Skellig Peek

A Trinity of Skellig Images

Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.

Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.

Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.

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Skelligs from Valentia Island
I was here perched on a cliff of Valentia Island across from Portmagee looking southwest across Valentia Sound.

The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.

We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.

In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.

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Skellig Steps
Climbing the side of Skellig Michael, approach to the peak and monastery.

There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery.  I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds.  There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.

From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea).  Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights.  Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean.  Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other.  Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.

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Monk Cell
Monk Cell, Grave and Cross

This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting.  The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter.  Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry.  The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.

My closing advice is to plan your time wisely.  The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore.  There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves.  There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely.  People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do.  Make your personal safety a priority.

Click for another Ireland Posting, “On the River Cong.”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserves

Back To School, Uruguay

A late summer Friday evening

Since 1877 primary education in Uruguay is universal, compulsory and free. These days students receive free education through university, literacy is the highest in South America at 95%, equally for males and females.

These photographs are from a cruise around South American my wife, Pam, and I enjoyed February / March 2016 on the Oceania ship Regatta. This was the evening of February 26, 2016, a Friday, in the city Montevideo, Uruguay.

This image is the theme of this blog, “back to school”. On Avenue Gral Eugenio Garzon of the Colon neighborhood of Montevideo a mother and four daughters discuss a shop window featuring “back to school” clothing and necessaries. The children range in age from pre-school to teen. This is evidently a serious discussion about preparing for the school year which starts in March for Uruguay.

A government program launched in 2007 expands Information and Communication technologies in primary schools with these goals:
— To distribute technology,
— To promote knowledge,
— To generate social equity.

Called Ceibal, after a tree native to Uruguay, the program was a success. From 2009 – 2012 450,000 laptops, popularly named “”ceibalitas”, were delivered to children coordinate with teacher training and a monitoring and evaluation model for assessing the impact nationally. Ceibal is the acronym for “Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea” (Educational Connectivity/Basic Computing for Online Learning in English).

These photographs build on the theme of the positive influence education has on the lives of Uruguayans, many of whom live in poverty.

A family gathering in their yard on Avenue Gral Eugenio Garzon, enjoying a cool late summer evening.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Traffic and a gas station. People were out and about, walking and conversing. There is a makeshift trailer attached to the motorcycle, behind is a large truck.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Storefront with customer and man loitering on wall. A mini-Honda all terrain vehicle is on display.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Mate is a beverage enjoyed throughout South America. Here companions enjoy a warm summer evening with a thermos of hot water and mate gourd behind a restaurant, their view across the train tracks and the Colon rail station is of a playground and playing fields.

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A family of very young soccer players coming from practice with teammates. The sponsors of lucky number 7 are the bank Banrisul and Tramontina, a kitchenware manufacturer.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

We waited to board an historic train and shared the station with Montevideans waiting for a passenger train. Here are two families: a mother and pre-teen daughter colorfully dressed, a grandmother and grandson. Behind them are the playing fields and playground.

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A passenger train heading north passed while we waited for our ride to begin. Curiosity shines from this child’s eyes.

Back To School -- CLICK ME!!!!

Happy families greeted us with waves and smiles during our trip to downtown Montevideo.

Some of the homes along the rail line. Pools such as that are popular in cities. We saw a great many on the streets in Lima, Peru.

Reaction to the historic train from a group of young men.

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Curious playmates gather at the end of the road.

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A well attended playground.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Farmland Southeast of Carlingford

Beauty of the Cooley Peninsula, County Louth, Ireland

I offer here a continuation of descriptions of a 2014 walk on the Tain Way, an appreciation of the lore and beauty of Ireland.

Descending the Tain Way from the ridge of Golyin Pass the sweep of Cooley Peninsula spread before us. Louth is the smallest of the Irish Republic counties, a peninsula which is mountainous where it is not farmland, one exception being Carlingford with the most people, population 1,405 in 2016.

Residential Carlingford continues along the Greenore Road, farmland adjoins then continues southeast along the Cooley Peninsula margin, the Irish Sea beyond. Greenore Town and deep water port on upper left.  These photographs are views from the Tain Way on the slopes of Slieve Foye, the highest mountain of County Louth.

