Skellig Peek

A Trinity of Skellig Images

Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.

Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.

Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.

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Skelligs from Valentia Island
I was here perched on a cliff of Valentia Island across from Portmagee looking southwest across Valentia Sound.

The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.

We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.

In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.

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Skellig Steps
Climbing the side of Skellig Michael, approach to the peak and monastery.

There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery.  I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds.  There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.

From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea).  Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights.  Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean.  Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other.  Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.

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Monk Cell
Monk Cell, Grave and Cross

This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting.  The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter.  Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry.  The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.

My closing advice is to plan your time wisely.  The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore.  There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves.  There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely.  People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do.  Make your personal safety a priority.

Click for another Ireland Posting, “On the River Cong.”

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Framed Convex Mirror, Killarney Royal Hotel

The morning of our day on the Dingle Peninsula I left the room early, my Sony Alpha 700 in hand, while Pam finished her preparations.  The elevator deposited me in the lobby and I proceeded to capture images of the Killarney Royal Hotel, our base for three nights.

This marvelous “antique” mirror caught my eye. We are used to seeing convex mirrors in the upper corners of elevators, strategically located at hallway junctions, automated teller machines and parking garages all with the intention of providing a wide, fisheye, view to detect unsavory, lurking types and danger.

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Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

This spotless, framed convex mirror is from a older, saner time.  Such objects came in use from the 1400’s (15th century). When all glass was blown, a convex surface was easier to produce than a flat and, since all glass was expensive to produce, a convex mirror was a popular luxury item, an expensively framed status symbol.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

As the mirrors were an element of elite surroundings, art came to include them as objects in the midground, the surface reflecting back to the viewer a different viewpoint. An opportunity for an artist to demonstrate virtuosity. Examples are Jan van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Portrait” and the left wing of the Werl Triptych by Robert Campin.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

Known as the “sorcerer’s eye” from the all encompassing view and, in keeping with our modern uses, even back then also called a”banker’s eye.”  Symbolically, the 15th century paintings used a pristine mirror to represent the Immaculate Conception.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

The five images here are the final result of trial and error, working out the details of using a flash in the relatively low light of the morning lobby, avoiding my reflection, maintaining a sharp focus throughout the field, capturing the unique details of the frame without distortion and the mirror’s wide angle view.  I gave up on the flash and, instead, did this series at f5.6 and the ISO incremented 800 to 3,200. As such, the exposure ranged from 1/5 to 1/25 of a second. All shots were handheld.

Framed Convex Mirror– CLICK ME!!!!

I hope you enjoy the results. This was a promising start to our memorable day of exploration.

Here’s the next installment of our Dingle Exploration….

Here’s a previous Ireland posting…..

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Hag’s Chair or Mass Rock?

Ancient Tradition

Part of our day in County Meath, Ireland  
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Known as the Hag’s Chair in some contexts, K29 or the Mass Rock, in others, set as a Cairn T, Loughcrew kerbstone thousands of years ago the carved symbols on front, rear and seat are very worn. There is no surviving record to inform us of the stone’s purpose. The upper side appears carved to enhance the form as chair.   Set to the north of Cairn T, not in front of the entrance as with Newgrange, even this is a mystery.  It is the third largest curbstone.

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The popular name refers to the hill itself, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí).   In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel to ours.

Tradition holds that, during times of the Penal Laws, Catholics gathers on for Mass using this curbstone as the altar.   By this it is known as the Mass Rock.

Click for another Ireland posting

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec

during the Great HUNGER, from the Cobh Heritage Center

“Grosse Isle quarantine station was on an island near Quebec in what is now Canada. It was one of the principal arrival ports for emigrants.

Emigration peaked in 1847 when nearly 100,000 Irish landed at Grosse Isle, straining the resources to breaking poinit. Severe overcrowding and an outbreak of typhus caused enormous suffering the the result was a large number of deaths amongst both immigrants and doctors.

New stricter laws were passed to encure that the catastrophe of 1847 was not repeated. Irish emigrant traffic increasingly flowed towards the United State inthe post-Famine period”. From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

In that horrible year of 1847, strict quarantine could not be enforced and many passengers, some carrying disease, were taken directly to Montreal or Quebec city. At least 5,000 died on Grosse Isle in 1847 and thousands more in Quebec, Montreal and during the voyage across the Atlantic.

The unprecedented crisis made it difficult for accurate records to be kept. Some lists were compiled giving details of the possessions of those who died. These lists make sombre reading as they describe the personal belongings of Irish men and women whose hopes of a new life in North America were never fulfilled.

