west of Waterford, there was a Celtic fort built at this spot as long ago as the 1st century.  This one is a typical Norman castle with a courtyard and towers in each corner.  The large keep tower may have been added in the 15th century.  Originally built by the Power family, when they fell out of favour it was granted to, yes, the Butlers, in 1375. Until, yet again, in 1650 taken by Cromwell and destroyed.  History definitely keeps repeating itself around here.

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Castle Granagh

Three intrepid (or should I say foolish) lads managed to get inside one of the corner towers.  A perilous exercise and not for the faint hearted.  I am happy to report that they got out ok.

I grabbed one more look at the view that juxtaposed a bold architectural statement of the 21st century bridge with a castle that combined elements of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th centuries, before I was back on the road to Wexford.

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Granagh Castle and the bridge over the River Suir

It was 4.30 pm when I got to the historic riverside port town of New Ross, with its the three-masted tall ship, The Dunboy Famine Ship, dominating its skyline.  I had to pay a visit, though I hadn’t intended to stop. There I discovered yet another Interpretive Centre, Restaurant, Cafe and Museum complex, and another request for €9.  The Dunboy is actually a replica of a ship that was genuinely used in the 1840s and it is open to the public.  Resigned to parting with my €9, I thought I would have a look.

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The Dunboy Famine Ship and the River Barrow at New Ross

“Yes Sir, we do have a tour starting at 4.45”.  I looked up at the prominently displayed clock above the desk. It says 4:50.

“So I have missed the tour?”  keeping in mind though that I might be saved by the well-known Irish skill at timekeeping.

“Yes Sir. It didn’t run. There were no takers”.  For the first time I came across a tour that ran on time but didn’t, if you get my drift.

“So I can’t get on and have a look?” I said disappointedly

“Oh yes. if you want to do it on your own you can, you just can’t go on a tour,”

I smiled. I’d never actually said I wanted to go on a tour.

I still had to fork out my €9 but the upshot was that I was given a laminated script of the tour (it’s even called a ‘script’) and I headed on board.  I had the boat to myself.  I had limited expectations, but I have to say I found it a thought provoking and surprisingly moving experience.  The boat is a replica of the vessels that used to carry desperate folk escaping Ireland in the 1840s.  These boats were not designed for transporting people.  They were opportunistically used by traders engaged in shipping timber and other goods from Canada and the US to Ireland.  The return journey would take passengers instead of going back empty.  

It is difficult for us to conceive of the situation at that time.  Stop for a minute and think on this. Ireland, with a population of 9 million was desperate. The US had a population (including slaves) of 18 million.  As a result of the famine, 1 million people died and 2 million left in the space of 3 to 4 years.  On some ships up to half the passengers died during the voyage. As an afterthought, Ireland now has 4 million and the US, 320 million.

The Dunboy carried as many as 300 on each trip on makeshift temporary bunks. Minimal rations were provided.  You were expected to bring your own food.  Imagine that; leaving famine-ravaged Ireland and you had to bring enough food for you and your family for 6 to 10 weeks.  You had one hour a day to cook for yourselves in an open fire on deck.  With twenty others at a time.  That was the only light you saw. The rest of the time you were in your cabin in your bunk.  Speaking of the bunks.  They were 6’ by 6’ double bunks.  Each person had an allocation of 6’ by 18”, which meant there was room for four adults.  Children had half that.  You were expected to share with complete strangers. There were no toilets either.  Just a bucket and you shared that.  Cholera and typhoid were rife and there was no washing possible; most didn’t have a change of clothes. All this was preferable to staying at home.  At least there was hope.

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Sleeping bunks in Steerage class

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The bunks are 6′ by 6′ and accommodate four adults.  This is where passengers lived for 23 hours each day.

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The crew had individual bunks in the foc’sle

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The Captain’s cabin at the back of the ship.

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On deck cooking facility and toilet bucket

This crystallised the sense I got when I walked part of the Famine Road in the Burren or visited a famine graveyard on Achill Island.  Putting flesh on the bones to use a very inappropriate metaphor. Being alone on the ship gave me time to absorb and ponder on those brave souls who made that perilous journey to a country that welcomed them, if they survived the trip, with the promise of a new life.  A different America today that turns victims of injustice away.

The captain, who, by all accounts was humane and caring, fared a little better in the Saloon at the back of the ship.  There were four cabins here, accommodating the senior crew and two passenger cabins and the crew had individual bunks in the foc’sle.

I loved the safety notice thoughtfully provided in the script, which I returned with thanks to the desk.  “For safety reasons please don’t fall in the river!” it said.

“Where are you from?” said the chatty man at the desk as I returned the script

“Australia”.

“How long are you here?”

“I’m heading back in a couple of weeks”, I said, skipping the bit about having been here five years. “Thankfully I’m travelling by plane and not ship!” I quipped.  I don’t think he got it.

A stander-by (if that’s a word) engaged me in conversation, recognising my accent.  He introduced himself;  John from Melbourne, but currently living in London, had arrived in Ireland three days earlier with no return plans; to soak up Ireland, to write and just see what happens. That sounded very familiar, so we ended up having a coffee in a local café.  He too was a musician and was staying in the house of another Australian musician friend, a member of a well-known Aussie rock band.   There you go.  I’ve always said that music is the thread that binds Ireland and binds us to Ireland.

He was interested in my story and we chatted for over an hour, before I had to take my leave.  An invitation to a meal and an offer of accommodation followed, so we made arrangements to meet up the next day at his cottage in Carlow. These serendipitous meetings happen all the time in Ireland; in this case a snippet of an overheard conversation changed my travel plans.

It had been a perfect blue afternoon and I was looking forward to a spectacular sunset, but was starting to worry that I would be too late for it.  Still I had to visit the ruined Dunbrody Abbey on the way.  My hopes plummeted [insert scream here] when I saw that it was another visitor centre, this time with a Café, a Maze and a Pitch-and-Put centre and that access to the abbey included all these fringe benefits. The ruin of Dunbrody Castle sits adjacent to the facility.  This castle built just prior to the 1640 rebellion was never actually finished and is now used as a craft shop.

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Dunbrody Castle.  Now a craft shop.

But all that was closed and with it access to the Abbey which was  couple of hundred metres across the road.    Thankfully you could walk around it though and that was what me and my camera did.

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Dunbrody Abbey

It is a Cistercian Abbey dating from 1170, which prospered until the suppression of  the monasteries in 1536.  The ruin was left to the State in 1911.  I would have liked to have gone inside, apparently it has one of the longest naves in the country.   The monks here in the 14th century were pretty feisty, and it appears were often in dispute with their fellow Cistercians at nearby but much grander Tintern Abbey.  I will be seeing that tomorow.  But even from the outside I was having fun exploring the photographic possibilities that happen when evining light and a ruined abbey combine.  Here are a few of the photos I took that I post without comment.

