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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2018-01-17 11:36:35

Ireland of the Welcomes July/Aug 2017 Issue

OF THE WELCOMES Vol. 66 No. 4 July/August 2017

Francis Ledwidge
BurrenBikoinngthe A Poet’s Life

The Dingle
An inPseidneirn’ssvuielwa

BLeaglleyncdasatrlye Ireland €3.50 (inc. VAT)
United Kingdom Stg£3.50
and Galleries

Front cover image:
Dunguaire Castle, County Galway


Vol. 66 No. 4, July/August 2017

Editorial Director: 16 Contents
Carissa Casey
Art Director: 6 Biking the Burren July/August 2017
Karl O’Toole Leon O’Cathasaigh discovers Co
Sub Editor: Clare’s majestic landscape 22 Glencolmcille
Tara Corristine Michael Fewer visits the neolithic
Creative Director: 12 A Work of Art monuments and pilgrim stations of
David Gibbons A village event sees Alice Taylor Donegal
Studio Director: whipping her glorious garden
Simon Baillie into shape 26 Poetic Justice
Commercial Director: The fascinating life of poet and
Rachel Supple 16 All at Sea soldier Francis Ledwidge
Ad Production Manager: The Dingle Peninsula
Kelly Smith 34 Irish Melodies
Financial Controller: The enduring appeal of Irish music
Darren Murray

Bairds Printing Co.
Norah Casey
Ciarán Casey

Vawn Corrigan, Tara Corristine, Michael Fewer,
Michael Finn, Wilf Judd, Eithne Massey, Felicity
Hayes-McCoy, Leon O’Cathasaigh, Gearóid Ó
hAllmhuráin, Alice Taylor, Áine Toner

Ireland of the Welcomes

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From the heart of Ireland to the Irish at heart



46 38 Safe Harbour 42
Dun Laoghaire harbour celebrates
its 200th birthday 55 Win!
A Short History of Traditional
42 A Capital Stay Irish Music
A Georgian gem in the Rebel
county 56 Ballycastle
Legends of love and loss from
44 Crafters and Makers the Ulster
Meet the women behind Irish
artisan soap company, Wild Oats 60 Lyrical Life
Poems from our readers
46 Riveting Reads
From quiz books to crime capers, 63 Letters
catch up on new Irish books Our readers get in touch

50 Songbird 64 Insider Tips
Meet Orla Fallon, singer and Michael Finn visits the home of
harpist of Celtic Woman fame Belleek pottery


2 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Downpatrick Head, County Mayo. By Michael Walsh ARE NOW ON SALE

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Editor’s Letter

“The music An Irish summer is a fragile unpredictable Tara Corristine takes us on a historical tour of
of Ireland thing. It often starts with an early blaze of Dun Laoghaire harbour (page 38) which this year
belonged to glorious sunshine sending us pale skinned celebrates its bicentenary.
the peasantry Irish folk frolicking about in shorts and sandals.
and was often Then just as we start turning a delicate shade of pink, And finally Vawn Corrigan celebrates the life and
their only grey clouds obliterate all light and we’re left to huff work of Francis Ledwidge (page 26) who died a
belonging as and puff in humid hell or retreat indoors to escape hundred years ago this year, one of many thousands
they travelled the thundery downpours. And so it goes on. of Irish men who never returned from the fields of
to the New Sunshine and scattered showers; the mantra of the Flanders.
World” Irish meteorological office from May to
September. We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we
enjoyed putting it together.
Fickle weather patterns are all part of the charm of
an Irish summer. Wet green leaves glistening in a Le grá,
stray ray of sunlight; small birds bursting into song
after a sudden downpour and the kaleidoscope of Carissa Casey
rich fertile green stretching in all directions. The
climate suits this country, or perhaps it’s the other
way around.

One of the most interesting features in this issue is
Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin’s history of Irish music
(page 34) and its spread throughout the world.
During the famine, a music collector noted that the
music of Ireland belonged to the peasantry and was
often their only true belonging as they travelled to
the New World in search of a better life. There it
thrived, transforming itself with each new
generation, opening itself to other influences and
ultimately finding a worldwide audience.

Leon O’Cathasaigh travels through the Burren, the
extraordinary limestone landscape in County Clare
so rich in rare plants and wildlife (page 6). It’s a
strange place with evidence that even back in the
mists of time, it held a special attraction.

Elsewhere, Alice Taylor describes her small village
donning its best and displaying local creativity in the
form of gardens and paintings (page 12).

4 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

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Sunrise in Doolin, County Clare


6 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

The Cycle of Life

The Burren, County Clare is one of
the most remarkable landscapes in
Ireland. By Leon O’Cathasaigh


My connection with the is, of course, just a voice on my mobile had reinvented itself. In Victorian times
Burren goes back to my phone but I have become very fond to it was a spa town and people came to the
youth, when I first hitch- her calm, clear commands. I’ve grown to area to take the waters and find some
hiked across the country depend on her; perhaps too much. respite from the sooty cities to the east.
and found myself one morning in a tent Later, in my teens, Lisdoonvarna was
gawking at a zany mountain with purple We headed east and inland with synonymous with a famous folk festival, a
hues and stony outcrops. I had arrived the the gentle slope of the rising land and kind of Irish version of Woodstock. More
night before but it was almost dark, so I cycled along the Wild Atlantic Way that recently, the town and indeed the whole
had no idea what the surrounding area straddles the shoreline of the county. hinterland of the Burren, has given rise to
looked like. I still remember gasping at After less than an hour we arrived at the numerous artisan microenterprises. There
the strangeness of the place as the first quiet market town of Lisdoonvarna. As is a Burren Smokehouse for fish, a Burren
rays of morning light glanced across the we passed through the sleepy streets, I Perfumery, a Burren Chocolate factory,
moonlike hills. recalled how many times this small town

Since then I have been drawn to the
Burren or ‘stony place’ in Irish. I fell
in love with everything from County
Clare, the lilting music, the passion for
set dancing, the folklore and stories, the
natural ways of the people and, of course,
the unique scenery. Some regard Clare as
the spiritual home of Ireland; if that is the
case, the Burren is its very soul, a physical
manifestation of the mystic power of the
land and an obvious focal point for the
psyche, Ireland’s Ayers Rock.

Our plan was to start at the seaside
town of Doolin and cycle over the hills to
Kinvara on the Galway coast. It was one
of those spring days in Ireland when the
weather can’t seem to make its mind up.
As we prepared the bikes we tried to gauge
what it might do. It had been acting like a
cantankerous teenager all morning; first
squally rain, then tantalising sunshine,
and then a hissy fit of hailstones. My
friend Fintan was a hardy cyclist and in
the end we both decided to dispense with
the waterproofs and take our chances on
the hills.

We aimed to avoid the main roads
whenever possible; the narrow tracks that
traverse the hills are more attractive and
get us up close to the landscape. Eilish,
my new cycling friend, would guide
us along the way. In recent times, she
accompanies me on journeys and talks me
through the most complex situations. She

“The terrain is skeletal with
fissures and ridges running in
generally parallel directions.
The fissures are filled with tiny

plants of great variety
and colour ”

8 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

The Cycle of Life

Limestone field on The Burren


many honey providers of the unique the bikes by a hedge, we wandered We were completely lost!
honey found in these parts and, of course, out over the rocks. If I was an artist I After some deliberations we decided to
artist studios of all forms. would describe the Burren on canvas as
‘textured grey with splashes of green and proceed west to get to the main road that
We passed through the town without yellow and streaks of dark lines’. would take us north to Kinvara. The only
stopping and on out a country lane on the trouble was the direction of the path cut
other side. Soon enough Eilish chipped The terrain is skeletal with fissures straight across one of the scraggy hills.
in with her helpful suggestion. “In two and ridges running in generally parallel Soon, as the slope increased, so too did
hundred meters turn right”. We swung directions. The fissures are filled with the roughness of the road and eventually
into a narrow lane that followed a gradual tiny plants of great variety and colour. we had to dismount and proceed on foot.
ascent with dark green forestry on either These are like ‘micro-jungles’, miniature There’s an old saying in Ireland that a
side. This was a ‘heads down’ part of our ecosystems trapped in gorges the width of good story can cut the road and so we
journey; we had work to do but it was a hand. exchanged tales.
well within our capabilities. At several
points Eilish would provide her precise There are some places that look the There’s a story told in these parts about
directions – left then right and so on for same from a distance as close up, this is a legendary blacksmith who had three
many miles – we obeyed her every whim. not the case with the Burren. If you ever hands and only one leg. He was renowned
With the forest, we couldn’t see where we get a chance to visit make sure you get for the quality of his work and he had
were going but we were ‘in the zone’ and yourself down to ground level and have a a magic cow that gave so much milk it
just enjoyed the cycle. good look at the miniature word hidden could fill any container. The tall tails
within. fitted well with the landscape and one
Eventually the path emerged onto the can well imagine how the strange rock
Karst landscape of the Burren uplands. Off again, we cycled for several miles formations could give rise to such fanciful
We had reached a high plateau with the when Fintan remarked, “that girl of stories.
hills around even higher. yours is very quiet”. Sure enough when
I checked, the battery on my phone was At the top we were treated to a splendid
We stopped to take it all in. Leaving dead. We had no Eilish to guide our way. view of the valley below.

