Loughan an Lochan Ruin I

Romance of Ruins

Introduction

Here is a photograph from our day touring the Glens of Antrim.  While making our way up the coast to Torr Head a group of stone walls resolved into ruins. A cluster of cottages on grassy slopes above the Irish sea above Loughan Bay.  This is the townland of Loughan.  Along the road are wonderful signs providing in handsome carved letters the place name in english and gaelic.  Here a signed only provided a gaelic name: “Loughan an Lochan”…near enough to meaning “Loughan Bay” in English.  The bay is a shallow scallop shaped indentation of the coast, a margin of narrow sand strand.

Ruins are spread across the slope.  Immediately before the views are traces of a foundation above the grass.  Beyond the top of a gable, an entire gable to the left.  On the far ridge, just visible, is an entire structure with doorways, gables, walls.

Across the Irish Sea, 13 miles distant, is the Mull of Kintyre.  In faint outline, rising above the horizon, find the highlands of Islay more than 30 miles.  Both are tips of peninsulas jutting from Scotland.

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The ruins lead to curiosity over who live here?  What were their lives like?  Why did they leave?

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Visit to Proleek Dolmen

Romance of Stones

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.

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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Treasure

Gold on display for the permanent exhibit “Treasures of the Girona,” Ulster Museum, Belfast. It is not Leprechaun gold, certainly.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-24

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

White House Overlook

Thunderhead and Red Rock

Whitehouse Overlook At Sunset
The Whitehouse Ruin of Canyon de Chelly is just visible at left in the far cliff, in the notch of the near cliff. The ruin trail is visible on the canyon floor. Notice the road following the canyon and the plantings with house on the right.

The landscapes I capture, like the face of a missing friend, fade gently from memory. My piece “Moon Fin Canyon de Chelly” became a mysterious vision. I remembered the context, the canyon topology was lost until I constructed the panorama, above, from three shots taken one evening, July 2008, from a cliff near the White House Overlook. Five years after my visit with Sean Wills, Pam and I returned to Canyon de Chelly to walk the same path.

At that time, a 50 mm lens was my widest angle, so I would take multiple images in sequence and use Photoshop later to construct a panorama. This past Sunday afternoon I spent stitching together my work from 2008.  In doing so I see “my fin”, in the center, bordered by the canyon road, is attached to the White House Ruin cliff via a thin ridge.

During that session a photogenic thunderhead, lit by the evening, hovered behind the fin as the gibbous moon did that long ago evening.

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Rock Fin and Thunderhead

Ledge Ruin Musings

a window in time

Canyon de Chelly, on the map, is shaped like a Y or a chromosome.  A chromosome as the walls of the canyon carry the heritage of the people who made this place their home over millennia.  A Y as in the letter ship, a foot and two arms.

6.2 miles from the canyon mouth, where the road ends at Chinle, above the branch, on the north cliff, is this photogenic ruin, called the Ledge Ruin.  In my previous posting, this ruin forms the backdrop of Peter Tsosie’s portrait.  Peter is the header image of this posting.

Junction Ruin

Difficult to believe, seeing it for the first time.

Difficult to see, a tiny nook in an enormous cliff, the structures formed from the same rock as though what remained after the cliff fell away.

Difficult to comprehend life there, what drove them to this effort? Fear, certainly, concern for their safety and security.

We know it by our name.  Their name included the word “home.”

Click for the first posting in this series, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide”.

Click for the next posting of this series, “Canyon of Music, Wind, Light”

Proleek, Grandfather McArdle’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 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Loughan an Lochan Ruin III

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.

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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.

Loughan an Lochan Ruin II

Romance of Ruins

….continued…..

Setting the Stage

For me, the romance of a place is settled in exact knowledge as much as a feeling. Starting with a recollection of the ruined cottages making such an impression we found a parking place and hiked into them loaded with photography equipment, three years later returning to use the photographs, bringing back a rush of memories and feelings, it is a matter of using the set of photographs from that day to build the location.

This much I knew, going in: we were touring Antrim Glens entering at Cushendall, after visiting Glenariff Forest Park, proceeding up the coast through Cushendun to Torr Head. A fortuitous encounter with a village of abandoned farm cottages (“ruins”) happened somewhere in between.

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There was a photograph of a notable church prior to the ruins and a fine view, from a place named Greenhill, afterwards.

Here is a picture of the terrain with the three pushpins:

  • A fine church just off Torr Road, to the west. I found the location in Google Maps, marked as “church”. Google earth showed buildings at the location, this set the “church” pushpin. Associated with the church, using the date/time stamp, were images of signage naming Coolranny townland.
  • A sign identifying a location as “Greenhill” was after. Neither Google Maps or Earth lists this as a place. It took hours searching web sites of Irish townlands before I found the reference. Greenhill is not a townland; it was listed as a place on one of the maps. Just above the notation was Torr Road, two unique bends in the road. I used these bends to identify the turnoff where I photographed the “Greenhill” sign.

For reasons to be explained later, it is important to know the name of the ruin townland. The place name sign presented in post 1 was a clue (“Loughan an Lochan” — or Loughan Bay), as well at the web site (see link below) listing Irish townlands. The web site map names “Loughan Bay.”

Click for a site providing the exact boundaries of Loughan townland

With this information I was able to peruse Google Earth, found the turnoff and the ruins!

See the above Google Map image sized to approximate the Loughan townland boundaries.

The scenery was jaw dropping lovely the entire time, so I captured view and view. Here are two landscapes time stamped just prior to the church, views including Coolranny and Loughan townlands with Torr Head in the distance.

That is Torr Road….

……a bit further along. It is possible to locate the ruin site from the Google Earth picture. There is a signature grove of bushes on the slope below the ruin site, sandy beach along shore. In the landscapes, Loughan Bay is cradled in a curve of coast.

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Click for the first postings of this series.

Imagine the effect of this environment on the inhabitants, the love of it grows with time.

To be continued…..

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.