Just a couple of miles further south is the seaside village of Duncrannon.  Protected since the 5th century by a Fort of some description, and even before that by a Promontory Fort that sits on the headland above the Quay.  The only way to see it is with a tour and it was way too late for that so  I had to be satisfied with viewing it from the wharf.  And Duncrannon Fort is what is known as a Star Fort, built in that shape to maximise the coverage and angles for canons.  Built in 1587 by Queen Elizabeth I to protect against the Spanish Armada, it saw much more local action during the Irish Confederate Wars of 1645 and then withstood an attack from Oliver Cromwell in 1649.  A lighthouse was built there in 1774.  During the 1798 Rebellion the United Irishmen failed to capture it and it became a safe house for fleeing loyalists and a prison and site of execution for rebels.  The song the Croppy Boy tells one such story.  Staying in the control of the British Army it was burnt down in 1922.  Now it is a museum.  It looked truly formidable sitting high on the cliffs above the ocean.

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Duncrannon Fort from the water

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Duncrannon Fort another view

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Entrance to Duncrannon Fort

It was now after 7pm with less than an hour to sunrise and finally within reach of my goal.  But I couldn’t resist one more stop.  The village of Templetown, which may have been a village once but is now just a roadside bar and restaurant (but a popular one it would seem).  Across the road is a the Templetown Church ruin.    This was the base for the Knights Templars, a military religious order founded in Jerusalem to protect the Holy Land, who set up here in 1172, giving the name to the locality.  The Templars however disbanded in 1307 and their lands were given to their great rivals, another military order, the Knights Hospitallers.  They built this church and its adjacent fortified tower.  It is in wonderful condition, just missing its roof, and is surrounded by a small graveyard.  It looked spectacular and glowed golden against a vivid blue evening sky. I’ll have reason to talk about these fellas again.

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Templetown Church

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Templetown Church and graveyard

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Templetown Church

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Graveyard at Templetown Church

Paradoxically, with light running out, the next stop was definitely Hook Head Lighthouse.  I could see it in the distance and at the first opportunity I pulled off the road to photograph it.  The lighthouse is not the prettiest in Ireland, with its chunky disproportionate base, but it is iconic and it is the oldest and is spectacularly located (I guess most of them are).

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A distant view of Hook Head Lighthouse

It was built by William Marshall, who had a few strings in his bow, so to speak.  He was Strongbow’s successor (get it?) as Lord of Leinster, and had built a port at New Ross, which was 30 km up the river.  Told you I’d come back to the Templars; well Marshall was also a Knights Templar (he was known as the Greatest Knight).  The light was erected at the beginning of the 13th century and it was the monks at Templetown who became the first keepers.  They looked after the lighthouse tower until 1641 when dedicated lighthouse keepers took over until it was automated in 1996.  It is the oldest operating lighthouse in the world.

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Hook Lighthouse and the old Keepers’ cottages, now a visitor centre.

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A view from the other side with the sun setting behind Hook Head lighthouse

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The lads are off for a fish.

That’s something to ponder on – a guiding light for 800 years. I can’t leave though without mentioning the  expression ‘by hook or by crook’.  One theory (and it is only one of a number) is that the expression came from Oliver Cromwell who had to make the decision whether they would sail up the Barrow on the Wexford side (by Hook) or by Crooke (a village on the Waterford side).  Only problem is there is a reference to the expression in a Middle English tract dated 1387, nearly 300 years before Cromwell. Wherever the expression came from I got there by hook or by crook and I became immediately hooked on the place.

As darkness descended I looked at the collection of campervans parked on the clifftop at the base of the lighthouse, with just a hint of envy.  I searched for a spot to park up, claiming my spot right on the cliff edge next to an old limekiln and looking across to Passage East in Waterford on the other side of the Barrow.  I wouldn’t say I had the best night’s sleep but was well satisfied with an exhausting but rewarding day of travel.

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The view from my five star accommodation at Hook Head.

And as a bonus from my vantage point in the back of the car,  I watched the rising of the crescent moon and photographed the Milky Way, managing to catch a couple of shooting stars.  Where else would you want to be.

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The Rising of the Moon

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The Milky Way.  There are two shooting stars if you look closely

Well that’s Day 1 of this four day journey.  It’s long I know and thank you for sticking with me to the end.  Stay tuned for Day 2 which will take me north through Waterford towards Carlow.

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Dowth, Co Meath. An history time capsule. From megalithic tombs to John Boyle O’Reilly.

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View of Dowth Chapel and Manor, Dowth Castle, Dowth school and the Dowth church 

The picture above I took in July 2019.  I didn’t realise it at the time but in that one photo I captured eight hundred years of history and the Irish struggle.  An history that includes the rise and fall of the great Anglo-Norman families, Oliver Cromwell, J B O’Reilly and the struggle of the Fenians, penal servitude and escape and the diaspora; and as if that wasn’t enough the destruction of a 5,000 year old megalithic treasure. Left to right is the Netterville Chapel, Netterville Manor, Dowth Castle, Dowth school house (the low stone building with the gabled roof) and the ruins of Dowth Church on the far right.  Here’s another view.

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View of Dowth Manor, Dowth Castle and the Dowth church and graveyard

And a couple of hundred metres to the right, too far away to get into the picture, is the Dowth passage tomb.

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Dowth Passage tomb mound viewed from the church.

Let me explain a bit more.  Stay with me and I’ll try and keep it brief.

Dowth in Co Meath, lies near the banks of the Boyne River in the famous Bend of the Boyne, where is the world heritage site of Brú na Bóinne and the passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth.  As I referred to briefly, there is also a passage tomb at Dowth.  I’ll come back to that, but my story starts with Dowth Castle, the ancestral home of the Netterville family, who were granted the estate in the 13th century.

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Dowth Castle.  Home of the Nettervilles

In 1641 during the civil war, then Viscount Netterville was declared an outlaw for supporting the Confederates and deprived of his estates. Ten years later he was pardoned by Oliver Cromwell.  And then in 1655 another Netterville was imprisoned in Dublin Castle as a traitor but escaped death pleading that he was held by the rebels against his will.

Subsequent Nettervilles displayed all the eccentricities you would expect of these ruling families.  The incumbent Lord built a Manor house in 1780 and moved out of the castle.  It was complete with elaborate gardens, ramparts and walks around the House and Castle.  He built a tea house on top of the passage grave mound and attended mass remotely with the assistance of a telescope focussed on the church.  Unfortunately, the Viscount was also unknowingly complicit in the destruction of the tomb.  With money he donated to excavate the ruins before his death,  members of the Royal Irish Academy in 1849, used, can you believe it, dynamite and destroyed the mound leaving a crater you can still see today. I’d like to think he would have been horrified at what was done.