10 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

The Cycle of Life

We came across a clutch of ponies Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara
grazing in a rocky field atop the
mountain. They were curious about our
arrival. I’m sure they don’t get many

Since earliest times farming has been
an important part of the Burren eco
system. In an odd inversion of the typical
pattern, animals are allowed to graze on
the hills over winter. The dry rocks hold
the heat and crevice vegetation provides
nutrient rich and succulent food. The
ponies seemed content and at home with
their surroundings.

It was downhill from here. At first we
were cautious, with the steep decline and
rocks on the road, and, later, as we joined
the main road, it was a freewheel spin
down to the Galway coast and onwards to



Some people paint pictures on
canvas with a brush or palette,
while others create pictures
in a garden with a spade and
a shovel. Both are drawing
from their pool of creativity
bringing beauty into our
world, writes Alice Taylor

12 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Gardens

I n and around our village we have many “After much coaxing, cajoling, My open day brought flocks of visitors
dedicated gardeners who have formed a bribery (but not corruption), because as my advisor had told me there
Flower and Garden Club where they we finished up with seven is nothing that gardeners like better than
love to share their gardening knowledge visiting other people’s gardens. It was a
with each other. Some local artists have brave gardeners ready to hugely enjoyable experience during which I
studios and also give classes; many people open their gates” met the most interesting people and learned
enjoy painting under their watchful eye. quite a lot from gardeners who were far
Both activities are enriching for the creators cause but the cost in kneeling hours was more knowledgeable about gardening than
but can be equally enriching when shared enormous. Because once you decide to open me. A day full of surprises and worth all the
with other people. your garden to the public you walk around it effort. My garden was perfect for the rest of
and view it as through the eyes of a stranger. the summer.
So an idea was born! What if we created a You see overgrown shrubs beneath which
showcase for their combined talents? What sun starved flowers are straining for light. So now I had to convince other people
if we held a celebratory weekend for our The blousy shrubs should have had manners of the joy of opening their gardens. I hoped
local gardeners and artists? Gardens and put on them long ago. And so on it goes, all that I would be as effective as my advisor.
Galleries would be the title for the weekend. around the garden.
The first weekend in July was the chosen After much coaxing, cajoling, bribery
time, right bang in the middle of our Irish I spent days weeding with my head in (but not corruption), we finished up with
summer when we were most likely to have the earth, my bottom up in the air. When seven brave gardeners ready to open their
sunny weather. weeding you get to know every stone and gates. Among them a castle garden, a
worm in your soil. I began at the right hand cottage garden, a village garden, a housing
With any outdoor event in Ireland you side of the garden gate and continued all estate garden, a farm garden and a riverside
are in the lap of the gods where weather is the way around the garden aiming for the garden.
concerned. On this occasion we were going left hand side of the garden gate. Finally I
to be very weather dependent. Nobody arrived there. By then I was crippled with Needless to say, the castle garden was
enjoys traipsing around even the most exhaustion and fit only for the kitchen the jewel in the crown and what a jewel. It
beautiful garden beneath trees and shrubs couch. Eventually I recovered! surrounds an old castle that the owner had
dripping with rain. That apart, a sunny day inherited from his grandmother and had
makes everybody feel good. lovingly restored from a forlorn ruin into a
beautiful elegant home. Once the castle was
The first hurdle to be overcome was restored, he began on the gardens and was
to find out how many brave souls would in the throes of bringing them back to their
be willing to open their garden gates and former glory. They were breathtaking. The
allow other gardeners in. Most people garden was on the top of everybody’s ‘must
recoil in horror at the prospect. A very see” list.
understandable reaction. A few years
previously when faced with that request I
nearly fainted at the prospect of submitting
my tangle of confusion to the gaze of
knowledgeable gardeners. But one shrewd
man who knew much about the gardening
world advised: “Your garden is grand and
anyway all that most people want is to get
their nose into someone else’s garden”.

So I was persuaded and every day for
weeks afterward regretted that decision.
I berated my self for my weak-minded
acceptance of the request by the local
fundraising group. Theirs was a worthy


We had four artists ready to come on Some might just enjoy simply walking
board. In the Parish Hall and the School around the village.
Hall, their students would display their
pictures. There was huge variety; one artist The proceeds were to put seats into our
was into portraiture, another flowers and local wood and to plant young trees in a
another landscape. It was delightful to go long grove between the Parish Hall and the
from one gallery to another and view the bridge where many old trees had died. That
different mediums. was the plan.

The village houses were encouraged to We had it well advertised so people began
decorate their windows. We arranged a to arrive early into the village in large
gramophone recital in a country market numbers. On the front wall of the Parish
at one end of the village and a display of Hall we had a large map and standing
vintage cars and artifacts in the forecourt of beside it a knowledgeable local who could
the garage in the centre of the village. Our direct the visitors to their locations of
two churches, of different denominations, choice. They then set off with their own
were decorated by their members. map. We had concentrated on excellent
sign posting so that strangers would not get
The action hub for the weekend was confused and finish up some place other
to be the Parish Hall at the western end than where they intended going. All the
of the village. Here people would receive plans had been well laid. But would it work?
a ticket and a map directing them to all This was a first for us.
the different venues. Some of the gardens
were outside the village and people had the Turned out that it was a success beyond
choice of driving their own car or hopping all our expectations. People loved it. They
on the mini bus that we were providing. enjoyed going from garden to garden
and into the galleries where they met and

14 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

“Nothing brings out the Irish Gardens
best in people like viewing
other people’s creativity. 15
Gardening and painting are

beautiful hobbies”

chatted with old friends and neighbours
or indeed strangers. Open gardens invite
conversation between strangers, as
gardening is the common denominator.
People loved walking along the street
looking in the windows that homeowners
had dressed with great flair and variety.
The little village café and our local hotel
hummed with activity. Some people are big
into gardening while for others it was all
about the paintings. The vintage display in
front of the garage was crowded with men.
It was obvious that this is a male orientated

We were blessed with the weather as the
sun shone brightly for the two days. The
whole thing ran like clockwork. And the
icing on the cake was that everybody had
a smile on his or her face. Nothing brings
out the best in people like viewing other
people’s creativity. Gardening and painting
are beautiful hobbies and the sharing of
this creativity enriches both the artist and
the viewer.

By the end of the end of the two days we
were exhausted but exhilarated

The following morning I met Mick from
the local garage and he announced: “Next
year now we will do a much bigger vintage

Next year? I took a deep breath!


16 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Places

Coast Road at Slea Head, Dingle
Peninsula, County Kerry

Felicity Hayes-McCoy and Wilf Judd take us on an
insider’s tour of Dún Chaoin, or Dunquin,
on the Dingle Peninsula


Gable of deserted house facing the Atlantic

The Dingle Peninsula’s coastline Drive had to be reconstructed farther “Detailed knowledge of the
ranges from sandy beaches that inland following the collapse of the cliff currents and rocks that surround
change with every tide to high edge after a violent storm and, at Dún the peninsula has been passed
rocky cliffs more resistant to the Chaoin, during an exceptionally wet
pounding of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet cliffs, winter a few years later, a river of mud on within the community by
too, are subject to coastal erosion and swept down from the mountain into the generations of boatmen”
walkers should always take care. graveyard that stands on the seaward side,
Scrambling out to the farthest possible above the cliffs. coast, from Antrim, in the north, to the
point to take a selfie may feel fine but the Dingle Peninsula.
cliff face immediately below may be no The stretch of water between the
more than a ledge of grassy earth and mainland and the Great Blasket is The first to go down in the Blasket
shale suspended above the ocean. It’s notoriously dangerous to navigate in bad sound was the San Juan de Ragusa. The
important never to underestimate the weather. In 1588 two ships of the Spanish second, called the Santa Maria de la Rosa,
power of the waves, or of the sudden, Armada foundered here, having taken dropped anchor, hoping to ride out the
unexpected gusts of wind, which can be refuge from the autumn storms. After the storm. But she was driven onto a rock and
strong enough to lift an adult male off his Armada’s naval defeat by the English, the sank with only one survivor who later
feet. Spanish ships had tried to make their way
home through the north Atlantic. More
In 2007, about 1km of the Slea Head than twenty were wrecked off the Irish

18 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Places

testified that, moments before the battered Local people have an innate sense Road leading downhill to the sea
ship went down, the pilot was killed by of respect for the power of the ocean,
the captain; an underwater archaeological and detailed knowledge of the currents
investigation in 1968 found evidence of and rocks that surround this end of the
desperate last-minute attempts to repair peninsula has been passed on within the
storm damage. A third ship, the San Juan community by generations of boatmen.
de Bautista, which had also entered the At a talk given in the area recently
sound, managed to survive and made about Recalde, fishermen testified to
it back to Spain. Two other vessels, led the accuracy of the sixteenth-century
by the San Juan de Portugal, captained Spanish captain’s navigation, identifying
by Juan Martínez de Recalde, managed by their local names those rocks his chart
to steer through to calmer waters and recorded, and confirming folk memory
anchored under the cliffs of the Great both of his exploit and the difficulties he
Blasket. faced in achieving it.

