Posts Tagged With: West Clare

Quilty. On the Edge of Ireland.

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I’ve lived in West Clare for over three years now.  My local village is Quilty.  It occurred to me the other day that I have travelled all over Ireland discovering beauty in places known and unknown but I have never photographed this tiny fishing village in my back yard.

So the other day on a fine day in early November I went for a walk around Quilty.  Quilty truly is on the edge of Ireland and inextricably linked with the sea.  Quaint fisherman’s cottages perched on the cliff above what can be a very stormy Atlantic.  And the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church and its imposing tower is a constant reminder of the heroic rescue of the crew of the Leon XIII in 1907. The stuff of legends.

Here is a collection of images taken that day.  It doesn’t need my words so I will let this photo essay speak for itself.  IG3C1467

 

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

All is not what it seems. A little story from the Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast of Clare.

I live in a remarkable spot and I have written of it and photographed it many times. Point Caherush lies between Quilty and Spanish Point along the spectacular west coast of Clare.  Indeed it was spectacular before it became part of the Wild Atlantic Way but now of course it is legitimately spectacular because it has a label with the word ‘wild’ in it. Anyway I live at the end of a one kilometre long boreen known locally as the Clogher Road. My front door looks out over Quilty and Mutton Island. Here’s a reminder.

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My little cottage nestled on the rocks at Pt Caherush

 

The rocks at my feet though are similar to the rest of the West Clare coastline from Loop Head to Doolin, and comprise shallowly dipping interbedded sandstones and shales.  For the whole time I have lived here I assumed that I was living at the edge of a wilderness (that’s the ‘wild’ in Wild Atlantic Way!). A thin strip of pristine land beyond the rolling green that is everywhere so heavily moulded by man.  I surmised, somewhat romantically, that only the hand of the sea had sculpted the shore. Despite this I was troubled by some observations I could not explain. Perfectly circular holes in the rock sometimes with radial joint patterns around them were disturbingly reminiscent of what I had seen in open cut mines. This made no sense. There was nothing to mine in these barren sandstones.

But I didn’t think of the sandstone itself.

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Perfectly circular holes and radial joint patterns on the rock platform at Point Caherush

 

One day I was chatting to Mikey Talty, a resident of this place all his long life. I have written about that day in a previous blog, when three generations of the Talty family were harvesting kelp from the bay. Mikey is full of wonderful stories but he really got my attention when he mentioned working as a young man in the 1950s at a massive quarry operation on the Point. He showed me where the crushing plant was and described how truckloads of rock were carted away to build roads as far away as Kilrush and Kilkee. This mining it would seem had changed the shape of the headland and much of the protection of the bay was lost.

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Mikey Talty talks about Caherush in his youth.

 

With this new knowledge I now see the evidence everywhere in my wanderings. Of course the drill holes were for the explosives, some still showing their perfect shape and probably unexploded, and others with radial shatter patterns showing they did their job. There are rock exposures that are not natural and there is angular rubble strewn, that has yet to be smoothed out by the ocean.

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Blasted face at limit of quarrying

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Quarried rock face and blasted rubble

 

It is hard now to understand the thinking that would have led to the locating of a quarry here when there would have been plenty of locations away from the coast. I would like to think that in ‘modern’ Ireland it would be impossible to conceive of permission being obtained today for mining on the seashore. Perhaps planning approval wasn’t needed then and certainly priorities would have been different.

I can find nothing in the literature about this operation and maybe the memory of it is only now with those who lived or worked here. But the record will stay in the rocks for hundreds of years and I am sure it will confuse and intrigue future generations of geologists and non-geologists, who wander around Point Caherush, as it did me.

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

All Ireland Wren Boy Champions!

You don’t have to be in Ireland long to become aware of Kilkenny’s dominance of that uniquely Irish sport, hurling.  They have been All-Ireland Champions eight of the past ten years.  But you may not be aware of the dominance of one West Clare village, in recent times, of another quintessentially Irish pastime – the Wren Boys Competition.  That village is Cooraclare, 10 km from Kilrush on the south western tip of the County and they have just returned from the All Ireland Wren Boys Championship in Listowel, Kerry, where they have been crowned for the fifth year in a row.  OK, there was only one other team competing but this does not diminish the achievement.  You may not even be aware that there was a Wren Boys Competition I wasn’t.  But I am now and my participation in the 2015 team makes me a most unlikely All-Ireland champion.  Might have to rewrite my CV.

I have participated in a Wren Boys event before and I suggest you head to my blog for a bit more of the background.

https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/st-stephens-day-and-the-wren-boys/

This story though for me started at the Crotty Galvin Festival weekend in August in the village of Moyasta.  I have also blogged on this recently.

https://singersongblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/crotty-galvin-weekend-moyasta-2015/

Here I met Grainne, one of the organisers, and she invited me along.  Clearly they were short of numbers to have countenanced such a thing but I never refuse an invitation despite in this case knowing absolutely nothing about it.  I was told to get myself to Cree and a bus will pick me up at 6pm on the Friday night and drop me back at 6am on Saturday morning. She assured me the craic would be mighty and that was all I needed to know.

A couple of weeks later I am sitting next to Joe Joe Marrinan on a bus headed to the Ferry at Kilimer (with forty others)  as he fills me in on some of the history.  The competition had been going in Listowel as part of the Harvest Fair for 57 years.  Cooraclare’s participation started forty years ago when local identitiy Denis Ledane decided it would be a good idea to take a team there.  Interest faded but in 2011 the tradition was revived after 35 years in honour of Joe Joe’s father Marty who died that year.  Joe Joe was installed into the prestigious role of King of the Wren.  In their first visit to Listowel they won and have not lost since and it is easy to see why.

