December 31, 2005

Journey's End


In the glow of the dawn light on Wednesday morning, a ship passes Salthill on the way to Galway Harbour. The 'trees' barely visible on the skyline on the left of the picture are the wind turbines in the Sliabh Aughties, near Loughrea.


I'm posting this a day early since I won't be near a computer for the next day or so. I'll post a summary of the year's snaps on New Year's Day - until then, Happy New Year to you all.


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December 30, 2005

Bright side of the Moon


No wonder Ireland can't meet its Kyoto commitments. In fairness, this particular display is in aid of a children's charity. It would want to be...

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December 29, 2005

Frozen in time


The waves on this pool were frozen by a combination of a nasty wind and a decidely wintery drop in temperature. The photograph was taken yesterday on one of the Maumturk peaks (around 660 metres) in Connemara.


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December 26, 2005

Grange Stone Circle at Lough Gur, Co. Limerick


The largest stone circle in Ireland can be found in Limerick. Near Lough Gur is Grange stone circle, 150 feet in diameter and part of a extensive settlement which began 5000 years ago. It's a full year since I dodged heavy showers of hail and rain to take this (and many other) pictures of the Lough Gur site, and I haven't managed to post anything more than this caption in the intervening time. Where did the year go ?


For those of you with broadband, you can find a bigger picture here - the picture was created by stitching together five separate pictures using the supplied software of a G3 Canon digital compact camera.

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December 24, 2005

A star in the East


People have been celebrating the turning of the darkness since the beginning of time at this time of winter. Picture taken last Xmas at Kilmacduagh, as the last star in the east fades into the dawn light.


Whatever you believe in, have a good holiday.

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December 21, 2005

Elphin Statue


I was watching Battleship Potemkin on telly over the weekend and this statue came to mind. There's something reminiscent of the old Soviet statues commemorating fallen comrades about the statue. Up close, it's a huge lump of concrete without much detail. There'a book out this Xmas, called They put the Flag a-Flyin' about the Roscommon IRA - a painting of the statue decorates the cover.


Plus a few people requested a picture of it, so why not?


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All I want for Xmas, Part I


It's a dog eat dog world...


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All I want for Xmas, Part II


I wonder what these two elderly ladies would like for Christmas ...


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Everything is illuminated


The view of the interior of the wedge tomb at Poulaphuca, the Burren, Co. Clare.


A few Sundays ago, I sat waiting on a hill in the Burren, watching the rays of the sun creep across the inner wall of a wedge tomb. I had arrived there just after 11am, and I was wondering if the back wall of the tomb was illuminated by midday (I need somewhere to go sun-worshipping for December 21st, and Newgrange is all booked up). Of course, had I bothered read "The Burren and the Aran Islands - Exploring the Archaeology" before I came out instead of afterwards, I'd have known that wedge tombs don't have a southern alignment, but a south-westerly one. Still, a man could do worse things than sit basking in the warmth of winter sun on the west coast of Ireland...and, as usual, I took a few snaps...


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December 20, 2005

Bencorragh rain


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December 18, 2005

Claddagh Dawn


Dawn at the Claddagh yesterday morning - the last moments of calm before the Chrsitmas shopping hordes decend on the city.


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December 17, 2005

Ingenious Ireland


I've quoted liberally from Mary Mulvihill's marvellous book "Ingenious Ireland" (and embarked on more than a few journeys using the book as a guide), so this is as good a time as any to mention that there is now a website based on the book, also called Ingenious Ireland. Regular viewers might recognise this photograph on the site. The same photo also appeared as a background image on the RTE weather forecasts during the summer - RTE and Met Eireann run a photo competition every season, and all the entries are shown on successive days on the 6pm and 9pm news bulletins. RTE send out an email giving the dates when the photo would appear. I promptly forgot about it, though I did make the mistake of telling my mother who made sure no-one else forgot about it. I only realised I'd missed it when I got an SMS from my sister saying that she'd seen "my purple socks" on the telly (she's not great with the texting, it has to be said). I only discovered that the photos are shown over and over again when I was sitting in the American Bar on Inish Mˇr drinking pints on a balmy Saturday evening in September, when I saw the picture flash up on the TV.


Of course, I should have wrote this post two weeks ago, in time to remind you that the close-off date for Winter 2005 entries is fast approaching. Instead, I'll tell you that you've just missed it (it was Sunday night) - you only get to enter one picture, and I only found out about it at 9pm on Sunday. So it's not my fault that you missed it. Still, plenty of time to enter a picture for the Spring 2006 competition...


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December 13, 2005

The R÷hrenkarren effect


If you've wandered about the northern shores of Lough Corrib, you might have noticed that some of the limestone slabs at the water's edge are as holey as a road sign in Kentucky. The holes are actually caused by the water dissolving the limestone upwards - and is explained excellently here - and the phenomenom can be seen on Lough Mask and Carra as well. You'll find a bunch of these stones as part of a garden wal outside a house, on the road down to the quay outside Cong, and the photo above was taken on Inishmicatreer, on a hot, still day during the summer.


