A Visit to Proleek Dolmen

Romance of Ruins

Advertisements

I have an update to my post “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home” where we explored the site of the boyhood home of my grandfather, Peter McCardle, on great grandfather James McCardle’s Proleek farm. Last April an email arrived from the brother of the owner of the house across the road.  He recognized the property from the blog photography and reached out to introduce himself and share information. His own genealogical research suggested we shared a great aunt.  We now work together to define this connection.

Our tour of Ireland was bookended by a visit to the farm site and, located little more than a kilometer away, a 5,000+ year old portal tomb, the last site Pam and I visited. We parked at the hotel / golf course built around the monuments.  There is no fee to visit the site, number 476 on the list of Republic of Ireland National Monuments (Irish: Séadchomhartha Náisiúnta), protected at the level of guardianship by the National Monuments Act of 1930.  The dolmen is named after the townland Proleek.  

Click photograph to view my Ireland gallery

Ballymascanlon House Hotel is on the R173, on the left heading from the M1 towards Jenkinstown.  Path to the monument is marked here and there and requires attention.  It helps to understand the general location of the monument on the property.  The parking lot and hotel are on the southern end, the monument is on the north end.

The path leads through the hotel grounds….

….and golf course…

…and you first encounter the megalithic Gallery Grave of a type named “wedge shaped.”

Click any of the following photographs to view my Ireland gallery

The 22 foot long tomb gallery supported stories of a giant burial. Pam poses for a sense of scale.

These are the only ancient monuments in Ireland were a stray golf ball may be encountered.

A short way ahead is the dolmen, or portal tomb. The informational placard is in English and Gaelic.  There is an illustration of the stones covered with earth with a stone façade.

Some describe the formation as a giant mushroom with warts. The posting feature image is of the same aspect as the next photograph, with me for scale.

Click any of the following photographs to view my Ireland gallery

We are surrounded on three sides by the golf course.  The “entrance” to the tomb, through the two upright portal stones, faces northwest toward Slieve Gullion, a mountain with its own Neolithic burial site next to a lake on the summit.  The mountain and the flat land, such as Proleek township, feature in the story of how the Irish hero Cú Chulainn came by his name.  To learn more, click this link for “On the Tain Way” the first of my posting that includes some stories of the hero.

The fifth hole.

We had a beautiful day, so I took time to capture all aspects.  The hedge is the northern property border.

The “warts” are stones. There is a local saying that success in placing three stones on top will give a wish or lead to marriage within the year.

Click for more Ireland stories.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Leprechaun Home Invasion

Saint Patrick Day Family Humor

In a previous posting we hiked through the only European Union Leprechaun Preserve on Slieve Foy above Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

EuHabitatsDirective-02267

This home was lower on the mountain, on the way to town.

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

You will not find Calla Lilies thriving in front yards here in Ithaca, New York (43 degrees north latitude) as they do in the Temperate Oceanic Climate of Ireland, pictured in Carlingford on a June day.  At 54 degrees these Calla Lilies are growing at a latitude 800 miles north of Ithaca, in the middle of Quebec Province, Canada.

In spite of this, here in Ithaca we keep March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, warm.  In the home of our three grandchildren (3, 4 and 6 years old) who live in Ithaca they celebrate by playing tricks on Leprechauns.

This year, we visited Saint Patrick’s Day eve and reviewed their bag of tricks with the Leprechaun in Chief, their Mom.  In response, the Leprechauns leave them letters to make it clear the tricks did not work.  On top of this, the children have big laughs on the tricks played in return.  A favorite is finding their socks taped all over the mirror.

Mom pulled out a few of the Leprechaun letters and we read them for the children to great laughter as they remembered tricks of previous years.  Afterwards, when alone with Mom, Pam and I recalled the tradition in Chicago, to color the river green (a well as green milkshakes, etc), and suggested to the Leprechaun in Chief to put green food color in the toilet.  It was a winning idea.

The next morning Mom, on hearing the toilet flushed repeatedly, found her 4 year old daughter totally appalled.  “The Leprechauns used our toilet (and did not flush).  YUUUUKKKK.”  She then ran upstairs hoping for a “clean” bathroom up there.  Well, green milkshakes are off the menu.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Me and the War on Christmas

Flourishing after 2017 Years

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
― Charles Bukowski

It is necessary to find insights in unpleasant places. Take this quote from Bukowski, a reprehensible individual in that following in the totality of his actions will lead to bad results.  What can you say about a guy who believed his downtown Los Angeles neighborhood was ruined after the the pimps and whores were forced out?  Still, Bukowski wrote well about the personal truth of his self-made environment, one he drank, whored and wrote his way to become a present-day saint of atheists.

