Thursday, May 7, 2009

Michael and his mates

Well, I'm not sure what we have done to p*** off what deity, but we have truly hit the first bad weather of our trip here on the west coast of Ireland. The day broke sunny enough but still with plenty of clouds in Enniscrone, but the wind was the subject on everyone's lips. Seems that this gale has been watched coming across the Altantic for the last couple of days and now that it is here, it is almost the only topic of local conversation. Even the birds have a battle to stay in the air! We are going back into Sligo this morning, but before we leave the area, spy the wild waves being thrust on to the coast. The tide is coming in and the wind running across the top of the waves creating stunning water sprays.

As we get nearer to Sligo, the weather deteriorates and so by the time we have gone just a litle further north to Drumcliffe to see a couple of memorials it is raining again. The most famous is the grave of the Poet William Butler Yeats who penned his own epitaph before he went off and was killed in WWII in France - the last paragraph of which is inscribed on his headstone:

Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

The rector he refers to was his great grandfather, and this church is on the site of a much earlier one (as is often the case here) with an ancient Celtic Cross in the graveyard and a round tower that is all that remains of a monastery dating back to the 10th century on the other side of the modern highway. All this is in the shadow of Ben Bullen Mountain. But this area has more than Yeats (who only ever visited here and never lived here) as its claim to fame.

Nearby Rathcormac was home to Countess Markievcz who abandoned her life of privilege to take up arms against the then British government to fight for an Irish Republic in the 1916 Revolution spent some time in Sligo and with WB Yeats formed the Arts Club in Sublin and later formed the Irish Boy Scouts. An intriguing memorial presents images of her struggle to relieve poverty and social oppression. An ardent suffragette, she was also the first woman ever elected to British Parliament at Westminster, as well as being the world’s first ever female cabinet minister!

NEDDY SEAGOON: Tell me - why are you wearing that size 10 boot on your head?
ECCLES: Why? Why? Because it fits...that's why!

From here we travel back south to Sligo to see another memorial to one of Michael's mates. Spike Milligan that famous 'The Goons' creator, writer and member (who provided the voices for Eccles, Jim Spriggs and others) was born in Sligo. Kind of fitting that an unusual named town was his birthplace! ("I always supsected there was something nasty in the woodshed?") It is also where Bram Stoker's mother is buried - although we could find no mention of him. There is also another Yeats sculpture 'Wrapt in his words' (photo above). One last quick stop to have a look at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Like the church we saw yesterday, this is painted in strong colours - something we do not see often in a catholic church. The French made stained glass windows are spectacular - albeit not very old!

The whole region we are in has a long history. Long before christianity came to Ireland with St Patrick, tribes worshipped and erected memorials. On the coast to the west of Sligo, but visible for many many miles is the cairn and burial mound of Queen Maeve of Connaught who lived around 1 BC. This in turn is on top of Knocknarea - one of the highest local peaks, so you can literally see it for about 30 miles in any direction - and it looks impressive.

We have also learned that there is a megalithic cemetery nearby at Carrowmore. This is the largest concentration of duns, circles, passage cairns and dolmens within Ireland. It is also considered to be the oldest Stone Age necropolis within Western Europe. This is truly an amazing site providing an illuminating experience for silent contemplation, as it is literally - awesome; and the timeline for this remarkable landmark reaches back 6200 years! The weather may have been inclement, pendulous and blowing a gale, but - the whispers of ages past caressed the soul, causing one to look back toward Queen Maeve. The wanderings of a furtive mind, you may ask? Should you ever come to Ireland dear reader, seek out Carrowmore....

Time was getting on, so it was time to leave Carrowmore and drive towards Galway. After a wet and at times a protracted journey, we decided to contact our landlord Sean Treacy, and advise him where we were at present. Upon advising Sean we were 22 kms north of Galway, he states we were still had 1-1.5 hours left to travel! Well folks, it did take us 1.25 hours to arrive at the Arus Apartments, Galway; as we hadn't considered the traffic (peak hour) and a minor disorientation! We reached our rendezvous with Sean who was most welcoming and hospitable by showing us around the apartment and pointing out to us reputable restaurants and cafes.

The car unloaded, neither of us could be bothered with cooking dinner it was fish and chips from 'McDonagh's Seafood House', and the food was just delicious:
Grilled salmon with chips (Maria)
Battered cod (which was suing for peace) with chips (Michael)
No photo's...couldn't be bothered but the meal was delcious and helps to explain the incredible queue for service.

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