Hello again from Ireland where this month we offer you some great reads. Learn about the Irish Goddess who inspired the legend of the Blarney Stone. We have insight into County Clare in the very western part of Ireland and another ancient tale of Witches from old Ireland.
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NEWS FROM IRELAND
IRISH PROPERTY PRICE INCREASES OUT OF CONTROL
Further proof that Ireland continues to travel the 13-step plan for ruination can be found in the most recent survey of property price increases.
House prices in Ireland are now rising at an average of 2000 Euro per month, and an awful lot more than that in certain areas. The massive price increases are actually tempting some people to cash in with in excess of 6000 properties being listed for sale in May alone. This is the single biggest monthly increase since the start of the big property crash in 2008.
House prices have now increased by a massive 12% over the last year as the very limited supply of housing combines with occasional Government meddling to create a perfect storm. Dublin city center prices are up by 18.2% in a single year.
Ireland has now breached step 5 of the 13-step plan for ruination (relaxation of mortgage lending rules) and is in the middle of step 6 (Grant permission to build so many properties that an influx of foreign workers are needed to help build them).
Statistics from the CSO have shown that new 'planning permissions' for the first quarter of 2017 are up by a massive 50.4% on the previous year.
The next phases is to encourage immigration of builders to build new housing who in turn will exacerbate the problem.
A crash is inevitable with the only question being whether the banks will be taken down again.
QUIET MAN RAILWAY STATION COULD COLLAPSE
The railway station used in the iconic 1952 movie 'The Quiet Man', starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, is under threat and may collapse.
A campaign has been launched to save Ballyglunin station that was called 'Castletown' in the much-loved movie. The campaign is seeking to raise thirty thousand euro to try to repair the roof that is disintegrating.
The history of the railway station dates back to 1860 when the Blake family of Ballyglunin park were said to have their evening meals transported from the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin all the way to Galway! The carriage boxes were insulated with hay in order to keep the meals warm.
The station was closed in 1980 and has been falling into disrepair ever since. The Ballyglunin Community Development Charity wants to open an arts and heritage center at the site.
Mark Gibson is one of the directors of the charity:
'The Ballyglunin Community Development Charity has huge plans to develop this amazing location, however the roof is now at serious risk of collapse. If nothing is done, we'll be saying goodbye to an important slice of Irish history.'
BAPTISM BARRIER TO BE ABOLISHED
The so-called 'baptism barrier' that allows religious-run schools to offer places to baptized children in preference to those who are not baptized looks set to be abolished.
The role of the religious orders in state-funded schools and hospitals is very much under the microscope in Ireland in recent years. The controversy surrounding the religious involvement in the new National Maternity Hospital was preceded in the public consciousness by the scandal surrounding the reports of the burial of hundreds of children at the Tuam mothers and babies home.
The religious influence in the sphere of education in Ireland is very well documented and in the face of changing demographics and increased secularization of Irish society is to be examined too.
Currently there are 2,800 Catholic-run (but Government funded) schools in Ireland with just 6% of schools run by other religious denominations.
Richard Bruton is the Government Minister for Education:
'I believe it is unfair that preference can be given by publicly-funded denominational schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school.
I also believe that it is unfair that some parents, who might otherwise not do so, feel pressure to baptize their children in order to gain admission to their local school.'
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CLÍODHNA OF THE BANSHEES THE GODDESS WHO INSPIRED THE BLARNEY STONE
Clíodhna (pronounced klee-nah). Also Cleena, Clíona, Clidna, Kleena.
Clíodhna was the mythical Queen of the Banshees, the female spirits of the Tuatha Dé Danannan, and forever will be associated with the southern part of Ireland and Cork in particular.
She was a Goddess of love and beauty and is surrounded by three birds whose fabulous songs could cure all ills. Those who heard the songs were lulled into a deep sleep and when they awoke found that their sickness had been cured.
She was a fabulous beauty, perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world.
Other tales of Clíodhna are not quite so benign. She is said to have lured sailors to the sea-shore where they would drown, unconcerned as she was with the fate of mere mortals.
But it was one such mortal who was to cause her downfall. She left the 'land of promise' in the Otherworld, known as 'Tir Tairngire', to be with her mortal lover Ciabhán (Keevan of the Curling Locks). It was an amazing sacrifice for a Goddess from the Otherworld to remain in the mortal realm but that is what she chose.
When one day Ciabhán went off to hunt, Cliodhna remained at the seashore but was swept away by a wave incanted by Manannán MacLir, the sea Deity. Ever since that time the tide in Glandore in Cork is known as 'Tonn Chlíodhna' meaning 'Clíodhna's Wave', especially when a fiercely loud braking wave thunders out from the sea.