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Crater at the top of the Dowth Mound

While we are talking of the Dowth mound, it is not on the tour agenda of Newgrange, but it is worth visiting separately to get a feel for what they may have looked like in the field.  There is no reconstruction here (just destruction it seems!). There were 115 kerbstones of which half are visible.  Fifteen are carved including the spectacular Stone 51, known as the Stone of the Seven Suns. Also surviving are two passage entrances.

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Some of the surviving visible kerbstones at Dowth mound. Stone 51 is the fourth stone from the right.

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Stone 51.  The Stone of the Seven Suns.  

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A drawing of Stone 51 by archaeologist, Martin Brennan.  

 

Back to my story.  In 1826, the property was bequeathed for the construction of an ‘alms house’ for aged women [alms houses are a Christian charitable tradition whereby accommodation is provided for poor, old or indigent people].  The magnificent Victorian Gothic red brick structure was built as part of this endowment in 1877 along with the chapel.   I particularly love the decoration in the brick and over the windows and doors highlighted with blue bricks.

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Part of Dowth Manor Alms House.  Beautiful red brick with details outlined with blue brick and limestone.

I’m not sure how long it lasted as an alms house, but it has had a variety of uses since then in the 20th century.  During the 1960s the house was the headquarters of the Newgrange excavations (hopefully without dynamite this time).  It has been owned by the Hearst Family and was once occupied by a group of Buddhists, and more recently as a venue for weddings and conferences.  It was up for sale in 2015 at €2.25 M.

All that is truly fascinating but for me it is the connection of the property with J B O’Reilly that makes it come alive.

John Boyle O’Reilly was a man of his time.  A charismatic man who in his short life may well have been the best know Irishman across three continents.  He was an Irish hero and made his mark in many fields.

His name was well known to me through his authorship of the novel, Moondyne, an Australian classic, and his involvement in the spectacular Catalpa rescue of Fenian prisoners from Fremantle Jail.  What I didn’t know is anything of his life in Ireland and America, which is littered with monumental achievements.

It was only by accident that I stumbled on the connection.  After inspecting the passage tomb I was drawn to the ruins of a church a little distance across the paddock.  There I discovered a memorial to him at the back of the church. The monument was erected in 1903.

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Memorial to John Boyle O’Reilly at the back of the Dowth church.

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J B O’Reilly memorial built 1903

It turns out he was born in the tower house, then occupied by his father, a schoolteacher.  Indeed the school was next door in a low stone building adjoining the tower house. 

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The school house at Dowth attended by John Boyle O’Reilly until he was 11.  His bust and a plaque are on the wall.  

So I brought myself up to speed on his life story.  His achievements are many and his impact profound and there is not space here to cover it all but here are a few highlights from his extraordinary life.

  • Born in 1844 into the middle of the Irish Famine. Being born into privilege he survived.
  • Leaves school aged 11 to take on an apprenticeship as a printer at the local Drogheda newspaper
  • Goes to London at 13 to work as a stenographer
  • Returns to Ireland at 19 and became a soldier in the British Army
  • Soon after he joins the Fenians at the invitation of the IRB and infiltrates the British Army
  • Arrested at 21 and sentenced to death for treason. Commuted to 20 years hard labour because of his youth.
  • At age 23 he and sixty-one other Fenian prisoners sent to Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • At age 24 escapes from Fremantle on a whaling ship. Fakes his own suicide to avoid capture at Mauritius.
  • At age 25 arrives in US via London, on the run. Moves to Boston; works for The Pilot newspaper.
  • At age 31 becomes owner and editor of The Pilot. It becomes second biggest Boston newspaper after the Boston Globe.
  • Becomes a spokesman for Irish immigrants, a well-known poet, orator, sportsman, and activist for political causes.
  • At age 31 helps organise the rescue of six Fenians from Fremantle, again using a whale ship, The Catalpa.
  • Becomes one of Americas foremost poets.
  • At 34 writes Moondyne, a semi-autobiographical novel set in Australia.
  • At 35, acknowledged leader of the “Irish cause”
  • Dies at 44 from an accidental overdose of his wife’s sleeping pills

Wow!  Admired and revered on three continents at the time, his work has been criticised subsequently, especially Moondyne, as presenting degrading portraits of Aborigines and glowing praise for capitalist exploitation by the British empire, with racist overtones.  Yet the novel was a landmark.  It scoffs at hypocrisy, and deals with redemption for the downtrodden and forgotten in society and among other things offers solutions on the Australian penal system, the Irish land question, and America as a model for the future.

So there it is.  A huge part of the story of Ireland reflected in this collection of buildings in a beautiful valley in County Meath.  And to think I could have just driven straight past it.

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The Beara Peninsula. Stories of children, swans and hags.

I recently visted  the beautiful Beara Peninsula, which straddles Counties Cork and Kerry, a place of extraordinary natural beauty.  But it’s also the stuff of legends. Two of the great Irish myths have a strong connection to the Beara Peninsula.

The Hag of Beara

First there is the ancient and enduring story of An Cailleach Béara, a goddess of sovereignty giving kings the right to rein, she was seen as the harbinger of winter. She is said to have had seven periods of youth so that every man who had lived with her died of old age. The myth is widespread throughout Ireland with other sites also associated with her, such as Hag’s Head at the Cliffs of Moher and the Wailing Woman on Skellig Michael, created where she is said to have dropped stones from her apron (though as with all these legends these sites have alternative explanations).
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The Hag of Beara stares out to sea.

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Hag’s Head in Co Clare

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The Wailing Woman on Skellig Michael

The Hag however did live most of her time near Kilcatherine where she met her fate when she was caught stealing a prayer book of Naomh Caitairiin, a Christian preacher, who she saw as a threat to her powers. He turned her to stone at Ard na Cailli her face now perpetually staring out to sea. The haunting and poignant figure of the Hag of Beara holds a strong place in Irish culture and her memory is revered, with legends and feast days associated with her all over the country. The rock at Kilcatherine is visited by many who leave coins and trinkets to her memory.
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Hag of Beara

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Offerings left on the rock

The Children of Lir

Another myth known all over Ireland is the Children of Lir. A sad tale of love, loss, betrayal it still today inspires many cultural expressions, in song music and dance. It tells of the ancient King of Lir (of the Tuatha de Danaan clan) and his four daughers, who were turned into swans by a jealous stepmother Aoife. The spell lasted 900 years and they were banished for 300 on Lake Derravaragh in County Westmeath, three hundred on Straits of Moyle, between Scotland and Ireland, and three hundred more on Isle of Inishglora, off the coast of Mayo. The spell could only be broken when they heard the ringing of Christian bells with the arrival of St Patrick.
When finally they heard bells being rung by a monk in Allihies they landed and took on human form and rapidly aged. They were christened and buried by this holy man in one grave under some round boulders. This humble site is the only physical manifestation of this enduring legend.
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Burial site of the Children of Lir

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Connemara. Beautiful.

