November 30, 2004


Apart from their sheer stupidity, there is only one thing you need to know about sheep. They are mad. Quite mad.

These two characters (in a field near Feartagar Castle) were busy terrorizing the hens by butting their heads against the wire of the coop. Every time the hens fled to the other side of the coop, one of the sheep would follow them and give the coop another puck.

Galway sheep. don't turn your back on them.

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November 29, 2004

Dumping ground

The pumping station for the offshore gas field got planning permission a few months ago. There were 42 conditions attached to the permission, in the hope to ensure that the environment won't be too heavily impacted. Some hope. The plan is to dig out a huge site at Pollatomish for the pumping station. You'd think that you'd need a big hole to bury all the rubble from the escavation. Yes - it's called Bangor.

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Bum notes

I was strolling down Shop. St. on Saturday morning when I saw a group of six Gardai loitering with intent on the corner of the sidestreet leading up to Dunnes Stores. What's the hubbub, I wondered. Only when I rounded the corner than I realized the true extent of the horror.

A new HMV music store had just opened and there was a mob of eight year old girls queuing outside. It wasn't for Johnny Cash box sets either. Brian McFadden was going to make an appearance in the afternoon (and dang, I'd left my bag of rocks in the car).

I'm not sure why so many Gardai were on duty - exactly how wild were a bunch of hyperventilating eight year olds going to get? Handy old gig, as long as they weren't exposed to any singing. Later on that day, I was listening to a wildlife programme on RTE Radio 1 - apparently, scientists are doing a survey of the world's marine creatures. I'm all for biodiversity myself but I could happily live without another species of Westlife.

Posted by Monasette at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2004

End of Transmission

Remains of an old truck on the shore beside Finish Island, County Galway

Posted by Monasette at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

Stream near Kilfane

I've been experimenting with image maps - I've loaded up one for Mayo. It's still a work in progress so apologies for any dead links.

Posted by Monasette at 11:29 PM | Comments (3)

November 21, 2004

Two lakes

Drenched moss on a gate pier beside Caherglassaun turlough, Co. Galway.

Friday morning was simply beautiful. The bright-shining stars in a velvet-black sky gave way to flame-coloured clouds as the dawn arrived. Alas, Friday was a work day but it fired my enthusiasm for some early-morning photography. And red clouds at dawn mean only one thing - rain (it doesn't matter how often Met Eireann refer to it as 'precipitation' - we know what they really mean). On Friday night, snow fell for abut two minutes before settling down to a night of rain. And on Saturday morning, the rain was still falling, so it seemed appropriate to visit some places directly affected by rainfall. Which brings me back to turloughs again (I promise - this is the last mention until after Xmas, at least).

Last September, I was in Coole Park at the end of the tourist season. There was a large number of people wandering about the park, as well as enjoying the food in the visitor centre. Not so yesterday. A few hardy souls braved the drizzle, the visitor centre is closed until the spring and most of the paths are covered in a bronze carpet of beech leaves.

Coole Lough isn't strictly a turlough - the lake is permanent. But it has all the characteristics of a turlough, flooding the shallow volleyed farmland every winter and providing a home to thousands of migratory bird. As you can see, the difference is quite dramatic. Two months later in the season, the level of the water has risen substantially (photo taken from nearly the same spot, using the rock as a marker).

Only a couple of miles to the west of Coole is a turlough that has an even more interesting characteristic. As well as providing a winter habitat to flocks of Whooper and Bewick swans, and thousands of ducks (the Whoopers were making a quite a racket when I was there on Saturday), it is partially tidal. Despite its location five miles east of Kinvarra, underground channels link it to the coast, and the pressure of the tide forces the level of the lake up and down accordingly, with a three hour time lag between the rise of the tide and the rise of the turlough’s surface level.

Posted by Monasette at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

Lough Mask

On the second last day of last year, the fog burned slowly off Lough Mask to reveal a glass-like surface.

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November 16, 2004


Men have probably burned furze off of this hill for thousands of years, and still it grows back.