And since that time Irish legend has it that every ninth wave in a sequence is the strongest, and is known as 'Clíodhna's wave'.
Clíodhna was revered by many of the strongest Gaelic families of old. In the 'Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland', Donal III O'Donovan, one of the great ancestors of the O'Donovan families, is referred to as the 'Dragon of Clíodhna':
Domhnall's son, dragon of Cliodhna, is guardian of the ancestral name,
he will remit his authority to none other - he has accepted the law of his dynasty.
O'Donovan, Four Masters, vol. V, p. 1548
She is also associated with the McCarthys of Desmond, who adopted Clíodhna as their fairy woman. One member of the O'Leary sept was named Conor Clíodhna, again showing how well known and respected Clíodhna was among these ancient southern families.
Perhaps one of the most enduring stories of Clíodhna relates to the famous Blarney Stone.
While building his castle in Cork, Cormac McCarthy became involved in legal difficulties and appealed to Clíodhna for her help. In a dream she instructed him to kiss the first stone he found the following morning, and if he did so his problems would be resolved.
McCarthy did as instructed and when he argued his cause in the courts found that he was possessed of such eloquence and convincing language that he easily won his case. He honored Clíodhna by having the stone he had kissed set into a wall, where today it is visited and kissed by countless thousands of visitors from all parts of this world.
The legend of Blarney was enhanced even more when Queen Elizabeth I found that she could not successfully persuade Cormac McCarthy to surrender his castle to her. Such was his delaying tactics and now superior negotiating skills and turn of phrase that the frustrated Monarch of England described his communications as 'Blarney, as what he says he does not mean'.
And so it is that Clíodhna is well remembered in Ireland. Her Palace was near Mallow in Cork at a place that is still called 'Carrig-Cleena', meaning 'Cliodhna's rock'.
And every time a massive thunderous wave breaks on the seashore her memory rises from the history of Ireland, echoing from the mythic era that, although now at an end, is never forgotten.
WHICH IRISH MYTHOLOGICAL CHARACTER ARE YOU??
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ASTONISHING CLARE by Michael Collins
We'd missed the boat to Clare. I didn't think we would, because we were within the time limits stated. What we'd failed to realise, Pat and myself, was the clocks had stopped at the last small town we had passed through. We had even had time to pause on the way, at the top of the last rise before the land fell away to the shore, to admire the panorama. 'See Naples and die' they say. Pat had turned to me as we gazed: 'See Clew Bay and die' was his comment.
It was spread out before us, a semi-circular stretch of the Atlantic, girdled by mountains and dotted with islets – 'One for every day of the year,' Pat had remarked – with the large hump of our destination plugging the gap to the open sea like a huge whale floating patiently on the surface: Clare Island, five miles out to sea, five miles long by two miles wide, rising from sea level at its eastern end to nine hundred feet at its western extremity, where high cliffs took the buffeting of the restless ocean. And in among all those islands and islets was a small sand bar that the Beatles had bought. It had been taken over by hippies who were attempting to raise cabbages there.
But we'd missed the boat. Not our fault. You couldn't book your passage so there was no passenger list. But we had been assured that there would be a boat at 3.30 in the afternoon. Now, at 3 o'clock, we could see our boat as a speck on the water, drawing away from us towards our intended destination. There was nothing for it but to return the five miles to Louisburgh and phone from there. A frantic phone call – from a phone booth where first you had to pick up the receiver and wind a handle to get the operator and only then insert your two pennies – provided us with the information that no further 'official' boat was expected to sail that day but it was thought that a fishing boat would be making the crossing to Roonagh Quay and back at around 7.30. The only thing we could do was to go and get a pub meal and a pint or two and wait. I made sure we were back at the landing stage by 6.30.
When the boat, with its two-man crew, arrived to deposit a passenger and return to the island before nightfall, the tide was at its lowest ebb. We had to scramble thirty feet down an iron ladder, maneuvering our rucksacks, into the well of a boat that looked frighteningly small and smelt like a fishmonger's shop on a bad day. I had thought I was accustomed to boats, having crossed the English Channel and the Irish Sea up to fifty times. This was different. The large steamers I was used to ploughed through the waves: the tiny craft we were now sailing in sat on top of them like a cork. The waves rolled in from the stern, higher than the mast, and the boat was eased up the hills of water, to slide down the far side into the trough like a roller coaster. I did not feel confident, but the crew seemed to regard it all with the dispassionate attitude of experts.
Then Clare loomed up out of drizzly mist, all grey and green, dotted with the white squares of cottages. It was dead calm in the lee of the island, enabling me to lean over the side. The sight was astonishing. The water was a crystal-clear, pale bluish-green and the bright sandy bottom was clearly visible, with small flatfish cruising around like aeroplanes.