The objects in this showcase provide an representation of the possessions of famine emigrants. From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

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Assistance from America

during the Great HUNGER, from the Cobh Heritage Center

“The U.S.S Jamestown was the first ship to bring famine relief supplies to Ireland in 1847. Other vessels followed, notably the Macedonian which arrived in Cork July 1847. Captained by George C. DeKay of New Jersey, it carried supplies provided by the citizens of New York, Boston, Main and other parts of the United States. Captain DeKay was warmly welcomed in Cord and special events were held in his honor. Most of the cargo was distributed in Ireland, with some being brought to Scotland to relieve distress there. Other smaller supplies of famine relief goods were sent to Cork from the United States. In April the bark Tartar sailed to Cork with in late June the Reliance left Boston, also destined for Cork. Each carried nearly $30,000 worth of goods for famine relief. From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

United States frigate Constellation with relief stores for Irish distress off Haulbownline in Cork Harbor.

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Peel’s Brimstone

during the Great HUNGER, from the Cobh Heritage Center

“In November 1845 the British government set up a Relief Commission for Ireland which imported Indian corn and meal from the United States. This arrived in Cork early in 1846 and was distributed around the country where local food depots and relief committees were established. Indian corn (maize) was not grown in Ireland and was an unfamiliar food. It was difficult to grind and in some areas was known as “Peel’s brimstone,” after the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Special leaflets were issued to describe how to cook maize.” From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

Instructions for how to cook maize. In the west of Ireland many people spoke Irish.

“On Saturday last, the Government Sales of Indian Corn commenced in Cork. Immediately on the depoys being opened, the crowds of poor persons who gathered round them were so turbulently inclined as to require the immediate interference of the police, who remained throughout the day.

Among the poor, who were of the humblest description, and needing charitable relief, the sales were but scanty. The occasion had become of necessity; for potatoes had risen to 11d. the market price for 14 pounds; and, some of the leading commercial men in Cork have made a calculation, which show that the Government can afford to sell the Indian Corn at a much cheaper rate.

We feel gratified to learn that a steamer has been dispatched from Cork to Dublin, laden with 600 sacks of Indian meal.

One half, by the orders, is to be dispatched by the Royal, and the other by the Grand Canal, to the interior. It must be acknowledged that her Majesty’s Government are executing their dury promptly and with energy. from the Illustrated London News, April 4, 1846″. ~ from the exhibit, Cobh Heritage Center.

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An Gorta Mor

The Great Famine

Hunger and desperation forced thousands into the overcrowded workhouses and put enormous pressure on relief schemes which attempted to alleviate the distress. Over three quarters of a million people died during the Famine, mainly from diseases such as cholera. Between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people emigrated from Ireland. ~from poster “The Famine” Cobh Heritage Center, May 2014.

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Irish Emigrant Experiences

Cobh Heritage Center

Continuing from the “Queenstown Glamor” of the SS Servia these are exhibits of what it was like to emigrate from Ireland in the 19th century.

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Loughan Bay Ruins, County Antrim

Deserted Cottages above the Irish Sea

We pulled off the side of Torr Road for this fine view on the way to Torr Head to take in this view of the Irish Sea.  The steeply rising distant headland is the Mull of Kintyre. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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We parked on a turnout above the Loughan Cottages, near this farmer’s sheep pen.  He drove up in a huge tractor and conversed with Pam while I was below shooting the cottages. He made a good impression.

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Roofless walls of a cottage more substantial than the other deserted ruins above Loughan Bay, with two fireplaces a walled porch with a view. A number of outbuilding foundations lay around. The integrity of the walls, chimneys and gables speaks to the quality of construction. A freighter in the North Channel of the Irish Sea is visible in the distance above the upper ridge. Beyond is the island of Islay, Scotland, about 30 miles distant. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

I am happy to report a series of thirteen (13) photographs of these ruins were accepted for publication by Getty.  You can click any of the photographs in this posting for my Getty portfolio.

Loughan Cottages Ruins above Crockan Point – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

The land slopes steeply to a rocky beach.

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A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 13 miles across the North Channel of the Irish Sea.  The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable.  A landform named Alisa Crag is just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable. 

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Interested in learning more about this site?  I have a series of postings on Loughan Bay.  Click for the first posting in this series.

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Queenstown Glamor

Cobh Heritage Center

Nothing so grand as the SS (or HMS) Servia carried my ancestors from Ireland to America. This ship model, created for the 1992 film “Far and Away” is on display within Cobh Heritage Center. Said by some to be the first true transatlantic ocean liner. Launched in 1881 as luxury transportation by the Cunard Line of today’s Queen Mary. Last year, we enjoyed the arrival of Cunard’s Queen Victoria to Cape Canaveral. (Click the link for my blog of the event, one of the last cruise ships to sale during the pandemic of 2020).

It is notable the model played a small role in the film, yet is an incredible accomplishment. By the way, from 1849 to 1920 Cobh was known as “Queenstown” in honor of a visit by Queen Victoria. The Irish Free State returned the name to the original.

References

SS Servia – Wikipedia

Far and Away – Wikipedia

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