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November 14, 2004


Saturday was one of those beautiful November days - sunny, cold, crisp. We've got the best of both worlds at the moment - the lack of frost means that there are still flowers in bloom that should have gone long ago (I've got lupins and sweetpea in bloom in my own garden) and the autumn glow of turning leaves illuminates every hedgerow and copse.

I've added a gallery from Oughtmama in the Burren, taken a couple of months ago.

Posted by Monasette at 09:33 PM | Comments (3)

November 11, 2004

Ross Errily

A few pictures of Ross Errily Franciscan friary, taken in February this year.

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

Posted by Monasette at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

From Anschluss to our house

Metaphorically waving a peace of paper and declaring peace in our time, the mayor was unaware that, across the border, a small grumpy man with a moustache was amassing his troops and plotting...

I knew it was a mistake to put Willie O Dea in charge of the army...

Limerick is in danger of losing it's status as a city if the population falls below 50,000 (the current population is 52,000 and falling). It doesn't help that a large number of its citizens can hitch their homes to the back of a Hiace and head off at a moment's notice. The solution - annex, sorry, extend the city boundary into Clare, where the fertility of the women is legendary (o.k., where many Limerick people have moved to because the houses are cheaper).

The Mayor of Limerick does see one drawback, admitting that "some very negative response of a threatening nature from the Clare area" had been received. And I don't think he meant strongly worded letters. Is this just a desperate attempt by Limerick to finally win a hurling championship by slowly taking over Clare? Would it really matter if Limerick was downgraded to a town (they'd do more moaning than Cork for a start, an appalling vista in itself). If this becomes an election issue, then Clare, Tipperary and Cork better watch out - Commander O Dea doesn't like defeat. And would it be so bad if half of Munster spoke with a Limerick city accent...?

Posted by Monasette at 11:26 PM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2004

Rush Hour

The Earth passed through the tail of comet 1001AD on Sunday night. At the same time, an X-class flare from sunspot group NOAA 10696 (astronomers have such romantic names for the heavens, don't they) sent solar ..em..stuff our way, lighting up the heavens. There were some sightings this evening (though not by me) though I did get sight of the illuminations last night. I even had my camera but due to some technical difficulties, I... OK, I just buggered them up.

The picture above was from last year's aurora (around this time last year on a freezing, but clear November night). The 'transporter beams' in the centre of the picture is the visual effect that you get when you bend down suddenly in the dark and crack your head off the corner of the camera. It is exquisitely painful, I wouldn't recommend it but you do get to see stars with your eyes closed.

Back on earth, there are plenty of objects hurtling through space on intersecting courses, not always in a good way...

Posted by Monasette at 11:26 PM | Comments (2)


I forgot to mention that the turlough that I visited last month is the biggest in Ireland. It's called Rahasane (after one of the towns lands that it occupies), covering 250 hectares and stretching about three kilometres long when full. It's a well-known bird habitat, and supports up to 40,000 birds in winter. The last time I was there, there were a couple of flocks of whooper swans honking noisily in the distance.

The fairy shrimp (Tanymastix stagnalis) was first discovered in Rahasane in 1974 (it's since been found in other turloughs) - it is not present in Britain but is found in mainland Europe and was probably brought over by migrating birds.

Posted by Monasette at 10:54 PM | Comments (3)

An Mám Salann

I vaguely remember an Irish short story from my secondary school days, though I cannot remember who wrote it. It was called An Mám Salann (the handful of salt). The story was about a big family, who were hungrily waiting for the big pot of bubbling porridge to cook so that they could tuck in. The mother of the story did the cooking but the rest of the family always complained that there wasn't enough salt in the porridge (though not enough to actually do the cooking for her). So while Mother wasn't looking, Father took another big handful of salt and stirred it into the porridge. Off he went, happy that he would finally have a bowl of porridge to his liking. A little while later, Number One son also sneaked a handful of salt into the pot. Now, as I remember it, there were dozens of children and they all did the same. So when they finally sat down to their breakfast, they were nearly poisoned by the bowls of porridge-flavoured salt.

