The Haw in Hawthorn

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.

Hawthorne Blossoms on the former McArdle Home
Blossoms of Hawthorne taken on the site of the former McCardle Home, Proleek Townland, County Louth, Ireland.

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.

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Speaking Stone Hill of Tara
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.

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.

Path on Hag's Mountain, Loughcrew
Reaching highest point of County Meath, Ireland means a steep path, not too long, to glorious views on all points plus Lough Craobh (Lake of the Branches).

I read these votive offerings are made at Beltane, in which case these are fresh from placement May 1.

Hawthorn Tree with Offerings
A hawthorn tree in bloom on May 27, 2016. Growing on the slope of Hag’s Mountain

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.

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Pam and the Offering Hawthorn
The steep path to Loughcrew passes a hawthorn covered with flowers and May offerings.

These views were our reward for reaching the top.

Loughcrew View, North by Northwest
View from Loughcrew Cairns, “Hags Mountain”

The Emerald Isle, we fully understood this name.

Standing Stone, Loughcrew
Loughcrew Megalithic Site, County Meath, Ireland. A solitary standing stone below the trail to the Loughcrew site surrounded by whin bush (gorse) and hawthorn hedge rows. A fieldstone fence, farmhouses, a patchwork quilt of fields completes the view.

The Greek name for the Hawthorn species is formed from two words meaning “strength” and “sharp”, referring to the thorny branches.

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Charlemagne of County Cork
For County Cork we stayed with Marantha House B&B.   Our day of arrival, that evening, I visited Charlemagne and fed him an apple, saved from dinner. We learned from our hosts, Olwen and Douglas Venn, he is a retired show horse they rescued. The following morning I visited Charlemagne again with an apple and my camera. As I walked up, starting from the far end of his field, Charlemagne rewarded me with a series of astounding poses, trotting toward me in fine form. The morning mists, hawthorn in bloom, distant hills came together for this memory.

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.

Field of Yellow Iris Flowers, Dingle Peninsula
A roadside field of yellow Iris flowers with flowering Hawthorn and Whin Bush in the windbreaks. Looking northwest toward Killeenagh and Caherpierce on the R561 between Lack West and Inch. Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland.

Another Ireland post of interest, “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home.”

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Above Muirthemne Plain

Romance of Ruins

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.

References
Wikipedia articles “Slieve Gullion” “Cú Chulainn” and “Conaille Muirtheimne.”

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Visit to Proleek Dolmen

Romance of Ruins

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.  

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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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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.

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Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

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 Hawthorne Blossoms 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.”

Hawthorne Blossoms
Blooming Hawthorne on the former McArdle Home

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved