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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Leprechaun Home Invasion

Saint Patrick Day Family Humor

In a previous posting we hiked through the only European Union Leprechaun Preserve on Slieve Foy above Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

EuHabitatsDirective-02267

This home was lower on the mountain, on the way to town.

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

You will not find Calla Lilies thriving in front yards here in Ithaca, New York (43 degrees north latitude) as they do in the Temperate Oceanic Climate of Ireland, pictured in Carlingford on a June day.  At 54 degrees these Calla Lilies are growing at a latitude 800 miles north of Ithaca, in the middle of Quebec Province, Canada.

In spite of this, here in Ithaca we keep March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, warm.  In the home of our three grandchildren (3, 4 and 6 years old) who live in Ithaca they celebrate by playing tricks on Leprechauns.

This year, we visited Saint Patrick’s Day eve and reviewed their bag of tricks with the Leprechaun in Chief, their Mom.  In response, the Leprechauns leave them letters to make it clear the tricks did not work.  On top of this, the children have big laughs on the tricks played in return.  A favorite is finding their socks taped all over the mirror.

Mom pulled out a few of the Leprechaun letters and we read them for the children to great laughter as they remembered tricks of previous years.  Afterwards, when alone with Mom, Pam and I recalled the tradition in Chicago, to color the river green (a well as green milkshakes, etc), and suggested to the Leprechaun in Chief to put green food color in the toilet.  It was a winning idea.

The next morning Mom, on hearing the toilet flushed repeatedly, found her 4 year old daughter totally appalled.  “The Leprechauns used our toilet (and did not flush).  YUUUUKKKK.”  She then ran upstairs hoping for a “clean” bathroom up there.  Well, green milkshakes are off the menu.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Tain Way Poetic Finale

A Poem to accompany our arrival at Carlingford

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

I

a crisis threatened an Irish village
men women children filled the meeting place
everyone participated especially the infants

Ram on Slieve Foy
The Tail Way descends from Goliyn Pass to the northeast, passing among commons grazing. I attempted to identify the breed of this ram, but gave up. I can say sheep on the Cooley Peninsula are primarily bred for meat and there are black faced breeds known for meat production.
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Ram in profile on Slieve Foy
The flocks of County Louth commonly carry paint brands to identify ownership. Paint branding lessens wool value. This is less of an issue if the livestock are primarily raised for meat.

in spite of it all a plan was arrived at
after the vote
from the back of the room a man called out

….you know the type…

THIS WILL BE OUR PLAN
UNTIL
WE FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.

Walls and Battlements of King John's Castle
The ancient portion of Carlingford. I called the top of the castle “battlements” in the loose sense, as the ruin now longer has a walkway.

II

my son John and I have a photo of him at 5 years
washing dishes
standing on a chair up to his elbows in rubber gloves
the caption reads “Two Men On Their Own.”

i had agreed to accept a divorce from helen
only if john was left with me

one night in particular stands out from that time
i did not sleep for planning what john and I would do

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Unbranded, perfect white marks this lamb among an extensive fern bed. Tain Way steepens on approaching Carlingford. Below is the residential Carlingford, the Greenore road running to the right. The large structure with two rows of dark windows is the Four Seasons Hotel where a substantial brunch is served Sundays.

III

seven years passed
not a long time
since then we’ve moved
found another a better life

Ram and Lamb in pasture
We descended below the ridge to pass into excellent pasturage. The growth of fern hides a lush grass pasture.
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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

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

a welcome
feminine voice in our home
“Little House on the Prairie”
and
“Little House in the Big Woods” twice.

Gorse against the slopes of Slieve Foy
Plants and livestock on these slopes of Slieve Foy contend with adverse conditions in the form of a constant east wind. The stress is evident in the stressed trunk, although this species thrives in this environment, as seen in the strength of bloom and the yellow patches on the slopes, all of which are gorse. Gorse flowers are edible; the entire plant can be used as fodder when crushed to the consistency of moss. In Scotland there’s a museum with a roundish boulder called a Whin Stone.

V

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.

Tain Trail Enters Carlingford
The trail detours around sheep pasture just before descending to the outskirts of Carlingford.