With Trump and his “War on Christmas” is analogous.  Trump does the magician’s, the practiced thief’s, slight of hand, distracting us while pocketing the coin, picking the pocket.  His use of this slight of hand is effective in so far the premise is true.  Sure, there is a War on Christmas.  It started 2017 years ago when Herod ordered the innocents slaughtered to destroy the rumored Messiah.  Then, as now, Herod was defeated by dreams and determined action.  This is a link to my take on the story, ““Christmas Angels”.

A return to Christmas Past brings us to the “Me” of the title and how Amol K. shared in our 2002 celebration.  Amol had arrived from India as a new hire for our team.  That fall I searched for a roommate to share in household expenses.  Human resources brought Amol and I together.  He required temporary lodging until his marriage planned for 2003.

A single parent who raised a son alone, my Christmas preparations started immediately after Thankgiving with boxes of materials and decorations organized over fourteen years into beginning, middle and end boxes.  In this way, day by day, I gradually transformed our home for Christmas.  Workday evenings, unpacking a box at a time and laying out the contents.

The changes caught the attention of Amol.  Raise in a middle class family of Bombay, India, Amol, a practicing Hindu, asked questions about the objects and images slowing building with the month, the sun drawing down lower and lower on the horizon, darkness now falling soon after 4 pm.  Amol was curious to understand these new experiences.

Christmas2002-11

Amol saw correlations with his own belief systems and stories and enjoyed helping decorate the tree on Christmas Eve.

Christmas2002-12

We attended Christmas night mass together, shared presents Christmas morning.  It was not a question of Amol becoming a Roman Catholic proselyte, he enjoyed experiencing the stories, practices and celebrations of Christmas.
Christmas2002-13

Beliefs and religious practices are like a sky scraper.  A push against natural law, constantly under pressure from gravity, wind, frost/thaw cycles and human fanatics who must see them come down by whatever means necessary.  “You must break eggs to make an omelet.”  This is a photograph taken on the returning training ship Empire State July 2001, less than two months before a fanatical suicide attack brought the Twin Towers down.
Christmas2002-14

Happy New Year, remember to love your neighbor as yourself in 2018.

Click for the first post in this series, “Christmas Tableau”.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Family Trek

Sandstone Togetherness

The Defiance Plateau of northeastern Arizona declines gradually from its origin, the Chuska Mountains of New Mexico.  Route 191 runs where the Defiance Plateau merges with a valley of the larger Colorado Plateau.  The Black Mesa escarpment forms the western valley wall and is clearly visible from Canyon de Chelly visitor center.  You can see the valley and escarpment in my post Canyon of Music, Wind, Light.

Carved into the Defiance Plateau, the high cliff canyon walls of Canyon de Chelly at intervals belly out into wide alcoves.  For thousands of years, the land between the walls was farmed.  Here is a photograph from our 2008 canyon visit, visible are fields, farm equipment, shed and sport utility vehicle (SUV).  Look closer for the hogan, adjacent to the shed, and, on the lowest sandstone shelf on the left, white goats.

Click to view my Arizona fine art gallery

SONY DSC

Here is a quote from the reference link provided at the end of my post:

“The massive, high cliffs that form the walls of the canyon are De Chelly Sandstone. The De Chelly Sandstone consists of sand deposited in dunes in a subtropical to arid environment in Early Triassic time (about 250 to 230 million years ago).”

In this photograph the goats jumped off the shelf to graze, around them are the two forms of De Chelly Sandstone.  230 million years ago winds driving across the dry lands, piling the eroded bits of ancestral rocky mountains into dunes hundreds of feet high.  The in-stratified rock cliffs are the body of those dunes, converted to stone over the eons.  The cliffs are visible in both photographs.  The dark stains are called desert varnish.  Read more about desert varnish in the first posting of this series, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide.”  The rock in the foreground appear formed from an orderly pile of stone plates, this appearance is called stratification.  Another name for it is Cross Bedded Sandstone, formed from wind blowing across the dunes.

CanyonDeChellyFamilyVisit20080719-1

That entire, northeastern, side of the alcove is Cross-bedded sandstone.  Click on any one of the following photographs for a larger version, to peruse the detail.

Click to view my Arizona fine art gallery

A fascinating detail in these photographs, the subject of this post, are human figures rendered tiny by the distance and the enormous maze of sandstone.

