Tag Archives: Bealtaine

A Good Read: The House on an Irish Hillside

One of the silver linings in the cloud of a very un-festive flu is the extended reading time available to make an impression on the reading list. With its large readable format and easy prose, fitting the bill perfectly for propped-up- in- bed reading is Felicity Hayes McCoy’s ‘The House on an Irish Hillside.

This book is a true love story between Felicity and the spectacularly beautiful  Dingle Peninsula. From the day of her arrival  as a student of Irish at the age of 17, the magic of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, in the south-west of Ireland filtered into her heart and mind down the years, the incessant ‘pull’  culminating in herself and her English husband buying Tí Neillí Mhuiris – (The house of Nellie, daughter of Muris), a house built from stones picked from the fields and remembered with affection for its once smoke-filled kitchen.

Dingle_peninsula_panorama_crop

Anyone who has ever crossed  the magical Connor Pass, and dropped down into the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula has experienced the unique sense of this place. Few who visit here are not enchanted by the  fabulous scenery, the friendly people, the history, the cultural tradition and  the wonderful food.

Dingle Peninsula

Patchwork of fields on the slopes above Coumeenoole Strand at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula ( Image Wiki commons)

Felicity’s book is beautifully written – flowing along with perfectly chosen words  building  the word pictures that pervade  every page. We are enticed by the ‘polished pewter waves’ and ‘rain-washed mornings with skies like mother of pearl’ and ‘waves shimmering emerald, turquoise and jade’. Dingle is a place that challenges those who wish to describe it, for we simply do not have the vocabulary.  My two abiding images are of red hens pecking at watercress and girls cycling to dances with their high heels slung around their necks! It was at this level that Felicity’s writing appealed to me so very much, but there is more.

gold boat Celtic hoard

The Gold Boat in the National Museum of Ireland, dates from the 1st Century and thought to have been an offering to the God Manannan Mac Lir (Image National Museum)

Felicity has an extensive knowledge and regard for Irish myth and local folklore and these together with the beauty of the place are the ‘weft ‘ on which she weaves a beautiful tapestry of stories of  her love affair with Dingle’s people and places. Manannán Mac Lir, the Celtic God of the Sea , Mrs Hurley, Danú the Fertility Goddess, Kath the London neighbour; Spot the neighbour’s dog and the Sun God Lugh – all woven  together to deepen the understanding of this place. On these pages you will find present day relevance of Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain, the great festivals and turning points in the Celtic year; you will join in on dancing in the kitchen and music  by the fireside, celebrate Nollag na mBan and the ‘Wran’ boys.  The mythology, the folk-tales  the music, song and dance, the living friends and neighbours and the simplicity of things that matter to them, together with the memory of the dead,some of whom died  before the author came to live here and  some of whose coffins she followed, is all intertwined into a wonderful tribute to all that is Dingle.

This book will I believe,  appeal to anyone who has visited Dingle and has been smitten by it and who keeps going back.  It will also appeal to people with Irish roots, who have never stood on these shores as it will give them a sense of what it is to be Irish, what it is to be tied into the traditions and myths of our heritage and how these things impact on everyday life .  I heartily recommend it as an excellent read.

HuseFHMcC

The House on an Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes-McCoy is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in all good book shops and online.

Felicity Hayes -McCoy website

Felicity’s blog 

Dingle Tourism

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January 5, 2013 · 6:06 pm

Bealtaine:Celebrating change,celebrating age

Bealtaine is almost upon us again here in Ireland. With lengthening days, the last of the trees are allowing their lime green leaves to unfurl and the wind has made beautiful pink swirling carpets of cherry blossom petals on the  footpaths to cheer our still chilly mornings. The pink-tinged buds of the magnificent white hawthorn blossom are swelling and  the great swathe of gorse on the top of the hill behind my house is beginning to show promise of the sulphur yellow spectacle to come when it opens its tens of thousands of  flowers to the warmth of the sun. Together they will create the awesome spectacle that is Ireland in the month of May.

The entire top of this hill will be aglow with millions of sulphur yellow blossoms in a few days time.

Bealtaine (the Irish word for May) is the time of the ancient Festival of Bealtaine, an ancient fire festival heralding the transition between the seasons. Bealtaine heralds change – an appropriate time then for the internationally acclaimed Bealtaine Festival in Ireland celebrating and enjoying the talents  of older people.

A year ago I wrote about this joyful  celebration here and how it has been emulated in other countries.  Over 120,000 Irish people took part in this celebration of age last year.  2012 is European year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations so this year the focus will be on bringing generations together to explore the question : What kind of old do you want to be ?  On May 8 – 10th a major global conference will take place in Dublin with the theme of ‘ Creating  New Old’.

The  Bealtaine  Festival is spearheaded by Age and Opportunity  –  a non-profit organization working to promote participation by older people in various aspects of society, with the Bealtaine Festival concentrating  on greater participation by older people in the arts.  Libraries, museums, theatres, cinemas, active retirement groups , care centres, beaches, and woods will resound to sounds of the celebration of being older during this wonderful month of change in Ireland. A list of events taking place in all counties of Ireland can be seen here .

References

Age and Opportunity

Bealtaine

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Loneliness, Older Generation, Retirement Age, Seniors

Bealtaine: Pushing the boat out

Surely May is the most fabulous of all months in the Irish countryside! The snow-white Blackthorn flowers give way to the blossom laden arching branches of the Hawthorn, or May blossom. Often alongside is to be found the vibrant yellow of whins, or gorse, and together they make the most beautiful spectacle in the Irish countryside as they light up miles and miles of hedgerows. The Irish word for May is ‘Bealtaine’ (pronounced Baal-tin-a) which means ‘Bright Fire’. How appropriate then that May was chosen as the month to celebrate the creativity of older age, with the annual month-long Bealtaine Festival taking place across all of Ireland.

Now in its 16th year, the Bealtaine Festival  happens in Art centres, museums, libraries, theatres, Active Retirement Groups, community clubs, care centres, even beaches! Anyplace where the talents of older people, whether professionals or first timers, can be showcased.The ethos is one of celebration, empowerment, fun and confidence-building by the participants, whether as performers, organizers or audiences. In 2010, over 100,000 people participated in the event. This cultural innovation is unrivalled anywhere else in the world, but other countries are establishing similar festivals modelled on Ireland’s success, in Germany, Scotland and Wales, for example.

Bealtaine is spearheaded by the Age & Opportunity organization and part funded by the Arts Council. Age & Opportunity is a non-profit organization working to promote participation by older people in various aspects of society. The Bealtaine Festival, one of its major initiatives,  concentrates on greater participation by older people in the arts.  With a theme for 2011 of  ‘Push the boat out, whatever the sea’ (a line from the poem ‘At Eighty’, by Edwin Morgan) there are hundreds of events taking place all over Ireland. A Festival Programme is available here .

The Bealtaine Festival was independently evaluated by the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at University College Galway. Their study revealed that participation or attendance at events had positive effects on well-being and morale as well as self-esteem and self-confidence. Social connections were improved as new relationships were formed. Over 86% of participants said it improved their quality of life. This research underpins the value to society of a programme for involvement of older people  in the arts, especially as the age profile of our population increases.  It follows that it also underpins the wonderful work being undertaken by Age & Opportunity, work that is worthy of  the support of all of us.

References

Age & Opportunity

Bealtaine Festival

Poem  At Eighty

Evaluation of Bealtaine Festival Report 

Irish Centre for Social Gerontology 

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Filed under Ageism, Ireland, Irish Traditions, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Networking