The moral was clear even to us, culchies to a boy and wallowing in a classroom clouded with sullen testosterone that could only be an all-boys Christian Brothers Irish class, circa 1981 - this family were only a few paw-shuffles up the evolutionary ladder from the bears in the Goldilocks story.

Fast forward a few years, and your truly had not so much been elevated to the halls of academia as thrown from the passing van of further education into the Dickensian scenario that was college rented accommodation on Childers Rd., Limerick City. It was my first year of college in the NIHE and the challenges posed by the course material paled in comparison to the challenge of not starving or freezing to death.

The heating situation was occasionally remedied by nocturnal sorties to the adjacent building sites to steal planks. This meant braving the attentions of the guard dog, whose bark couldn't be described as worse than its bite, since it didn't bark at all - the cunning beast just sneaked up and introduced itself by biting. Of course, we had no way of breaking up the planks (much hopping up and down on the planks served only to amuse our neighbours who, without exception, scared the hell out of us). So we would just light one end of the plank and slowly feed it into the fire over the course of an evening. [This is just one of the many way that students burn down houses]

On the cooking front, what I lacked in skill, I also lacked in enthusiasm. However, necessity and poverty turned out to be the half-sisters of invention, so out came the saucepan and a big bag of Odlum Progress Oats ( I never knew what exactly was progressive about them).The first day, I cooked up a big pot of porridge for myself and my room-mate, and doled it out in two bowls. I took one mouthful and promptly spat it out. As did my room-mate.
"Who feckin poisoned the porridge with salt?", I spluttered.
"Salt? Who puts sugar in porridge?", came the reply.
And there you have it. The two of us had been surreptitiously adding handfuls of sugar and salt to the porridge in turn. Not only did we have no breakfast, but we had both proved ourselves to be as dumb as the dumbest characters in Irish literature [apart from Peig and her spawn, of course]. And that's when the no seasoning rule became law on Childers Rd.

Did you know that this is National Porridge Week ? No? Me neither.

Happy gruel.

Posted by Monasette at 10:51 PM | Comments (1)

Seal Clubbing

Just what is wrong with some Kerry people ? They are blessed with a beautiful county, they won the All-Ireland, and yet there seems to be a hard-core minority with very little respect for their environment. This year, they stand accused of destroying ancient (and listed monuments), digging up beaches and threatening to go on a mass killing spree of a protected species (hen harriers) when the birds' welfare was cited as a reason for refusing permission to build a wind farm. During the week, it was another protected species that got a Kerry welcome. Dozens of grey seals (also a protected species) were found dead on one of the Blasket islands. An it was the manner of the killing as much as the fact itself that caused much revulsion - some of the seals had been slashed open, as well as bludgeoned or shot. Of course the culprits are known - it would have taken more than a few individuals to kill so many seals. And of course, no one will be prosecuted because no one will turn the culprits in. For a county that relies so much on tourism (and of the beauty of its environment) it is all very depressing.

Posted by Monasette at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)


Life is pretty cruel in the natural world, too. A few months ago, my brother heard a dull thump of something hitting followed by God-awful screaming. The thump was a crow bouncing his kitchen window , having been attacked by a kestrel - the screaming was the crow been eaten alive. Overhead, dozens of crows swooped and screamed in an attempt to distract the hawk to no avail.

"So you must have got some great photos?", I asked when he told me the story. He has a fancy Nikon SLR of which I'm quite envious. "Um, no, I couldn't find it". It was buried under the golf clubs on the boot of his car. And that is why, whenever anyone asks me what sort of camera they should buy, I always give the same answer. Buy the one that you're prepared to carry around with you. It's the only type that matters.

Posted by Monasette at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)


In the late 18th century, an Italian road-building project south of Salerno stumbled across the Greek temples of Poseidonia (now called Paestum) dating from the sixth century BC. The engineer in charge decided to build right through them, but was prosecuted for desecrating a national monument. Wouldn't happen here...