It is four generations of a Navajo family, fathers, mothers, children of all ages down to infants in carriers.  My wife Pam, myself and our Navajo guide watched in wonder as they made their way down to the canyon floor.

Their progress was slow and careful.  Everyone kept together.  Nobody left behind.

Here they inch along a high ledge.

Descend from one ledge to the next.


Most amazing of all, the first person down is an elderly woman wearing sports shoes, steadied with umbrella, accompanied by a pre-teen girl.  Her progress steady and sure from years of experience.

Our guide knew the family.  He and they chatted in the Dine language.  The were travelling for a birthday party.

Click for the first posting of this series, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide.”
Click for the next post in this series, “Sun and Shade, Canyon Del Muerto.”
Reference Link for the quote

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills Photography

Volcano Cake

a birthday adventure

Birthday celebrations are part of Pam’s special relationship with those of our twelve grandchildren who live close by.  Preparations begin with design discussions months before the event, commonly around a sibling’s earlier birthday.  Daryoush is fascinated by dinosaurs, exotic animals and….volcanoes, “Make me a volcano cake, grandmother”, he told Pam just after his fifth birthday one year ago.

We started design discussions and experimentation late September 2017 for Daryoush’s late November sixth birthday party.  Years ago, for grandson Taj, we did a Galapagos cake with a volcano powered by “pop rocks.”  It gave us a powerful, boiling eruption.  Pam called around and found it available, brought home a few packs and “pop rocks” flopped.  The formulation was changed and now fizzles.  Pam also came up empty for Galapagos themed figures, “Rain Forest” is now the thing.

On the day of his party, Daryoush’s father dropped him off three hours before the event to be part of his cake’s creation.  We started with opening his Rain Forest themed presents.

Click on an image to enlarge.

There were three wrapped gifts in jungle themed paper:

  • Palm Trees
  • Rain Forest animal figures
  • A Rain Forest book.  Luckily, many of the animal figures were featured in the book we had fun making the matches.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-4

Daryoush organized his materials, the trees, animals, candy sharks, chocolate candy coated rocks.  He sorted the rocks into red/orange/yellow flaming boulders and the simply delicious ones.  He sampled quite a few after we washed his hands and rewashed after putting fingers in his mouth, not more than 25% of the time, enough to make the point.

Just off frame, to the right, are a yellow sheet cake, to support the rain forest tableau, and the Rice Krispy treat volcano cone.

Daryoush wore an apron, just like GMa.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-5

Pam settled on her standby Rice Krispy treat recipe, from the box, for the volcano cone structure wrapped around two equally sized tall plastic tumblers one inside the other to form the volcanic chamber where the magic happens.  We used two green tumblers at hand, red is a better color.

Pam favors a “killer” chocolate, mocha butter cream icing.  To start she applied it with a pastry bag and smallish star tip, forming the volcano surface.  The effect was not quite right and took too much time.  She then regrouped with the largest star tip and formed parallel strips, top to bottom, with empty triangles along the bottom margin.  The triangles were then filled in with strips.

The effect is similar to the “Devils Tower” model Roy Neary made from mashed potatoes in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-10

Next came dramatic red and yellow lava streams.  Pam used white chocolate “melting” discs, melting them in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between.  It took three rounds for a smooth melt.  Daryoush participated with a toothpick to make finished touches to enhance a realistic effect.  He had a habit of popping the stick in his mouth, each time I supplied him with a fresh toothpick.

One mistake we made was to tweak the melted white chocolate with food coloring.  We had orange discs, intending to make a more red we added the color.  Immediately, the melt consistency congealed into a mass.  We recovered by forming orange lava bombs for the base.

A long time favorite material for Pam are “brownie bits.”  Here Daryoush is crumbling the cakes and applying volcanic ash to the base.  The whole brownies made perfect boulders for the Rain Forest tableau.

Our cake modeled the Arenal Volcano of Costa Rica with that country’s Lake Arenal and rain forest.  To form the lake Pam outlined the form in blue buttercream icing, covered with dark blue cake decorating gel.  Here is Daryoush applying the gel.  Using a spatula, Pam formed the glistening water effect by artfully spreading the gel.

Pam finished the tableau base with green and white buttercream frosting, the white coated with a mixture of brown and palm sugars to simulate earth/sand.

Daryoush’s imagination flourished when he applied his figures and candy.  Sharks populate the fresh water lake, animals wander the rain forest.  Boulders and rock abound.

Pam also made a set of chocolate gluten free cupcakes with chocolate mocha buttercream icing.  Daryoush decorated each cupcake with a large “cherry” and smaller multicolored sprinkles.  You can see the cupcakes in the birthday party shots.