The boat docked at 8 o'clock and once again we set about heaving and hauling to get our baggage on shore. We walked along the top of the harbour wall, in the curve of which nestled a ridiculously tiny castle, proceeded another fifty yards and entered the pub. I say 'pub': it was everything – post office, grocery store, pub and private dwelling all rolled into one. Pints were pulled. Around 11.30 supper was called, a vast fry-up of sausages, eggs, bacon, black pudding. And more pints. It was like a hefty breakfast and a night out on the town all rolled into one.
At around 1 a.m. I wandered down to the tiny beach to clear my head and got strangely excited about finding a small dead dogfish stranded on the sand.
Our three-week holiday started the next day. Our time was spent working on the 'roads' – a euphemism for tracks made of compacted gravel and clay. Spare time was spent in the pub, wandering over the island, fishing for mackerel from a boat and for cod from the shore. The weather changed the first day: we could have been somewhere on the Mediterranean. A heat wave in the West of Ireland!
The watch on my wrist soon became redundant. I was used to a life regulated down to the nearest minute. The islanders lived much more according to the rhythms of daylight, darkness and weather. Not even the pub had real opening times: generally the first customers would trickle in around 9 p.m., the bar staying open until the last drinker left in the wee small hours or as the sun was coming up.
The result was that I was rewarded by sights that are not usually granted to the clock-watcher. One morning, after a particularly fine night of story-telling and singing, two of us emerged into the fresh air just as rosy-fingered dawn was painting the sky. Rather than going home to bed we decided to climb to a point high above the track to watch the sun come up. We sat in the shelter of a tumbledown dry-stone wall and watched the sun rise above Croagh Patrick, the sacred mountain of Ireland's patron saint that stands on the far mainland shore looking, from our vantage point, rather like a resting volcano. The sunlight shone on a grassy plateau some thirty feet beneath us, a plateau dotted with wild flowers. And as the cold air warmed we smelt the wild thyme and saw the hares emerging from their nighttime hiding places to jump and gambol like children just released from school.
Another early-morning exploit found me with two islanders in a curragh, a traditional rowing boat made of tarred sacking stretched over thin laths, dropping a handline weighted with a stone and bearing six hooks baited with bits of silver paper. I could feel the mackerel thudding into the hooks as the line became steadily heavier. We hauled the fish aboard six at a time. Ninety mackerel in half an hour. Fishing from the shoreline was different. The bait was limpet, knocked from the rocks, the prey small codlings or wrasse. Not sport: they were strictly for the pot.
Then there was the day that we decided to take the long walk to the west of the island, a steady five-mile slog as the land slowly rose from sea level to cliff height. We lay on our bellies on grass cropped by that most efficient of lawn mowers, the sheep, and watched the gulls wheel and scream along the cliff walls, hearing the dull boom of the ocean as it gently pummeled the rocks below. A curragh came into view, rounding a headland to our left, and bobbed about like a toy boat as its occupants hauled in lobster pots. We knew the men, but there was no point in greeting them: a wave of the hand would have gone unnoticed and any shouting would have been drowned by the ocean's deep bass voice.
I fear that this was an experience I can never repeat. Tourism and commercial interests have changed the nature of Clare. The pub has closed. There is mains electricity and a helicopter pad. But the visitor to Clare Island will still be able to savor something of what I felt when I first landed there. In June 1971.
THE WICKED WIDOWby Lady Francesca Wilde
The evil spells over milk and butter are generally practised by women, and arise from some feeling of malice or envy against a prosperous neighbour. But the spell will not work unless some portion of the milk is first given by consent.
The people therefore are very reluctant to give away milk, unless to some friend that they could not suspect of evil. Tramps coming in to beg for a mug of milk should always be avoided, they may be witches in disguise; and even if milk is given, it must be drunk in the house, and not carried away out of it. In every case the person who enters must give a hand to the churn, and say, "God bless all here."
A young farmer, one of the fine handsome fellows of the West, named Hugh Connor, who was also well off and rich, took to wife a pretty young girl of the village called Mary, one of the Leydons, and there was no better girl in all the country round, and they were very comfortable and happy together. But Hugh Connor had been keeping company before his marriage with a young widow of the place, who had designs on him, and was filled with rage when Mary Leydon was selected for Connor's bride, in place of herself. Then a desire for vengeance rose up in her heart, and she laid her plans accordingly.
First she got a fairy woman to teach her some witch secrets and spells, and then by great pretense of love and affection for Mary Connor, she got frequent admission to the house, soothing and flattering the young wife; and on churning days she would especially make it a point to come in and offer a helping hand, and if the cakes were on the griddle, she would sit down to watch and turn them. But it so happened that always on these days the cakes were sure to be burned and spoiled, and the butter would not rise in the churn, or if any did come, it was sour and bad, and of no use for the market.
