Tain Way Poetic Finale

A Poem to accompany our arrival at Carlingford

To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.

The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.

A Poem Read To The Congregation

I

a crisis threatened an Irish village
men women children filled the meeting place
everyone participated especially the infants

Ram on Slieve Foy
The Tail Way descends from Goliyn Pass to the northeast, passing among commons grazing. I attempted to identify the breed of this ram, but gave up. I can say sheep on the Cooley Peninsula are primarily bred for meat and there are black faced breeds known for meat production.
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Ram in profile on Slieve Foy
The flocks of County Louth commonly carry paint brands to identify ownership. Paint branding lessens wool value. This is less of an issue if the livestock are primarily raised for meat.

in spite of it all a plan was arrived at
after the vote
from the back of the room a man called out

….you know the type…

THIS WILL BE OUR PLAN
UNTIL
WE FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.

Walls and Battlements of King John's Castle
The ancient portion of Carlingford. I called the top of the castle “battlements” in the loose sense, as the ruin now longer has a walkway.

II

my son John and I have a photo of him at 5 years
washing dishes
standing on a chair up to his elbows in rubber gloves
the caption reads “Two Men On Their Own.”

i had agreed to accept a divorce from helen
only if john was left with me

one night in particular stands out from that time
i did not sleep for planning what john and I would do

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Unbranded, perfect white marks this lamb among an extensive fern bed. Tain Way steepens on approaching Carlingford. Below is the residential Carlingford, the Greenore road running to the right. The large structure with two rows of dark windows is the Four Seasons Hotel where a substantial brunch is served Sundays.

III

seven years passed
not a long time
since then we’ve moved
found another a better life

Ram and Lamb in pasture
We descended below the ridge to pass into excellent pasturage. The growth of fern hides a lush grass pasture.
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raising John alone was not part of the plan
Its been just john and me
helen gave birth to john
to have a part of me
in case of loss
i felt the same way
and she understood

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

a welcome
feminine voice in our home
“Little House on the Prairie”
and
“Little House in the Big Woods” twice.

Gorse against the slopes of Slieve Foy
Plants and livestock on these slopes of Slieve Foy contend with adverse conditions in the form of a constant east wind. The stress is evident in the stressed trunk, although this species thrives in this environment, as seen in the strength of bloom and the yellow patches on the slopes, all of which are gorse. Gorse flowers are edible; the entire plant can be used as fodder when crushed to the consistency of moss. In Scotland there’s a museum with a roundish boulder called a Whin Stone.

V

Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder
called “HOME”
that has an emotional resonance for me
dated 1923
Wilder was in her 50’s.

Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.

Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.

So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.

Tain Trail Enters Carlingford
The trail detours around sheep pasture just before descending to the outskirts of Carlingford.

VI

we give so much to our children
what’s left over though
is ours

Red Poppies front a Fieldstone Home.
The first Carlingford home passed by the trail is a solid fieldstone home with a slate roof fronted by a natural garden featuring red poppies.
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William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult to get the news from poems
yet men diet miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there

Ruined Cottage, Carlingford
This ruin lies off the Tain Way as it descends through the outskirts of Carlingford town. Constructed of stones, mortar and what looks to be concrete. Long slate slabs protect the eves. It’s been abandoned for an age. What a story it must have, long slow and full of life.

it is not difficult to understand this
to live it is another matter

The Abby Bar
Named for the Carlingford Priory, a nearby ruin, the Abby Bar is located on Dundalk Street (R173), Liberties of Carlingford, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland. Liberties of Carlingford might be called greater Carlingford in the USA.
 

you have to live it
in order to have something
left over

Metal Cover with Celtic Motifs
A metal cover, about 8 inches in diameter located in the sidewalk on the left side of The Abby Bar on Dundalk Street, Carlingford. The triple spiral triskelion symbol has become a Christian symbol of faith for Celtic Christians around the world, a visual representation of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and eternity. In Ireland, the symbol acquired its Christian meaning prior to the 5th century. The triskelion predates Christina and even Celtic culture as petroglyphs of the astronomical calendar at the megalithic tomb Newgrange (3,200 BC). The symbol is associated with Neolithic cultures throughout Western Europe.