It was a remarkable piece of seamanship HOLY WELLS
that would probably have been impossible
had he not had prior knowledge of the The people known as the Corcu Duibhne
waters: he subsequently brought his ships may have moved westwards from
safely home. mainland Britain ahead of the expanding
Roman Empire, which never extended
Survivors from the wrecks and a to Ireland. When Christian missionaries
reconnaissance party sent out by Recalde arrived here from Britain some time in
were captured by the English and executed the fifth century they applied the common
in Dingle town.

Dunmore Head viewed from Dunquin


Stormy Blasket
Houses overlooking the ocean

20 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Places

“According to a local story
(certainly apocryphal) one
priest opposed St Gobnet’s
pattern and cursed the people of
Dún Chaoin, who responded by
throwing him over the cliff”

Christian practice of establishing churches Well and sculpture big churches were built and the small
and places of worship on sites already villages were scattered. The priests told the
sacred to local deities. Over time, spring trading, matchmaking and entertainment people that the famine and disease came
wells dedicated to their goddess became into the religious observance. from God, and they were cowed by fear.”
associated instead with Christian saints.
But the clergy, concerned by the Now the music and other cultural
Many feast or ‘pattern’ days are still persistence of pagan elements at patterns, events that take place on saints’ feast
observed in Corca Dhuibhne, though systematically attempted to remove days are often held in church halls and
countless others have fallen into disuse. what they dismissed as incitement to community centres and, though the
The word ‘pattern’ is a corruption of drunkenness and licentiousness. In the rituals at holy wells retain pagan elements,
‘patron’ and refers to the saint to which nineteenth and twentieth centuries many this separation of celebration from
a well or other holy site is dedicated. patterns were banned on the grounds invocation has tended to obscure their
Patterns almost always include some sort that they attracted large gatherings and origins.
of circular walk around the site in the included music and dancing – precisely
direction in which the sun travels. the elements that the pagan Celts would Dingle and its
have seen as creative celebrations of Hinterland
The feast day of St Gobnet, to whom life itself, as personified by the goddess.
the little parish church in Dún Chaoin is According to a local story (certainly People, Places and
dedicated, is 11 February and an annual apocryphal) one priest opposed St Heritage by Felicity
ritual still takes place on that date at the Gobnet’s pattern so strongly that he Hayes-McCoy
well that bears her name. Sited on a cliff cursed the people of Dún Chaoin, who with Wilf Judd is
above the ocean, the spring well, which responded by throwing him over the cliff. published by The
bubbles up between stones, is now marked Collins Press is
by a modern bust of the saint carved by Domhnall Mac Síthigh, a local author available from
the Irish sculptress Cliodhna Cussen. and folklorist, says that many elements
of Early Christianity, which themselves 21
Patterns involve specific rituals, retained elements of native pre-Christian
the details of which are preserved in ritual and belief, survived in the folk
communal memory. People circle the site, tradition until the famine years of the
usually three, five, seven, nine or nineteen nineteenth century, when communities
times, praying. At wells they drink three, were fragmented. “That was the time the
or seven, or nine times from their cupped
hands. Then the circling may begin again,
each round marked by touching a stone
or throwing a pebble in the water. Before
leaving, something is always left behind,
a flower, a feather, a pin, a rag or a coin,
emblematic of sacrifice.

In many early societies, seasonal
gatherings held at sacred sites appear to
have been deemed necessary to promote
the balance of the universe: the same
belief can be found among indigenous
peoples today, such as Native Americans
and the Kogi of Colombia. In the past,
people came to St Gobnet’s pattern
from surrounding parishes and from the
Blaskets; fairs used always to be held on
pattern days, actively incorporating cattle

Michael Fewer travelled the Atlantic coasts of
Portugal, Spain and Ireland. He finally ended
up in Glencolmcille in County Donegal

Unlike many of the boundless territories of west Donegal, Glencolmcille village
Glencolmcille is a distinct locus, a place of clear,
knowable boundaries, locked in by the Atlantic to the landscape, preserved by the remoteness of the place, the poverty
west, and by a wall of bog-blanketed mountains to the of the people in recent centuries, and religious devotion.
north, east and south. It may have been this aspect of the glen
that attracted man since earliest times: it has been inhabited for at The land along the western seaboard of Donegal is sub-
least 6,000 years. A rich collection of monuments from the standard, and the survival of the people and culture seems to
Neolithic period through the Iron Age and the early Christian be due mainly to fishing and long-forged economic links with
period to the time of the Napoleonic Wars can be found in the Scotland, where seasonal work has long augmented meagre
incomes. By the end of the 1940s, however, emigration from
22 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017 places like Glencolmcille began to become more than seasonal,
and threatened to destroy the already impoverished community.

Irish Places

Glencolmcille cottage In 1951, however, things began to change in the glen when
new parish priest, Father James McDyer, arrived on his bike.
Glencolmcille pilgrim station McDyer (1910-87) had worked as a curate to the Irish in
Southwark, where he experienced the full horror of the Blitz.
After the war, before coming to the glen, he was parish priest
of Tory Island, where American author Dorothy Harrison
Therman, in her book Stories from Tory Island, described him
as a man who seemed to possess exceptional powers.

He was shocked by what he found in Glencolmcille: in
his own words, he was ‘as mad as hell’ that the people had
been subjected to such neglect: there was no electricity, no
piped water, and no assistance towards industry or economic
structure in the area.

“I’m an activist by nature,” he later said, “and I felt it was no
damn good preaching justice and equality of a Sunday if you
cannot work to ensure it happens on Monday.” Within a month
of arriving, he had formed a Parish Council, in which man and
women were represented on a fifty-fifty basis. The first task he
set was to build a community hall, which he saw as an essential
starting point to bringing people together. The urgency he
brought to the project is evidenced by the hall being completed
within ten weeks by enthusiastic local labour with mainly
donated materials.

Father McDyer was instrumental in getting electricity
and a water supply, and made valiant attempts to establish a
communal farm. He was interested in the notion of ‘Christian
Communism with a little Capitalism thrown in’, and saw
himself ‘travelling along the road towards radical socialism’. His
revolutionary message, however, was regarded by government
officials as being too radical, and he was thought to be
experimenting with communism.

He did succeed in developing tourism and setting up small
community-based industries, such as weaving and knitting,
but his main achievement was the transformation of the Glen
through radically improved living conditions, and firmly
establishing the community on a road to fulfilment.

Although there is no documentary evidence, local tradition
suggests that St Colmcille lived for a while in the glen. For
many centuries a turas, or pilgrimage route dedicated to
Colmcille, touching on fifteen ancient stations, has circled the
glen. The stations are ancient stone slabs with incised crosses,
stone cairns or, in one case, the remains of a building said to
be St Colmcille’s chapel. Between each station, pilgrims recite
prescribed prayers, and circle each station a prescribed number
of times. One of the cross-slabs has a hole through it, and it is
said that pilgrims without sin can peer through the hole and
see the kingdom of heaven. The annual St Colmcille turas takes
place on 9 June, but up until the 1950s locals used to walk it
every Sunday. Our host, Máiread, told me that it is mainly the
visitors who want to do it today.

“The stations are ancient stone slabs with
incised crosses, stone cairns or, in one case,

the remains of a building said to be
St Colmcille’s chapel”

Glencolmcille court tomb


Glencolmcille evening Glencolmcille Atlantic sunset

We set out on the turas one evening, starting just outside the English was I attending one of the Irish courses. I said I wasn’t,
wall of the Church of Ireland church, picturesquely sited in the but was following the turas. They said there was no problem
middle of the valley. Maybe the powers-that-be somehow sensed crossing the field, and Teresa and I continued on our way, leaving
that we hadn’t renounced ‘the World, the Flesh and the Devil’, the men still chuckling. When I related this to Mairead, she
nor said the required fifteen decades of the rosary, and we got smiled.
only as far as station three when a rising tide swiftly and almost
magically flooded the road ahead of us and we had to give up. It ‘The term ‘gabh mo leithscéal’ is not commonly used in
was probably just as well, because we were told later that when Donegal,’ she said. ‘It’s more an east coast thing. The locals,
the tide is high, one might have to wade for 1.2 kilometres of however, hear it so much from the students who come here that
marsh, between stations eight and nine. they have named them the ‘gabhmoleithscéals!’

