My 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!
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
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)
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.
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!