But still the widow kept on visiting, and soothing, and flattering, till Mary Connor thought she was the very best friend to her in the whole wide world, though it was true that whenever the widow came to the house something evil happened. The best dish fell down of itself off the dresser and broke; or the rain got in through the roof, and Mary's new cashmere gown, a present that had come to her all the way from Dublin, was quite ruined and spoiled. But worse came, for the cow sickened, and a fine young brood of turkeys walked straight into the lake and got drowned. And still worst of all, the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mother, that was pinned up to the wall, fell down one day, and was blown into the fire and burned.
After this, what luck could be on the house? and Mary's heart sank within her, and she fairly broke down, and cried her very life out in a torrent of tears.
Now it so happened that an old woman with a blue cloak, and the hood of it over her head, a stranger, was passing by at the time, and she stepped in and asked Mary kindly what ailed her. So Mary told her all her misfortunes, and how everything in the house seemed bewitched for evil.
'Now,' said the stranger, 'I see it all, for I am wise, and know the mysteries. Some one with the Evil Eye comes to your house. We must find out who it is.'
Then Mary told her that the nearest friend she had was the widow, but she was so sweet and kind, no one could suspect her of harm.
'We'll see' said the stranger, 'only do as I bid you, and have everything ready when she comes.'
'She will be here soon' said Mary, 'for it is churning day, and she always comes to help exactly at noon.'
'Then I'll begin at once; and now close the door fast' said the stranger.
And with that she threw some herbs on the fire, so that a great smoke arose. Then she took all the plough irons that were about, and one of them she drove into the ground close beside the churn, and put a live coal beside it; and the other irons she heated red-hot in the fire, and still threw on more herbs to make a thick smoke, which Mary thought smelt like the incense in the church.
Then with a hot iron rod from the fire, the strange woman made the sign of the cross on the threshold, and another over the hearth. After which a loud roaring was heard outside, and the widow rushed in crying out that a hot stick was running through her heart, and all her body was on fire. And then she dropped down on the floor in a fit, and her face became quite black, and her limbs worked in convulsions.
'Now' said the stranger, 'you see who it is put the Evil Eye on all your house; but the spell has been broken at last. Send for the men to carry her back to her own house, and never let that witch-woman cross your threshold again.'
After this the stranger disappeared, and was seen no more in the village.
Now when all the neighbours heard the story, they would have no dealings with the widow. She was shunned and hated; and no respectable person would be seen talking to her, and she went by the name of the Evil Witch. So her life was very miserable, and not long after she died of sheer vexation and spite, all by herself alone, for no one would go near her; and the night of the wake no one went to offer a prayer, for they said the devil would be there in person to look after his own.
And no one would walk with her coffin to the grave, for they said the devil was waiting at the churchyard gate for her; and they firmly believe to this day that her body was carried away on that night from the graveyard by the powers of darkness. But no one ventured to test the truth of the story by opening the coffin, so the weird legend remains still unsolved.
But as for Hugh Connor and the pretty Mary, they prospered after that in all things, and good luck and the blessing of God seemed to be evermore on them and their house, and their cattle, and their children.
At the same time, Mary never omitted on churning days to put a red-hot horse-shoe under the churn according as the stranger had told her, who she firmly believed was a good fairy in disguise, who came to help her in the time of her sore trouble and anxiety.
MILITARY SHEEP STEALERS.
In the course of last week a gentleman residing in the vicinity of Midleton, near Killea, (Mr. Welland) engaged a prize ram for breeding purposes for 20 pounds which, with two sheep, was left out at night to pasture in a field about a mile distant from Midleton. On missing them one morning, information was conveyed to the police, who made every effort to discover their whereabouts, but with no success. The secret, however, soon transpired.
A knife, lost by the depredators, was found, and on its being shown by the police to a butcher resident in Middleton he instantly identified it as his property, which on the previous evening he lent to a few of the soldiers of the 47th Regt., a company of which is at present stationed in Middleton, with a view to the protection of property, as well as the preservation of the peace of the country.
The constabulary instantly proceeded to Thomas Street, Middleton, where the military are quartered, and on examination discovered portions of the carcasses of the slaughtered animals safely deposited in a coal hole. Suspicion strongly attaching to three of the gallant corps, they were arrested and taken before the sitting magistrates, who decided on receiving informations against them; and they now await their trial at the ensuing sessions in durance.
It is to be regretted that the conduct of a few scoundrels should have the effect of bringing into disrepute a gallant body of men, such as unquestionably is the 47th Regt., who, since the unhappy occurrence, are denominated by the people here — 'the 47th sheep stealers.'
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