Glencolmcille is a Gaeltacht area, that is, a government- There are ten major megalithic tombs within and in the
recognised region where Gaelic is the everyday language. immediate vicinity of Glencolmcille, an unusual density of such
There are Gaeltachts in Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Meath monuments, and they include, in the Farranmacbride townland,
and Waterford, and about 100,000 people live in them. A state the largest court tomb in Ireland. Court tombs are Neolithic
agency called Údarás na Gaeltachta promotes and administers tombs built from large slabs of stone, and set in a circular or oval
the development of the Gaeltacht regions, and can provide
employment grants, capital grants, rent subsidies, interest
subsidies and training grants to assist new and established
businesses. The Gaeltacht in Glencolmcille provides Gaelic
language courses for adults, and summer schools had just
finished the week before we arrived. Apart from learning the
language, adult students can also attend classes in archaeology
or flute and tin-whistle playing, and I was told that the craic
is great! Apart from hearing Mairead speaking Gaelic on the
phone, we heard only English spoken in the pub and in the
shops. After abandoning the turas, we made our way towards
one of the stations not affected by flooding. I approached a
chatting trio of local farmers to ask permission to cross a field,
and opened by politely saying, ‘gabh mo leithscéal’, or ‘excuse
me’. The three chuckled together, and one of them asked me in

24 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Places

“The tomb itself was covered with great
roof slabs painted thickly with map lichen,

but gaps provided glimpses of the dark,
box-like interior”

Glencolmcille souterrain entrance Atlantic fringe in places like western France, Cornwall and
Ireland. Some are quite complex, with side galleries, chambers,
Glencolmcille souterrain interior stepped floors and concealed exits. Irish souterrains seem to date
from the early Christian period, and are often associated with
‘entrance’ courtyard surrounded by a stone wall. We wandered settlements such as ring fort farmsteads; it seems likely they were
down a narrow, winding road bordered by fuchsia, heather and used as hiding places for concealing people and goods during
glowing garlands of montbretia to find the Farranmacbride violent times. Paddy Beg Gillespie, the holder of the keys for this
tomb. A tiny wooden gate led us to a path that bridged a tinkling souterrain, came to open it up for us. A rotund, smiling man, he
stream, and we crossed field to reach the fenced-off monument, was a local celebrity, having appeared, showing off the souterrain,
scattering rabbits with their white tails bobbing. The tomb on a number of television shows.
looked like something as ancient as the earth itself had pushed
up through the grass and bog, seeking light. Although it had lost He opened a timber hatch revealing a circular, stone-lined
lots of its smaller stones over the years to field walls, it was very ‘manhole’. A rather rickety ladder led down into the dark. Paddy
extensive, and it must have taken many to build it. The enclosure didn’t come down the ladder with me because of his arthritis; he
was overgrown with grass and wildflowers camouflaging ankle- stayed topside chatting with Teresa about the fact that he has been
twisting holes between stones, and I was a while figuring out the waiting three years to have the operation. With painful arthritis,
layout. The tomb itself was covered with great roof slabs painted I don’t know how the man was so cheerful, but he was, and he
thickly with map lichen, but gaps provided glimpses of the dark, made sure I knew all the facts about the souterrain, particularly
box-like interior. I tried to conjure up what it looked like when that it had been carbon-dated to the eighth century.
it was built, and to imagine our ancestors gathering in the court
for a burial ceremony. The construction was evidence that five The floor was about three metres below ground level, and I
or six millennia ago Glencolmcille was a very different place, an enjoyed the experience of standing in the dark entry chamber a
extensive mountain oasis of lush fertile fields, full of crops and little while, letting the ambiance of this strange place flow over
livestock, providing for a large healthy population. me, before I turned on my torch. The walls were of dry stone,
supporting a roof of great stone slabs, and the floor was earthen.
Our helpful host, Mairead, arranged for me to visit another There was at least one cupboard-like niche in one of the walls.
monument, a souterrain, in the grounds of the church. Off the entry chamber, in which there was barely standing room,
Souterrains are underground chambers buiIt for refuge or food I could see that there were two passages, one quite wide, and the
storage, dating from the Iron Age, normally found along Europe’s other narrow. They seemed to extend a good five metres either
way. I didn’t clamber into them; it was enough to see the extent
of this remarkable construction, and to realise that it was the
oldest unaltered, unadded to, unrestored, and complete man-
made structure I had ever been in. While Paddy Beg chatted with
Teresa up above, I had a foot in the ‘other world’ and I spent a
little while taking a flight of imagination back in time fourteen
hundred years.

Exploring the west coasts of Portugal,
Spain and Ireland by Michael Fewer
is published by Ashfield Press and is
available from


Francis Ledwidge
26 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Culture

PoAeLtif’es This summer is the
centenary of the death
Francis Ledwidge embodies a described as: “arresting … deep, deep of Francis Ledwidge, who
complex legacy; an Irish brown and they attuned themselves to his is finally acknowledged
nationalist who volunteered for every passing mood …” The women of as one of Ireland’s major
the British army in World War Slane were likely both attracted to him and poets. Ledwidge was
One, and who died in the fight ‘for King wary of him. He was a live-wire: a trade one of the 200,000 Irish
and country’ at the age of just 30. He was unionist fired for encouraging a strike on volunteer soldiers who saw
largely ignored for many years but last the copper mine, a nationalist with Gaelic active service in the Great
year’s centenary of the 1916 Rising League connections, the founder of the War and one of the tens
unexpectedly opened the way for a Slane Irish Volunteers, and, perhaps most of thousands who never
revision of his profile. The stories that damningly, a fellow who owned no land. returned. By Vawn Corrigan
emerged around the centenary revealed
the complexity of Irish life: the Dublin-based historian Liam O’Meara I went to Slane to understand what
interconnectedness and conflicted has been working to raise Ledwidge’s “this poor bird-hearted singer of the
impulses and the human experiences profile for decades; he is bemused by the day” – as he described himself - found so
which defied a singular category. Seamus sudden rush of interest in him. As his compelling that he returned to it again
Heaney captured this in In Memorandium biographer, he feels an almost paternal and again as a point of transcendence.
Francis Ledwidge: affection for him. As a fellow-poet he
admires him. “His whole life is a poem”, If a person could choose a suitable
I think of you in your Tommy’s uniform, he says. location to be incarnated as an Irish poet
A haunted Catholic face, pallid and brave, then surely the Boyne valley is the region
Ghosting the trenches with a bloom of After Ledwidge’s death, Lord Edward with the strongest brew of myths to sip
hawthorn Dunsany, his mentor and dear friend, from in all of Ireland; and Ledwidge
Or silence cored from a Boyne passage-grave wrote: drank deeply of it. The jewel of the
region is Newgrange, older than both
Ledwidge was tall, fit as an athlete “Roses will bloom in lanes of Meath for Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza,
from the outdoor life, with the languid thousands of years to come, and blackbirds it is the heavyweight of myth bearers,
movements suggestive of vigour. His most will charm others hearts, and the Boyne but the whole region is astonishingly
striking feature was his dreamer’s eyes will sweep to the sea, and others may love rich. Ledwidge, although described as
these things as Ledwidge loved them, but our peasant poet, was an intelligent and
they were all so pictured on his heart, and avid learner whose interests included
he sang so gladly of them, that something
is lost which those fields would have given
up, and may never give again.”


Slane Valley

mythology and archaeology. As a boy “The banks are still lined 17th century mill rests, its work long
his imagination had been roused by the with wild hedgerows and past. Ledwidge and Matty McGoona,
epics of our ancient mythological race, horse- chestnut trees in flower, his best friend, enjoyed walking along
the Tuatha De Danann, and the history of as they would have been when this riverside, they investigated the bird
the Hill of Tara, the royal seat of Ireland’s the boys went walking” and insect life and built up their local
High Kings before the 12th century knowledge. The banks are still lined with
Norman invasion. Just before the road bows down to wild hedgerows and horse- chestnut
the Boyne valley a sign tells me I’m trees in flower, as they would have been
Many poems such as The Death of Ailill, entering Ledwidge Country. It’s spring, so when the boys went walking. A moment
Before the War of Cooley and A Dream the road is frilled with the white blossoms standing there reveals that everything
Dance all show his earliest influences. of hawthorns. I am reminded is twitching with activity, small birds
Although best known for his nature of Ledwidge’s: “Come, May, and hang a dart and sweep; the air is saturated with
poetry, ancient Ireland was never far away white flag on each thorn …”. Through birdsong.
from his thoughts. In After Court Martial, the open window the tangy scent of the
his response to the executions of the 1916 blossoms streams in. Below me the regal Sweet by the river’s noisy brink
Rising, the “place among the kings” likely River Boyne flows steadily under the The water-lily bursts her crown
refers to the Hill of Tara, a place he longed bridge over the centuries old weirs. The The kingfisher comes down to drink
to be both physically and metaphorically, Like rainbow jewels falling down.
as it represents freedom: And when the blue and grey entwine
The daisy shuts her golden eye,
The Present is a dream I see And peace wraps all those hills of mine
Safe in my dearest memory.
Of horror and loud sufferings,

At dawn a bird will waken me

Unto my place among the kings.