Some years ago, my father decided to build a wall near the end of our farmyard. Since there was a power-cable running underground nearby, he asked a guy he knew to come in and trace the line of the cable, so it wouldn't be accidentally cut while digging the foundation. You see, the chap in question owned a metal detector, and while he walked around the yard listening for the beep that would have indicted the cable, he regaled us with stories of swords found in the bog, daggers, chalices coins and other booty detected and removed from land during surreptitious visits to neighbouring farms. "No names mentioned, mind". We might have been more convinced if he had been able to find the cable.

It's actually illegal to use any form of detection device near a listed site. That doesn't just apply to sites that have an OPW plaque or that are open to the public. It applies to the complete list of sites that appear in each county's Record of Monument & Places which pretty much covers every single pile of stones in every field. If a landowner, for instance, wants to do some digging in a field where there is a listed site, he must inform the council two months in advance. I wonder how often that happens?

Anyone building a house these days gets to pay an architect a day's pay to watch the digging of the foundations. The hope is that his fee is indeed a waste of money - if he finds anything, say goodbye to your planning permission and your house. And why not? Is it nor right that our antiquities are protected? However, the law works a little different when the state itself wants to build something.

Sometimes I think that if we discovered a pyramid in this country, the first instinct would be to build a road over it. The Civic Offices in Dublin, built on top of an ancient Viking site during the Seventies on the side of the river Liffey and completely obscuring the river view of Christchurch Cathedral, stands as a monument to the ignorance and carelessness of the state. I hope I live long enough to see this ugly, bunker-like structure dismantled completely and erased from both sight and memory. But sometimes, I wonder if we've learned anything. Currently there is a plan to build a new road near the Hill of Tara, cutting right through a valley that has not yet been fully excavated but has already shown itself to be one of the richest archaeological sites in the country. Needless to say, there have been plenty of protests. Similar protests at the prospect of building over the remains of Carrickmines Castle (part of the M50 ring road around Dublin) made no difference - soon, it will be inaccessible and some of it will be destroyed. But the mood in government is to build roads; plenty of 'em as quickly as possible.

Now, I'm all for good, new roads. But I despair of the laziness and short-sightedness that leads to roads being built across what's left of our heritage. It's not like these sites were discovered after the road had begun. Carrickmines could easily have been avoided, but wasn't. But what about the cost?

Yes, it will probably more to detour the Tara site than go through it. So what? Government ministers spend money like there's no tomorrow on issues that they actually care about - over the life of the road, the extra millions will count for very little. Avoiding the visual impact would come to be valued as a good and wise decision. It's not like anyone admires the Dublin Civic Offices on value-for-money grounds.

So will it happen? Well, the good news is that Martin Cullen was moved from the Department of the Environment to the Dept. Of Transport at the end of the summer. Cullen's sole contribution to the environment was to disband Dúchas, itself an act of vandalism. His replacement, Dick Roche is not long enough in the job to make a judgement but he'll have to really try hard to be any worse than his predecessor.

Posted by Monasette at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 03, 2004


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November 02, 2004

Your smoking ban at work

It was 11.30 on a Saturday morning, these two guys were probably the only ones that had been inside the pub, and yet, there they were, sitting outside, enjoying a breath of 'fresh air'.

Posted by Monasette at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

De Valera and the Irish Press

A few months ago, I described here about receiving a letter from Eamonn De Valera regarding a dividend for my Irish Press shares and related a bit of the history about how De Valera managed to end up owning the Irish Press group in the first place. The historical information was sourced from Tim Pat Coogan's biography of Dev. Tonight, RTE1 show a documentary on this very topic (9.30, RTE1) with Tim Pat as a contributor. The adverts for the documentary claim new evidence has been uncovered on how De Valera gained control of the papers. Mind you, the exisiting information is damning enough.

Posted by Monasette at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)