VII

never the less
my emotional resonance in reading that piece
“Home”

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well-tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

did not come from the sentiments Wilder so skillfully evoked
though I shared them it was that sharp part

Church of Saint Michael Grounds, Lamp Post
Lamp post on Church of Saint Michael grounds.

i did not agree with it lacking a reason
and so must have re-read
“Home”
fifty times a hundred
who knows

Church of Saint Michael Facade
The Church of Saint Michael is a Roman Catholic Church on Dundalk Street (R173), Carlingford.

so committed to speak today
and began to write
something was bound to shake loose

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

then those lines form Deuteronomy
gave themselves to me

Before you this day is set good and evil, life and death.
Choose life, that both you and your descendants might live.

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

“Home” was a twist of these lines

as long ago as 1923
Wilder was experiencing our present
contemplating the unthinkable

Wilder held her own experience as a shield
and denied such a tragedy
could ever touch her

for me the result
is a beautiful poisoned apple
innocently offered
by a treasured friend

Final Tain Trail PHotograph
Pam Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.
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VII

life is a gift
not entirely under our control
Yes we must be careful
but for some this is not enough

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Michael Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.

we must forgive others
and ourselves

************************************************************************

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Slieve Gullion Forest Road

Visit a viewpoint in southern County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Yesterday, I simultaneously published nine photographs on my ImageKind Ireland Gallery and Getty IStock (click the links to visit): nine views taken from the slopes of Slieve Gullion.

Sunday, May 25, 2014 was a happy day for Pam and I.  It was the first full day of an eighteen (18) we filled with Ireland, travelling in a loop of the island following the coast from, naming the counties where we spent time on the ground, Louth, Armagh, Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Cork, Kerry, Claire, Mayo, Antrim, Down and back to Louth.  The counties of Northern Ireland are in italics.  Indeed, at this time the politics allowed us to travel freely between the Republic and the North.  That day, our morning was spent in Louth attending mass, enjoying our first meeting with the family over a substantial mid-day meal (click the link for my Facebook album of the meeting).  We split off that afternoon to visit the home of my cousin, Mary and her husband Joseph in County Armagh, just over the border.  When Joseph offered to drive us over to Slieve Gullion it was totally new to us, we had no conception of the place or what to expect.

It was such a gift, we are grateful to Joseph for this experience.  Only in 2018 when, at 64 years of age and retired”, was I able to research the place and spend time developing the photographs for publication.  Two of the photographs illustrate this posting, to view the others in my online gallery, click either photograph.

Slieve is the Irish language word for “mountain.”  Slieve Gullion is a lone eminence, one remnant of volcanic eruptions about 60 million years ago during the rifting of continents that produced the Atlantic Ocean.  Around the mountain is the Ring of Gullion, a string of hills, 26 miles by 11 miles, surrounding the mountain and formed from the ancient collapse of a volcanic caldera.  The technical name for it is a Ring Dyke and it was the first of its kind to be recognized and mapped, well before the nature of the formation was understood of be volcanic.  The name Gullion is derived, in one formulation, from the name of the metalsmith, Culann.  In Irish Myth, Culann’s home and workshop was on the slope of Slieve Gullion.  A wealthy and respected personage, Culann invited  Conchobhar mac_Neasa, king of Ulster to feast.  During his approach to the mountain, passing through the surrounding plain, the king stopped to watch boys play hurling.  Among them was the future hero of Ulster, the young Sétanta.  Impressed with Sétanta athletic abilities, the king invited him to join in the feasting at Culann and the boy promised to follow after the game.  Later, while climbing the mountain to fulfill his promise Sétanta was attacked by the guard dog of Culann.  The myth says the dog was killed by Sétanta in self-defense.  Never the less, in compensation to Culann, Sétanta committed to rearing a replacement and to act as guard dog in the meantime.  In this way he became known as Cu Culann, “the dog of Culann.”  Click for more about Cu Culann.

On the summit two cairns north and south of a small lake, tangible proofs of ancient peoples and beliefs.  The north cairn is a more ancient passage grave, 90 feet wide, 16 feet high, the opening aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice.  The cairn north of the lake is less ancient containing two cist burials.  For our visit Joseph drove us along the 8 mile drive.  The following is an image of a viewing platform and the road.  Just beyond, on the right, where the ridge meets the road, is the trail to the 1,880 foot summit of Slieve Gullion.  Our arrival disturbed sheep resting on the asphalt.  I’d have loved to spent a day climbing the summit, but it was not to be this trip.

Viewing Platform with Sheep – CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.

