March 21, 2005

Sounds like Teen Spirit

Apparently, over seven hundred people were arrested over St. Patrick's Day for the usual drink-related foolishness, though I didn't hear Galway mentioned in any of them. There was no shortage of drinking in the city, mind. Even at 3pm, the space between High St. and Quay St. had become one giant outdoor bar (with ten Gardaí watching at the end of Quay St.) - God knows what it was like by midnight. Spirits were no doubt dampened a tad by Athenry's defeat in Croke Park but not by much.

Spirits were higher in the parade itself, particularly since the rain held off. Every school child in the city, seemed to be there and I have nothing but admiration for the parents and teachers who managed to keep the assembled moppets amused for the hour or so while they waited in line on Fr. Griffin Road for the parade to start.

I'm going to post a gallery of shots from the parade onto Flickr at some point during the week (assuming that Eircom keeps it's promise and installs my broadband on Wednesday - I'm still waiting for the modem to arrive). Two participants that got a huge reaction from the kids were a couple of elephants. (You know you're taking your hobby a bit too seriously when you start to have thoughts like "Hmm I'm standing here with two cameras- if one of those elephants runs amok, I'm going to get some great shots). Funnily enough, when the greyhound club walked their dogs in the parade, they were all on leads and muzzled. The elephants, on the other hand, had neither leads, chain or any other tether, and shuffled behind their trainer through the crowds with nary a restraint.

UPDATE: I've uploaded a few photos to Flickr. Click on the link on the left (under the References) to view them.

Posted by Monasette at 03:56 PM | Comments (2)

Rites of Spring

A couple of weeks ago, I took the early train from Ceannt station in Galway and headed east. I had a stack of the Sunday papers with me but, in truth, there was so much happening outside the window that I hardly glanced at them. On that journey, and a couple of subsequent ones, the rites of Spring have never been more visible.

Pheasants are plentiful (and one has staked his territory closer than you could imagine to the station), foxes prowl the fields and in a newly planted stretch of forest between Woodlawn and Ballinasloe, a herd of fallow deer sat among the saplings, indifferent to the passing train. The stag had an impressive set of antlers, and judging by the number of young, they weren't his greatest attribute. Fallow deer arrived with the Normans, introduced to populate (and be hunted) in what was left of Ireland's forests. In recent years, the amount of coniferous forest in Ireland has increased substantially, thanks to European Union financial incentives (and the availability of lots of boggy land in Ireland that cannot support other crops). This has caused the deer population to proliferate too, to the point where regular culls are needed to keep the population in check (alas, this has not resulted in a plentiful supply of cheap, free range venison in the shops). In one of the fields, two hares went at each other, each trying to establish dominance (It is March, after all). You'd think, with plenty of foxes about, that another hare would be the least of it's worries. But, for a hare, the only goal in it's short, fluffy, long-eared life is to pass on it's genes to another generation, so, in terms of risk, the amorous ambitions of another buck takes precedence over foxes, dogs, hunters and Dunlop Safety Tyres.

On a walk through Sliabh Carron on Saturday, there was more evidence that the winter hibernation is well and truly over (though this past winter has been so mild, some creatures have been awake for a while now). Saturday was a glorious day; sunny, warm with temperatures up to 20 degrees Celcius along the west coast. I saw a 7-spotted ladybird, had to dissuade a hunting spider (pisaura mirabilis) from hitching a ride in my camera bag and came literally face to face with a rather surprised looking common newt when I stopped for a break (and if it wasn't for the slow start-up time of my digital camera, you'd have a picture to look at, too). Of course, a few warm days in March doesn't mean much (not that I'm complaining or anything) - there'll be plenty of cold ones between now and summer.

Posted by Monasette at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

La Fhéile Palladius?

St. Patrick might have scratched his back against this rock. Cross Pillar hidden in the dunes at Gortnagarryan strand, near Emlagh Point, Co. Mayo, with Croagh Patrick in the background. Did St. Pat ever visit the mountain that bears his name? Hmmm...that would be an ecumenical matter.

Prof. Dáibi Ó Cróinín (NUIG) gave a very witty lecture on St. Patrick in the King's Head last night. He wasted no time in demolishing most of the accepted knowledge about our patron saint, pointing out that the account of Patrick's life written by the saint himself is pretty short on detail - a fact that hasn't stopped every historian since the seventh century just making stuff up (Exhibit A for the prosecution - his link to Armagh).

