Hi again from Ireland where the news has veered again towards 'Brexit' (see below). Rarely has such a huge event been covered with such uncertainty as to how it can be achieved or its consequences once done!
This month we hear tales of Saint Kevin and visit Connemara in the west of Ireland - what a place! We would love to have your story or article so do please do send it in.
Until next time, enjoy your Summer!
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NEWS FROM IRELAND
NEW IRISH TAOISEACH VARADKAR PUTS IT UP TO THE BRITISH OVER BREXIT
Muscle flexing or poor diplomacy? Good leadership or a poorly-thought out gamble?
Reactions to the press statements by Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar regarding the issue of a possible border being reintroduced in Northern Ireland have been very varied.
The lack of any concrete progress on so many issues relating to Brexit are clearly weighing heavily on the collective shoulders of the current Fine Gael Government.
Despite the fact that a majority of voters in the six Counties in Ulster voted against Brexit (ie voted to stay within the European Union) it looks certain that Northern Ireland (and Scotland) will be dragged out of the EU against their will by virtue of their membership of the United Kingdom.
The recent gamble by British Prime Minister Theresa May to try to improve her political standing in the UK by calling a snap General Election back-fired spectacularly. A loss of 13 seats for the Conservatives compares pooly with the gain of 30 seats for the Labour Party.
Perhaps the big winners were the DUP who apart from gaining 2 extra seats to give a total of 12, now harness considerable political power by propping up the Conservatives in Government (giving a combined total of 330 seats, with 325 needed for a majority). Reports have indicated that the DUP negotiated a 1 Billion Pound package of funding for Northern Ireland in exchange for their support.
With just about all aspects of Brexit uncertain one of the main points of interest from an Irish perspective is the situation regarding a border in Ulster.
Since the 'Good Friday Agreement' there has been no physical border between North and South in Ireland. But the imminent departure of the UK from the European Union will almost certainly mean that some manner of border will need to be re-introduced. While some commentators and politicians have floated the idea of an 'invisible border' that would be manned by electronic tagging and cameras, that suggestion has been quickly dismissed as being next to impossible to implement.
The reality is that a very visible and physical border will be implemented, potentially with British troops backing it up. This is a scenario that would delight the DUP Unionists who want as much separation from the South of Ireland as possible but is also a situation that flies directly in the face of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is against this backdrop that Leo Varadkar has decided to stir the pot somewhat:
'There hasn't been an economic Border since 1992. As far as this Government is concerned there shouldn't be an economic Border. We don't want one. It's the United Kingdom, it's Britain that has decided to leave and if they want to put forward smart solutions, technological solutions for Borders of the future and all of that that's up to them.
We're not going to be doing that work for them because we don't think there should be an economic Border at all. That is our position.
The DUP were quick to hit back with their former adviser Richard Bullick remarking:
(this may be an issue of) 'somebody relatively recently into office that led them to say what they thought out loud, which isn't always the most desirable stance in politics.'
One thing is for sure. This scuffle has now very firmly put the issue of a Northern border right back up to the British Government.
'VULGAR VICTORIA' - CAMPAIGN TO REMOVE BRITISH EMPIRE STREET NAMES
A Cork group are spearheading a campaign to have some relics of the British Empire removed from their streets.
The 'Cork Street Names Campaign' wants to rename roads and streets that contain references to Queen Victoria, among others.
Independent Councillor Diarmaid O'Cadhla is a member of the group who claim that their motivations are not anti-British and that they simply want Irish streets to be named after Irish historical figures. They are adamant that the genocide inflicted on the Irish population should not be continued to be honored by the naming of streets after Queen Victoria,
The politician particulary took aim at the British monarch who reigned at the time of the Irish famine:
'It is 170 years since Black '47. There are loads of Irish heroes who should be commemorated, not criminals. I'm not anti-British, I'm just pro-Irish. Young Irish people need to respect our culture and history. The need to stop mimicking the US or France or other countries. They should bring our own culture to the fore.'
