May 28, 2004

As lathair

I've been so busy with the day job for the last few weeks, I've had very little chance to visit places (though I did get to see a few places on Saturday). I'm on holidays for the next fortnight, and hopefully, I won't be next nor near a computer during that time. So the site won't be updated until the middle of June, but feel free to look around, and leave the odd comment (the odd ones are always better than the normal ones). Ciao.

Posted by Monasette at 12:23 AM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2004

Errew Priory

Errew Priory lies on the shore of Lough Conn, and is at the end of a lane off the road between Castlebar and Crossmolina. It has to be one of the best signposted sites in the west´- from the main road, there are five signposts pointing to the priory (though one has been ripped down by vandals - typical). It's a good thing too; there are plenty of other little boreens leading off the lane.

Which is why it is all the more disappointing to arrive at the gate of the field to find a Beware of Bull sign. When I arrived, a carload of tourists had just returned from the site (you have to walk through a couple of fields and along the lake shore to reach the site). But I wonder how many would be deterred by the sign. Now, I make a point of not entering a field where there is a No Trespassing sign (of course, I'll usually try to find the farmer and ask his permision, and normally, there's no problem), but this sign seemed to indicate that you could enter, but only at your own risk. Walking into a field where there is a bull is not smart - just this week, a farmer was gored to death by a bull on his farm. At this time of year, sucklers herds are out in the fields. Bulls can be very protective of the cows and calves in the herd, and can attack without warning. There was a field of cows and calves in the field behind the priory, though I could not see a bull.

If Mayo County Council go to the bother of signposting an attraction, surely they can come to an arrangement with the farmer involved to ensure safe access to the site?

Posted by Monasette at 11:50 PM | Comments (3)

May 25, 2004

It's easy to start them...

Now that it's time to cut turf, it's also the time of year for burning off the the furze and other vegetation to clear the bog for harvesting. All too often, the fires are uncontrolled and it's the Fire Brigade that get a day out on the bog instead. Top photo shows fire burning in Galway yesterday - there was a few firemen out trying to beat down the flames with shovels. Bottom picture shows a fire burning in north Mayo on Saturday.

Posted by Monasette at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

Dooncarton Stone Circle

Almost a year after the landslide in Pollatomish, I went back there on Saturday for a look, and to look at the stone circle at Dooncarton.

Posted by Monasette at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

May day

Nephin mountain, Co. Mayo.

Yesterday was a simply beautiful day in the west of Ireland - sunny and warm, even with the onshore breeze. Naturally, I got scorched, but it was worth it to get out into the countryside. At about 8am on saturday, I passed by a man who was just about to start stacking what looked like about 2 acres of turf by himself. About eleven hours later, when I was returning home, he was still at work. Like the saying goes, he had a lot done, but a lot more to do. All over Mayo, on every patch of bog, there were a few hardy figures toiling away. And more power to them.

Sometimes, you just can't say enough good things about a place...

Posted by Monasette at 12:23 AM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2004

Ringfort of the strong

A ringfort with a secret tunnel ? A children's grave that was never spoken of ? The "Sad Tree"? All these in the one spot, on a sunny May morning, at Lios na dTréan Dubh in Co. Mayo.

UPDATE May 24. Due to a problem with uppercase and lowercase names (computers, eh?), the gallery links were not enabled. Problem has now been solved.

Posted by Monasette at 11:48 PM | Comments (5)

May 18, 2004


Silhouette of Ross Errily Fransciscan Friary, just outside Headford, Co. Galway. Photo taken on March 27th, 2004.

Buy pictures of Ross Errilly Friary, near Headford, Co. Galway.

Posted by Monasette at 11:39 PM | Comments (2)

May 16, 2004

Street Life

Near Commercial St., Bangalore. The multi-coloured chicks in the cage are not a result of Photoshop.