Greenore Town and Deepwater Port
Click this link for my Ireland gallery of Fine Art Photography.

Wander through the place names: Chapel Hill, Liberties of Carlingford, Moneymore, Leminageh, Crossalaney, Mullatee, Millgrange, Ramparts, Muchgrange, Ballyamony, Mullabane, Petestown, Ballagane, Willville, Whites Town.
There is a deepwater port on Carlingford Lough adjacent to and part of Greenore Town. The port employed Cousin John Mills years ago, supplementing his farm income. Across the lough is Greenecastle, Newry in Northern Ireland.

Greenore Town and Deepwater Port

The Irish Sea opens on the far side of Greenore with the Isle of Man about 52 miles east and a little north.

Visit the opening chapter of our time on the Tain Way
Click link for the next posting of this series, “Leprechaun Rock along the Tain Way”

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec

during the Great HUNGER, from the Cobh Heritage Center

“Grosse Isle quarantine station was on an island near Quebec in what is now Canada. It was one of the principal arrival ports for emigrants.

Emigration peaked in 1847 when nearly 100,000 Irish landed at Grosse Isle, straining the resources to breaking poinit. Severe overcrowding and an outbreak of typhus caused enormous suffering the the result was a large number of deaths amongst both immigrants and doctors.

New stricter laws were passed to encure that the catastrophe of 1847 was not repeated. Irish emigrant traffic increasingly flowed towards the United State inthe post-Famine period”. From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

In that horrible year of 1847, strict quarantine could not be enforced and many passengers, some carrying disease, were taken directly to Montreal or Quebec city. At least 5,000 died on Grosse Isle in 1847 and thousands more in Quebec, Montreal and during the voyage across the Atlantic.

The unprecedented crisis made it difficult for accurate records to be kept. Some lists were compiled giving details of the possessions of those who died. These lists make sombre reading as they describe the personal belongings of Irish men and women whose hopes of a new life in North America were never fulfilled.

The objects in this showcase provide an representation of the possessions of famine emigrants. From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Assistance from America

during the Great HUNGER, from the Cobh Heritage Center

“The U.S.S Jamestown was the first ship to bring famine relief supplies to Ireland in 1847. Other vessels followed, notably the Macedonian which arrived in Cork July 1847. Captained by George C. DeKay of New Jersey, it carried supplies provided by the citizens of New York, Boston, Main and other parts of the United States. Captain DeKay was warmly welcomed in Cord and special events were held in his honor. Most of the cargo was distributed in Ireland, with some being brought to Scotland to relieve distress there. Other smaller supplies of famine relief goods were sent to Cork from the United States. In April the bark Tartar sailed to Cork with in late June the Reliance left Boston, also destined for Cork. Each carried nearly $30,000 worth of goods for famine relief. From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

United States frigate Constellation with relief stores for Irish distress off Haulbownline in Cork Harbor.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Peel’s Brimstone

during the Great HUNGER, from the Cobh Heritage Center

“In November 1845 the British government set up a Relief Commission for Ireland which imported Indian corn and meal from the United States. This arrived in Cork early in 1846 and was distributed around the country where local food depots and relief committees were established. Indian corn (maize) was not grown in Ireland and was an unfamiliar food. It was difficult to grind and in some areas was known as “Peel’s brimstone,” after the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Special leaflets were issued to describe how to cook maize.” From the exhibit (below), Cobh Heritage Center.

Instructions for how to cook maize. In the west of Ireland many people spoke Irish.

“On Saturday last, the Government Sales of Indian Corn commenced in Cork. Immediately on the depoys being opened, the crowds of poor persons who gathered round them were so turbulently inclined as to require the immediate interference of the police, who remained throughout the day.

Among the poor, who were of the humblest description, and needing charitable relief, the sales were but scanty. The occasion had become of necessity; for potatoes had risen to 11d. the market price for 14 pounds; and, some of the leading commercial men in Cork have made a calculation, which show that the Government can afford to sell the Indian Corn at a much cheaper rate.

We feel gratified to learn that a steamer has been dispatched from Cork to Dublin, laden with 600 sacks of Indian meal.