I visited Connemara at the beginning of February 2019 after an extensive snowall and having mentioned this to a friend, and how beautiful it was, I was surprised at her response.  “What did I mean by beautiful? Was it just the snow?”

I hadn’t really thought about it; it just was.  I could have just quoted the Oxford definition – ‘pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically’ but that would have been too glib. For millenia philosophers and poets have struggled with the notion of beauty so who am I to think I can explain it, but I felt obliged to respond and to try to put my thoughts into words.

So what did I mean by beautiful?

I just love snow so of course that was part of it but it was a lot, lot more.  I’ve been to Connemara many times and each time it has presented a different face.  And each time I have loved it, but it is notorious for its bleak, drab weather; rain and fog has been the norm in my experience.  Never, for me, have the Gods conspired to produce such sheer perfection as this paraticular weekend.  A world that defies description and conditions attuned to capture every nuance of the landscape.  The mountains of Connemara, the Twelve Bens, have a sublime beauty at any time, but when covered in snow they are dizzyingly so.  And this was no ordinary snow.  Locals I talked to said it’s like this perhaps every ten years.  The purest white.  But what was so special was that the weather, the light and the landscape were in perfect harmony.  That’s what I mean by beautiful.

Let me explain a bit more.

On the Friday I travelled from Oughterard through Maam Cross to Letterfrack.  Taking in Lough Inagh and Kylemore Abbey. A continually moving image of the bluest of lakes, snow-covered rocky mountains, treeless bogs with tussocky grass, or rubble-strewn fields of boulder granite and cascading streams.  All illuminated by the low winter sun, with not a trace of haze, giving an extraordinary light, and enabling capture in my photos of every detail against an endless, azure, cloudless sky.  It was cold; the temperature hardly getting above 0°C, but around every corner I had to stop the car, rug up and get just a bit closer.

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Levallinee, Connemara, Co Galway.

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Lough Inagh, Connemara

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A morning stroll

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Lough Inagh

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Monarch of the Glen

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Happy sheep

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May the road rise to meet you.

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Is this really Ireland?

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The bridge between ice and water.

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Sometimes the view is better when you turn around.

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A Connemara winterscape.

And then there was the beautiful Lough Kylemore and Kylemore Abbey.

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Later that day I headed back east on a little travelled road that takes you across the middle of Connemara from Garroman to Inver.  The locals call it ‘The Bog Road’.  A tundra-like land of grassy plains, granite tors, lakes and bulrushes, turf cutting and the mighty Twelve Bens Range ever-present to the north.  A different beautiful.

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Lough Avally iced over. A reflective scene

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Lough Nacoogarrow near Garroman

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The legacy of the turf cutter

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Cottage on the Owengowla River.

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Lougharnillam and the Owengowla River

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One Twelfth of the Bens

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Bog, lake, river and mountain. One of the prettiest views in Ireland?

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Another view of Lougharnillam and the Twelve Bens

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Lough Avally near Derryrush. Walking on thin ice.

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Winter colour.

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Where the plain meets the mountain

As the end of this extraordinary day approached and I took a little time to reflect at Inver on the southern shore of Connemara and watch the sun light up the clouds and the sea. Beautiful.

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Never far from the music I stayed with some friends at nearby Camus.  There is nothing on this planet sweeter than the sound of two fiddles.  More beautiful. Thanks Bridge.

That should have been enough but I was ready for another course of Connemara’s extraordinary visual degustation. Predicted showers saw me resist a return visit to the mountains and, following Bridge’s advice, I headed to the coast for a taste of what she calls the ‘real’ Connemara.  With unfamiliar names like Annaghvaan, Lettermore, Gorumna, Lettermullen, Furnace and Crappagh I travelled this string of rugged, unforgiving rocky islands, linked by causeways; so wild it was left out of the Wild Atlantic Way. I just loved it. Met Éireann was spot on though. Storms rolled in from the north bringing snow, sleet and hail and then just as quickly disappeared over Galway Bay.  The stunning landscape with its sculpted coastline and quiet inlets, ice covered mirror-blue loughs, stone walls, thick bogs, neat cottages and rocky fields creates a frowzled, disorderly wildness. Framed always by the serenity of the snowy mountains to the north. The interplay of black clouds, dappled sunshine and an extraordinary pallete of rich colours made for vistas that would have defied the painter. Truly beautiful.

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The Ring near Camus

View north from Camus Hill.  Storm rollin in

View north from Camus Hill. A storm rolling in

The Twelve Bens completely blacked out.

A Connemara scene. The Twelve Bens completely shrouded in black cloud.

One minute before the snow and rain hit.. South of Camus

One minute before the snow and rain hit.. South of Camus

A Connemara cottage.  snow

A Connemara cottage under a light dusting of snow

Swans fishing through the ice.  Carrowmore West

Swans fishing through the ice. Carrowmore West

The storm has passed

The storm has passed.

Snow on ice. lake at Carrowroe West.

Snow settles on the ice over this lake at Carrowroe West.

Near Carrowroe West

Home sweet home. Near Carrowmore West.

Looking from Lettermore to Annaghvaan

Looking across the estuary from Lettermore to Annaghvaan

The estuary at Lettermore

The estuary at Lettermore

A cottage near The Hooker Bar on Annaghvaan Island

A cottage near The Hooker Bar on Annaghvaan Island

Cottage on teh island of Furnace.

Cottage, walls and a boreen on the island of Furnace.

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A small iced lake at Derrynea, near Carraroe. Completely frozen over at 3:30 pm still.

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Lough Awilla on the island of Gorumna. [sounds like a kingdom in Game of Thrones] The ice is thawing. Twelve Bens in the distance.

Lough Awalia, Gorumna Island.  Bulrushes in ice,.

Lough Awalia, Gorumna Island. Bulrushes poke throught the ice.

Reflections on the ice. Loch Awalia,.  Handful of stones.

Reflections on the ice. Loch Awalia,. The handful of stones I threw rest on top of the ice.

Breaking the ice.

Breaking the ice.

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A Connemara granite wall incorporates existing granite boulders.

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The island of Lettermullen. Glowing in the afternoon sun

Lettermullen from Crappagh

Lettermullen from Crappagh as the rain sweeps by

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White cottages occupy the hills between the bogs. Lettermullen.

