This is part of my project to document our Christmas memories through photography. Here we explore the Irish and Ireland themes of our decorated Christmas Tree.
Where would we be without Saint Patrick? He was a force, to be sure. A favorite story, is the landing of his return to the island 432 AD. The tides on the eastern coast of the Irish Sea can be strong. His plan was to sail up to coast further north than what we call today Strangford Lough. On passing this inlet the boat was swept into the lough tidal narrows. Circumstances called for a landing, rather than wait for the tide. Patrick came ashore where the Slaney River enter the lough and “quickly converted” the local chieftan, Dichu, who provided a barn for holding services. The name of the town “Saul” in Irish is Sabhall Phádraig, translated as “Patrick’s Barn.”
In this posting I’ll go lighter on descriptions of technique. Leave it to say I held to the Canon fixed lens EF 50mm f1.2L USM throughout. Some, like the photograph of Saint Patrick, used a tripod. Others, like the latter two of the following Irish Themed Cross set were handheld. Generally a flash was used to supplement ambient sunlight from a large north-facing bay window.
Here the “celtic” cross is converted to an Irish theme through a substitution of a shamrock with golden decoration inspired by pagan neolithic petroglyphs for the nimbus (circle) intersecting the central intersection of arms and stem.
For the first three I played with aperture, taking advantage of the stability of a tripod. The final two of the set are handheld.
Note the fanciful leprechaun snowman with pot o’ gold, on the left.
Blown glass Irish dancers.
the suitcase for our 2014 tour of the island and re-connection with family. Also a symbol of our ancestors travel across the Atlantic ocean to North America.
In follow-up to my last post my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara was accepted and is available for viewing (click the link to go there).
Since July 2008 a sea generation tidal turban, “SeaGen”, produces electricity (1.2 MW) for between 18 and 20 hours a day while the tide is forced in and out of Strangeford Lough through the Narrows where the generator is installed. The first large scale commercial production of electricity from the tide, “SeaGen” is located between the Northern Ireland towns of Strangeford and Portaferry, the strength of the tides there were used by the earliest tidal mill known, the Nendrum Monastery mill dating 787 based on archeological excavation.
History records Patrick converted the island of Erin (Ireland) to Christianity in the Fifth Century AD as a return to his place of captivity and slavery.
There is a connection between “SeaGen” and the return of Patrick to Ireland. The first sanctuary dedicated by Patrick was at Saul, County Down not far from River Quoile that drains into Strangeford Lough. Historians identify Patrick’s first landing site, upon return, as Wicklow where he was forced to leave by the locals. Heading north in the boats of the time, the strong tide of Strangeford Narrows pulled them into the Lough and, from there, headed up the River Quoile to encounter the local chieftain, Díchu mac Trichim. Patrick’s first Irish convert to Christianity, the feast of Saint Dichu is April 29.
On June 7, 2014 Pam and I visited this area. Here are some photographs of the traditional burial place of Saint Patrick.
To continue my posting “Climb Hill of Tara” my first submission of three Hill of Tara photographs to Getty Istock had two of the photographs returned for revision.
For the fenced statue of Saint Patrick the reviewed wrote:
Please provide a full description for the work of art featured in this image. Include the artist, date of creation, location, etc. Works of art created by someone other than yourself must be free of copyright protection to be considered. If this work of art is indeed under copyright protection, a property release signed by the copyright holder will need to be provided.
Hmmmm….What I do while capturing a photograph of a statue is take photos of any plaque, sign, whatever to acquire the name of the creator, how it came to be there, community connections. There was nothing around the statue nor the very informative Office of Public Works placards at the entrance. I was proud to submit the statue photograph, as it turned out so well, and hoped for the best.
Last week, I put in a query to Ireland’s Office of Public Works (OPW), the agency responsible for the Hill of Tara, and did not receive a response when, for other queries, they were helpful. This Saturday and Monday mornings, several hours of internet research revealed this history.
The original statue was placed on Tara sometime after the 1829 Catholic emancipation. It was molded concrete, created by Thomas Curry of Navan at his own expense to honor the connection of Saint Patrick to Tara.
The OPW removed Curry’s statue 1992 for repair of a century of wear. During the removal the statue was damaged beyond repair and, afterwards, was further damaged by vandals who decapitated and used it for target practice.
Initially, the OWP decided not to replace Saint Patrick citing the “pagan” nature of the place. After an angry meeting of local people at the Skryne Parish Hall. In this meeting the local Rathfeigh Historical Society formed the “Committee to Restore St. Patrick to Tara.” In turn, pressure was put on Michael D. Higgins, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (and the OPW). It was decided a new statue was to be created, based on a competition, and instead of it former place at the hill summit (called Rath na Rí), it was to be near the entrance, outside the Interpretative Center, to offer a Céad Míle Fáilte to visitors and be seen on departure.
The outcome was the competition winner was rejected by locals. The winning entry, by sculptor Annette Hennessy, did not follow competition rules that specified the statue incorporate traditional features to include shamrocks, harp, miter, a crozier and, perhaps, fleeing snakes. Hennessy’s design was of a shaven headed teenage boy in a short (“mini-skirt”) kilt, a handbag-shaped bell in hand. She agreed hers was “not a traditional style statue” saying it “acknowledges our Pagan Celtic history.”
The rejection included a statement from Dr. Leo Curran, chairman of the Rathfeigh Historical Society, “We agreed that most of the monuments in Tara are from the pre-Christian era, but St. Patrick should be at the uppermost layer, representing Christian tradition extinguishing paganism.”
