Around and About Athens, New York, part 3

Blossoms, headstones and the passage from Dutch to English

Blossoms

Spiraea bushes in full bloom flanked the Riverside Park along Water Street.

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Well cared for…..

…..as are the urns across the street.

Athens Country Cemetery

Our daughter-in-law and her Mom were a source of post-trip information. “Yan Van Loan” is how Jan Van Loon’s name is pronounced in Dutch, they kindly informed us.

Passage of political control from Dutch to English was decades old when Jan Van Loon acquired his land on the river. By the 19th century the name was anglicized (turned English) on the headstones, spelled as it was pronounced in English. In the 18th century Pam’s ancestors had moved west and south to what became Plymouth, Pennsylvania (Luzerne County). This was before the coal fields, in the 18th century agriculture was the primary industry. Pam’s branch of the Van Loons retained the Dutch spelling and anglicized the pronunciation, as “Van Loon” is pronounced in the English language.

The very old burials were marked with headstones of locally quarried slate, as was common in upstate New York. You can see slate headstones in this video of a Pioneer Cemetery near our home in Ithaca, New York.

In Athens the oldest stones were in the same condition, the lettering and decoration erased by the elements even when the stones are still standing. Some kind people researched the burials and erected a modern, white marble memorial stone with the names and dates of the ancestors named in the records. Jan Van Loon, Maria his wife, or any of Pam’s direct ancestors were not among them.

The Matthias Van Loon of this memorial obelisk was a descendant who remained in what became Athens, New York. The following two photographs are of the base and an overview. Matthias Van Loon’s is on the right.

This Catholic burial is on the very edge of the site, as though pushed off to the side. That is the yard of a private home in the background. I started this post with flowers because there was little evidence of familial devotions on these burials of previous centuries.

Click me for the next post of this series. Learn about a 295 year old house that is still a home.

Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Skellig Peek

A Trinity of Skellig Images

With the newest Star Wars cash cow , “The Last Jedi”, bruiting about the media show, now’s time to debut a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.  Skellig scenery also graced the ending of the 2015 installment, “The Force Awakens.”

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 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserves