The past summer, the first of my retirement, my early morning hours were spent on Ancestry.com researching our family histories to bring this process, started 2013 in preparation for our tour of Ireland, to a point where I can start to consolidate it into a document shared with other family members.
It is a wonderful feeling when the pieces come together. For example the passenger manifest when Grandfather McArdle brought Grandmother and then three year old Mom to Quebec, Canada from the port of Belfast April 1926.
Their belongings are gathered together in just such a manner. My parents marked all my belongings that left the home with me with my name and address.
Our thought were on this when we selected this suitcase marked with the shamrock from a “Christmas Store” along the streets of the Pennsylvania town of Jim Thorpe, as the memory of our ancestors our exploration of Ireland.
This series of posts started with “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home” where we explored the site of great grandfather James McCardle’s Proleek farm. A kilometer from there, at Proleek Dolmen, the ancient portal stones line up to face the plain rising to Slieve Gullion, a name for the mountain taken from the Irish, Sliabh gCuillinn, meaning “mountain of the steep slope” or Sliabh Cuilinn, “Culann’s mountain.”
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There is an connection between Proleek and Slieve Gullion. Cycles of Irish Myth place a boy named Sétanta living on Muirthemne Plain, of which what we call Proleek Townland was a part. One day, the king Conchobar was passing his kingdom, Muirthemne, on the way to a feast on the slopes of Slieve Gullion hosted by the blacksmith Culann when he stopped to watch boys playing hurling, Sétanta among them (it is ironic the Proleek Dolmen is surrounded by a golf course in modern times).
Impressed by the Sétanta’s skill, the king invites him to the feast. Having a game to finish Sétanta promises to follow. As evening falls the boy approaches the smith’s house to find himself attacked by a huge, aggressive dog. Acting in the moment, Sétanta dispatches the dog with the hurley and ball he had at hand, driving the ball down the hound’s throat. (In another version he smashes the hound against a standing stone.)
Feeling Culann mourn the loss of his beloved animal, Sétanta promises to raise and train a guard dog equal to the one he slew. Until that time he also pledged to guard Culann’s home. From that time Sétanta was known as “the hound of Cullann”, Cú Chulainn in Irish.
Wikipedia articles “Slieve Gullion” “Cú Chulainn” and “Conaille Muirtheimne.”
Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
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.
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.
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.
The land slopes steeply to a rocky beach.
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.
Since July 2008 SeaGen produces electricity (1.2 MW) for between 18 and 20 hours a day while the tide is forced in and out of Strangeford Lough through the Narrows where the generator is installed. SeaGen is the first large scale commercial production of electricity from the tide. Located between the Northern Ireland towns of Strangeford and Portaferry, the strength of the tides there were used by the earliest tidal mill known, the Nendrum Monastery mill dating 787 based on archeological excavation.
History records Patrick converted the island of Erin (Ireland) to Christianity in the Fifth Century AD as a return to his place of captivity and slavery.
There is a connection between SeaGen and the return of Patrick to Ireland. The first sanctuary dedicated by Patrick was at Saul, County Down not far from River Quoile that drains into Strangeford Lough. Historians identify Patrick’s first landing site, upon return, as Wicklow where he was forced to leave by the locals. Heading north in the boats of the time, the strong tide of Strangeford Narrows pulled them into the Lough and, from there, headed up the River Quoile to encounter the local chieftain, Díchu mac Trichim. Patrick’s first Irish convert to Christianity, the feast of Saint Dichu is April 29.
On June 7, 2014 Pam and I visited this area. Here are some photographs of the traditional burial place of Saint Patrick.
For the fenced statue of Saint Patrick the reviewed wrote:
Please provide a full description for the work of art featured in this image. Include the artist, date of creation, location, etc. Works of art created by someone other than yourself must be free of copyright protection to be considered. If this work of art is indeed under copyright protection, a property release signed by the copyright holder will need to be provided.
Hmmmm….What I do while capturing a photograph of a statue is take photos of any plaque, sign, whatever to acquire the name of the creator, how it came to be there, community connections. There was nothing around the statue nor the very informative Office of Public Works placards at the entrance. I was proud to submit the statue photograph, as it turned out so well, and hoped for the best.
Last week, I put in a query to Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW), the agency responsible for the Hill of Tara, and did not receive a response when, for other queries, they were helpful. This Saturday and Monday mornings, several hours of internet research revealed this history.
The original statue was placed on Tara sometime after the 1829 Catholic emancipation. It was molded concrete, created by Thomas Curry of Navan at his own expense to honor the connection of Saint Patrick to Tara.
The OPW removed Curry’s statue 1992 for repair of a century of wear. During the removal the statue was damaged beyond repair and, afterwards, was further damaged by vandals who decapitated and used it for target practice.