By this time, a new government and minister were in place. The decision was made to search Ireland to find a suitable, existing, replacement statue. By 2000 the present statue, donated by the Sisters of Charity, was in place at the Hill of Tara entrance.
At the end of this post I provide the two references from my internet research and from which many facts and all the quotes were used here. I concluded the statue author was anonymous without copyright protection and submitted a revised image description, attaching a copy of my research.
What happened to my IStock photograph of Saint Patrick on the Hill of Tara? Getty accepted my application, published the photo and it is one of my top downloads, and earners.
Arriving around noon on a Tuesday, Pam and I were greeted at the Hill of Tara by these children, headed to the school bus.
A statue of Saint Patrick fittingly welcomes visitors to the Hill of Tara, County Meath, Ireland. This statue of cast concrete was an existing statue donated by the Sisters of Charity, moved from an existing installation to the Hill of Tara in the year 2000 AD. The creator is anonymous, the is no plaque or other attribution on or around the statue. The original statue was erected on the summit of the Hill of Tara shortly after Catholic emancipation in 1829, commemorated the events of 433AD when St. Patrick lit a bonfire on the nearby hill of Slane on the eve of Easter Sunday. Slane was the second site we visited on our day of arrival, Saturday, May 24.
Lighting such a fire was contrary to the pagan laws of the time which dictated that the first fire lit that night be in Tara. Observing St. Patrick’s bonfire from afar, the chief druid of the ancient Gaelic capital predicted that if the flame were not extinguished that night, Christianity would never be extinguished in Ireland. The saint’s bonfire continued burning and the next morning, Easter Sunday, St. Patrick entered Tara to convert the king and his followers to Christianity.
A series of mounds surmounts the hilltop, one is visible across the expanse of grass.
Climbing higher, the view opens.
On the top, views from all cardinal directions, 360 degrees.
The Hill of Slane is visible in the east, the tall cathedral ruin though not visible in this view.
The first of the following panel is a view northwest from 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.
A bit to the east is the Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb.
Walk into a glade, through the ancient graveyard to the visitors center in a deconsecrated church.
Browse my reasonably priced stock photography. This blog features three (3) photographs I published last week to Getty Istock and my Fine Art gallery.
A luminous white pulpit rising from an elegant beam, as of light, graces Old North Church altar. In 1775, the Tory church minister preached from this pulpit in support of the English King. The floor space is filled not with pews; but boxes, each was the property of the occupants to furnish and decorate to taste. Today, each box has a brass plate naming the former owners.
As with sports stadium box seats today, these boxes provided the owners access to church services. Just before the pulpit is he box awarded to wealthy merchants for essential contributions to Christ Church, the formal name of the church and congregation. Today, there is a more direct sports connection: lanterns were lit in the tower for the Boston Red Socks 2004 World Series win.
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A bit after 10 pm on April 17, 1775 two men entered the church from the front door, pictured here under the arch. The church sexton Robert John Newman and Captain John Pulling carried two simple lanterns of glass and iron coated with tin. A third man, Thomas Bernard, stood watch because Boston was occupied by British “Regular” troops who patrolled the streets.
The lanterns beamed from the northwest side for but a minute, enough to serve the purpose of a backup signal to patriots across the Charles River in case Paul Revere and a second rider, William Dawes, were apprehended or killed before they could deliver the British attack plans.
The British patrols were alert and, in no time, they were breaking down this same front door. Robert Newman made his escape from this window. The frame was bricked over and only discovered in the twentieth century. It was celebrated during the USA bicentennial by President Ford, who presented the replica lantern that now hangs with the candle lit.
If you look closely, this bust of George Washington is visible in the Old North Pulpit photograph in a niche to the right rear. It is the oldest image of our first president. The Marquis de Lafayette is reported to have said this is the best likeness of Washington he had ever seen.
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.
What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.
When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).
An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.
Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”
People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.
The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.
A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Some of the photographs were hand held. When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.
Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village men women children filled the meeting place everyone participated especially the infants
raising John alone was not part of the plan Its been just john and me helen gave birth to john to have a part of me in case of loss i felt the same way and she understood
a welcome feminine voice in our home “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder called “HOME” that has an emotional resonance for me dated 1923 Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children what’s left over though is ours
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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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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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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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.
The morning of our day on the Dingle Peninsula I left the room early, my Sony Alpha 700 in hand, while Pam finished her preparations. The elevator deposited me in the lobby and I proceeded to capture images of the Killarney Royal Hotel, our base for three nights.
This marvelous “antique” mirror caught my eye. We are used to seeing convex mirrors in the upper corners of elevators, strategically located at hallway junctions, automated teller machines and parking garages all with the intention of providing a wide, fisheye, view to detect unsavory, lurking types and danger.
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This spotless, framed convex mirror is from a older, saner time. Such objects came in use from the 1400’s (15th century). When all glass was blown, a convex surface was easier to produce than a flat and, since all glass was expensive to produce, a convex mirror was a popular luxury item, an expensively framed status symbol.
Known as the “sorcerer’s eye” from the all encompassing view and, in keeping with our modern uses, even back then also called a”banker’s eye.” Symbolically, the 15th century paintings used a pristine mirror to represent the Immaculate Conception.
The five images here are the final result of trial and error, working out the details of using a flash in the relatively low light of the morning lobby, avoiding my reflection, maintaining a sharp focus throughout the field, capturing the unique details of the frame without distortion and the mirror’s wide angle view. I gave up on the flash and, instead, did this series at f5.6 and the ISO incremented 800 to 3,200. As such, the exposure ranged from 1/5 to 1/25 of a second. All shots were handheld.
I hope you enjoy the results. This was a promising start to our memorable day of exploration.
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