Councillor O'Cadhla had been arrested, questioned and then released in February in connection with the vandalism of several street signs in Cork. Despite this, he remains committed to his cause:
(There are) 'about 80 or 90 streets named after criminals and aristocrats in our city, and in Victoria's case a genocidal queen responsible for the murder and displacement of two million Irish people. We must remove the names of Criminals and Aristocrats from our street/place names, we must aspire to higher values, reflecting our traditions & successes.'
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THE ADVENTURES OF SAINT KEVIN by J.I. McGovern
Saint Kevin was the founder of the Abbey of
Glendalough in County Wicklow. There are all sorts
of attractive stories about his relationship with
animals that represent an aspect of that real
closeness to nature which was such an appealing
feature of 'Celtic Christianity'. He died on 3rd
June in the year 618.
Saint Kevin and the Cow
Saint Kevin did not like people, but he was very
kind to animals! He lived in a tree in Glendalough
in County Wicklow. The tree was near a farm. One
day, the farmer saw that one of his cows gave as
much milk as fifty cows. He was amazed and decided
to follow the cow.
The next day he followed the
cow to the tree near the farm. He found the cow
licking the feet of Saint Kevin. The farmer asked
Saint Kevin if he would live in his house but Saint
Kevin did not like the idea because Saint Kevin
did not like people.
He compromised though and said to the farmer
that he could send his cows to him every day. And from that time on
the farmer had the best farm in all of Ireland.
Saint Kevin and the Blackbird
One day Saint Kevin was standing in a lake where
the water was deep and very cold. He was praying
with his arms outstretched and his palms upwards
when a blackbird flew down and put a twig in Saint
He repeated the process until she
had built a nest. Saint Kevin loved animals so
much he stood there until the eggs were hatched
and the birds flew away.
Saint Kevin and the Monster
One time in Glendalough people from all over
Ireland came to see Saint Kevin. There was a
monster living in the Upper Lake that ate people.
The people wanted to kill the monster but Saint
Kevin loved all animals and asked the monster to
move to the Lower Lake. The Lower Lake is now
named 'Lake Peist' The Lake of the Monster.
Saint Kevin and the Woman
Saint Kevin did not like people in general, but he especially
While in Glendalough he was living
in a cave high above the lake. There was a woman
in Glendalough who was in love with him. One day
Saint Kevin came home and the woman was cleaning
his cave and cooking dinner. He became very angry
and threw the woman out from the cave. She hit the
lake and drowned.
But he was very kind to animals.
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CONNEMARA - THE HIDDEN GEM
One of the complaints about some of the most popular of Irish tourist attractions is that they have become too commercialized. Too busy. Of course this is a problem with so many tourist sites in just about every country. Big crowds, long queues, difficult parking, expensive.
This is a charge that cannot be levelled at Connemara, the often wild region that is nestled into the very western part of County Galway. Perhaps it is the fact that the area is relatively more difficult to access that makes it somewhat less well known than the likes of Killarney, Dingle and Kenmare to the south.
Or perhaps it is the fact that rainy weather is often more likely to gravitate to the western seaboard, the clouds rushing in from the Atlantic Ocean before gleefully drenching the local inhabitants.
Regardless of the reasons, Connemara is a somewhat less tourist-traveled location than many parts of Ireland and is all the better to explore because of it.
Traveling to Connemara from the East (from Dublin, then Athlone, then Galway City) involves a relatively straightforward drive until the outskirts of Galway city are reached, at which point a series of roundabouts and turns invoke the inevitable question: why is there not a ring-road (a by-pass) around this city? Once navigated the journey to the delightful town of Oughterard takes about 20 minutes with a further 45 minutes to Clifden, the capital of Connemara.
There are of course train services to Galway and bus services onwards to Clifden. If driving then do plan your route carefully and check the map to navigate around Galway (and make sure you avoid arriving in Galway during rush-hours!).
Clifden is a hidden town in the very western part of Ireland. It is a big enough for a good walk-around and offers great sea-food fare as well as plenty of bars with traditional Irish music. There is a delightful short drive from Clifden called the 'Sky Road' which is well named because once you are at the top you will need your camera. Look west and the next stop is North America. A breathtaking vista.
So far, so typical, except that Connemara also specializes in outdoor pursuits. Sailing, kayaking, scuba-diving, surfing, rock-climbing, fishing, boating, ferries to the local islands, hill-walking, adventure centers. Connemara is perfect for those who like outdoor pursuits and for those willing to 'give it a go'.
The Delphi Adventure Center is about 50 minutes drive from Clifden via the N59, and what a drive!
Cleggan is the first stop north of Clifden where the Ferry departs for Inishboffin Island (takes about half an hour, hire a bike at the harbour and cycle around the island, great beaches to explore), or take some time in Cleggan itself for some horse-riding or a stroll along on the small rocky beach. Omey Island is nearby for a longer hike.
Continuing north-east is where you will find some of the most incredible views of the 'Twelve Bens' (also known as the 'Twelve Pins'). These quartzite mountains rise up from the landscape like some form of extra-terrestrial landscape. While the barren rocks are visible on those nearest, the further mountains fade into the distance, enveloped by mist like an elaborate living watercolor. Amazing.
The town of Letterfrack is home to the gateway to Connemara National Park. This free amenity offers a small interpretive center, a cafe, picnic tables, playground as well as several well-marked trails up Diamond Hill (442 metres high, not too bad!). The park is a perfect place for a picnic and to get some exercise.
The famous Kylemore Abbey is the next stop along the N59 and is perhaps the most famous and oft-visited attraction in Connemara. The Abbey was actually a fully functioning school until quite recently but now offers visits into a number of buildings, including the Abbey itself, where self-guided and guided-tours are available. A short walk along the nearby lake brings visitors to fine views of the mountains.
For many though, an even bigger delight than the Abbey will be the incredible gardens. A short shuttle bus ride will deliver visitors to the restored gardens that are quite extensive and magical to walk around if the weather is fine. The views are incredible. A circuit of the gardens can be concluded by a visit to the cafe or a ramble through the marked forest hiking trail (or both!).
Kylemore is well worth a visit and could be combined with a trip to Connemara National Park for a great day out.
Continuing on after Kylemore is the town of Lennaun (Leenane), magically located at the head of Killary Fjord. Killary Adventure Centre and the Delphi Adventure Resort both offer all manner of activities and are a great resource if you are holidaying with the kids. Delphi offer single day and multi-day 'camps' and activities while both centers offer kayaking, mountain-climbing, hill-walking and more.
Kayaking on the Fjord (wet-suit, life-jacket, all equipment provided) is a great experience in a wonderful setting.
Further north is the gateway to County Mayo, to Louisburg and to the much larger town of Westport where Westport House and Gardens is a big attraction.
The drive south of Clifden is a winding one through Ballyconneely and on to Roundstone. The beaches at Gurteen and Dogs Bay are amazing! Pristine sand and almost tropically clean seawater (not so tropical temperature though!). Another great day out for the kids and for adults longing for some invigorating air sweeping in from the Atlantic.
Connemara has well regarded golfing near Ballyconneely, Oughterard and Westport. Galway City is only an hour away and is a buzzing vibrant place with great shopping, Galway City Museum, an Aquarium and lots to see and do.
If stuck for something to do on a rainy day then the jaunt to Glengowla Mine at Oughterard is very interesting. Dan O'Hara's Homestead Farm is even closer to Clifden and is also worth a visit.
Connemara can be tricky to navigate. You really do need a car or guided tour (or use local buses), but the reward is that the region is simply less cluttered than many other Irish tourist locations. Of course when the rain starts Connemara can be a forbidding place.
But when the sun shines it ranks among the most stunning locations in Ireland.
THE MONSTER OF LOUGH REEby Pat Watson
The legend of the Monster of Lough Ree has always been, but smart modern people said it could not be true, as the lake was not deep enough to hide a monster. Moreover, they said that those who claimed to have seen it were probably poitin makers who were under the influence or were trying to scare off the police or customs men.
The clever monster was not impressed so he presented himself to three sober clergymen of impeccable character in the 1950s. They described him as being a giant eel-like creature about two and a half feet thick and up to forty or fifty feet long. For the few minutes that they saw him he had his head and four bodily loops above the water. They thought he had a lump on his head and mouth and teeth like a pike. Controversy reigned for a time but the real story never came to light.