28 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Culture

Upstream of the river, Slane Castle looks as the building was once two separate Matty McGoona’s fiddle (Vawn Corrigan)
down. The grounds are well fabled for dwellings. Ledwidge’s father was a migrant
magical healing powers which restored the farm labourer whose death left Ann locals sat beneath the cherry trees and
Tuatha De Danann after battle. Everywhere Ledwidge, then in her forties, destitute. shared music and songs as their children
I turn there is significance; just beneath Although at that time children as young played. People walked or cycled for miles
the surface lurks the Celtic otherworld. as eight worked in mills in Drogheda, Ann to visit one another and were entertained
The Leannán Sí, lovers who visit from the was determined that her nine children in return for their efforts. When Ledwidge
Celtic otherworld, featured in his poems. stay in school. She was a courageous was feeling down he cheered himself up
Ledwidge, who had spiritualist leanings, hardworking woman, by day she was by cycling to Matty’s house; Matty would
believed he’d had a premonition of his a field-labourer on surrounding farms take down the fiddle and play traditional
former girlfriend’s death and wrote The and in the evenings she took ironing and airs until Ledwidge was ready to talk about
Lanawn Shee. Death was certainly close by, mending jobs. Ledwidge wrote: “It was as whatever was bothering him.
albeit his own, as this was to be his final though God forgot us”. It must have been
poem written mere weeks before his death: bitterly hard for her, yet she still made time
to tell her children stories and sing them
Listening, my heart and soul at strife, ballads. Moore’s melodies, songs such as
On the edge of life I seemed to hover, As Vanquished Erin and Dear Harp of my
For I knew my love had come at last, Country, were to be a lifelong favourite
That my joy was past and my gladness over. of Ledwidge’s. A significant portion of
his earnings always went to her: “the first
Across the river, in the well-maintained singer I ever knew”.
18th century village, is the cottage where
Ledwidge lived, now the Francis Ledwidge There was always time for informal
Cottage Museum. Apart from his time gatherings where music, song and poems
in the British army this was home to featured. The consolation of hard lives was
Ledwidge. It is even smaller than it appears a rich social scene. In late August, eating
cherries in McGoona’s orchard was a social
occasion; it could go on all evening, the

Ledwidge Cottage Museum (Vawn Corrigan)


The Culture

Lane Ledwidge cycled on to Dunsany’s (Vawn Corrigan)

Old memories knocking at each heart the classics were taught even in the poorest But she married another and shortly after
Troubled us with the world’s great lie: schools at that time. Ledwidge learnt Greek her marriage he wrote: “I am glad we are
You sat a little way apart and Latin, and later references to Greek myths going to war, it will cheer me up”.
And made the fiddle cry. found in his poetry stem in part from his
(Lines from ‘Matty McGoona’) schoolboy memory. He finished his schooling Trysting stiles were secret places where
at fourteen years and, by the age of only lovers met. As houses were small and
In July 1917 Matty was certain he saw sixteen; a precociously confident voice can be families large, it was usual for romances to
Ledwidge at his gate, as strong and vigorous heard even in this little extract from Behind be conducted al fresco; the more hidden
as ever, Matty rushed out to greet him, the Closed Eye: the better as lost reputations were not easily
but when he got there he was gone. He restored. The hills, woods and riverbanks
mentioned it to others who said they hadn’t And wondrous, imprudently sweet, around Slane were favourite spots for
heard he was home from the front. Shortly Half of him passion, half conceit, lovers. There’s an undeniable sensuality to
after that the message arrived, Ledwidge had The blackbird calls adown the street Slane’s landscapes; the curves of the land so
been “blown to bits”. Matty never discussed Like the piper of hamilin satisfyingly plump and in spring so achingly
the incident again. Above the fireplace in beautiful, as young Ledwidge put it: “…
Ledwidge’s cottage, Matty’s old fiddle leans Ledwidge was passionately in love with a where birds still sing and the country wears
against the wall as if waiting. local woman, Ellie Vaughey, and many poems its confirmation dress”.
about her were erotically charged, such as
A short distance from the cottage the Thoughts at the Trysting Stile and Spring Many of his nature poems have erotic
strongly-built old stone schoolhouse still Love: undercurrents. Aside from the real-life
stands. Ledwidge’s school teacher Master women, fairytale maidens and ancient queens
Madden took pride in his profession, that crop up in his poems, the feminine is
sharing his deep love of Irish mythology everywhere, for example, August:
and history with the children and urging
Ledwidge towards poetry when he showed an Then came the swallow crowding up the dawn, She shall be beautiful and strong.
aptitude. Unusual as it may seem to us now, And cuckoo-echoes filled the dewy South. The lidless eye of noon shall spray
I left my love upon the hill, alone, Tan on her ankles in the hay,
My last kiss burning on her lovely mouth. Shall kiss her brown the whole day long.

30 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

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The Culture

Francis Ledwidge by Robert Ballagh,
commissioned by The Inchicore Ledwidge Society

Anuna’s Francis Ledwidge album cover

I visited Dunsany Castle, the well- The banks of the river Boyne, virtually everyone over a certain age can tell
preserved 12th masterpiece which became you a story about him. As I leave Ledwidge
a sort of second home to Ledwidge. 66 unpublished poems. Ledwidge’s character, Country I think of how he returned again
Ledwidge’s life changed dramatically when and the circumstances in which he wrote, and again to Slane, both the homely and
he presented his poems to Lord Dunsany, account for why it took so long for the full the mythic. His love for the countryside
a leading figure in the literary scene, who collection to be assembled. Some of the was uncontrived and steady throughout his
lived there. Dunsaney championed him and stories around their discovery are revealing. poems; Slane was his greatest muse. This
a new world opened for Ledwidge: cheques Like other men of his class he took whatever summer a hundred Irish people will travel to
arrived from London’s top poetry magazines work he could find and worked variously a ceremony at his memorial and grave in the
and, once Dunsany’s butler had shown him on road construction, on a copper mine Ypres Salient area of Belgium, over half of
which cutlery to use, he ate dinner there and as a ganger (casual labourer). O’Meara them are from the Slane area. This beautiful
with the luminaries of the time. W. B. Yeats recounts that when Ledwidge had no gesture shows the high regard he is held in,
loved his work; Ledwidge had arrived. With work he regularly walked the countryside but Ledwidge is in Slane.
his allowance he had time to write and free searching for it, sometimes up to forty-
run of the eclectic cornucopia of Dunsany’s five miles, and on such occasions Nellie Francis Ledwidge’s centenary offers a
library. Dunsanys still reside there and McCormack, a relation, used to put him up smorgasbord of artistic, musical and literary
the present Lady Dunsany told me how for the night. As a thank you when leaving events in Ireland. This year the Francis
Ledwidge’s death devastated his friend: “… Ledwidge always recited a little poem written Ledwidge Association’s annual Ledwidge Day
he adored him, just adored him”. Past the just for her and never published. He would ceremony in the National War Memorial Park
castle I walked down the little lane which often follow it with, I heard your blackbirds features renowned poet and war-poetry
cleaves the fields, it had just rained and the sing. She recalled it affectionately till her anthologist Gerard Dawe. Recently Ireland’s
scent of nettle and wild garlic mingled. The dying day and passed the words on to her top choir Anúna, of Riverdance fame, has
fragrant tunnel was a portal to a lost age and son. Ledwidge was a generous soul, many released an album of his lyrics. A Frances
I saw Ledwidge, cycling up the lane slowly, as of his poems were given as gifts to people, Ledwidge Commemorative postage stamp is
he always did, so as to use the hour and half written for their children or to honour those also being issued by An Post.
journey to compose verse in metre. he cared for. There may be poems out there
unknown yet.
Biographer Alice Curtayne unearthed
over 45 unpublished poems almost forty Slane locals are very fond of their poet and
years ago and ten years ago O’Meara’s
painstaking detective work yielded a further

32 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish traditional music is among the most popular World
Music genres of our time. Performed by Irish and non-Irish
musicians throughout the world and patronised by audiences
in diverse social and cultural settings, this ancient yet modern
art is one of Ireland’s most enduring and defining cultural
products. By Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin.

Although Irish music’s eponymous middle decades of the nineteenth century. is transmitted from one generation to the
home on the island of Ireland is Since then, it has put down roots in the next through a process of performance.
still its creative centre of gravity, towns and cities of Ireland, and in Irish and Experienced musicians are capable of
this genre has expanded far non-Irish communities in North America, memorising up to five hundred pieces of
beyond its ethnic, regional and national South America, Europe and Australasia. music, some of which they play regularly,
origins. Its intriguing dispersal from the kitchens while others may lie dormant for years.
and crossroads of the West of Ireland to While traditional music has developed
In 1855, the music collector George Petrie the concert halls and recording studios of largely beyond the literate process, much of
wrote that “the music of Ireland has hitherto the New World has been propelled further it has been written down. Some performers
been the exclusive property of the peasantry. by revolutions in mass media, popular learn formally from written sources, as well
The upper classes are a different race – a race culture and international travel. While their as informally from experienced players.
who possess no national music; or, if any, music may be retraced to a rural dialect, a Others learn from radio, television, sound
one essentially different from that of Ireland. travelling piper, a faded manuscript or an recordings and the Internet. Although its
They are insensitive to its beauty, for it old gramophone record, Irish traditional repertoire may seem conservative in form,
breathed not their feelings; and they resigned musicians today command the avid the oral base of Irish traditional music allows
it to those from whom they took everything attention of vast transnational audiences. it to be more fluid than written music.
else. He who would add to the stock of Irish
melody must seek it, not in the halls of the There is no iron-clad definition of Irish Although some musicians and singers
great, but in the cabins of the poor.” traditional music. It is best understood as a are folk composers in their own right, not
broad-based genre, which accommodates all new compositions are accepted as part
The Great Irish Famine (1845–1852), a complex process of musical convergence, of the living tradition. When they are, the
which provided the context for Petrie’s coalescence and innovation over time. It original composer is often forgotten and his
observation, had a devastating impact on involves different types of singing, dancing or her ‘compositions’ absorb the influence
the topography of Irish traditional music, as and instrumental music developed by of different dialects, instruments and
well as the music makers who maintained Irish people at home and abroad over the musicians. Hence the multiplicity of versions
it. In its wake, the diaspora carried Irish course of several centuries. Irish traditional of well-known dance tunes and songs that
music and song well beyond the rural music is essentially oral in character and is commonplace in Irish music. Within
cabins where Petrie transcribed during the

34 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Music

the bounds of the established tradition,
experienced performers use improvisation
in their interpretation of tunes, songs and
dances. This involves ornamenting and
varying the basic melodic structures in dance
music, as well as in traditional songs. Most
musicians refer to their music as ‘traditional
music’ or ‘Irish music’. The term ‘folk music’
is only used on occasion, while vague generic
labels like Celtic Music, World Music,
and market-driven typologies like Celtic
Fusion, Afro-Celt and Ethno Pop enjoy little
currency among traditional performers.

Three Interlocking Traditions

In older rural communities in the West of
Ireland, music usually followed the work
cycle of the agricultural year. Festivities
began with the Wrenboy celebrations on
St Stephen’s Day (shortly after midwinter),
continued through the matchmaking and
weddings of Shrove (which often involved
four or five house dances) and on into
the sowing and harvest seasons, until the
work cycle began again. Traditional music
today has moved beyond this older cyclical


Barney McKenna milieu and may be heard at diverse social key patriarchs of this movement were
Séamus Ennis gatherings, pub sessions, dances, concerts Sligo fiddlers Michael Coleman, James
and festivals in various urban settings. Morrison and Paddy Killoran. In Ireland,
fiddlers Tommy Potts, Johnny Doherty,
Irish instrumental music is sometimes Paddy Canny and Denis Murphy were
referred to in terms of regional styles. responsible for some unique regional
A fiddler may be described as having a and stylistic contributions to their genre.
Sligo, Clare or Donegal style. While these Piping in contemporary Ireland has been
simplistic county divisions are partially shaped ostensibly by the playing of Séamus
valid, research among rural communities, Ennis and Willie Clancy. Their styles are
especially in the West of Ireland, has endemic today. Flute and whistle playing
revealed a more precise topography of have been influenced by the recordings
musical dialects. Many of these are based of John McKenna, John Joe Gardiner and
on older clachan-type communities (rural Tom McHale, who in turn inspired other
clusters of extended kin and neighbours) performers.
that have remained intact since the post-
famine era and are distinguished by Accordions and concertinas have been
specific dance rhythms, tune repertoires the most prominent melody instruments
and other stylistic features preserved in Irish traditional music since the
by prominent performers and musical 1950s. The banjo (originally an African
families. instrument, brought to America during
the slave trade) has also made its presence
The most common dance tunes in the felt in Irish traditional music, especially in
Irish tradition are reels, jigs, hornpipes, the hands of Barney McKenna. Harpers
polkas, slides, mazourkas and highlands. have spurred a renaissance in Irish harp
Slow airs (usually based on sean nós music. Other instruments have also been
songs in Irish) are also played by many brought into the Irish musical fold, among
instrumentalists. These sound most them the piano, mouth organ and piano
authentic when played on uilleann pipes, accordion. Despite the obvious antiquity
fiddle, flute or tin whistle. Dance tunes of the dance music, celebrated folk
usually consist of two eight-bar segments, composers like Paddy Fahey and Martin
which older musicians refer to as ‘the first Mulhaire continue to write new tunes.
part’ and ‘the turn’. Each part is played Lilting (portaireacht) or mouth music –
twice through and the sequence is repeated once used for dancers in the absence of
twice (or three times) before changing into instruments at country house dances – has
a new tune. also regained its status in recent years.

Most dance tunes in the Irish tradition The song tradition in Ireland is
date from the eighteenth and nineteenth determined largely by the two linguistic
centuries. They are played on various cultures on the island. The most archaic
wind, string and free-reed instruments, form is sean nós (old style) singing in the
including flute, tin whistle, uilleann pipes,
fiddle, concertina and accordion. With
the exception of the goat-skin bodhrán
(a traditional drum played with a stick)
and drums used in céilí bands, percussion
instruments are of minor importance.
Some of the most important developments
in Irish fiddle music during the twentieth
century took place in the United States,
which, by 1920, had become a creative
centre of Irish traditional music. The

“The transition from Irish to
English language was marked

by the growth of bilingual
macaronic songs, many of

which still survive”

Michael Flatley

36 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Music

Breandan De Gallai and Joanne Doyle perform with members of the cast of the production 'Riverdance- The Show' at the Apollo Theatre in London

Irish language. Each regional dialect of interest. Apart from these secular songs, Other touring performers, new trends
Irish has its own unique sean nós style. a unique body of carols survives in the in Irish music education (formal and
A complex and magnificent art, sean nós village of Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford. It informal) and Internet sociology have also
is an unaccompanied form of singing dates from the seventeenth century and expanded the patronage and topographies
which demands tremendous skill and derives from a corpus of songs published of these genres. Despite this acclaim,
artistic understanding. It derives in part by Luke Wadding in Ghent in 1684, as well however, the vast transcultural history of
from the bardic tradition of professional as a manuscript collection compiled by Irish traditional music remains obscured
poetry, which declined in the seventeenth William Devereux in Wexford in 1734. by narrow research agendas and binary
century. There is no display of emotion debates about tradition and innovation
or dramatics in sean nós. The singer There are few written accounts of – that frequently fail to explore the
is expected to vary each verse using dancing in Ireland before the eighteenth full gamut of Irish music memory and
improvisation, an implicit musical skill century. Foreign travellers have left historiography. The purpose of this book,
that requires subtle changes in rhythm, references to the Irish hey, as well as therefore, is to shed further light on this
ornamentation and timbre.. the sword dance, round dance and long immense reserve of Irish cultural history,
dance. The English geographer Arthur to acknowledge the music makers who
The transition from Irish to English Young left a colourful account of the Irish sustain it, and to delight in the enduring
language was marked by the growth of dancing master in the 1770s. Since then, success of their traditions at home and
bilingual macaronic songs, many of which Irish dancing has morphed into three abroad.
still survive. There are two categories of distinct traditions, namely set dancing,
songs in English: English and Scottish céilí dancing and step dancing, each of A Short History of Irish Traditional
songs, and Anglo-Irish songs. The first which has cross-cultural cognates in Music by Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin is
was introduced to Ireland by English and North America. Michael Flatley’s theatrical published by O’Brien Press and is
Scottish settlers in the seventeenth century, extravaganza Lord of the Dance, for available at
and by Irish migrant workers. This genre, example, derives much of its material
which includes classic ballads like Lord from the formulaic step dancing initiated
Baker and Barbara Allen, is still popular in by Gaelic League revivalists in the late
Ulster. Anglo-Irish songs were composed nineteenth century.
by Irish people whose mother tongue was
English. These songs address the themes Since the spectacular emergence of
of love, courtship, emigration, politics, Riverdance in 1994, Irish traditional
elopements and other topics of human music, song and dance have received
considerable media attention worldwide.