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A study in dark and light. Lettermullen.

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Connemara walls take everything in their stride.

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A thundercloud develops over the hills of Connemara

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…..and letterboxes.

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The prettiest golf course in Ireland? Connemara Isles Golf Club on Annaghvaan Island.

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The view from the Third Tee at Connemara Isles Golf Club

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As I sorted through my images from those two days, I felt so grateful that I was able to be there, and to experience this release from the endless drabness of the Irish winter.  I got more images in those two days than a photographer should reasonably expect in a year.

That’s what I meant by beautiful.

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

Scandals & Scoundrels. The Early Days of WA’s Golden Mile.

In a former life I was, for three years, Chief Geologist at the Super Pit,  Australia’s largest gold mine consuming what’s left from undergound mining of Kalgoorlie’s Golden Mile. The richest concentration of gold in the world. Mining has been carried on continuously here since 1893, when gold was first discovered by one Paddy Hannan, from the village of Quin in County Clare.

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The Golden Mile in 1905.  Photo JJ Dwyer.  WA Museum

The Golden Mile in 2017.  The Super Pit.  Eastern Goldfields Historical Society

Don’t get me wrong, Paddy was not a scoundrel; I’ll talk about those characters in a bit.  Paddy Hannan led a party of three Irishmen that changed the history of Western Australia, starting a rush that populated the desert and rescued a depressed economy.  There are many reminders of the man – Hannan Street, Hannan’s Hotel, Hannan’s Lager (now sadly defunct) and a statue in the main street erected in the 1920s.  Before the name was changed to Kalgoorlie the place was even called Hannan’s.

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Paddy Hannan, taken in the mid 1920s.  Photo Battye Library WA.

 

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Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie, Postcard from 1907.  Coll. Bob Singer

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Crowds gather in Hannan Street, said to have been made wide enough to turn a bullock dray. Coll. Bob Singer

It’s a great story.  Briefly, Paddy emigrated to Australia in 1863, escaping post famine Ireland.  Eventually his six brothers and sisters followed him.  Not an uncommon thing. He started in the mines of Ballarat, but prospecting was in his blood and after limited success in New South Wales, South Australia and the Southern Cross field in WA, he ended up in Coolgardie, the site of the first major gold rush in WA, in 1893.  He was too late there and in June 1893 headed further east into unknown country.

John McMahon takes up the story in ‘Ramblers from Clare and Other Sketches’ (1936).

“At what is now Kalgoorlie, one of their horses strayed. During the search for the horse they found gold in some quantity.  On the nearby ridge of Mount Charlotte they found water, an essential prerequisite for their work. Then Paddy found a series of gullies where gold was clearly visible. Within two days they had unearthed 100 ozs. of gold. [that’s nearly $200,000 worth in today’s value]  Paddy Hannan rode to Kalgoorlie to register his claim and was awarded the space of ground which became known as “The Hannan Award”  [Hannan’s Reward].  News of the find spread like wildfire, within two days they were joined by 400 men and in a week this had grown to 1,000.” 

Prospecting in those days was not for the faint hearted.  Searing temperatures, dust, flies, desert and lack of water and supplies meant many privations.  The well resourced had camels.  Most, like Paddy didn’t, but rewards such as these he, Flanagan and O’Shea found were the reason men (and women) travelled to the remote unknown on the other side of the world.  Paddy was one of the lucky ones.

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Prospecting near Coolgardie, WA.  Photographer unknown c1894.  Coll Bob Singer

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Prospectors using the technique of ‘dry blowing’ to search for traces of gold.  Photographer unknown. c1894.  Coll. Bob Singer.

While Patrick Hannan, Thomas Flanagan and Dan Shea started the rush to Kalgoorlie, they did not discover the real wealth of the Goldfield.  This lay a mile or two to the south and the real hero of the Golden Mile was Sam Pearce,  another emigrant prospector from England.  Just a few weeks after the Hannan’s rush he found the Ivanhoe reef, then the phenomenally rich Great Boulder mine and over the next four months, with others in his syndicate, he pegged Lake View, Royal Mint, Bank of England, Iron Duke, Iron Monarch, Associated, Consols and the fabulous Golden Horseshoe and many more.

Thus began a boom which led to the blooming of the twin cities of Kalgoorlie and Boulder, the railway arriving in 1896 and a monumental water pipeline constructed in 1903 by another famous Irishman, Charles Yelverton O’Connor (from Co Meath).  His achievement of building a 350 mile pipeline from Perth to the desert was one of the great engineering  feats of the day and sadly under intense public criticism of the scheme he took his life before the water arrived.

There was no denying the incredible wealth of the place but from the very beginning  it attracted all kinds of financial speculation.  Inevitably this led to many sharp practices and resulted in a number of financial and corporate scandals which severely damaged the reputation of Western Australia and the Golden Mile in particular.  That’s what I want to talk about here.

It took only two years from Paddy Hannan’s discovery of gold at Kalgoorlie in 1893 for the first speculative bubble to take hold.  The full potential of the finds was slow initially to become apparent.  There was free gold, yes, but most of the gold was locked up in pyrite or in rare minerals called ‘tellurides’, containing the element Tellurium, which formed alloys with gold, making it hard to extract.  Further the gold went deep very quickly.  So the gold could only be extracted by deep underground mining and complicated metallurgical processes.

This need for capital created a massive market for opportunistic floats.  The preferred place to raise money was on the London Stock exchange.  In 1895-6, alomost 700  West Australian gold mining companies were floated.  Some had real ore bodies but most amounted to little more than what we would now call “address pegging”.  So long as the company had, somewhere in the name, a reference to one of the big producing mines or something associated with Kalgoorlie (or both) it was guaranteed success for the promoters.  The most popular name to include was of course Hannan’s.  A quick look at the lease maps prior to 1903 reveals dozens of companies using Paddy’s name linked with some of its producing neighbours to lend some credibility.  Names like Hannan’s Proprietary Dev Co, Hannan’s Paringa GM Ltd, Hannan’s Brown Hill GM Co, Hannan’s Brown Hill South GM Co’,  Hannan’s Star GM Ltd, Hannan’s Reward & Mt Charlotte Ltd, Hannan’s Find Gold Reefs Ltd, Hannan’s Kalgoorlie Ltd.  You get the picture.  None of them had anything to do with Paddy who was long gone.

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Share Certificate Hannan’s Paringa GM Ltd.  1897  Coll. Bob Singer

There were also many “cashbox floats” where large sums of money were raised with no operating mines.  For example the grandly titled Western Australian Gold District Trading Corporation raised £500,000, an extraordinary amount of money.  In today’s terms it would be the equivalent of around $300 million.