Another story about the monster dates from a hundred years before that. Two brothers from Knockcrockery, Mick and Pat, said they saw the monster late one night when they were passing by the lake, looking out toward Quaker Island. Locals ignored this sighting, as the brothers were well-known poitin makers and drinkers who plied their trade between the islands and all along the west side of the lake. However, two Englishmen heard about it and decided to investigate. Their names were Percival and Donald. Both of them were related to well-known, brave, worldwide explorers, and by virtue of their fear of any danger and inability to achieve much, they were somewhat despised by their families.
Percival and Donald decided to make their names by capturing the Lough Ree Monster. To this end, they contacted Mick and Pat and employed them as guides and advisers. Mick introduced them to his brother-in-law, Tom, and his wife, Mary, who had a house with a spare room where Percival and Donald could board for only 1 pound each per day. They were lucky to get lodgings so near the lake!
Pat advised them to go to his brother-in-law, Joe, the blacksmith, and get him to make a giant hook. At that time, the local forge was the only sort of leisure centre available to male layabouts, newsmongers, gabsters and nosy backbiters. There was always news and action there, and in order to keep the fair side of the blacksmith, those fellows would help with sledging, fitting iron tyres on cart wheels or helping with young horses. Mick advised the Englishmen that their adventure needed to be kept strictly secret and that nothing would remove the hangers-on from the forge, only free drink. Mick suggested to Percival that a 5 pound float for a free bar in the local shebeen (illegal pub) would empty the forge so that they and the blacksmith could get down to business. Percival complemented Mick on his shrewdness and paid the money. He did not know that the shebeen was owned by Pat's uncle.
Now, Joe, Percival, Donald, Pat and Mick got to work. The hook had to be designed and made properly. A six-foot-long crowbar an inch thick was selected. Joe heated it in the fire, two feet from one end, and he and Pat lifted it on to the anvil with big pincers. Then Joe beat it into a lovely hook. It was heating time again so that the point of the hook could be beaten and barbs cut out with a chisel and turned so that the hook would hold fast to the captured creature. This was then cooled and the other end heated white and beaten flat before a hole was punched in it, to hold a twenty-yard long chain.
Just about that time, another brother-in-law, Tim, had a litter of little piglets and Pat acquired one for bait on the giant hook. Pat only charged Percival a pound for the pig. The chain was anchored to a tree on land and the hook with the dead pig on it was brought out by boat seventeen yards and then dropped from the far side of the boat so that it hung nine feet down over the side. As they were afraid of the monster, they anchored the boat there and returned to land in another boat. Mick owned the boats but he only charged 1 pound per boat per day. The Englishmen were rich. They watched from the shore for several hours and when their patience wore out they went out and pulled up the hook. The pig was gone.
'Well, doesn't that beat Banagher,' said Mick.
'The bloody monster is as clever as a Christian. We will have to secure the bait better.'
They tried again the next day and this time they tied the pig on with a rope. It did no good and when they pulled up the hook there was nothing there but the rope. This went on every day, with more and better ropes used until all twelve of the litter of little pigs were gone. Every night Pat, Mick, and Tim procured expensive poitin for Percival and Donald, who drank themselves to sleep.
As they were eating their breakfast on the eleventh morning, Mary, who always had too much to say, asked:
'Are ye going to feed another pig to the pike today?'
The penny dropped with Donald.
'Is that what has been eating out bait? There must be no monster at all. We have been wasting our time. We will not go on the lake again. How much is our bill? We will be leaving today.'
'What sort of an Óinseach [fool] are you woman?' said Tom.
'How could pike get near the bait, sure the monster would eat them too. You're talking nonsense like always.' But the damage was done. The Englishmen were onto the ruse. That's when Pat and Mick arrived. Tom, interrupted often by his wife, told of the morning's conversation.
'Well, isn't that the best ever you heard,' said Pat, 'but don't worry, we'll catch him yet. We need a bigger pig with several ordinary fish hooks inserted in him and then, every pike that bites him will get caught and make a better bait altogether for the monster.'
'I am not convinced,' said Percival. 'I have lost faith in you, your bait, your boats and the monster. In fact, I'm sceptical as to whether there ever was a monster.'
'Didn't you tell me that your brother climbed the highest mountain in Europe, Mattie's Horn?' asked Mick, 'and I bet he didn't give up just when he could see the top.'
'It's the Matterhorn,' said Percival with a condescending smile at the ignorant peasant. But he was stung by the suggestion that he was a quitter or that he was less than his brother, the mountaineer.
'I suppose we could give it one more go if you are agreeable, Donald, and if another pig is available.'
By sheer luck, another brother-in law had arrived from Gaily Bay with a bigger pig in an ass's cart. Not only that, in spite of his great size, he was prepared to sell him for just 2 pounds. Luck struck again when a stranger turned up with fifty special hooks to implant in the pig and he even had short lines to attach to the hooks and to the big hook.
'It looks as if fate is on our side this time,' said Donald. The stage was set for the final trap to catch the monster.
The pig was killed. The hooks were inserted and the pig was tied to the big hook. All was loaded on to the boat. It was rowed out the seventeen yards. The pig, complete with big hook and fifty small hooks, was dropped over the side. Then all hell broke loose!
The chain became taut and was wrenched over the end of the boat nearly overturning it. The tree that the chain was anchored to shook as great pressure was put on it. Then everything went quiet. Tim and Tom who were on the shore pulled in the slack chain. There was nothing on the end of it and the big inch thick hook had been straightened out. Pat, Percival and Donald who had been in the first boat, were busy hiding their embarrassment at what the fright caused. Mick was in the other boat with a bottle on his head.
There was a monster after all.
Everybody but the English were surprised. Pat and Mick did much less boating on the lake thereafter, and Percival and Donald had the best fishy story of all time.
PRIEST SHOOTS FOUR THIEVES
A few days since, a Roman Catholic clergyman in the county Cavan, was overtaken on his way home by a man on horseback, who entered into conversation with him, and, stating himself to be a stranger in that part of the country, requested he would direct him to some house in the village they were approaching, where he could be safely accommodated for the night.
When they came to the village, the priest pointed out a house to him, and rode on towards his own residence, some distance from the village. He had not gone far when he was again overtaken by the stranger, who told him he was afraid to stay in the house he had directed him to, as it was full of Orangemen; the priest told him he need be under no apprehension whatever, and advised him to go back, which he declined, saying, he would rather be on the road all night. The priest then told him, as his apprehensions would not let him return, he would give him a bed, and a place for his horse, at his own residence, to which the stranger assented: after taking some refreshment, they retired to their apartments.
The man servant of the clergyman having occasion to go into the stranger's bed-chamber before he had gone to bed, observed under his great coat a blunderbuss. On quitting the room, which he did instantly, he went to his master, and told him he did not like the appearance of his guest; that he was armed, and probably had bad intentions. His master, upon this statement, desired him not to go to bed, but to arm himself with a pitchford, and sit up in the kitchen; while he at the same time loaded a case of pistols, and sat up also reading, to beguile the time.
In the dead of night the priest's door was opened, and the man whom he had sheltered entered the room, presented the blunderbuss, and desired him to deliver his money, or he would shoot him; the clergyman requested he would put down the blunderbuss lest it might accidentally go off, and that he would show him what money he had; the priest then threw on the table a few tenpennies, saying that was all the money he had; on which the other replied, he knew he had plenty if money and that he came for the purpose of getting it, and that if he had not brought him to his house, he would that night have broken into it.
The priest then told him what money he had was in the desk that stood in the corner of the room, and, putting his hand in his pocket, took out the key, which he threw on the table; during the time he had been in the room, the ruffian was threatening him with immediate destruction; however, he took up the key, laid down the blunderbuss, and went towards the desk, when the priest drew one of the pistols, fired at him, and killed him on the spot!
The moment the report of the shot was heard, the hall-door was forced in, and four men entered, and rushed into the room; the priest, collected for the worst event, took up the blunderbuss, when he heard the crash of the door, and firing amongst them as they entered, killed two, and a third with the reserved pistol; the servant attacked the fourth with the pitchfork, and inflicted a wound in his back, but he unluckily escaped.
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by Michael Green,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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