VI

we give so much to our children
what’s left over though
is ours

Red Poppies front a Fieldstone Home.
The first Carlingford home passed by the trail is a solid fieldstone home with a slate roof fronted by a natural garden featuring red poppies.
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William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult to get the news from poems
yet men diet miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there

Ruined Cottage, Carlingford
This ruin lies off the Tain Way as it descends through the outskirts of Carlingford town. Constructed of stones, mortar and what looks to be concrete. Long slate slabs protect the eves. It’s been abandoned for an age. What a story it must have, long slow and full of life.

it is not difficult to understand this
to live it is another matter

The Abby Bar
Named for the Carlingford Priory, a nearby ruin, the Abby Bar is located on Dundalk Street (R173), Liberties of Carlingford, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland. Liberties of Carlingford might be called greater Carlingford in the USA.

you have to live it
in order to have something
left over

Metal Cover with Celtic Motifs
A metal cover, about 8 inches in diameter located in the sidewalk on the left side of The Abby Bar on Dundalk Street, Carlingford. The triple spiral triskelion symbol has become a Christian symbol of faith for Celtic Christians around the world, a visual representation of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and eternity. In Ireland, the symbol acquired its Christian meaning prior to the 5th century. The triskelion predates Christina and even Celtic culture as petroglyphs of the astronomical calendar at the megalithic tomb Newgrange (3,200 BC). The symbol is associated with Neolithic cultures throughout Western Europe.

VII

never the less
my emotional resonance in reading that piece
“Home”

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well-tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

did not come from the sentiments Wilder so skillfully evoked
though I shared them it was that sharp part

Church of Saint Michael Grounds, Lamp Post
Lamp post on Church of Saint Michael grounds.

i did not agree with it lacking a reason
and so must have re-read
“Home”
fifty times a hundred
who knows

Church of Saint Michael Facade
The Church of Saint Michael is a Roman Catholic Church on Dundalk Street (R173), Carlingford.

so committed to speak today
and began to write
something was bound to shake loose

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

then those lines form Deuteronomy
gave themselves to me

Before you this day is set good and evil, life and death.
Choose life, that both you and your descendants might live.

Church of Saint Michael Grounds

“Home” was a twist of these lines

as long ago as 1923
Wilder was experiencing our present
contemplating the unthinkable

Wilder held her own experience as a shield
and denied such a tragedy
could ever touch her

for me the result
is a beautiful poisoned apple
innocently offered
by a treasured friend

Final Tain Trail PHotograph
Pam Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.
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VII

life is a gift
not entirely under our control
Yes we must be careful
but for some this is not enough

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford
Michael Wills and Sean Mills on the grounds of the Church of Saint Michael, Dundalk Road (R176), Carlingford.

we must forgive others
and ourselves

************************************************************************

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Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Leprechaun Rock along the Tain Way

The Last Leprechauns

Rocks such as this are a favorite perch for leprechauns to rest and contemplate the works of man who have invaded their world. Inhabitants of Carlingford who wander Slieve Foye have come upon them often enough, their stories and certitude in the existence of the Little People are resistant to manifold doubters with their reasons and arguments.

leprechaunRockCarlingford-02245

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Kevin Woods, aka McCoillte, was a doubter until worked on a stone wall on property he owned on Ghan Road, Carlingford. His belief did not arise on the discovery of the leather purse, covered with ages of dust and lime, nor with the gold coins inside. McCoillte pocketed the coins for luck. As luck would have it, McCoillte loved to walk on Slieve Foye. It was on one such walk he and his dog encountered Little People who paralyzed them to escape. His unexplained absence led to troubles with the wife.

EuHabitatsDirective-02267

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This experience brought McCoillte around to enough of a belief that he, with lots of help, succeeded in petitioning the E.U. European Habitats directive to recognize leprechauns a protected species.  According to a page on the Celtic Times web site, “The E.U. sent Madame Isobel Jeanne from Fecamp in Brittany France to Carlingford with the official letter declaring Carlingford Mountain (Note: otherwise known as Slieve Foye) protected, on the grounds that they could not prove or disprove their existence.”  The page is titled “The Carlingford Leprechaun.”  Google “Last Leprechauns” learn more about McCoillte’s stories.

I came upon this rock on June 9, 2014 on a day my cousin Sean Mills invited us to walk the Tain Way over Slieve Foye. It was such a finely shaped piece of what I suppose to be granite, the view of Carlingford, the lough and farmland so compelling, I spent time composing this landscape.

You can make out “King John’s Castle” just over the ridge and its yellow flowering gorse, on the margin of the blue lough. It is the boxy, grey structure; crenellations are visible on high resolution versions of the image. Carlingford is known for the castle, the popular name is for the English monarch who spent time there, although it was built by another.

Click for our next and final chapter on the Tain Way.
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Copyright 2017 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

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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.

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Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

A Story Risen from the Mist

The Resurrection of Táin Bó Cúailnge

We did not climb so much as ascend, with effort, the flank of Slieve Foy, a peak of the Cooley Mountains, County Louth, Ireland. The group being cousin Sean, my wife, Pam, and myself.

The ridge of Golyin Pass loomed in the mist where the path dissolved in low cloud. Sean pointed above, to the right to Barnavave, also know as Maeve’s Gap for the queen who came from the west of Ireland to take Donn Cúailnge, the Brown Bull of Cooley, by force of arms with an army behind her.