The way is part of the Slieve Gullion Forest Park.  Throughout are turnoffs to admire the view.  It was during our frequent stops I pulled out the photography gear to grab the views.  Here is one, looking southwest.  For the other views, click either photograph to visit my Online Gallery of Ireland.

North View from Slieve Gullion– CLICK ME for more Ireland photography.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Story Risen from the Mist

The Resurrection of Táin Bó Cúailnge

We did not climb so much as ascend, with effort, the flank of Slieve Foy, a peak of the Cooley Mountains, County Louth, Ireland. The group being cousin Sean, my wife, Pam, and myself.

The ridge of Golyin Pass loomed in the mist where the path dissolved in low cloud. Sean pointed above, to the right to Barnavave, also know as Maeve’s Gap for the queen who came from the west of Ireland to take Donn Cúailnge, the Brown Bull of Cooley, by force of arms with an army behind her.

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A modern rendering of Donn Cúailnge. See link at the bottom of this posting for more information.
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When cousin Sean named Cú Chulainn, the champion of Maeve’s opponents, the Ulstermen, he recalled a story once lost, Táin Bó Cúailnge. A hospitable siege different from Maeve’s and mist are part of the story of the recovery of this tale.

A gathering of 150 poets, 100 pupils, and attendants strained the patience and wealth of Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin, King of Connacht, when it extended to a year and four months.

Southwest View from Hags Mountain– CLICK ME!!!!
Our first and only encounter with fellow hikers. In the distance two figures appear over the next ridge, a mother and young daughter. She greeted us and challenged Sean to his knowledge of the area. Sean acquitted himself well and we continued.

On that 16th month, the king challenged the leader of his guests to the telling of a tale. Guaire demanded Seanchan Torpest, the chief poet of Connacht, to recite the whole of Táin Bó Cúailnge, known in English as the Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin (Cattle Raid).

Click a gallery pic for a larger view.

In this way the king was relieved of his guests: the book of the Táin was lost before their lifetimes, rumored to be abroad. Abashed at his failure, Seanchan Torpest withdrew. Fellow poets and followers trailed out from the castle.

Seanchan Torpest regrouped the host (an opened question is who then supported them) in conference to construct Táin Bó Cúailnge. It was a false hope as the gathering discovered while each poet knew a part of the whole, most of the story was lost. His honor, reputation and self-esteem in tatters the Chief Poet of Connacht, set off with Murgen, his son, and second cousin Eimena to return the Táin to Ireland.

Into mists such as those Pam, Sean and I ascended, the travelers soon were lost and separated.

Magically, Murgen finds the grave of the Uncle of Cú Chulainn in the mists, there to meet the shade of that enormous man, Fergus mac Róich is his name. In the Táin, as related in whole by Fergus to Murgen, Fergus was led by circumstances to ally with Maeve, to guide her army against the Ulstermen. As a deposed king, traitor to Ulster and Uncle to the champion Cú Chulainn, Fergus knew the tale entire.

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View as we approached Goliyn Pass

It was from the mists that Murgen emerged, found his father and cousin, and returned together without the book, but with possession of the substance of the Táin.

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Views of Carlingford

Visit the opening chapter of our time on the Tain Way

Visit the next posting in this Ireland series, “Farmland Southeast of Carlingford”

A thank you to Wikipedia, my information source on the resurrection of the Táin.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

On the Tain Way

A place of myth and wonder on foot and approachable

On Monday, June 9, 2014, cousin John Mills dropped his son, Sean Mills, myself and Pam Wills off at the foot of the western slopes of Slieve Foy on the Tain Way.  Sean, Pam and I walked the way over the mountain and into Carlingford in the footsteps of epic Irish heroes.

Our guide, Sean Mills, proposed the walk and it fell on our last full day in Ireland. Sean’s father and our host for this visit, John Mills, transported the group including my wife Pam to the starting point at the foot of Slieve Foy.

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On the Tain Way– CLICK ME!!!!

Yes, if there is any part of the Tain Way the the mythic Irish heroes trod it is this one over Slieve Foy mountain. The saga, in Irish “Táin Bó Cúailnge” and “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” in English, features this bull, “Donn Cuailnge” “The Brown Bull of Cooley”, here as a statue erected 2011 by the Grange and District Residents Association.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Donn Cuailnge raged over the very slopes we walked this day. The myths themselves fill a volume and I am unable to do them justice here.