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Share Certificate West Australian Gold District Trading Corporation 1896. Coll. Bob Singer

Despite having no discernable business and no operating mine the company declared a dividend of 100%.  This attempt by the directors  to ensure a high price for the sale of their own shares landed Managing Director Mr L H Goodman with an 18 months prison sentence with hard labour  for “conspiracy to defraud, obtaining money by false pretences, publishing false statement and misappropriation.”

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A Lease map of the Kalgoorlie Gold Mines (c1897). Kalgoorlie town is at D4.  Hannan’s discovery is marked as Hannan’s Lode at D3.  The richest mines of the Golden Mile stretch from B6 to B9

The common feature of all these floats, even the legitimate ones, was that of the money raised, most went to the promoters and vendors with very little going as working capital (a familiar story also in later gold booms).

The London market during the ‘Westralia’ Craze was ripe for plucking by over zealous prospectors, wily WA based promoters, less-than-honest Mine Managers and  so-called “experts” all feeding off one another and playing into the hands of unscrupulous London- based promoters and fuelling a frenzy among a rising middle class that we would find hard to imagine today. The only thing remotely similar but on a much smaller scale was the Poseidon nickel boom in WA in the early 70s

This activity prompted prominent author and financial journalist, JH Curle, to comment in his book ‘Gold Mines of the World’, in 1902 that

“West Australia, since the beginning of the mining there, has been a synonym for all that is bad in gold mining” and

“of the boards of directors in London I do not trust one in twenty”.

The climate was ripe for exploitation and none strode the stage larger than Whitaker Wright and Horatio Bottomley.

Whitaker Wright was born in England in 1845 and gained some formal training in chemistry and assaying in his youth. He was active in mine promotion in the US from 1875 and made and lost a fortune before returning penniless to England in 1889. Undaunted, he set to work building up his companies again and by 1897 was a millionaire for a second time!

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Whitaker Wright.  Contemporary newspaper sketch c1904.

His return to England coincided with the ‘Westralia’ boom and he was an active participant with his companies – the West Australian Exploring and Finance Corporation  and the London and Globe Company, holding extensive share investments in WA companies.

In March 1897, Wright merged the two companies into the London and Globe Finance Corporation which had an issued capital of £1.6 million and an elite Board of notables ensuring respectability.

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Londond & Globe Finance Corporation Ltd.  1898. Note signature of Whitaker Wright.  Coll.  Bob Singer

The company had considerable real assets including Lake View Consols and Ivanhoe mines on the Golden Mile.  These he used to boost the value of many of the more speculative ventures in the portfolio.

Wright used his knowledge of his mines’ operations to indulge in what we would now call “insider trading”.  He also however engaged in much more sinister activities of market manoeuvring by manipulating output from the mines, especially the Lake View Consols.

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Lake View Consols GM.  The jewel in the Whitaker Wright empire.  Coll. Bob Singer

With the profits from his ventures, Wright became extremely wealthy.  He  acquired over 9,000 acres in Surrey and built  a sumptuous mansion (Witely Park), complete with thirty two bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, landscaped gardens, a private theatre and  an observatory.

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Witley Park mansion.  Home of Whitaker Wright’  Including an observatory. Photographer unknown

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Witley Park Mansion. Photographer unknown

But most notable of his endeavours was a huge domed glass and steel room under a lake which he constructed.  This is probably one of the world’s greatest follies.   Termed a ‘ballroom’ it was actually used to house a billiard table.  It was said he loved to play in the flickering light that filtered down through the murky water and  the yellow glazed ceiling.

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Recent photo showing the top of the ‘ballroom’ in the middle of the lake. Photographer unknown

 

Off the billiard room is a smoking room-cum-aquarium, where you could puff on a cigar while watching the giant carp.  Atop this is a  giant statue of Neptune, poking above the surface, and appearing as it walking on water.  This folly required 600 workmen to dig out four artificial lakes and remove hills that spoiled the view.

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Neptune statue atop the domed roof. Photographer unknown

For Wright, It all came spectacularly undone in 1899 when the Lake View Consols mine hit a rich patch of ore known as the “Duck Pond”. Wright at first withheld a report on the find while he sought to manipulate the market. Then, once it became public, the share price soared to £10 then £20 and ultimately to £28.  Maintaining the share price at these levels depended on maintaining production which could not be done once the shoot pinched out. Whether it was Wright or the Lake View Manager who withheld the vital information that the shoot had come to an end is unclear but the resulting collapse found London and Globe, and many of its shareholders, insolvent as Wright desperately bought shares as they plunged to try and prop up the market.

The clamour for his prosecution grew, especially when official inquiry revealed that the deficiency in his companies totalled about £7.5 million. On hearing this he hid himself in the icehouse at Witley Park for a week, and then fled to New York via Paris travelling under a false name.  Unluckily for him, the technology of the day meant that the warrant for his arrest was ready and waiting when he landed!

Wright was arrested and extradited to London where he faced trial and was found guilty. On 25 January 1904, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment but before he could be imprisoned he swallowed a cyanide tablet which he had smuggled into the court and was dead within minutes.

The court proceedings revealed a trail of deceit, misinformation and fraudulent accounting all within the framework of company promotions and operations on the stock exchange.  His activities were allowed to prosper because of the complicity and complacency of his shareholders who were happy to receive the benefits of very abnormal profits, without question, relying implicitly on Wright and his directors.

And then there was the wonderfully named, Horatio Bottomley.

Horatio Bottomley was born in London in 1860. He grew up in an orphanage and had no formal training, starting work as an office boy in a legal firm.  His first excursion into company promotion was in 1885 in printing and publishing and he was embroiled in immediate scandal with £85,000 disappearing from the company. Remarkably he was able to avoid charges. In 1888 he founded the Financial Times primarily as a vehicle for promoting his own ventures.

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Horatio Bottomley

Fresh from this triumph, Bottomley got in early in the ‘Westralian’ gold boom on the London Stock Exchange. His companies  West Australian Joint Stock Trust and Finance Corporation and the Western Australian Loan and General Finance Corporation were reconstructed four times each time making Bottomley a fortune. As the boom accelerated late in 1894 he was in the forefront, promoting around twenty companies in the space of just five years. Many companies were floated with worthless leases on the edge of the Golden Mile, often obtaining these leases from the Associated Gold Mines Ltd (which ran the very successful “Australia” Gold Mine) a company of which by a remarkable coincidence,  Bottomley was Managing Director.

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Prospectus for the Australia Gold Mine of which Bottomley was to become Managing Director.  Coll.  Bob Singer

His tactic was to promote to build vendor profits, by pushing the stock price for a short time, issuing a 20 per cent dividend and then letting it decline to liquidation or reconstruction. Thus, almost without exception, Bottomley’s companies were liquidated within a short time with most of the capital going to the promoters

Besides using the vehicle of promotions, Bottomley invested extensively in Associated Gold Mines of Western Australia and in the Great Boulder, companies that gave him a very handsome return as well as lending the appearance of substance to his activities.  Many of his companies included the word “Associated” in their name.