I’m in Bangalore this week, so I went for a walk down Commercial St. to do a bit of window shopping and people watching. I soon found myself surrounded by children begging – not for money but to have their photograph taken. I’ve just brought my digital camera on this trip and one of it’s biggest disadvantages is that the autofocus is as slow as a wet weekend in Tuam. Not a problem for shooting landscapes but more or less useless for taking impromptu portraits – the lens whirrs about cluelessly for a few seconds before ‘locking on’. (A mitigating factor is that, though not really evident from the photos here, it was almost sundown, so the low level of light probably exaggerated the effect).

However, this problem is balanced by an unexpected advantage. Like most digital cameras (mine’s a Canon G3), it has a small LCD screen at the back, which can be used to view photos already taken. The photo of the two fruit sellers below was one of the first that I took, and I could hardly believe the reaction. Not only did they get a great kick of their portrait, but they called over almost half the other stall-holders in the street to have a look.

The best reaction from the kids. Each time I showed them their photo, they squealed with delight, and to be honest, it’s fun to take a photo that pleases the subject so much. Funnily enough, though the kids were a pleasure to photograph, every time I pointed the camera directly at them, their faces froze into a grimace – it was their idea of ‘posing’. In the photo below, though the young girl did possess a wonderful smile, no way would she reproduce it for the camera. And she was most insistent that I got a photo of herself and her siblings!

Posted by Monasette at 07:34 AM | Comments (2)

May 10, 2004

A place in the sun

One of the great things about RTE is that a lot of their excellent radio programmes, particularly their documentary series, are available on the internet. One of the really bad things about RTE website is that it is bloody hard to find anything (unless you already know where it is). I cannot understand why they don’t publish a day-by-day listing (just like a TV listing magazine) with links to each of the programmes.

Paddy O’Gorman has made his name in RTE for a series of programmes where he turned up at a welfare office, and just engaged people in conversation. He has a knack for drawing out stories from people, particularly from people at the margins of society. A couple of weeks ago, he broadcast a programme that he recorded in the United Arab Emirates. It was a little dispiriting listening to some of the interviewees, who were the usual mix of young Irish expats. Since some of the Emirates are ‘dry’, most Irish drive to Dubai to socialize. To encourage custom, girls get to drink free, particularly earlier in the week. “Sure, it’s great,” said one lassie (a teacher), “you could get up to ten drinks if you go from place to place”. [The Christy Moore phrase about “throwing a glass of water into a barrel of sawdust” came to mind]. Quite what her Muslim pupils make of the bleary-eyed lady of the lowlands reeking of drink on a Wednesday morning was not explored.

The star of the documentary was a very old ex-pat, from Cork. He had arrived in the Middle East decades ago and joined the Palestine Police until they were disbanded in 1948. They were the old police force established during the British Mandate. He then became an industrial contractor working all around the region. His story is eerily familiar. He joined Bechtel and was sent to Iraq. He didn’t like Kirkuk – ‘a dangerous place’. Today, Bechtel still have oil contractors in Iraq, on the foot of contracts handed out by the US government after the invasion, and today, those contractors still find Kirkuk a dangerous place.

You’ll be glad to know that the most popular pub in Dubai is run by a Galway man, who gave up the rain of Clifden (where he was managing a pub) for the delights of sunny Dubai. The programme didn’t say how much a pint cost (I don’t think Paddy had to put his hand into his pocket). I’ll post a link if I can find it.

Posted by Monasette at 05:03 AM | Comments (3)

May 03, 2004

A Pagan Place

May 1st was a beautiful summery day across the country, so we ventured into the interior. Given the day that was in it, we decided to visit the Hill of Uisneach which is an ancient Irish site traditionally associated with Bealtaine. (We had already scattered flowers around the front door of the house, which is the local tradition to keep out evil spirits. And insurance salesmen).

That plan lasted as long as we got to the site entrance, where the ubiquitous Keep Out sign greeted us. Given that the site is signposted from every direction, we were a little disappointed to say the least. (I mean, it would be one thing if they had a No Pagans sign, but keeping everyone out seems a bit much, particularly since we couldn’t see any livestock in the field).