For these photographs I used a Canon EOS1 Mark  III camera body fitted with the 50mm EF 1:1.2 L USM lens, and 600EX-RT Speedlite flash.  Here I tamped the f-stop down to 1.2 for the beautiful bokh possible with this lens.  Most shots were at f5.6 to keep the shooting simple.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-26

The effect of Daryoush arriving to greet his assembled friends with a volcano was electic. What fun. Here is the group wishing their friend a happy birthday.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-33

Pam came up with the magic volcano eruption by visiting the business of my former coworker, Bruce Lane’s Purity Ice Cream. Bruce graciously demonstrated to Pam how to make the effect using dry ice and hot water.  I purchased two pounds of dry ice an hour before the party, transported it in a cooler and open car windows to the party and kept it in the car until just before the cake cutting/birthday song.  For the cake we only needed a handful of dry ice and some water. You can see the effect and reactions of children in the photos.

Later, Pam and I experimented with the full drama possible using the leftover dry ice and boiling water. This will NOT work for small children and an enclosed space, since dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide that sublimates to the gaseous form. The small quantity used for the party amazed the children.

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-38

ArchinDaryoushBirthday620171118-39

Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home

Romance of Ruins

In three, so far, postings on the cottage ruins at Loughan an Lochan (Loughan Bay) we explored a former community above the Irish Sea with a view of Scotland.  For the third posting I shared some research on the last cottage people of that site with the intent of additional postings.

I wondered, “What motivates you to do this?” and remembered my mother’s Canadian passport in which, for place of birth “Proleek, Ireland” was written and my request to our cousin, John Mills, who invited us to stay with them after my mother passed away, June, 2013, the request being to visit the site of great grandfather James McCardle’s home, where grandfather Peter McCardle was raised, information since discovered from the Irish census.

On the morning of Sunday, May 25, John took us from mass on a tour of sites related to the family.  One of these was the site of the McCardle home, Proleek Townland.

Peter McArdle Former Home
The ruins of the former home of Peter McArdle are on a corner of unnamed streets in Proleek, County Louth. This is a view of the southwest side.

There site is an anonymous corner on a unnamed street with no outlet.  The street ends close to the Proleek Dolmen, an ancient passage tomb, after passing farms and fields.

Peter McArdle Former Home
The interior of the property. I see no evidence of great grandfather James McArdle’s home, It has returned to the earth.

The 1901 Irish Census provides these details from 116 years ago:

  • The walls were stone, brick or concrete
  • The roof of thatch, wood or another perishable material.
  • Two rooms, with three windows facing the road.
  • Out buildings listed were:
    • cow house.
    • piggery.

Today, the site is another person’s property, it was not possible to explore further than when the camera lens reached when I leaned as far a possible into the brush.  No sign of standing walls.

Southeast view from McArdle former home
Across the road from the McArdle Plot is this ditch (stone wall) and a home. In the far distance, just visible across the plain, rising from it, is an unnamed land mark, a rounded hill 350 feet tall of the neighboring townland of Bellurgan.

Modern homes surround the corner, solid and prosperous.

View to the west from McArdle Former Home
The site is surrounded by homes on the west and south, farmland on the east and west.

For this posting I collected the following images from Google Earth.  The site is marked with a pushpin, “McCardle Home.”  A “Proleek Dolmen” pushpin marks the passage tomb.

McArdleHomeProleekCountyLouthOverview

A closer view suggests, if we trespassed and poked around, some remains of the structure were concealed by the trees and brush.

McArdleHomeProleekCountyLouth

Between May 2014 and this image, from 2015, the center of the plot was gouged out.  The area corresponds to the corresponds to the remains indicated in the 2013 image.  From this we can understand were the structures stood in relation to the road.

Using the polygon ruler tool the size of the site is 413 feet in circumference, 9,619 square feet, and the gouge, indicating the ruins, is 1,368 square feet.

McArdleHomeProleekCountyLouthToday

But for John and Betty Mills, their kind invitation to stay and John’s guidance that day, the “Proleek” notation on my mother’s Canadian passport would still be a mystery today.

John Mills passed away the next year, September 26, 2015.  Here are some wild rose blooms from the corner of the former McCardle home in memory.

Here is some follow-up to my story in the posting “A Visit to Proleek Dolmen.”

Wild Rose on the former McArdle Home

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Loughan an Lochan Ruin 03

Romance of Ruins

….continued…..