Initially, the OWP decided not to replace Saint Patrick citing the “pagan” nature of the place. After an angry meeting of local people at the Skryne Parish Hall. In this meeting the local Rathfeigh Historical Society formed the “Committee to Restore St. Patrick to Tara.” In turn, pressure was put on Michael D. Higgins, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (and the OPW). It was decided a new statue was to be created, based on a competition, and instead of it former place at the hill summit (called Rath na Rí), it was to be near the entrance, outside the Interpretative Center, to offer a Céad Míle Fáilte to visitors and be seen on departure.
The outcome was the competition winner was rejected by locals. The winning entry, by sculptor Annette Hennessy, did not follow competition rules that specified the statue incorporate traditional features to include shamrocks, harp, miter, a crozier and, perhaps, fleeing snakes. Hennessy’s design was of a shaven headed teenage boy in a short (“mini-skirt”) kilt, a handbag-shaped bell in hand. She agreed hers was “not a traditional style statue” saying it “acknowledges our Pagan Celtic history.”
The rejection included a statement from Dr. Leo Curran, chairman of the Rathfeigh Historical Society, “We agreed that most of the monuments in Tara are from the pre-Christian era, but St. Patrick should be at the uppermost layer, representing Christian tradition extinguishing paganism.”
By this time, a new government and minister were in place. The decision was made to search Ireland to find a suitable, existing, replacement statue. By 2000 the present statue, donated by the Sisters of Charity, was in place at the Hill of Tara entrance.
At the end of this post I provide the two references from my internet research and from which many facts and all the quotes were used here. I concluded the statue author was anonymous without copyright protection and submitted a revised image description, attaching a copy of my research.
Let’s see what happens to my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara.
Arriving around noon on a Tuesday, Pam and I were greeted at the Hill of Tara for these children, headed to the school bus.
A statue of Saint Patrick fittingly welcomes visitors to the Hill of Tara, County Meath, Ireland. This statue of cast concrete was an existing statue donated by the Sisters of Charity, moved from an existing installation to the Hill of Tara in the year 2000 AD. The creator is anonymous, the is no plaque or other attribution on or around the statue.
The original statue was erected on the summit of the Hill of Tara shortly after Catholic emancipation in 1829, commemorated the events of 433AD when St. Patrick lit a bonfire on the nearby hill of Slane on the eve of Easter Sunday. Slane was the second site we visited on our day of arrival, Saturday, May 24.
Lighting such a fire was contrary to the pagan laws of the time which dictated that the first fire lit that night be in Tara. Observing St. Patrick’s bonfire from afar, the chief druid of the ancient Gaelic capital predicted that if the flame were not extinguished that night, Christianity would never be extinguished in Ireland.
The saint’s bonfire continued burning and the next morning, Easter Sunday, St. Patrick entered Tara to convert the king and his followers to Christianity.
A series of mounds surmounts the hilltop, one is visible across the expanse of grass.
Climbing higher, the view opens.
On the top, views from all cardinal directions, 360 degrees.
The Hill of Slane is visible in the east, the tall cathedral ruin though not visible in this view.
The first of the following panel is a view northwest from looking across County Meath with views of Counties Westmeath and Cavan. On the horizon, right, is Hag’s Mountain, (Irish: Sliabh na Caillí) , site of the Loughcrew Cairns. The standing stone is the “Stone of Destiny: (Irish: Lia Fáil), which served in coronation the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland. It stands on the Inauguration Mound (Irish: an Forrad) of Tara. This photograph was taken the morning of May 27, 2014 hours before the stone was vandalized, doused with green and red paint.
A bit to the east is the Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb.
View northwest from Hill of Tara looking across County Meath with views of Counties Westmeath and Cavan. On the horizon, right, is Hag’s Mountain, (Irish: Sliabh na Caillí) , site of the Loughcrew Cairns. The standing stone is the “Stone of Destiny: (Irish: Lia Fáil), which served in coronation the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland. It stands on the Inauguration Mound (Irish: an Forrad) of Tara. This photograph was taken the morning of May 27, 2014 hours before the stone was vandalized, doused with green and red paint.
On a day in May a tourist walks the outer ring of the Inauguration Mound where the High Kings of Ireland were crowned.
Walk into a glade, through the ancient graveyard to the visitors center in a deconsecrated church.
Browse my reasonably priced stock photography. This blog features three (3) photographs I published last week to Getty Istock and my Fine Art gallery.
With the newest Star Wars cash cow , “The Last Jedi”, bruiting about the media show, now’s time to debut a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014. Skellig scenery also graced the ending of the 2015 installment, “The Force Awakens.”
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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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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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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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.