He also describes the life of Palladius - a French missionary sent to Ireland in 431 to spread the good word. 431? Yes, the year before St. Patrick supposedly came to Ireland, there is an independent account of another missionary who arrived the year before. As the Prof. points out, Patrick's arrival was only dated centuries later and is a bit suspect. What is undisputed is that Patrick had more faithful followers (or maybe they just lived longer - I.e. more than a few days). Missionaries were about as welcome as tax inspectors and their life expectancy (and that of their followers) wasn't guaranteed for long (just as well they were believers, then). In fact, the only letter from Patrick that has survived describes his disappointment after a large number of new converts were butchered by unimpressed locals. Céad Míle Fáilte, eh? But Patrick persevered and in Mayo alone, there isn't a boreen, pile of stones or puddle that doesn't have some connection with Ireland's most famous Welshman (if indeed he was Welsh at all). Clearly Palladius only converted vegetarians, who didn't last the winter. Which is why in Ireland, no one has ever heard of him.

I turned up in the Kings Head exactly at 8, thinking I'd have the pick of any seat. Not a bit of it. The place was jammed with students and I'm sure their attendance was solely due to the erudition of Prof. Ó Cróinín rather than the free wine and cocktail sausages on offer (not too many vegetarians in evidence in the King's Head either). I eschewed the free plonk in favour of Uncle Arthur's Magic Brew but I was hoping for some snacks. Didn't get a pick - the hungry third-level freeloaders scoffed the lot.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. And don't forget Palladius.

P.S. The rest of Irish history, as described by The Onion (via Slugger)

Posted by Monasette at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2005

Cill Chiaráin

Firestone - remains of a signal fire on Ardmore Hill overlooking Cill Chiaráin, looking southeast towards Garmna (Gorumna Island), Co. Galway. Photo taken Saturday March 12, 2005.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I was able to dine alfresco on Saturday morning. Granted, it was just a sausage and rasher roll, eaten on the bench outside Macdonnchadh's shop in Cill Chiaráin (Kilkieran), but it was served with a smile, it was sunny (though tendrils of bitter wind occasionally interrupted my breakfast) and I had a great view of Cill Chiaráin bay to compete for my attention with the Saturday newspaper.

The weather has been pretty good for the last couple of weeks and the temperature is set to rise into the high teens by St. Patrick's Day on Thursday (which means it will probably teem with rain by then - it's already started). Of course, you mightn't guess that from RTE's news reports - a little frost in Dublin and they assume that the whole country is freezing.

Posted by Monasette at 10:50 AM | Comments (2)

Break time

Biscuit tin as flower box in Flagmount, Co. Clare.

If you're fond of sitting down for a cuppa, chances are that you've dunked a Jacob's biscuit into the tea at some point. Inventors of the Cream Cracker and the Fig Roll, the company has been making biscuits for over a century, though the company is no longer family-owned.

The company's site near St. Stephen's Green featured in the Lock-out of 1913 (when union staff were locked out of their companies when they went on strike), and one of the Jacob's strikers, Rosie Hackett, also fought in the Easter Rising, of which Jacob's bakery was one of the hold-outs of the rebels. Funnily enough, Jacob's rival in pastry, Bolands, was also the scene of fierce fighting in 1916 - De Valera himself led the rebels there. (Staff relations have improved somewhat since, as has the company's fortunes).

I came across a site called Nice Cup of Tea and Sit Down which is a tribute to the very art of the tea break. And you might even find out how doJacob's get the fig into the Fig Roll. As for the biscuit tin, you'll be hard pressed to find a better (or funnier) tribute to this once-indispensable accessory than this one, penned by Willie McHugh of the Mayo News.

I was all for women gaining equality, equal pay, supping pints and becoming more assertive. In fact, fool that I am, I even encouraged a few of them along the way. But they took it a stride too far.
We were grand before the advent of Tubberware parties. This practice sounded the deathknell for the biscuit box.

No wonder Willie isn't fond of the Rover biscuit tin - plants won't even grow in one.

Posted by Monasette at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2005

Final Spark

Bellacorrick power station, Bangor Erris, Co. Mayo - photo taken two summers ago, around milking time.

Forty years after it first began generating electricity, the peat-burning power station generated it's last megawatt last week - the Western People featured a photo of some of the workers on the front page, including those who had been there in 1962.

Posted by Monasette at 01:48 PM | Comments (1)

The Snapper - Photobloggies open for voting

The Photobloggies are open for nomination at the moment - closing date is Wednesday evening

Posted by Monasette at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005


We were blessed with warm sunny days and clear skies over the weekend. Pictured are willow buds illuminated by the setting sun yesterday.

Posted by Monasette at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)