Ireland on the Mind at Christmas

Irish Christmas Spirit

A previous post, “Christmas Tableau”, provides some context.  The photographs from that set were accepted by Getty for stock images.  Click the link to take a look:  “Cozy Snowmen” on Getty Stock.

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.”

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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.

“Travel memories”

Lets’s finish up with a resin cast Santa Claus in hiking garb.  Hiking is a favorite activity of ours.  Featuring a stout staff and Aran Island sweater.

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Torr Head Stories VI

Down and Down

Weathered masonry at the height of Torr Head was there to serve the custom house and as support for a spotting station where ships transiting the Strait of Moyle (Irish Sruth na Maoile), the 12 miles of water to the Mull of Kintyre.

Lloyd’s of London, vitally interested in the appearance of ships’ progress crossing the oceans, had notice of passage via semaphore (and, later, Marconi’s “wireless”). Destination ports were copied in.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories V

The Way South –

Scottish influences touched the landscape covered by yesterday’s post, today we continue on this subject with these south facing views from Torr Head. The far ridge of Torrcor marks Loughan Bay.

A townland on the other side of Torrcor hill (and townland) has an eponymous ruin, Altagore Cashel. Mores the pity we did not visit this site, a thick drystone enclosing wall from the 5th century (you can see photographs from another site at this link). Cashel is from the Irish Caiseal, a circular, defensive fort (“ring fort”).

Books such as “Antrim and Argyll: Some Aspects of the Connections” tell of connections over the millennia, clan associations between the islands and ring forts such as Altagore Cashel.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories IV

Salmon Run

Late spring and summer, weekdays, a net is stretched across the bay to catch salmon nosing up the coast, searching for their home spawning stream, here called Altmore Burn. “Burn” is a Scottish term for a fresh water source, evidence of the influence 12 miles across the north channel.

The small harbor seen here from Torr Head is for the salmon fishery. Small boats will seek shelter here from the wind and tides strong enough to roar in passing the Head, like a fast flowing river.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories III

Neolithic Passage Tomb

Taking in a flower meadow, foreground, coaster sheep pastures, the photograph, below, looks north from Torr Head. The high hill, midground, is Greenanmore, notable for a the largest passage tomb of the Antrim Glens. Locally known as “Barrach’s Tomb,” for the Red Branch knight of the 1st Century AD fort on Torr Head, tree ring research of the mid-20th Century dates these tombs in the neolithic The hilltop passage tomb was an ancient relic when the mortar of Barrach’s Torr Head fort was drying.

When I enlarge the original photograph, visible on the ridge is a decommissioned Cold War listening post, the tomb is near that. The distant land across the North Channel water is Rathlin Island.

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Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories II

Ancient Castles and Raithlin Island

Knights of the Red Branch appear towards the end of “Deirdre and the sons of Uisneach”, a tale from 1st century AD Ireland, as protectors of the lovers Dierdre and one of the sons of Uisneach, named Naoise. The two fled to Rathlin Island, seen in the distance in the following photograph.

From Rathlin Island they passed over the Irish Sea to Scotland where they lived happily for a term of years.

Click me for an earlier Torr Head post “A Bit About Torr Head.”

Barrach’s fort no longer exists, a Coast Guard Station was built over the site. There are other intact ruins on this picturesque coast. Here is one close to the Giant’s Causeway, Dunseverick Castle.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Stories I

Mysterious Barrach, Knight of the Red Branch

Torr in Irish is a steep rocky height. Likewise, Corr means odd, uneven, rounder, convex, curved, peaked, projecting, smooth. Combined Torcorr is the townland where we stopped on the Torr Road, halted by our wonder at this sight.

In the distance, Torr Head projects into North Channel, the closest land to Scotland. Following the coast, the cliffs in front of Torr Head are home to numerous sea birds such as Fulmars (family Procellariidae) nad Oystercatchers (family Haematopodiadae). Along the rock beaches next Eider Ducks (genus Somateria). You might see the Common Buzzard (species Buto buteo).

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Click me for an earlier Torr Head post “A Bit About Torr Head.”

In the following photograph Torr Head seen from immediately above. I stand on the ancient site of Barrach’s fort, a knight of the Red Branch. After some internet research I cannot find another reference to this knight, other than the information placard on Torr Head.

A Bit About Coolranny Townland

Neat and tidy

2014, the count of townlands on and around the island of Ireland was 61,098 with most of Irish Gaelic origin predating the Norman invasion, first recorded in 12 century church records. The names have a pride of place reflected in the beauty of the namestones along Torr Road.

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The 82 acres of Coolranny forms a slice of land running from a ridge to Loughan Bay off the North Channel of the Irish Sea across from Scotland.

See this post for a description of wildflowers flowering here in the month of June.

A spic and span cottage on Torr Road, maybe the rectory for the Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea church.

An informative placard.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

On Torr Road

Facing Views

Land and sea between Torcorr Townland and Torr Head was the theme of yesterday’s post, continued today.

A grand view presents itself throughout the roll down Torcorr into Coolranny townland. Loughan is a shallow bay along the North Channel of the Irish Sea, a rocky sand beach is accessible via a slope shallower than the cliffs on either side. This access is a reason for the tiny rural community on the slope above, now a site of ruined cottages, abandoned during the emigration from Ireland, a flight continuing into the Twentieth Century.

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See this post for a description of wildflowers flowering here in the month of June.

This photograph from the bottom of the Torr Road hill takes in Coolranny Townland. a slice of land running from the ridge to Loughan Bay. We see a number of hawthorne trees in flower, yellow flowering Whin Bush, houses and the Roman Catholic church Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea.

Tor in Irish is a steep rocky height. Likewise, Corr means odd, uneven, rounder, convex, curved, peaked, projecting, smooth. Combined Torcorr is the townland where we stopped on the Torr Road, halted by our wonder at this sight. In the distance, Torr Head projects into North Channel, the closest land to Scotland. Following the coast, the cliffs in front of Torr Head is home to numerous sea birds. The curved bay is named Loughan, the rocky sand beach are ruins of cottages emptied by Irish emigration. The white building is Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church. County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The photograph of the header, taken by Pam, is from either Coolranny or Loughan Townland, looking across a sheep pasture, the North Channel of the Irish Sea toward the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland just twelve miles distant.

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Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Torr Head Wildflower Meadow

can you see any other flowers/plans in this photograph? Please leave a comment if you do.

We parked below the Coast Guard station, headed toward the height of Torr Head. I was stopped in my tracks by the hillside meadow wildflower profusion. 

Here are a few I identified, listed by common name: Bluebell, Daisy, Meadow Buttercup, Sea Campion, Yarrow.  We love daisies and buttercups around home.  We spotted Sea Campion on the Dingle Peninsula, as well.  Yarrow is common through Ireland.  I don’t recall seeing bluebells anywhere else. 

It was the bluebells in this photograph that clued me into why I took a photograph of the hillside.  The view north takes in coastal sheep pasture looking on a portion of North Channel and the Irish island Rathelin.

The web page I used for identification was wildflowersofireland.net . Great information and links to the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland with a distribution map.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills