Coffee with Culture in Cork

 

imageI dropped into the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork this morning for coffee. This was my first visit to this really impressive space, housed in the former Custom House dating from 1724 with later additions.

There are permanent collections of art and sculpture from the 16th to the 21st century, including  works by well-known Irish artists such as Le Brocquy, Ireland’s well-known stained glass artist Harry Clarke as well as Cork’s own master sculptor Seamus Murphy. With a half hour to spare I took a whistle-stop tour of just a few of the rooms.

The staircase

The staircase

On the staircase too..

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A contemporary stained glass window

From the Harry Clarke room

And Le Brocquey

Le Brocquey' s distinctive style

Le Brocquey’ s distinctive style – there are three of his works here

The highlight for me today was the Sculpture room, containing among others, Canova (1757 – 1822) casts from the Vatican –  beautiful works of human anatomy made under the supervision of one of Italy’s finest sculptors. These casts of classical sculptures in the Vatican had been made by order of Pope Pius VII, to be presented to the Prince Regent of England (later King George IV) in gratitude for his help in the return of treasures looted by Napoleon. The Prince Regent was apparently  underwhelmed by this gift, not least because of their size and number. They arrived at the London Custom House in the early 19th century and were then housed in a tent before eventually arriving in Cork, a move facilitated by Lord Listowel, then president of  Cork Society of Arts.

I was delighted to see in the midst of all this beautiful classical work, an exhibit from Cork’s own stonemason extraordinaire,Séamus Murphy.

Seamus Murphy

Seamus Murphy’s Virgin of the Twilight.

The Crawford Gallery owes much to its benefactor, who invested well around Cork

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The Crawford Gallery is a place that invites visit after visit after visit, and  guarantees new delights at each return. Anyone for coffee?

 

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Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – Fabulous Fanad

Fanad is a peninsula in north Donegal in the northwest of Ireland, lying between the peninsulas of Inishowen and Rosguill, the latter of which is ‘home’ to me. It is where I was brought up, made friends, was schooled and where my family rest. We had many cousins in the Fanad peninsula, just a short drive away. This is where our paternal grandmother was born and grew up. I never knew her, but I did know her extended family, her nieces and nephews. It is always wonderful to return to Fanad; a trip ‘home’ is never complete without a visit to Fanad, first to our grandmother’s grave and then on to Fanad Head and back along the scenic Glenalla Road with spectacular views of Lough Swilly.

A bridge links Rosguill and Fanad peninsulas

A bridge links Rosguill and Fanad peninsulas

In recent years a new bridge across the Mulroy has been opened between the Rosguill and Fanad peninsulas. It is my personal belief that by using the bridge and not driving along Mulroy Bay visitors miss out on much of the beauty of the area. A trip along the Mulroy Loop is well worth the extra short drive of about 30 minutes of beautiful scenery.

Kindrum . This is a memorial to Fanad men who assassinated the tyrannical landlord, the 3rd Earl of Leitrim

Kindrum. This is a memorial to Fanad men who assassinated the tyrannical landlord, the 3rd Earl of Leitrim, in 1878.

Just a few minutes away on the shores of Mulroy Bay is Massmount Church and graveyard. Immediately inside the gate is our family grave, and a visit here was always the starting point for Fanad visits.

My grandmother and great grandparents are in the grave seen here to the right. My grandmother's sister, my great aunt is in the grave behind and slightly to the left with the white headstone.

The Celtic Cross on the right beside the shrub is the headstone on the grave of our great grandparents,our grandmother and her sister and brother. Another sister rests in the grave behind and slightly to the left with the white headstone.

The tranquil waters of Mulroy Bay reflect the mood of the weather.

Further along the road and easily missed is a field with some markers where unidentified bodies are buried. Many of them were casualties of  war, washed up along this wild coast over the years. It would be nice to see some sort of simple memorial to them.

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Graves of the unknown, washed up on Fanad shores.

And so it happens. You round a corner and up a hill, and there it is before you – Fanad  Head lighthouse, looking magnificent even on the dullest of days.

Fanad Head - The first glimpse

Fanad Head – The first glimpse.

As with all key places along the Wild Atlantic Way, there is a sign to confirm that you have arrived!

Fanad Head Lighthouse

Fanad Head Lighthouse. First  lit in March 1817

It is billed as one of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses. That’s as may be, but is has a very special place in my heart and that of my family. For many years the husband of my father’s first cousin was the Principal Keeper at Fanad Head and we enjoyed Sunday visits aplenty.

Fanad Head  Lighthouse has recently been opened to the public, so it was with a particularly joyous heart after a gap of about 50 years, that I made my way to buy my ticket and to once again climb the many steps to the top of the lighthouse.

It's a long way to the top

It’s a long way to the top!

 

But worth the climb!

But worth the climb!

While there was no smell of fuel  as I remember it, and the revolving huge lenses have been replaced by more modern technology, it was well worth the challenge to enjoy once again the fabulous if misty views out across Lough Swilly towards Malin Head and back towards Mulroy Bay. On a clearer day it would have been even more breathtaking!

There are interesting artifacts associated with the life of a lightkeeper and my favourite has to be this chest of books, supplied and regularly replenished  by Carnegie Libraries.

imageHeading away towards Portsalon I enjoyed a catch up with a cousin before taking the very spectacular Glenalla Road that runs along the cliffs and shores of Lough Swilly. At Ballymastoker Strand is a memorial to the crew of HMS Saldanha shipwrecked in a storm off Fanad Head on 4 December 1811 with 253 aboard. It is thought she went aground on rocks when attempting to make for shelter in Lough Swilly. There were no survivors and for weeks afterwards some 200 or so bodies were washed up on the strand. Some months later a bird was shot about 20 miles away and it turned out to be the ships parrot with a silver collar engraved ”Captain Packenham of His Majesty’s Ship Saldanha”. (Packenham was a brother in -law  to the Duke of Wellington of Waterloo fame). I wonder what happened to the collar!  As a direct result of the loss of the Saldanha plans were drawn up to build a lighthouse at Fanad Head, which was turned on in March 1817.

Dunree Fort guarded the deep safe anchorage of Lough Swilly up until 1938 when the British Navy left

Dunree Fort guarded the deep safe anchorage of Lough Swilly up until 1938 when the British Navy left

Rathmullan  was my next stop, with its beautiful sandy beach. An annual Regatta used be held here – and probably still is.

Rathmullan has a special place in the history of Ireland as it was from here that the Flight of the Earls took place in 1607. This marked a turning point in Irish history as the Chieftains of some of the leading Gaelic families of Ulster, including the O’Donnells and the O’Neills, left Ireland to seek refuge in Spain, following their defeat by the English at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.  There is a fabulous sculpture by John Behan on the shorefront in Rathmullan commemorating the departure of the chieftains.  I just love it as it depicts loss, horror, pain and grief in a powerful way.

As evening approached the weather cleared up and I was sorely tempted to retrace my steps and to enjoy the scenery that was denied me by the mist over the past two days, but I had to head on, knowing that I would discover more wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way in Inishowen and that I will be back in fabulous Fanad!

During my 18 day trip I stayed in two particularly wonderful Bed & Breakfasts..of 5 star standard. One of these was Bunlin Bay House on Mulroy Bay – a perfect touring base for both the Fanad and Rosguill Peninsulas. Heartily recommended!

 

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Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – the mighty Slieve League Cliffs.

This is the 4th post from my almost 3,000 kilometer trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. I have now crossed the border into my home county of Donegal in the north-west of Ireland. To my absolute shame, I had never visited one of Ireland’s premier attractions, the magnificent cliffs at Slieve League in the south west corner of the county. On the day of my visit, the car temperature gauge was showing 32 degrees C, almost unheard of in Ireland. It was also flat calm without a breeze high up there on the cliffs, which meant there was nothing ‘Wild’ about the Atlantic  below. For all that it was a most amazing experience to be up there on some of Europe’s highest cliffs, on the edge of the world. No commentary is needed on the photos, which I hope you will enjoy!

 

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Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – Sligo poetry, scenery,history

imageMy wanders northwards along the Wild Atlantic Way continued into County Sligo. There is something about Sligo that I cannot quite describe. Ben Bulbin in the Dartry Mountain range with its distinctive plateau, has for decades intrigued me as it changes mood and profile almost with every mile. Over the years when making my way from my home in Limerick to my former home in Donegal, there was always a compulsory stop in Drumcliffe, Sligo to visit the resting place of one of our greatest poets, W.B.Yeats. On this trip however, I am not just passing through, I am here to explore places that have long since beckoned and beguiled me.

And so I took a right hand turn and followed the signs for Glencar, a place I know only from the Yeats poem, ‘A Stolen Child’.

Glencar straddles the border between Counties Sligo and Leitrim, and the lake did not disappoint! I half expected dozens of swan, but saw only two! The waterfall that falls from the side of Ben Bulbin into the lake below was a delight. I felt that I had ‘arrived’ – and why wouldn’t I, given that it inspired one of Ireland’s most famous poems – The Stolen Child.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. 

Onwards then to Drumcliffe, where there is a fine bronze and limestone depiction of one of my favourite Yeats poems: ‘He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’. This is a personal favourite, although the monument is difficult to photograph!

drumcliffe cloths of heaven

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Under Ben Bulbin

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

And here is that very ancient cross

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Drumcliffe High Cross possibly dating from 11th Century, in the grounds of a former abbey.

Nearby is the early 19th Century Lissadell House, sitting on the shores of Sligo Bay. Yeats was a regular visitor here, then the home of  Gore-Booth, the 5th Baronet of Sligo. One of his daughters, Constance Gore-Booth, who with her sister etched her initials into the glass of a living-room window with a diamond ring, became the first female elected representative to Parliament at Westminster and later to Dail Eireann. Constance, who later became Countess Markievicz, poet, painter, suffragette, nationalist and patriot is commemorated here.

Her role in the rebellion of 1916 is proudly symbolized by the flying of the Irish tricolour alongside the house ..a fact that would have riled her family who did not use the ‘C’ word! (‘C’ being for Constance)

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The Irish Tricolour flying at Lissadell House.

And so to Mullaghmore, that sparkles there on the vast expanse of Donegal Bay. On the evening of my visit there was country and western singing and dancing on the pier between the showers!  In the hinterland behind Mullaghmore is Classiebawn Castle, summer home for many years of Louis Mountbatten, inherited by his wife Edwina.

Classiebawn

Classiebawn Castle

Mountbatten was related to Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip. The extended family were regular visitors to the area and were very well liked. On a Monday morning in August 1979, thugs of the Irish Republican Army put a bomb on a small fishing boat that carried Mountbatten, his daughter, grandchildren, extended family and a local boy on a family fishing outing. Two young boys aged 14 and 15 were killed, as was Mountbatten, then aged 79 and a female relative in her 80s. Two elderly people and two children were dead, with others suffering horrible injuries.

I loved this famine memorial at Mullaghmore because of the location with Classiebawn in the background.

Another sunset to end another wonderful day along the Wild Atlantic Way!

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Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – A detour via Swinford

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The Museum of Country Life Turlough Park Co. Mayo

After Westport I headed inland to the small town of Swinford, calling into Turlough Park, where the National Museum of Ireland houses its Folklife collection.

Nearby is Turlough Abbey supposedly dating from the mid 5th century. It is in a wonderful location on a hill with great views all around. There are some very interesting carvings in the walls.  You certainly are aware that you in are in a very ancient place.

So on to Swinford,where our great-grandmother lived the final years of her life at the railway Station House. I was surprised that this lovely little town looked so run down with many closed and boarded up premises. I was reminded of the journalist, the late John Healy who wrote about the deprivation of rural areas in his book No One Shouted Stop (The Death of an Irish Town), published 1968. Not much has changed in the intervening decades. At the top of the street is a very poignant sculpture of a woman and child dedicated to the women who remained home while their men sought work abroad in the 1950s.

On the cut stone railway bridge there is a plaque commemorating the arrival and closure of the railway station and the thousands who travelled on it.

The Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians, Swinford – I wonder if our  great-grandmother would have climbed these steps every Sunday

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Just a  short drive from Swinford is Pontoon. I had long wanted to visit this place as I had heard it was a place of great beauty. And so it is, a place where two lakes – Lough Conn and Lough Cullin meet, with great trout fly fishing.  The two loughs meet under the bridge. The village was once a popular place for dances, and now sadly the hotel has closed down.

This is a beautiful unspoilt part of County Mayo, and well worth a slight detour to enjoy a different type of countryside, with lakes and rivers. County Mayo is sparsely populated which adds to its charm. I will return to the county to explore its great Wild Atlantic Way on my return journey ..and that will be a post not to be missed!

 

 

 

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Postcards from the Wild Atlantic Way – Westport Co Mayo

At the beginning of June I headed off on a road trip of almost 3,000 kilometers mostly along the now world-famous Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way is a touring route that runs along the north, west and south coasts of Ireland from Muff in Inishowen in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork. It has been a long-held dream to travel these coastal routes ages before it was branded the Wild Atlantic Way. I had two aims for this trip – to seek out the Wild Atlantic Way and to trace some family history.

My adventure began in Westport Co. Mayo, situated on Clew Bay on the west coast. I think I may well have been the only person in Ireland who had not visited Westport, one of our premier tourist towns that has recently been voted the best place to live in Ireland. Crammed with shops, restaurants, wonderful views and riverside walks, it truly is a wonderful place to visit. This was my first port of call as it was here that our grandfather was born, when his father-our  great grandfather worked at the local railway station. My visit was long overdue!

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The town has several busy streets that converge at the octagon, where there is a statue of St Patrick high up on a plinth. I particularly like this statue of St Patrick as he is not in the usual 18th Century church regalia – and why should he be, given that he was about the place in the mid 5th Century!  Patrick was not always there however as the monument was originally raised in honour of a local man, George Clendenning (1770-1843). During the Irish civil war, the Irish Free State troops used the statue for target practice and the head was shot off. In 1990 Clendenning was replaced by St Patrick and this is a very handsome focal point  in the town.

Westport is the gateway to Croagh Patrick, a pilgrim mountain associated with St Patrick that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

imageI love this shot with the old-fashioned telephone box and the well populated sign post, while just across the road is this very colourful shop selling everything you might need for a really happy holiday!

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The Carrowbeg River flows gently through the town, with lovely malls on either bank.

This is the very beautiful Church of Ireland church of the Holy Trinity which dates from about 1868. The intricate stone carving is the work of Charles Harrison and inside is a magnificent pulpit.

Just down the road is the mighty Reek, or Croagh (pronounced Croke) Patrick, rising 764 metres. Pilgrims of all ages make their way up the steep slope, often barefoot and not put off by weather. The annual pilgrimage takes place on Reek Sunday, which is on the last Sunday in July.

imageHere too is Ireland’s National Famine memorial, entitled ‘Coffin Ship’, a haunting bronze sculpture of a ship with skeletons as the rigging.

The Monument is at the base of Croagh Patrick and on the edge of Clew Bay

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Further along the road is the very popular Old Head, a favourite bathing spot.

I enjoyed an evening walk along the shore at the ruins of the Murrisk Friary founded in 1457.

And later watched the sun set into the west on what was a fabulous first day along the Wild Atlantic Way!

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Postcards from Glenbower Wood, Killeagh, Co Cork

My ‘Postcards from’ series comes from villages or towns that I have visited. Now however, I want to make an exception, and send you Postcards not from a town or village, but from a wood in Ireland. Not just any wood, but a very special wood in her Springtime attire and with the sun casting dappled shadows through the emerging canopy of delicate new leaves. I hope you enjoy!

imageGlenbower Wood is situated behind the village of Killeagh, on the Cork – Waterford Road, in East Cork.  It gets its name from  the Irish “gleann-bodhar” or “Deafening Glen” from the noise the river  Dissour makes when rushing headlong in winter through the valley. I prefer the notion that the name is derived from the beautiful English word ‘bower’ meaning  ‘a pleasant  shady place under trees or climbing plants in a garden or wood’. Or perhaps it is both? Come join me in a springtime stroll in this beautiful place! The pictures speak for themselves.

Glenbower Wood has many species. The mostly deciduous native woodland  trees allow the light to reach the woodland floor in spring and early summer, giving a rich tapestry of beautiful plants.

Oxalis, violets, fern and wild garlic abound!

The paths wind along the river, from light into shade.

There is a very nice stand of  Redwoods,trees that are native to California. These were planted by the owners, the DeCapell family who lived here for about 7 centuries.

One of my favourite features is a little alcove on the bridge where musicians sat to entertain visitors perambulating through the woods. The ground level is higher nowadays, so it was a neat little nook to sit in.

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The real treat for me in early spring is in looking up at the delicate canopy of emerging leaves, that makes the sun dance along the woodland floor.

Woodlands are special places and here in East Cork we are blessed with a number of very special ones. I am reminded of the poem by Patience Strong, Woodland Cathedral.  This could have been penned about Glenbower Wood!

Go into the woodland
if you seek peace of mind–
As this time when Nature’s mood
is gentle, quiet and kind,
When soft winds fan the trembling leaves
about the cloistered glade–
And paths go winding deep into the green
and breathless shade.Where nothing breaks the silence
of the warm and fragrant air–
But snatches of sweet melody . . .
and wings that rend and tear–
The stillness of the windless dells
where shallow brooklets flow–
And shadows fleck the water
as the sunbeams come and go.

An unseen Presence walks the woods,
a sense of holy things–
Haunts the dim Cathedral aisles;
and every bird that sings–
Is like some morning chorister,
and every breath of air–
Seems to bring the secret murmur
of a whispered prayer.

Patience Strong

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