One half, by the orders, is to be dispatched by the Royal, and the other by the Grand Canal, to the interior. It must be acknowledged that her Majesty’s Government are executing their dury promptly and with energy. from the Illustrated London News, April 4, 1846″. ~ from the exhibit, Cobh Heritage Center.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Around the Kiva

a fascinating lecture

This diverse group of fifty three individuals are gathered around a kiva of the Mesa Verde Cliff palace on a July afternoon.

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Interested in Ruins? Here is another interesting post, “Loughan Bay Ruins, County Antrim, Ireland.”

Copyright 2021All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

An Gorta Mor

The Great Famine

Hunger and desperation forced thousands into the overcrowded workhouses and put enormous pressure on relief schemes which attempted to alleviate the distress. Over three quarters of a million people died during the Famine, mainly from diseases such as cholera. Between 1845 and 1851 over 1,500,000 people emigrated from Ireland. ~from poster “The Famine” Cobh Heritage Center, May 2014.

Copyright 2021 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. 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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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 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Long Island Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Clouds of Blossoms

We have a selection of teas at home for brewing afternoons as a pick-me-up. Some brought back from travels, most from a local supermarket. This Japanese green tea brings to mind my childhood and our trips to Long Island to visit my Mom until she passed away June 2013.

As you can see from this photograph of the tea in a white lotus bowl, there are pieces of pink and white stuff mixed in. These are called by the Japanese “sakura”, cherry blossoms.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Japanese Sakura Sencha Green Tea – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In Japan, since the 8th century, “Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. Here in the United States, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated commemorating the 1912 gift of Prunus serrulata Japanese cherry trees from Tokyo to the city of Washington.

Traditionally cherry blossoms remind the Japanese of clouds, the blooms come out en mass, the tree changes shape with the breeze.  Viewing sakura brings to mind thoughts of the transience of existence, the fragility and transience of the exquisite blooms leads one to appreciate the moment.  The following photograph of Pam was taken a month before my Mother’s sudden decline and passing in 2013.  We’d travel to Long Island several times a year to visit her, then take in familiar sights.

The tree over Pam is called a Shirofugen (Scientific name: Prunus serrulata, of the Rosaceae family) and is one species planted around National Tidal Basin, Washington D.C. Shirofugen blossoms are described “Flowers double, deep pink at first, fading to pale pink.”

 

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Pam with a Shirofugen Flowering Cherry in bloom – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Growing up, our family visited the Planting Fields, a state park, several times in the spring and summer. As an adult with a growing family in Glen Cove, right around the corner, the Planting Fields were a welcome outing and visited several time times a year. The following photograph, taken that same May 2013 day, was a favorite park scene.

The two flowering cherry trees in the foreground are a type of Japanese sakura called Yoshino, one the most popular flowering cherries in temperate climates worldwide. All Yoshinos are clones from a single grafting and propagated throughout the world. The scientific name outlines the cross breeding of this variety, Prunus X Yeaoensis. Behind the cherries is an Oak tree, new leaves a bright green, and a pink child’s playhouse cottage.

A changing scene of the park is the now frequent visits by wedding parties and photographers, groups of Asian people, the bride and groom posing under the clouds of blossoms. By frequent I mean a steady stream, one after the other, when the blossoms are full.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse with Flowering Cherry and Oak trees – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

In 2007 I spent hours framing and capturing the following photograph on a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, during a visit to my Mother, who was widowed December, 1995. I used an inexpensive tripod, a Kodak DCS Pro slr/c camera body with the Canon 50mm f 1.4 USM lens, a UV filter and lots of time. There were no interruptions that day, at 5:30 pm I had the area to myself.

This child’s garden playhouse, framed by an ancient oak, pink Japanese cherry blossoms and gracious lawn was awarded a Photographic Society of American, Pictorial Print Division, Print of the Month award, published in the society magazine for that month.

My online gallery (see link below) “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, has this print available for sale on high quality photographic stock with optional framing.

This week, I submitted the photograph for my Getty portfolio.  As of today, I have not received their decision.

Click any photograph for my Getty portfolio.Playhouse – CLICK ME for my Getty Portfolio.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography.  License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog.  Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link to purchase a print of “Playhouse” with optional custom framing from my Fine Art Gallery.