The process is known as the R÷hrenkarren effect (more geographical features should sound like characters from Len Deighton novels, don't you think?) and was figured out by Michael Simms (his full paper used to be freely available on Google Scholar, which is where I read it, but it will cost you 30 dollars to download it now).


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December 10, 2005

Natural incense

You don't see much wild meadow anymore. The demands of silage production - two cuts per year - have reduced much of Ireland's grassland to unrelenting green carpet. When I lived in suburbia, I was even reduced to buying packets of wildflower seeds in a futile effort to recreate the colour and scent of wild meadow. But there are still places where you can wander through a variety of grasses and flowers that has remained unchanged for centuries.


I wandered among the small fields and paddocks of Inish Mor in mid July. It's not just the means of production that preserves an old tradition - I watched one farmer use a fork to rake hay into reeks - but the fields too. The variety of grasses and flowers is visually pleasing but better still is the scent. The air all over the island was drenched with the fragrance of clover in particular - it is the most natural of incence, and for me, the natural scent of the countryside.


The pictures are of a pair of Stonechats (Saxicola rubetra). They have a distinctive call - a sort of metallic chik chik sound. Unlike humanity, it is the male of the species that is the good looking one - the female has to make do with brown drab.



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December 08, 2005

Hot steppers


I don't have a picture of Madonna's new album, so this picture of garishly-attired, high-stepping, mutton-dressed-as-lamb types will just have to do. Picture taken during the Galway Walking Club Christmas walk last Saturday, which later degenerated into the drinking and ,ahem, cross-dressing Xmas party. Those pictures will appear on the club website... as soon as I get my hands on them...


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December 07, 2005

E428 at Dunsandle


On a couple of hundred yards of track, surrounded by field and road, sits the E428 - the first modern diesel locomotive to see service in Ireland. Its parked at Dunsandle - a station that will be unaffected by the largesse of the Transport 21 master plan.


I'm not sure if the E428 ever pulled up outside Dunsandle during it's working life - it plied the Dublin - Cork route for most of the time. Dunsandle station was the halfway point between Attymon (the link to the main Dublin to Galway rail line) and Loughrea station. The Attymon and Loughrea Light Rail was a so-called Baronial line, built under a nineteenth century equivalent of a Public Private Partnership. It began service 115 years ago (Dec. 1st 1890) and closed November 1st 1975 - in the 85 years of service, mankind went from hot-air balloons to space travel - and was intended to be used for transporting sheep and cattle to the ports. I think there was also a plan, in the later years, to transport cargo from the nearby Tynagh Mines which didn't work out.


The Ballinasloe - Galway stretch of the Dublin-Galway motorway will pass right by the station, and one of the off-ramps will slice through the old rail line right in front of the locomotive's current resting spot. It hardly matters - the tracks were pulled, and the land sold off, after the line was closed - there is no hope of reincarnation.


There was great commotion when the locomotive, and rolling stock were hauled into position. I'm reliably informed that RTE's western correspondent, Jim Fahey, missed it all though he was allegedly sitting in a pub less than a mile away. Looking at a couple of scoops of a different kind, no doubt. A few more snaps here...


UPDATE:December 17th 2005I should have mentioned that Dunsandle Station has its own website, with lots of photographs of the train and wagons arriving at the station.


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December 05, 2005

Cross Roads


There's nothing worse than a riled horse...this one had literally come to the end of his tether...so best keep out of his way.


There was a horse fair in Maam Cross on Sunday. Normally, Peacock's would be jammed with buyers, sellers and spectators having a feed or maybe just even taking shelter from the cold.



Time's up for Peacocke's...


Not this year - the placed closed two weeks ago after a bank appointed a Receiver, which is usually the prelude to a fire sale, unless it can be sold on as a going concern (unlikely since then it wouldn't need a receiver in the first place). You can see some mixed views of the restaurant and hotel on TripAdvisor here.


It seems like Maam Cross has always been a crossroads trying to better itself, not always successfully. It used to be a stopping point for the Bianconi stage coach service and later was chosen as the site for a railway station on the old Clifden line - the remains of the station still stand near Peacocke's. The railway station closed in 1935, and in more recent years, the pub and restaurant - and later hotel - complex became a well-known stopping-off point for tourist coaches on their way through Connemara. The current owner of Peacocke's, Basil Keogh, had successfully lobbied Galway County Council to have Maam Cross upgraded to a "Settlement Centre" (i.e. village) and it was this designation that enabled him to get planning permission for a set of apartments and holiday homes across the road from the hotel - this development, according to the Connacht Tribune, will still go ahead.



The horse dealers didn't starve on Sunday - the petrol station between the hotel and the mart did a roaring trade, as did the chip van parked outside the gates of the mart. Both the mart and the petrol station is also owned by Keoghs, so they won't starve either.


Maam Cross is another spot whose Irish name doesn't have any connection to the English one. An Teach Dˇite (the burnt house) refers to the fate of the stage coach stop, Butler's Lodge, 166 years ago.


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December 04, 2005

Flaggy Shore, the Burren


Sunset at the Flaggy Shore...


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December 01, 2005

Riverrun


The streams are beginning to fill...Bencorragh, Co. Galway


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