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One of Horatio Bottomley’s financing vehicles.  Note signature of Bottomley.  Coll.  Bob Singer.

Bottomley’s brief but profitable career in the Australian mining sector of the London market was soon to end. The initial boom had waned and the gold mining industry on the Eastern Goldfields of WA was seeking to develop mining on a large scale.  In July 1897 Bottomley changed tack and floated the West Australian Market Trust which he claimed would have “large and, perhaps, controlling interests in many of the best things in the West Australian market”. However, by the next year it was in serious difficulty with Bottomley losing heavily as the share price collapsed.  Without the equivalent of Wright’s Lake View Consols or Ivanhoe mines in the Trust’s stable, public confidence in it evaporated and by the end of the year Bottomley was forced to reconstruct the company.

Like Wright, he also manipulated production at the Associated mine and stock in the company in order to promote his other company interests and to add to his personal fortunes. Late in the 1890s production at the Associated yielded spectacular results when the mine manager was instructed to stockpile rich ore for strategic processing. In mid-1900 when the deception was clear, it was reported that reserves of payable ore had been overestimated by 75%. As well, Bottomley had successively issued new capital in the company, using part to finance dividends. When production declined and the extent of overcapitalisation became apparent, the inevitable market bears (including his nemesis, our old friend Whitaker Wright) ended Bottomley’s “mining” of this section of the “stock market stope”.

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Share certificate for Associated Southern Gold Mines Ltd, a Bottomley company.  Coll. Bob Singer

From 1893 to 1903 it is estimated that Bottomley launched about fifty mining and finance companies with a nominal capital of between £20 and £25 million. His personal wealth at the time was estimated at about £3 million.

Bottomley maintained a superficial respectability as a businessman but remained a superlative con man.  He escaped prosecution for his deeds during this period and later went on to indulge in further nefarious activities which resulted in bankruptcy three times (1912, 1921 and 1928), losing his seat in Parliament (twice) and serving seven years in prison for fraud, eventually becoming an alcoholic and losing everything before dying intestate in 1933.

Bottomley and Wright and a host of other speculative promoters, had negative consequences that hampered the early development of gold mining on the Golden Mile for many years, making it extremely difficult to raise capital for the legitimate operations.  It also set in place a tradition and reputation which continued to be enhanced by the activities of Claude deBernales in the 1930s and Alan Bond and “WA Inc” in the 1980s.

But that’s another story.

 

 

Categories: Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ireland. A Feast of Festivals 2019

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Visiting an Irish Music Festival should be on the must-do list for any visitor to Ireland.  It is not easy however to find information on these, especially the smaller ones.  I am often asked by my friends in the blogosphere what is on and when during their proposed visit.  I’m happy to help where I can but I thought a list might be useful to anyone planning a trip.  On researching this I found a number of sites where festivals are listed but they are incomplete or not up to date.  I am sure I too have left some out and I don’t have dates for everything, partcularly beyond August 2019.  If you are aware of a festival that I’ve missed or have dates let me know and I’ll add it.

Do try and incorporate a festival on your next trip;  you’ll be made very welcome. If you do want to visit a festival please don’t rely on the dates here. Some are subject to change.  You should check with their website.

Festival Location Start Finish
Shannonside Winter Music Festival Six Mile Bridge, Clare 17 Jan 19 21 Jan 19
TradFest Temple Bar

Ballincollig Music Festival

Dublin

Ballincollig, Cork

23 Jan 19

23 Jan 19

27 Jan 19

27 Jan 19

IMBOLC International Music Festival Derry 15 Jan 19 10 Feb 19
Packie Duignan weekend Drumshanbo, Leitrim 25 Jan 19 27 Jan 19
Feile na Tana

Rosslare song gathering

Carlingford, Louth

Rosslare,

1 Feb 19

1 Feb 19

3 Feb 19

3 Feb 19

Concertina Cruinniú Miltown Malbay, Clare 15 Feb 19 17 Feb 19
Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh Ballyferriter, Kerry 20 Feb 19 24 Feb 19
Russell Memorial Weekend Doolin, Clare 21 Feb 19 24 Feb 19
The Gathering Traditional Festival Killarney, Kerry 27 Feb 19 3 Mar 19
Mount Leinster Traditional Music Festival Borris, Carlow February?
Tionól Niocláis Tóibín An Rinn, Waterford 8 Feb 19 10 Feb 19
Éigse an Spidéil Spiddal, Galway 10 Feb 19 14 Feb 19
Corofin Traditional Festival Corofin, Clare 27 Feb 19 3 Mar 19
Aran Celtic Music Festival Inis Mor, Galway 8 Mar 19 11 Mar 19
NYAH Traditional Music Festival Cavan 15 Mar 19 18 Mar 19
Kilkenny Tradfest Kilkenny 14 Mar 19 19 Mar 19
Ceardlann Earraigh Celbridge, Kildare ?? Mar 19 ?? Mar 19
Inishowen Singing Festival Donegal 22 Mar 19 25 Mar 19
Blossom Harp Festival

Tullamore Tradfest

Tuamgraney, Clare

Tullamore, Offaly

12 Apr 19

12 Apr 19

14 Apr 19

14 Apr 19

Feile Patrick Byrne Carrickmacross, Monaghan 12 Apr 19 14 Apr 19
Maurice O’Keefe Weekend Kiskeam, Cork ?? Mar 19
Carlow Pan Celtic Festival Carlow 16 Apr 18 22 Apr 18
Clifden Trad Fest Clifden, Galway 11 Apr 19 14 Apr 19
Cruinniú na bhFliúit Flute Meeting (registrations closed) Ballyvourney, Cork 24 Apr 19 27 Apr 19
Consairtin

Leitrim Dance Week

Ennis, Clare

Carrick on Shannon

25 Apr 19

22 Apr 19

28 Apr 19

28 Apr 19

Ballydehob Traditional Music Festival Ballydehob, Cork 12 Apr 19 14 Apr 19
Kilfenora Music Festival

Ulster song gathering

Kilfenora Clare

Omagh,

26 Apr 19

26 Apr 19

29 Apr 19

27 Apr 19

Feile Neidin, Kenmare Irish Music Festival

Ceol na nGlinnti

Kenmare, Kerry

Antrim

April?

April?