In this multi-part blog series:

Part 01: the romance of the ruined cottages of Loughan Bay was introduced, the following questions stimulated:  “Who were the people who lived here?  Why did they leave?  Why is nobody here now?”

Part 02: the scene was set, the townland of Loughan named and visualized.

In this Part 03, some contemporaneous people are introduced, more information on the environment provided, some previous residents named and imagined.

Michael Wills with View of Loughan Bay
On the way to Torr Head we stopped at this spot in Coolranny Townland to take in this view of the Irish Sea. The land overlooks Loughan Bay toward the Mull of Kintyre and Sanda Island, Scotland. County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Coolranny borders Loughan Townland on the east.

To understand the full beauty of a place, it is necessary to live it, to experience the seasons, approach the land from different aspects; pass the same place many time, noticing overlooked features, enjoying old favorites.  We did our best in this single day and took the exploration of this Antrim County coast slow, savoring all the views we noticed as this is a once in a lifetime experience.  Imagine our amazement to find Scotland so close at hand.  In the past, on a fine day the trip across the North Channel, up eastern Kintyre peninsula shores to Campbeltown at the head of Campbeltown Loch, was easier than a land crossing to a closer town.

I picked Campbeltown because my great great grandfather, a sea captain, emigrated from Scotland to County Louth where my great grandmother, Anne Campbell, married John Mills.  In this way Captain Campbell escaped persecution for his Roman Catholic faith.

Anne Mills

Late in her life, Anne Mills posed for this portrait.  I can tell great grandmother Mills is facing north from these clues:

— the press of the eternal east wind on her dress, against her left left and flowing away from the right.

— the sun shadow on her cheek.  It was around noon.  With the sun, at this latitude, in the south the shadow from her right cheekbone is darker than the left.

Stressed Costal Hawthorn
Rowan Tree directional growth from a constant east wind, County Antrim on the Torr Road nort of Cushenden.

A few miles before Loughan Bay, at Coolranny, are informative placards describing the area.  I thought the white flowering trees, or shrubs, on the slopes were Hawthorn.  On revisiting my capture of the placards I learned these are a different plant named Rowan Tree, aka Mountain-ash.  This wind stressed specimen is an typical example of Rowans on this coast, stunted and little more than a bush.  This individual is slanted westward from a constant and stiff east wind, as with Anne Mills’ portrait.  Residents, past and present, of this coast know this damp, persistent wind well.  Note the lack of blossoms on the east side, blossoms that ripen to small dark red fruit called poms (also called rowans).  The leaves turn red in the fall.  More time, for the fruit to form and leaves to turn, was necessary for me to be certain my identification of this, as a Rowan, is correct.

Loughan Bay Farmer
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.

On this day, Friday, June 6, 2014 I did two rounds of shooting the cottages.  The first, handheld, with a Sony Alpha 700.  Upon returning to the car for the Canon, Pam was talking to a friendly sheep farmer who pulled up in a large tractor pulling a tank.  It turned out we parked below the turnout for his sheep enclosure built on the hill west of Torr Road.  His flocks grazed the surrounding land. He and I talked, too briefly, about the hard lives of the people who lived here.

The Coolraney placard, up the road, claimed the cottages were deserted in the 19th century.  I found evidence, in the 1901 Irish Census, of three Roman Catholic families, 19 men, women, children, living on Loughan Townland.  In Part 02 of this series, setting the stage, Loughan is sized at 112 acres, a single photograph captures Loughan entire.  These families had nowhere else to live, in Loughan, other than the cottages.

The smallest, and poorest, the poorest of the poor, family was 32 year old Mary Corbit and her two children, 10 year old Mary and Robert, 2 years.  The Corbit family lived in a one room, stone walled, house with a wood or thatch roof.  Unlike the other families they had no outbuildings, structures to house livestock or to support a farm operation.  The house owner was Marj Delargy.

Want more? Click the link for my Online Gallery

Here is a single room house among the ruins, four low walls, the east/west with intact gables, the stones collected from the hillside.  The west wall higher up the slope, the floor now thick with fern.

Little Mary most certainly took care of Robert for part of the day.  Did Mary, with Robert along, gather rowans, and other forage?

Single Room Loughan Bay Cottage
A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 12 miles across the Irish Sea. The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable. Alisa Crag just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable.

Mary Corbit: head of household, occupation laborer.  There is a footnote to Mary’s “Marriage” entry as Married, “husband at sea.”  The “C” of her census signature exactly like my mother signed her name Catherine.

CorbitMaryCensusSignature

Mary Corbit and her children were not listed in Loughan Townland for the 1911 Census.

….to be continued…..
Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.