On the surface it looks a bit ridiculous, dressing up in skirts, silly hats and bright colours and tinsel.  (at least there weren’t any bells and sticks a la Morris Dancers) but underneath it is a serious desire to preserve a fading Irish culture.  The competition involves each team putting on a 45 minute show incorporating music, singing, set dancing, step dancing, sean nos, storytelling all presented with humour and passion.  The team marched through the streets of Listowel, with turf fires burning atop hay forks, to a stage in the centre of the town square, to the strains of the Centenary March and from there on it was a celebration of all things West Clare.    Many songs told of West Clare including the eponymous Chapel Gates at Cooraclare (after which the team is named) and this little corner of Kerry certainly knew about the virtues of the Banner County by the end of the night.   A highlight was the finale with a lovely rendition of Feet of a Dancer leading in to a simply outstanding display of set dancing..  There were all ages participating with the dancing dominated by youngsters from villages dotted through West Clare, such as Moyasta, Kilrush, Cree, Mullagh as well as Cooraclare.  Many of them were All Ireland champions from the recent Fleadh in Sligo and it absolutely shone through.  There is no reason not to suppose that Cooraclare will continue to participate in and dominate the Wren Boys competition in the years to come judging by the enthusiasm with which everyone threw themselves into it..

A fantastic session at Foynes in Limerick on the way home and people had to be dragged back to the bus well after 2am.  The music continued on the bus with a rousing singing session and the night finished for most people well after 4am as they were dropped off into the West Clare night by our long suffering bus driver.

Thanks to Grainne and Joe Joe and Tony and everyone else for making me feel so welcome.  I felt privileged to be part of this tradition and I hope these few photos do it justice.

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Categories: Festivals, Real Ireland, Sessions, Stories, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home

Well it has been a month since I have posted and a lot has happened. I have kept telling myself I will catch up when winter arrives but it never did. We have had an amazing warm September and the first couple of weeks of October with more blue skies.  That all camne to an end last week and we have had our first taste of winter.  I am ready for it!

Those of you following me on Facebook will know that I have found a house to rent. I can’t believe where I have ended up. A magic place on the water between Spanish Point and Quilty near Miltown Malbay in west Clare.

My cottage is at the end of a row of houses that stretches along the Clogher Road to Point Caherush. It is situated on the edge of the land where it meets the rocky shore. Surrounded by gravel and a high wall there is no softening green garden but the starkness somehow seems appropriate. Adjacent is an old whitewashed stone shed with a slate roof and behind that are large domed sheds that constitute the operations base for my landlord’s extensive farmland, which stretches beyond in all directions to the sea. Everyone here talks about nothing but the storms last January and the damage done by the high tides, but I am assured by the owner that the new seawall will keep the ocean out.

The house looks directly south across a shallow bay and to the treeless plains and hills that are so characteristic of this part of West Clare. In the distance I can see Quilty and the round tower of its church poking above the horizon. And out beyond the now calm ocean is the uninhabited Mutton Island only accessible by boat. I have a table and benches, like those provided at picnic sites, outside my front door and from here I can see the sun rise over the hills to my left and watch it all the way to where it disappears into the Atlantic Ocean on the right. The last month has provided glorious clear blue skies and amazing sunrises and sunsets. For most of the day the sun streams invitingly into the house filling it with light.

The bay is forever changing moods. At low tide the ocean floor is exposed across its entire width. Rocks and seaweed predominate with pools of water left behind temporarily. It is not what is conventionally regarded as appealing. At high tide the rocks are completely covered and though there is no pristine white sandy beach, just boulders and kelp and various flotsam bordering the calm waters, the scene has a raw beauty that is captivating. There are very few people. Occasionally I will see someone collecting periwinkles or the landlord’s brother collecting and drying seaweed for his business or the occasional walker or a mother pushing a pram but for the most part there are just the sea birds, which provide plenty of movement and interest and there is Valdo, the neighbour’s border collie who spends all day chasing them.

Just a handful of steps and I am on a rock platform that stretches along the northern side of the bay to the end of the point. The rocks dip largely to the south at about 20 degrees and the sandstone and shale layers provide a series of steps which one seems to be forever climbing. At low tide you can walk all the way around the point. At the end of the point the calmness of the bay gives way to breakers which hint at the power that the Atlantic can unleash. For now though it is has been mostly peaceful but I have had a little taste of its power last weekend. There are some spectacular folds in the rock layers and the dip changes from the south to the north and back to the south providing plenty of geological interest. If I walk the other way I walk across the boulders and weed best negotiated at high tide. There is an exposed layer of peat just above the high tide mark. It provides a fascinating insight into the formation of this unique part of the Irish landscape as abundant, partially decomposed trees, branches and roots protrude from the ground. Further round the point towards Quilty is a cliff face formed of jagged, loosely consolidated boulders that appears to be a glacial moraine and the weathering of this cliff contributes to the mix of irregular and rounded boulders seen on the shore.

I am seeing it at its absolute best but I already love this place. It is not the Ireland I expected to live in but I finally have a sense of place and I am so looking forward to spending the next year here.

To cap all this off the house has a rich musical heritage. It was the home of JC Talty, who played pipes and flute with the Tulla Ceili Band for 35 years, until his death in 2006. He was mates with Willie Clancy, Paddy Canny and Leo Rowsome among others. It is inspiring to think that these guys may well have played music in this house. It was also a favourite place for his niece Brid O’Donoghue the well-known Miltown whistler who came here after school regularly to learn her craft from her uncle.

As I said the place has many moods. I have tried to capture this with some of these photos from my first month here.

I will soon get to posting some of my thoughts and adventures from a truly wonderful summer.

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Categories: My Journey, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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