Did you know that, in ancient times, May Day was a day of uninhibited sexual shenanigans –when even wedding vows (and more importantly, mother-in-laws) could be cast aside (I know, I know, what’s the point of mentioning this on May 3rd?). No doubt May 2nd was probably a day of atonement – big time. And why did we want to climb Uisneach anyway? Well, the hill is reputed to be the place where druidic fires were first lit to celebrate Bealtaine. There isn’t actually much to see on the hill, apart from a great view in all directions (though the day was hazy, so one couldn’t see too far in any direction), and of course, the Catstone (so called, because it is supposed to resemble a cat watching a mouse. And it does, if you’ve never actually seen a cat. Or a mouse). It also looks a bit like a dolmen, but is most likely a natural, glacial feature. The Catstone is supposed to mark the spot where the five provinces of Ireland meet (Meath being the fifth).

Uisneach is reputed to predate the Hill of Tara as the ancient seat of the Irish High King. Cary Meehan quoted from the 12th century History of the Kings of England that the original site of the stone circle of Stonehenge was at Uisneach, and that the English king Aurelius Ambrosius, on advice from the sorcerer Merlin, ordered his brother, Uther Pendragon, to lead an army of 15,000 men to Uisneach to take the stones. The reason for the theft was that the circle would provide a fitting tribute to fallen warriors in England, and every stone was supposed to have a different healing quality - though clearly not a cure for making up frankly unbelievable yarns. (Maybe we should ask Tony Blair for them back.) The site is believed to mark the seat of power of King Tuathal Techtmar, who crossed the Shannon from Connacht in the 2nd century AD.

Rebuffed, we decided to climb another hill nearby – one that looked to have some sort of monument on the top (It’s Croughal Hill, and there used to be a castle on top of it. Not much remains, other than a single column of stones held together with ancient mortar). After asking directions, we called into the farmer on whose land the hill stood and asked him if he minded us climbing the hill. He was a bit reluctant at first, explaining that he had ‘sucklers in the field’ but when we explained that we had plenty of farming experience ourselves, he had no problem with our proposed trek (and assured us that there was no bull in the field). Sucklers are calves that are not weaned off their mothers until they are quite large – it’s a technique used for raising bullocks for beef. The cows tend to be fiercely protective of their offspring, and as often as not, the bull is on the field too. It turned out that previous walkers had chased after his calves. Maybe the farmer who owns the Hill of Uisneach had a point after all (there had been no problem accessing the hill last year). It does seem a pity that, on Mayday, of all days, that the hill should be inaccessible. Surely it’s not beyond the wit of Westmeath County Council to make some arrangement with the landowner?

Posted by Monasette at 11:09 PM | Comments (1)

Life’s a Riot

Anyone who got pulled for speeding this weekend in Galway or Mayo has to be the unluckiest motorist alive – every able-bodied Garda was sent up to Dublin to deal with the expected anti-globalization protests. Given that some of the Gardaí would have been involved in GAA club matches had they not been drafted up to Dublin, they would have been expecting violence anyway.

Despite some over-the-top reporting by the press in the run up to the planned protests to the European Union Accession ceremonies, it all passed relatively peacefully (Justine McCarthy in the Irish Independent declared herself to be more frightened of some of the English protestors than she had been in Northern Ireland or Somalia. Indeed). Sure, the Gardaí used the water cannon that they had borrowed from the PNSI, but did anyone really think they were going to pass up their only chance ever to use a water cannon. If they had thrown a few bars of soap into the water tanks, they could have performed two public services at the same time.

As for the rest of the country, nobody paid too much attention to what was going on. Unbelievably, stuff actually happens outside the capital. So, to the ten new countries who are now part of the European Union, Céad Míle Fáilte roimhe. And no spitting.

Posted by Monasette at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)