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A modern rendering of Donn Cúailnge. See link at the bottom of this posting for more information.
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When cousin Sean named Cú Chulainn, the champion of Maeve’s opponents, the Ulstermen, he recalled a story once lost, Táin Bó Cúailnge. A hospitable siege different from Maeve’s and mist are part of the story of the recovery of this tale.

A gathering of 150 poets, 100 pupils, and attendants strained the patience and wealth of Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin, King of Connacht, when it extended to a year and four months.

Southwest View from Hags Mountain– CLICK ME!!!!
Our first and only encounter with fellow hikers. In the distance two figures appear over the next ridge, a mother and young daughter. She greeted us and challenged Sean to his knowledge of the area. Sean acquitted himself well and we continued.

On that 16th month, the king challenged the leader of his guests to the telling of a tale. Guaire demanded Seanchan Torpest, the chief poet of Connacht, to recite the whole of Táin Bó Cúailnge, known in English as the Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin (Cattle Raid).

Click a gallery pic for a larger view.

In this way the king was relieved of his guests: the book of the Táin was lost before their lifetimes, rumored to be abroad. Abashed at his failure, Seanchan Torpest withdrew. Fellow poets and followers trailed out from the castle.

Seanchan Torpest regrouped the host (an opened question is who then supported them) in conference to construct Táin Bó Cúailnge. It was a false hope as the gathering discovered while each poet knew a part of the whole, most of the story was lost. His honor, reputation and self-esteem in tatters the Chief Poet of Connacht, set off with Murgen, his son, and second cousin Eimena to return the Táin to Ireland.

Into mists such as those Pam, Sean and I ascended, the travelers soon were lost and separated.

Magically, Murgen finds the grave of the Uncle of Cú Chulainn in the mists, there to meet the shade of that enormous man, Fergus mac Róich is his name. In the Táin, as related in whole by Fergus to Murgen, Fergus was led by circumstances to ally with Maeve, to guide her army against the Ulstermen. As a deposed king, traitor to Ulster and Uncle to the champion Cú Chulainn, Fergus knew the tale entire.

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View as we approached Goliyn Pass

It was from the mists that Murgen emerged, found his father and cousin, and returned together without the book, but with possession of the substance of the Táin.

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Views of Carlingford

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Visit the next posting in this Ireland series, “Farmland Southeast of Carlingford”

A thank you to Wikipedia, my information source on the resurrection of the Táin.
Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

On the Tain Way

A place of myth and wonder on foot and approachable

On Monday, June 9, 2014, cousin John Mills dropped his son, Sean Mills, myself and Pam Wills off at the foot of the western slopes of Slieve Foy on the Tain Way.  Sean, Pam and I walked the way over the mountain and into Carlingford in the footsteps of epic Irish heroes.

Our guide, Sean Mills, proposed the walk and it fell on our last full day in Ireland. Sean’s father and our host for this visit, John Mills, transported the group including my wife Pam to the starting point at the foot of Slieve Foy.

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On the Tain Way– CLICK ME!!!!

Yes, if there is any part of the Tain Way the the mythic Irish heroes trod it is this one over Slieve Foy mountain. The saga, in Irish “Táin Bó Cúailnge” and “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” in English, features this bull, “Donn Cuailnge” “The Brown Bull of Cooley”, here as a statue erected 2011 by the Grange and District Residents Association.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Donn Cuailnge raged over the very slopes we walked this day. The myths themselves fill a volume and I am unable to do them justice here.

On the way, John stopped at the Old Aghameen School he attended in the late 1930’s early 1940’s 70 years before and we pass through the country soon to grace our views.

Many thanks to the Glenmore Athletic Club, the Cooley Walking Forum and land owners who provide access to the Tain Way.

We had our leave taking with John, who planned to stay near the phone for our call from Carlingford, if all went according to plan. That same year Pam had the first of two total knee replacements. This was our longest hike in Ireland and Pam was not likely to miss it, regardless of any pain. Pam is always ready to smile.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

At start, the Tain Way is broad, green and welcoming.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

The western slopes of Slieve Foy hold views of a valley among the Cooley Mountains with Dundalk Bay of the Irish Sea to the south / southeast. It was not long before the view started to open and, then, opened and opened the entire walk to the top. We were graced with a lovely, cloudy, June day. Mist only, no rain. Plenty of wind, not strong.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

Farms are all about. Here a farmer attends to the flock. They know who he is.

Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford The lower slopes hold many small stream among granite stones. Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford Walking the Tain Trail to Carlingford

I will continue with our walk on the Tain Way soon enough.

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Here’s a previous Ireland posting……

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved