The Wild Atlantic Way

Baltimore

It felt so good to return to West Cork again for a few days, staying in my favourite spot the fishing village of Baltimore.  It does the heart and spirit good to watch the waves and the sea and visit some of my favourite places Crookhaven, Schull , Castletownshend and Clonakilty.

This time visiting Glengarriff we took the Blue Ferry over to the almost tropical Garnish Island, with its beautiful gardens. It is such a stunning place to walk around and enjoy. 

I dropped in to the Skibbereen Heritage Centre to say ‘hello’ and was delighted to hear that since it reopened so many Irish visitors have crossed its doors, all keen to discover more about the past.   

Skibbereen Heritage Centre

I also visited Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub, the digital centre where they very kindly assisted me with the technical support I needed to take part in the launch of The National Famine Way Passport.

The Passport is for walkers or cyclists that follow the trail along the Royal Canal from Roscommon to Dublin following in the footsteps of the 1,490 tenants that were evicted from Strokestown Park House during the Great Irish Famine in 1847 and made walk all the way to Dublin to board ships that would transport them to Liverpool and Quebec in Canada.  I have written about one of those tenants – young Daniel Thighe for the National Famine Way App. Plinths with children’s bronze shoes mark the way – a reminder of all those that needed  shoes issued to them to enable them to walk.

West Cork has its own famine trails and memories and rich heritage, perhaps that is why I am so drawn to it. 

Garnish Island

Yeat’s Country

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Rosses Point

I am just back from a lovely visit to Yeat’s Country in Sligo, a part of Ireland that I had only visited briefly before. This time I was staying in Rosses Point, a place where poet William Butler Yeats and his artist brother Jack and family spent many happy holidays when they were younger. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way the views of sea, sky and mountains are absolutely breath taking and you can immediately recognise their influence on these two artists and their work.

‘ Elsinore’, the fine house where they stayed with their mother’s relations  is only a ruin now but sits overlooking the  expanse of water with  its lighthouse and Metal Man, a  place where tides and time seem to blend, only a minute or two from two golden beaches. There is a beautiful walk that takes you along the path that the Yeat’s family must have passed so often.

In Sligo itself I visited the wonderful Yeat’s Society Building , right near the river, which has a really interesting display about William Butler Yeats and his life and family and work and their links with Sligo.  For anyone with an interest in the poet… a definite must. It also has small display of some of his brother’s art work too.

Sculpture of W. B. Yeats  and Yeats Society, Sligo

We then headed out to Drumcliff, the place where Yeats wanted to be buried in the graveyard of St Columba’s, the church where his Great grandfather had been a rector.  It is such a peaceful and spiritual spot, and the poet and his wife’s grave rests under the shadow of Ben Bulben which was his express wish. He wanted no fuss and for his body to be brought home a year after he died in France for burial in Sligo but unfortunately World War 11 intervened.It would be a few years later in 1948 before Sean Mac Bride, the son of Maud Gonne, helped to make the arrangements for the return of the much loved poet’s remains to his final resting place in Sligo.

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Ben Bulben Mountain is so much a part of Sligo that no matter which direction you seem to travel in you are conscious of its gentle presence just as with Table Mountain in Capetown.

As you travel round Sligo, you soon realize just how much Yeat’s words capture the very nature, spirit and beauty of this very magical place.

                          Fairies come take me out of this dull world,

                          for I would ride with you upon the wind .

                         Run on top of the disheveled tide.

                        and dance upon the mountains like a flame.

The Land of Heart’s Desire- W.B. Yeats

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Yeats resting place in the shadow of Ben Bulben

 

                 

 

 

 

National Famine Commemoration 2020

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National Famine Commemoration 2020

This year’s National Famine Commemoration was held in a very peaceful St Stephen’s Green in Dublin instead of the planned much larger scale commemoration in Donegal. Like so many other special events across the country with Covid 19 constrictions the annual commemoration had to be changed and instead took place in Dublin.

However watching Josepha Madigan T.D., Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee speak in front of sculptor Edward Delaney’s famine figures, she perfectly captured the resonance between past and present during this public health emergency.

This was a quiet and dignified commemoration and I found it a moving reminder of famine times.  Just as all funerals are currently limited to only a few mourners, only a small handful of people attended the commemoration.

The Minister spoke of those who in trying times both now and then have come to the aid of their fellow man. The unselfish care provided by nurses and doctors to those stricken with fever during the Great Famine, with the same unwavering qualities of care and commitment to others being shown by healthcare staff today as they help the sick.

I was really pleased as talking about Famine Heroes she gave a great mention to Doctor Dan Donovan of Skibbereen, a man who is very much one of my heroes and played such an important part in my new  book

The Minister quoted from Ireland’s great female poet, Eavan Boland’s poem ‘Quarantine’, which is set during Ireland’s Great Hunger, where a man lifts his weak and dying wife onto his back and carries her. The recently deceased poets’ words speaking of man’s ability to help those in need of lifting during troubled times.

In 2021 the National Famine Commemoration will take place in Buncrana in Donegal.

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 Edward Delaney’s Famine Memorial – 1967,  St Stephens Green, Dublin