On the occasion of this rare, regular appearance of an extra day to spend, by the Grace of God, as we please I will to explore a time machine found four miles south of Kells, County Meath, Ireland.
Step into this pool and you, too, can emerge 4,000-odd years later, skin intact, to achieve fame and fortune, a place in a museum and the record books if such exist 6019 AD. Reference the Cashel Man from Cúl na Móna bog near Cashel in County Laois, Ireland who now resides within the National Museum of Ireland.
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True, post mortem fame is hollow for the individual. Maybe, attaching your life story engraved on a gold plaque with a gold chain encircling your torso will offset the loss of your bones (dissolved in the acidic waters) and life itself.
The water of this pool is colored dark by long decayed vegetable matter. Beware of walking the bog surface, it is dangerous and destructive to the environment. Pam and I visited Girley Bog on our tour of County Meath, Ireland.
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
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.
It brings to mind, a few years ago Pam and I took lessons at Cornell’s Merrill Family Sailing Center followed by several seasons of memberships. We’d take out sailboats the size on the one enjoyed by the fellow above in Northport Harbor.
We’d spend entire days on the water, looking up at the people driving the hill up and down route 13. “How lucky we are here and not there”, I’d say.
Willy Vanderbilt named his Centerport estate “Eagle’s Nest” after his first yacht, “Eagle” that was anchored in Northport harbor along the estate shoreline. In 1932 the German Krupp Germaniawerft company build a new yacht named Alva, after his mother.
To the Greeks he was Dionysus. Also known as the “twice born” from the myth of his being carried in his father Zeus’ thigh after Hera, the jealous wife, plotted the death of his mother, the mortal Semele.
The infancy of Dionysus was perilous, with Hera plotting revenge Zeus found safe haven for the child at a place of earth called Mount Nysa, with beings named Rain Nymphs. The fascination of Vanderbilt with the story continued with the acquisition and display of a statue of the infant Dionysus with a protective nymph.
The statue and plinth are at the stairs into the garden.
Thirty five years after completing his Eagles Nest estate and twenty seven after his death, this planeterium became an addition to the museums left by William K. Vanderbilt II (“Willie K”).
Located next to the Rose Garden, where my last blog “A Taste of Gatsby – details from the Vanderbilt Museum” left off, this planetarium is on the site for the estate tennis courts. The Planeterium reopened March 2013 with a complete equipment upgrade.
There are several museums on the grounds, joined by graciously appointed walkways.
This is a corner urn along the walk to the mansion.
The Spanish Revival style mansion gathers around a central, cobblestone courtyard entered through this elaborate sandstone gate flanked by two carved sandstone urns, each at least six feet tall with pedestal.
The gated entrance is the base of a bell tower. Willie brought from Russia a church bell that is older than the Liberty bell. He used to have great fun ringing the bell on Sunday mornings to disturb the sleep of his partying son and friends. That stopped when the neighbors arrived as an angry, spontaneous group to complain.
The cobblestone road leads up to the mansion, over a bridge and into the courtyard.
Here is a detail of the walk way, formed from glacially rounded pebbles very common on beaches of Long Island’s North Shore.
A Ghost in the Garden
Across the courtyard from the bell tower is this arched entrance to the gardens along the east mansion walls. As we approached the figure to the right seemed to be a ghost, she was so still, enthralled by the view of Northport Harbor.
There were many cast stone planters in an Aztec motif such as that to the left of the archway and, in a detail shot, below.
We continued through the archway into the gardens. With plenty of time before the Mansion tour (highly recommended) we wandered at length and had an interesting conversation with the figure of the archway, a retired lady from Smithtown (and not a ghost).
Willie K chose Centerport in 1910 for an anchorage on the well protected Northport Harbor, deep enough to his yacht the size of a destroyer class ship named for his mother, Alva.
The estate grounds are high above the harbor, the mansion and gardens designed to enhance the view.
There are superficial parallels between Willie K’s life and “The Great Gatsby.” The first suburban commuter, Willie K was an auto enthusiast. A theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” is travel back and forth from New York City to the great estates on Long Island’s North Shore. In Gatsby, while the vehicles are grand, the travel is pointless or worse. In comparison, Willie K as a pioneering automobile racer, achieved a land speed record and founded a major race, “The Vanderbilt Cup.” Gatsby, above and beyond his fictional status, is a tenuous, transient figure. Vanderbilt established this estate, grounds and museums we still enjoy today.
A short walk from the colonnade is a rose garden surrounding a pool and fountain. These Corinthian columns sized to a human scale flank a dedication bench on the northern side overlooking the boathouse through a hillside forest.
This figure of a flourishing infant is atop the rose garden fountain. Pam and I first noticed this character of the Eagles Nest estate here, with his abundant grape cluster, and came to know him as an expression of Willie’s outlook.
To the northeast / east is a dramatic view of Northport harbor and the Long Island Sound.
The mansion and surrounding grounds were imagined by Willie and implemented by the architects Warren, Wetmore and Pearce, over a twenty five year building campaign, from his feeling for the Mediterranean.
Pam and I had the emotionally moving experience of Cóbh Heritage Center on May 29, 2014. This statue stands outside the center, on the quay from with thousands of Irish emigrated from what was then Queenstown. My father’s mother, Elizabeth Wills nee Duffy, left from here April 28, 1898.
These are the words on the plaque:
“Annie Moore and her brothers Anthony and Phillip embarked from this town on 20 December 1891 on the S.S. Nevada. Annie was the first person to be admitted to the United States of America through the new immigration centre at Ellis Island, New York on 1 January, 1892. This sculpture was unveiled by the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson on 9 February, 1993. It was erected by Cóbh Heritage Trust Ltd. and is dedicated to all who emigrated from Ireland.
This sculpture won the Zeneca Ireland Ltd. commemorative sculpture award . A statue of Annie Moore was also erected at Ellis Island, New York. The commemoration of Annie Moore at New York and at Cóbh was initiated by the Irish American Cultural Institute.
This sculpture is the work of Jeanne Rynhart of Bantry.”