On the way, John stopped at the Old Aghameen School he attended in the late 1930’s early 1940’s 70 years before and we pass through the country soon to grace our views.

Many thanks to the Glenmore Athletic Club, the Cooley Walking Forum and land owners who provide access to the Tain Way.

We had our leave taking with John, who planned to stay near the phone for our call from Carlingford, if all went according to plan. That same year Pam had the first of two total knee replacements. This was our longest hike in Ireland and Pam was not likely to miss it, regardless of any pain. Pam is always ready to smile.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

At start, the Tain Way is broad, green and welcoming.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

The western slopes of Slieve Foy hold views of a valley among the Cooley Mountains with Dundalk Bay of the Irish Sea to the south / southeast. It was not long before the view started to open and, then, opened and opened the entire walk to the top. We were graced with a lovely, cloudy, June day. Mist only, no rain. Plenty of wind, not strong.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Farms are all about. Here a farmer attends to the flock. They know who he is.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford The lower slopes hold many small stream among granite stones. Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

I will continue with our walk on the Tain Way soon enough.

Click for the next chapter of our time on the Tain Way

Here’s a previous Ireland posting……

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

On the Tain Way, repost

A place of myth and wonder on foot and approachable

Click me to visit this Ireland post.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Dunseverick Castle Ruin, roadside info

Pride of History on display

On Causeway Road there is a turnoff an information placard for Dunseverick Castle near a cottage. This is the left side of the placard with the historical context. The right side is natural history of the area.

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Click me for the first post of this series.

Reference: Wikipedia “Dunseverick Castle.”

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Dunseverick Castle Ruin, closer

Recollections of Saint Patrick

Slight pangs of regret recalled in my first Dunseverick Castle post are recalled this morning on remembering the long Slige Midluachra (aka “High King’s Road”) of which Dunseverick Castle was the terminus, beginning from the Hill of Tara. Walk the High King’s Road, “why not?.”

Here we can see the two partial wall, remains of a gate house, destroyed in the 17th century. I can imagine making the climb up the foot path, examine the earthworks from before the Viking invasions, middle of the first millennium A.D. Recall a visit by Saint Patrick, trodding the path from his Easter fire on the Hill of Slane.

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Reference: Wikipedia “Dunseverick Castle.”

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Dunseverick Castle Ruin

End of the Road

Checking Google Maps (GM) just now am sorry to see the Breezemount House B&B is closed, even the website is disabled. GM was how I planned our Ireland tour itinerary through late Fall and Winter of 2014, marking locations as “saved.” Keeping up a GM subscription is worthwhile, making it easy to recall the specifics of our lodgings. Pete, the Breezemont proprietor, a gruff Scottsman, gave good advice. Revisiting Dunseverick Castle Ruin our crunch at the end of that June 2014 day brings to mind the jist his words, to the effect his visitors do not plan enough time (for the area).

Dunseverick, on a romantic peninsula location overlooking the Irish sea and distant Scottish coast views, is worth at least a full morning to park at the Causeway Road turnoff, adjacent to a modern cottage, hike the alluring trial to the site to trod historic turf. I remember with a sense of regret setting up the tripod for several distant views, made larger by a variable “zoom” lens.

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Torr Head Stories VI

Down and Down

Weather masonry at the height of Torr Head was there to serve the custom house and as support for a spotting station where ships transiting the Strait of Moyle (Irish Sruth na Maoile), the 12 miles of water to the Mull of Kintyre.

Lloyd’s of London, vitally interested in the appearance of ships’ progress crossing the oceans, had notice of passage via semaphore (and, later, Marconi’s “wireless”). Destination ports were copied in.

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Torr Head Stories V

The Way South –

Scottish influences touched the landscape covered by yesterday’s post, today we continue on this subject with these south facing views from Torr Head. The far ridge of Torrcor marks Loughan Bay.

A townland on the other side of Torrcor hill (and townland) has an eponymous ruin, Altagore Cashel. Mores the pity we did not visit this site, a thick drystone enclosing wall from the 5th century (you can see photographs from another site at this link). Cashel is from the Irish Caiseal, a circular, defensive fort (“ring fort”).

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Books such as “Antrim and Argyll: Some Aspects of the Connections” tell of connections over the millennia, clan associations between the islands and ring forts such as Altagore Cashel.

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