The pier in Dun Laoghaire harbour, Dublin

38 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Places

A gateway for Irish soldiers departure. But when he went aboard, he King George IV Monument on Queens Road
to the Crimea, emigrants found he had plenty of time to spare.
to America and convicts Alongside the stone, he added a coin of the
to Australia, this year Dun In 1755, a petition was presented to the realm and newspapers from the previous
Laoghaire harbour celebrates Irish Parliament to build a pier at Dun ten days. The ceremony was followed by a
200 years of extraordinary Laoghaire. Some £21,000 was set aside breakfast for three hundred guests in a tent
history. By Tara Corristine and General Charles Vallancey, a military near the site of the proposed pier.
engineer and a thrice-married father of 27
T he picturesque town of Dun children, was tasked with the project. The Changes continued apace in the seaside
Laoghaire can trace its history as pier was completed in 1767 using local town and in 1821, King George IV departed
far back as the fifth century. It granite but it quickly silted up with sand, from Dun Laoghaire on his royal yacht after
takes its name from a coastal fort rendering it all but useless. Today it is a three-week visit to Ireland, and the town
built by the High King Laoghaire in known as the Inner Coal Harbour Pier and was renamed Kingstown in his honour.
AD453. For over 1,300 years, it idled away is used to launch small ribs and lasers. The visit is recorded on an obelisk that sits
as a quiet seaside village of fishermen’s in front of the Royal St George Yacht Club.
cottages. But, as the 18th century At the turn of the 19th century, the need This monument has drawn some negative
progressed, Dublin bay became ever more for a harbour outside of Dublin port grew, attention: the Provisional IRA attacked
silted and dangerous for vessels to with attention turning to Dun Laoghaire. it in the 1970, and a grenade was place
manoeuvre through. One famous name wasn’t impressed with underneath it in 1993.
the coastal hamlet, however. Captain
Ships were forced to linger off the William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame The immense amount of stone required
coast of Dun Laoghaire waiting on believed the prospect of a harbour at Dun for the harbour came from several sources
favourable winds or the turn of the tides Laoghaire, “has nothing to recommend including the nearby Dalkey quarry
to allow entry into the capital. Soon it, being ill adapted for its purpose and ill and was transported on a purpose built
enterprising merchants began ferrying taken care of, and although sheltered from railway, with each train carrying almost six
waiting passengers to the shore, offering the east winds, is much incommoded by tons of rock. The path along the railway
refreshments of coffee and ale. Records the swell which sets in around the pier from Dun Laoghaire to Dalkey can still
show one such passenger was the Gulliver’s end as well as with the northerly winds.” be seen today and is known as the metals.
Travels author and Dean of St Patrick’s Although others such as engineer and A project of this scale attracted labourers
Cathedral in Dublin city, Jonathan Swift. designer of the Waterloo and London and stonecutters from across the counties
In 1710, the Dean complained that Dun Bridge, Scotsman John Rennie, disagreed. of Dublin and Wicklow, and by 1823 over
Laoghaire boatmen had charged him In 1802, he nominated Dun Laoghaire 1,000 workers and their families were
double to row him quickly to his ship as the best site for a new harbour in living in near squalor in huts and cabins
which they said was set for immediate Dublin Bay but even this wasn’t enough they built on Dalkey Commons.
to galvanise work until one of Dublin
High King Laoghaire’s Fort Plaque Bay’s greatest marine tragedies occured in 39
November 1807.

A severe storm saw two ships, the HMS
Prince of Wales and the Rochdale, wrecked
upon the rocks between Blackrock and
Dun Laoghaire. Close to four hundred
soldiers and their families perished and
memorials to those lost can be found at
locations along the east coast, including a
tombstone in Dalkey churchyard. While
this enormous loss of life intensified the
demand for what was dubbed an asylum
or safe harbour, it wasn’t until June 1816
that an Act of Parliament authorised the
building of a single pier harbour, granting
£505,000 to the project that was quickly
amended to include a second pier.

In May 1817, the foundation stone
for the asylum harbour was laid by the
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of
Whitworth. It was inscribed, “In the hope
that it may be the cause of life to the
seamen, wealth to the citizen, Revenue
to the Crown and benefit to the nation.”

Rochdale Runs Aground November 1807, by Brian Reid (courtesy of the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club)

These squats had no sanitary facilities or A temporary cholera hospital opening a “Just as the harbour has
running water and outbreaks of typhoid decade later, in 1831. witnessed the rise and fall of sea
and cholera were common. Drinking water levels so too has it observed the
came from a local spring and the area Work on the harbour continued tides of history in our constantly
became akin to bandit country. In 1826 the unabated throughout the 1820s and in
Reverend Charles Lindsay of Monkstown 1824, 3,351 vessels took shelter in the evolving nation”
remarked to the Harbour Commissioners rapidly forming harbour. The first major
of the “lawless violence” of those living on yachting event, the Dublin Regatta, was since and today, the harbour covers 251
the Commons, “free of rent, free of tithes held there in 1828, and two years later the acres and includes the Carlisle Pier, the
and free of taxes”. Northumberland lifeboat was installed. Coast Guard Station, the Royal St George
Yacht Club and a lighthouse on each pier.
Free accommodation was little comfort But in 1830, a debate over the size The cannon at the East Pier gardens is a
for the arduous and dangerous job of of the harbour mouth caused work to 24-pound Russian gun that was one of
working on the harbour which paid just cease. It took almost six years to reach a nearly 3,000 captured during the Crimean
1s 8d, about 10 cent, per day. In the early compromise, creating a harbour mouth of War. It was bought for £16 from the
days, there was no medical aid available 750ft. The harbour was finally completed Secretary for War, Lord Panmure and was
and in 1817, James Weldon was one of in 1841 and the final cost was believed to originally on display on a platform at the
the first to die when a crane at Dalkey be in the region of £825,000. It consists Queen’s Road before going into storage
quarry collapsed on top of him. A father of two huge granite piers: the East Pier is for 40 years. The East Pier lighthouse
of seven, he also supported his parents one mile long while the West Pier is a little was built between 1842 and 1845 and
who submitted a letter to the Harbour longer.
Commissioners pleading for aid in the
wake of his death. They were subsequently In 1920, the town reverted to its historic
awarded five guineas. It wasn’t until April name of Dun Laoghaire, and in 1924,
1921 that a doctor, James Farrell, was under the State Harbours Act, it became
employed with the Kingstown Dispensary. know as Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Many buildings, structures, monuments
and relics have been added in the 200 years

40 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Places

Children from the Dalkey School Project with the time capsule to commemorate the bicentenary of Dun
Laoghaire Harbour. Left to right: Alfie Ryan, Nell Noone and Sara O’Flaherty

Boyd Memorial on the East Pier

the cost of the granite tower was £937. An Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Cormac Devlin; President of Ireland,
The Boyd Memorial, also on the East Michael D Higgins and Gerry Dunne, CEO of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company about to inter a time capsule
Pier, was erected to commemorate the to commemorate the bicentenary of Dun Laoghaire Harbour
heroic actions of Captain John McNeill
Boyd who died on the 8th of February, leanúnach Chuan Dhún Laoghaire ná 21-Gun Salute by the Irish Defence Forces
1861 attempting to save the lives of fellow an cion leanúnach atá ag daoine air, ní and an Air Corps ‘Fly By’ in a Casa CN 235
sailors during severe storms that swept the amháín ag saoránaigh na háite féin ach ag Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
east coast of Ireland. an iomad daoine a thagann anseo chuile lá.
There can be no doubting the continued The ceremony announced the packed
Two centuries on, the President of relevance of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, and summer schedule of events marking the
Ireland, Michael D Higgins, marked the ongoing affection in which it is held, Bicentenary of Dun Laoghaire harbour,
the Bicentenary of the laying of the not only by local citizens but by the many taking place around Dun Laoghaire
foundation stone at the King George IV people who visit here every day.” throughout the rest of the year.
monument in May, 2017.
The President placed a new time capsule Photographs kindly supplied by Richard
“Today is a joyful celebration of Dun at the monument that included drawings McCormick, National Maritime Museum,
Laoghaire Harbour and the significant role from local schoolchildren, a newspaper Dun Laoghaire,
it has played and continues to play, in the of the day, recent photographs of the
life of our nation and our people,” he said harbour, and letters from the RNLI, and 41
at the ceremony in May. the Coast Guard. The ceremony included a

“Although this is a celebratory
commemoration, let us not forget the
workers who laboured over a period
of approximately twenty-five years, in
dangerous conditions, to construct this
harbour. Indeed, it is remarkable, as we
stand here today, to remember the very
different Ireland in which this harbour
was conceived and constructed, and the
long and eventful journey our nation
has travelled since the foundation stone
for Dun Laoghaire harbour was laid in
1817. Just as the harbour has witnessed
the rise and fall of sea levels here in Dun
Laoghaire across the years and decades
and centuries, so too has it observed the
tides of history in our constantly evolving
nation. Níl aon amhras ann faoi thábhacht

Irish Places


Cork City’s Hayfield Manor is
an oasis of peace in a bustling

D ubliners have a complicated replica of the original. The fireplace in the
relationship with Cork. On the lobby is original and so are some of the floor
one hand it’s a fun city full of tiles. But Hayfield is far from a museum. The
history and culture. On the other, décor is chicly traditional, with an ambiance
Cork natives will insist on describing it as of discrete luxury.
“the real capital”.
Despite its size, the staff at Hayfield are
It is (ahem!) a lot smaller than Dublin, the adept at making everyone feel at home.
actual capital, but that’s part of the charm. Guests are invited to sit down on arrival and
There’s a cohesiveness to Cork; the city centre even offered a drop of whiskey or fresh water
is really an island on the River Lee which during the check in process.
makes it easy to navigate. And while it still
has many of the trappings of a traditional Many of the rooms overlook the beautiful
Irish big town, it’s also reinvented itself for gardens which include an aviary and a rabbit
the modern age as a foodie mecca and hipster run. Food is available in either the formal
hangout. fine dining Orchids restaurant or at the more
casual Perrotts Garden Bistro.
Hayfield Manor is the former home of
the Musgrave family, one of the city’s most
famous merchants. It’s history dates back to
the early 1800s but by the mid 1990s it had
fallen into disrepair. Enter the Scally family
who renovated extensively and returned
Hayfield to its former Georgian splendour.
And so Cork city got its first luxury five star

Hayfield is accessed through an
unassuming avenue in Cork’s university area,
which overlooks the River Lee. (The area is
long associated with learning and is believed
to be the site where St Finbarr established a
monastery and school.)

