Pam and I were lucky enough to plan our tour of Ireland for May and June when the Hawthorne trees are in bloom. Named sceach gheal in Gaelic, the white clusters of blossoms symbolize hope. Hawthorns are plentiful throughout the island. The Irish revere the tree and associate each Hawthorn with the Little People. There are roads in Ireland that curve around a Hawthorn tree because the local people convinced the engineers to do so, to save the tree.
This specimen, covered with offerings (to the Little People?), is on the trail to Loughcrew. Even with her knee trouble, Pam made it to the top of the Hag’s Mountain to visit Cairn T of the Loughcrew Passage tombs.
Pam loves to capture images and returned from Ireland with a large collection. Most of the photos of me at work are by Pam. Here Pam is capturing the summit view of Hag’s Mountain with the Cairn T entrance gate in the background. Lucky for us, a fellow visitor made the trip to Loughcrew Gardens and picked up the gate key from the café. In a later post I will share my work from inside this passage tomb.
Pam makes friends wherever we go. She started down the mountain before me to take it easy on her knees. When I caught up, Pam and a young Irish family were deep in conversation. I took the opportunity to capture Pam with that gorgeous view to the northwest, Irish countryside with Lake of the Branches in the far distance.
Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
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. April 2018 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 townland is named after the dolmen. The anglicized “Proleek” is derived from the Irish for “bruising rock”, as in a millstone. The grave is attributed in folklore to the resting place of the Scotch Giant, Para Buidhe More Mahac Seoidin, who came to challenge Fin Mac Coole.
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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.”
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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.
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I originally published these blossoms as “wild rose”. It was my Facebook friends who pointed out these are hawthorn flowers. The key to identification was the shape of the leaves.
In correcting my mistake, I learned the young leaves of Hawthorn are excellent for salads. Wonder how the fairy folk, associated with single hawthorns (as in the following photograph from the Hill of Tara), react to picking leaves from their trees? I didn’t hear of the practice during our time in Ireland.
My mistake was understandable, in botany the hawthorn is in the same family as the rose. The flowers are similar, having five petals. The “haw” in hawthorn is from the Old English word for hedge, as is this linear standoff the tree lining the way up to the Loughcrew Cairns.
I read these votive offerings are made at Beltane, in which case these are fresh from placement May 1.
The following year Pam underwent double total knee replacements, never the less, she was great company for all our adventures on the island. Even this steep climb.
We marveled at the hawthorn hedges in field after field. I first notice them from the World Heritage Site, Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne, “Palace of the Boyne”). Here is one on the Dingle Peninsula, on the other side of the island.
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 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
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.
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.
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:
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.
Modern homes surround the corner, solid and prosperous.
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.
A closer view suggests, if we trespassed and poked around, some remains of the structure were concealed by the trees and brush.
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.
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 Hawthorne Blossoms from the corner of the former McCardle home in memory.
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