Fleadh nagCuach (Cuckoo Fleadh) Kinvara, Galway 3 May 19 6 May 19
Joe Heaney Festival Carna, Galway ? May ? May
Cup of Tae Festival Ardara, Donegal ? May ? May
Feile Chois Cuain Louisburgh, Mayo 3 May 19 6 May 19
Carrigaholt Oyster & Trad Festival Carrigaholt, Clare 3 May 19 5 May 19
Cos Cos Sean Nos Festival Drumcliffe, Sligo 6 May 19 12 May 19
Fiddle Fair

 

Fleadh na Deise. Waterford Traditional Music Festival

Baltimore, Cork

 

Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford

 

9 May 19

 

17 May 19

 

12 May 19

 

19 May 19

 

Feile Chnoc na Gaoithe, Tulla Trad Music Festival Tulla, Clare 17 May 19 19 May 19
Skerries Traditional Music Weekend Skerries, Dublin ? May 18 ? May 18
World Fiddle Day Scartaglin, Kerry 18 May 19
World Fiddle Day Glenties, Donegal 18 May 19
Fleadh Nua Ennis, Clare 19 May 19 27 May 19
Michael Dwyer Festival

 

John McKenna Music Festival

Allihies, Cork

 

Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim

7 Jun 19

 

7 Jun 19

9 Jun 19

 

9 Jun 19

Doolin Folk Festival

Ballydehob song gathering

Doolin, Clare

Ballydehob, Cork

14 Jun 19

14 Jun 19

16 Jun 19

16

Con Curtin Festival Brosna, Kerry ?? Jun 19 ?? Jun 19
Jim Dowling Uilleann Pipe and Trad Festival Glengarriff, Cork 21 Jun 19 23 Jun 19
Craiceann Summer School Innis Oir, Galway 24 Jun 19 28 Jun 19
Blas International Summer School Limerick 24 Jun 19 5 Jul 19
Cross Traditional Music Weekend Cross, Clare ?? Jun 19 ?? Jul 19
An Chúirt Chruitireachta (International Harp Festival) Termonfechin, Louth 30 Jun 19 5 Jul 19
Feile Brian Boru Killaloe/Ballina, Clare, Tipperary 3 Jul 19 7 Jul 19
Féile Traidphicnic Spiddal, Galway 5 Jul 19 7 Jul 19
Scoil Samraidh Willie Clancy Miltown Malbay, Clare 6 Jul 19 14 Jul 19
Ceol na Coille Summer School Letterkenny, Donegal 8 Jul 19 12 Jul 19
South Sligo Summer School Tubbercurry, Sligo 14 Jul 19 20 Jul 19
Fleadh Cheoil Na Mumhan (Munster Fleadh) Ennis, Clare 14 Jul 19 22 Jul 19
Ceili at the Crossroads Festival Clarecastle, Clare ?? Jul 19 ?? Jul 19
Joe Mooney Summer School Drumshanbo, Leitrim 20 Jul 19 27 Jul 19
Fiddler’s Green Festival Rostrevor, Down 21 Jul 19 28 Jul 19
Meitheal Summer School Ennis, Clare 22 Jul 19 27 Jul 19
Scoil Acla Summer School Achill Island, Mayo 27 Jul 19 3 Aug 19
Donegal Fiddle Summer School Glencolmcille, Donegal 29 Jul 19 2 Aug 19
Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music Belfast 27 Jul 19 3 Aug 19
Sliabh Luachra Summer School Rockchapel, Cork July?
Laois Trad Summer School Portlaoise, Laois July?
Phil Murphy Weekend Carrig-on-Bannow, Wexford July?
Kilrush Traditional Music and Set Dancing Festival Kilrush, Clare 31 Jul 19 5 Aug 19
Sean McCarthy Weekend Festival Finuge, Kerry 1 Aug 19 5 Aug 19
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival Sligo ?? Aug 19 ?? Aug 19
O’Carolan Harp Festival Keadu, Roscommon 2 Aug 19 7 Aug 19
Feakle International Traditional Music Festival Feakle Clare 7 Aug 19 12 Aug 19
Scully’s Trad Fest Newmarket, Cork ?? Aug 19 ?? Aug 19
Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann Drogheda, Louth 11 Aug 19 18 Aug 19
Feile Ceol Na Locha Tourmakeedy, Mayo ?? Aug 19 ?? Aug 19
Masters of Tradition Bantry, Cork 21 Aug 19 25 Aug 19
Crotty Galvin Traditional Music Weekend Moyasta, Clare ?? Aug 19 ?? Aug 19
Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival Ballyshannon, Donegal 2 Aug 19 5 Aug 19
Seachtain Ceoil Chois Fharraige Spiddal, Galway August?
Fingal Fleadh and Fair, Swords Castle, Dublin ?? August
Gig’n the Bann Portglenone, Antrim ?? Sep
Johnny Doherty Music & Dance Festival Ardara, Donegal 20 Sep 19 22 Sep 19
Ceol Na gCruach The Glen Tavern, Donegal Sep?
Dingle Tradfest Dingle, Kerry Sep?
Tuam Trad Festival Tuam, Galway Sep?
Gerry Whelan Memorial Weekend Cootehill, Cavan Sep?
Feile Cheoil Larry Reynolds Ballinasloe, Galway Sep?
Frank Harte Festival Dublin Sep?
Music Under the Mountains Wicklow Sep?
Cork Folk Festival Cork, Cork Sep?
Garry McMahon traditional singing festival

O’Carolan Harp Festival

Abbeyfeale.  Limerick

Nobber, Meath

18 Oct

??Oct

20 Oct

 

Glenties Fiddlers Weekend Glenties, Donegal ?? Oct
Ed Reavy Traditional Music Festival Cavan ?? Oct
Foxford Traditional Weekend Foxford, Mayo ?? Oct
Sligo Live Folk Roots and Indie Festival Sligo ?? Oct
Cooley Collins Festival Gort, Galway ?? Oct
Willie Keane weekend Doonbeg, Clare ?? Oct
Feile Strokestown Strokestown, Roscommon ?? Oct
Féile Chruite Achill Harp Fest Achill Island, Mayo 25 Oct 19 28 Oct 19
Scoil Cheoil na Botha Scotstown, Monaghan ??Oct
Patrick O’ Keeffe Traditional Music Festival Castleisland, Kerry 25 Oct 19 28 Oct 19
Ennis Trad Fest Ennis, Clare 7 Nov 19 11 Nov 19
William Kennedy Piping Festival Armagh ?? Nov
Drogheda Traditional Music Weekend Drogheda, Louth ?? Nov
Éigse Dhiarmuid Uí Shúilleabháin Ballyvourney, Cork ?? Dec
Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair Gweedore, Donegal ?? Dec
Trá Buí /Pearse Holmes memorial Traditional Music Weekend. Dohooma, Mayo ?? Dec

 

 

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