Sweeping up to the entrance, it is
immediately apparent that this is far from
the usual city centre accommodation.
The grounds and trees are more than 150
years old and the beautiful weeping willow
directly in front of the entrance even has a
preservation order on it. In fact it’s difficult to
believe there’s a busy city centre just a short
walk away.

The building has been carefully restored;
the main staircase by the reception area is a

42 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

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Artisan Crafts Wild Oats’ Deirdre Meany and Karen

Wild Oats

From the picturesque village of Lismore, County
Waterford, Karen Cottier and Deirdre Meany have created
Wild Oats, natural soaps using local ingredients

When Karen Cottier and her son Ronan, who had eczema. turned us into a proper grown up company,”
family arrived back from the “We both had inflamed skin and while she says. She invested in more equipment and
UK in 2008, the country was in renovated an outdoor building so production
something of an economic there are products for that, they all smelled could move from the kitchen table.
slump. Karen’s background in marketing and horrible. I thought surely to goodness there
conservation weren’t in huge demand so she must be something that doesn’t irritate your Then Deirdre, already a friend, came on
busied herself learning how to make soaps skin but smells really lovely,” she says. board bringing a background in regulated
which could be safely used by herself, a industries including food, pharma and
psoriasis suffered, and her then 16-year-old She already had a love of gardening and biotech. The pair created a new Tender
was constantly thinking of ways to use her Range, with no scent but with all the same
produce. So she embarked on a soap-making natural ingredients.
course as a bit of fun. Gradually she became
interested in the area and completed more Just recently the company has begun to
intensive courses, even doing some work with sell its products in Dublin Airport’s Terminal
artisan soap making companies in the UK. Two.

By 2014, her products were being picked The philosophy behind the company is
up by local shops. “It was all very small scale. simple. Flahavans Organic Oats, which are
I remember my daughter Orlagh was doing made locally, are featured in most of the
her school exams and there was soap all over products, both soaps and oils. Distilled oat
the kitchen table,” she remembers. oils are used in the Tender Range for more
intense moisturising. Scents are natural;
But her products were coming to the lavender or elderflower for example. And all
attention of a major pharmacy chain, Lloyds. products come in pretty packages.
They began to sell them and also offered her
a place on a business clinic they run. Check out:

“It was exactly the boost I needed and

44 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

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Escape into a world of books with the best of
bestsellers, award-winning fiction, debut novels,
historical epics and rollercoaster reads. Áine Toner
recommends a few you might want to pick up...

46 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

Irish Writing

The fact finder The language The nature
lover lover
The Irelandopedia Quiz Book
compiled by Shauna Burke, Fatti Coming Home: One My Naturama
Burke and John Burke Man’s Return to the Nature Journal
Based on the hugely successful Irish Language by by Michael
Irelandopedia, the quiz book will Michael McCaughan Fewer and
test your knowledge on its content. Only a few generations Melissa Doran
The quiz book can be taken home ago, the Irish language This activity
after a holiday in Ireland to share was one of farming, fighting and sorrow. books encourages young readers to
in classrooms, on long journeys or Now, schoolchildren spend up to 14 years discover the magic of nature on their
as a way to impress your family and to learn the national language yet many doorsteps. Divided by season, it’s
friends. Perfect if you love trivia and struggle to string a sentence together. packed with projects that children
adding to your knowledge bank. will have fun carrying out including
Michael was about to turn 50 when he observing and collecting plant, insect
found himself back to An Ghaeilge once and birds records. Whether you’re
more, this time with a determination to in the local park, seaside or even in
learn the native tongue on his own terms. A the garden, the journal can be filled
highly personal, yet entertaining, journey, he with drawings, pressed flower petals,
explores the Irish love-hate relationship with leaves and feathers. Ideal for anyone
the language and realises that, whatever your holidaying in Ireland and wanting to
age, is féidir leat – yes, you can. get a personal reminder of a nature-
based vacation.
The murder The drama
mystery The one to
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear watch
The Coroner's McBride
Daughter by This charts the intense and The Blood Miracles
Andrew Hughes tumultuous relationship between a by Lisa McInerney
Abigail Lawless naive 18-year-old Irish female drama This is Lisa
always had a student and the actor, who is 20 years McInerney's follow-up
curious mind her senior and still lives in a bedsit, to her award-winning
and it is a thirst she meets after arriving in London. debut novel The Glorious Heresies.
for fascinating facts her doting father is Set in the Nineties, she soon discovers Published to critical acclaim in 2015, it
always eager to feed. But when Abigail, a world of bedsits, squats and seedy featured a bizarre murder that entangled
the daughter of the coroner of Dublin in pubs. This is the second novel from the lives of five marginalised characters
1816, begins to dig into his business, there this year’s Baileys Prize winner, for A living in post-crash Ireland. The Blood
are sure to be dangerous consequences. Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. Miracles returns to Ryan Cusack; a
As she goes deeper, drawing those teenage drug dealer in the earlier novel.
around her into peril in the process, she Five years on, he is trying to manage his
encounters the seedier side of the Irish burgeoning career as one of Cork city's
capital. We have found a diamond in hard men.
Abigail Lawless.

The thought The rollercoaster read The crime read
Crime of Passion by John Boorman The City of Lies by
Reinventing Yes, that’s John Boorman, noted Michael Russell
Susannah by Joan film director who lives in Ireland, so It is September
Brady it’s no surprise that it concerns the 1940 and Detective
After a series of Hollywood film industry. Director Inspector Stefan
bad luck, Susannah Daniel Shaw and producer Jack Gillespie is dispatched
Stevens gets a job as a freelance Mind, Diamond need to make a commercial to investigate when
Body and Spirit correspondent. She picture – and a commercial success. a family of four are
quickly learns that she has to let go and Their script, Crime of Passion, needs found in their burned-out house. But is
allow herself to go with the flow of life. financial backing and the pair go on a he there to cover something up? Things
Her boss, Katie Corrigan, must learn too bizarre journey to acquire it, meeting are heated in Dublin and Gillespie is soon
that there are some things that she cannot executives whose fear of failure is treading on the toes of Ireland’s burgeoning
control. Both woman need to discover greater than their need for success. intelligence industry. With nationalities
what to do with their Plan As fall apart – playing against each other, and Hitler
when they don’t have Plan Bs. about to invade England, is Ireland in the
firing line? Then Gillespie is asked to travel
The modern to Berlin on a sensitive mission the Irish
classic government doesn’t want anyone to know
The Heart's The modern
Invisible Furies ghost story The epic novel
by John Boyne
Boyne's latest The Dead House by The American Girl by Rachael English
foray into the Billy O’Callaghan Rose Moroney is 17, smart, spirited
story of Ireland is much funnier Dubbed a welcome and pregnant. Living in Boston
but no less hard-hitting in its social voice to the pantheon in 1968, she wants to marry her
backdrop than his previous novels. of new Irish writing boyfriend. Her parents, however, have
It centres on the lifelong trials and by Edna O’Brien, this other plans. Rose is sent to Ireland,
tribulations of Cyril Avery, a boy spooky tale features a her parents’ birthplace, to give birth
born in 1945 out of wedlock to young artist, Maggie Turner, attempting to in a mother and baby home and part
an Irish mother, who is disgraced rebuild her life. She moves from London to with her baby daughter. The story
by the church and those around Allihies in west Cork, buying an abandoned turns to Dublin in 2013 when Martha
her. He strikes up a friendship pre-famine cottage and intending on Sheeran’s life has come undone. Her
with a spoilt, risky character, concentrating on her art. During a house- marriage is over but she is encouraged
Julian Woodbead. That friendship warming weekend, a drunken game by her teenage daughter to look for the
provides the link through much of with a Ouija board briefly descends into woman who gave her up for adoption
Cyril's life, told in the first person, something decidedly sinister. It’s dismissed more than four decades before.
as he comes to terms with being as mere suggestion but afterwards, Maggie
himself and living in a changing immerses herself into her work. Her
Ireland. Simply wonderful. creativity becomes unrecognisable as she
feels compelled to explore certain areas
around her home.

48 Ireland of the Welcomes | July/August 2017

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