Saturday, February 2, 2019

Bridget's Snow day

We went to the Tramore forest with our friend Helen and all the dogs. We met Helen about a year ago in this same forest. She was walking her two dogs Erika and Coco Michelle, and Peanut, who lives with her neighbor.

We talked about my trip seeking Sheelas, and Artemis's recent visit to Santa Cruz. We talked about four new indictments. We talked about how well Erika is doing on tramadol and how she doesn't growl at her hips anymore. We talked about those four poor boys who died in a car crash. We talked about how Pippin used to be afraid to jump over the creek, but now he jumps over with everyone. We talked about how pretty the light is. We talked about our friend and how his new hearing aid didn't arrive before his vacation. Then Helen showed Artemis the log that her grandkids pretend is a motorcycle. 

What is Pippin doing?

"Tramore" means "big beach" in Irish, and there are many tramore in this part of Donegal. Our tramore is just over those dunes there on the right.

The water you can see directly in front is "New Lake" which is 100 years old. New Lake formed when one end of an estuary was cut off from the sea by shifting dunes. The dunes shifted inland after their covering of grasses was removed. The grasses were removed by locals who sold them to the British Army. The Army fed the grasses to their horses in World War I.

World War I changed Ireland forever. That war brought the threat of conscription, a Home Rule Bill (suspended until war's end), the Easter Rising, and eventually the Irish War of Independence and a treaty that ended that war partitioned Ireland, cutting off Donegal from the rest of the country.

The same shifting dunes that created New Lake also silted up the Dunfanaghy harbor and ended their fishing industry. Dunfanaghy then became a tourist village. People from the North have been coming to Dunfanaghy on their summer holidays for generations, just like people from San Jose come to Santa Cruz.

Locals and tourists walk through the forest to get to the beach which is a mile from the parking lot. There's no way to drive to it. That's the best kind of beach.

Dogs: Peanut, Erika, Pippin, Coco Michelle

Humans: Artemis, Helen

Mountains: Muckish on the left and Errigal on the far right. Aghla Mor, Aghla Beg and Mackoght between them.

Pippin is still figuring out snow, so he licks it. The first thing we noticed the day we met Helen is that Peanut looks exactly like Pippin.

In the evening I went into the garden of the abandoned house at the end of our street and cut canes for Bridget's crosses. Everyone in Ireland makes them on January 31, and leaves them outside the house for Bridget to bless as she passes over the countryside on her day, Feb 1. I had always celebrated Bridget's Day on Feb 2, but maybe that's because California is 8 hours behind. Last night I left three crosses on the front steps. We had more snow, and the wind blew so fiercely Pippin hid under the bed. In the morning only two crosses remained on the steps. I guess I made one for us, one for Helen, and one for the wind. 

Sheela-na-gig legacy

A friend of mine sent me this photo of the original Starbuck's logo in Seattle, pointing out her similarity with the Sheela-na-gig. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Tipperary Sheela-na-gigs, found and lost.

Links to recent sheela-na-gig posts:

"figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva
The Fantstown Tower
Ballyvourney Sheela-na-gig

County Tipperary has more sheela-na-gig—twenty-seven—than any other county. 

I left Cork thinking I would see the three sheela-na-gig in Cashel, a place I've never been. But one of them is in a hotel that is now closed, one of them remains on a high wall but is hard to see, and one of them isn't a sheela-na-gig but a Cat Goddess.

So I headed for the medieval town of Fethard which has two sheela-na-gig. A few miles away in Kiltinane (Kil-TIE-nan) are two more. 

I drove all the way through Fethard until I came to the ruins of the Augustinian church. That's a likely place for a sheela. These days the sheela-na-gig looks out from her wall observing a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima. 

The sheela-na-gig is in the wall on the left.
Behind the Fatima shrine is the ruin of the 12th C church and the restored church next to it.

Around the corner from that church is the other Fethard sheela-na-gig, who looks out at this river, bridge, and ford.

Jack Roberts says: 

This has to be one of the most startling sheela-na-gigs and can be found on a section of the old 14th century town wall overlooking the medieval bridge over the Clashawley River at the entrance to the medieval walled town of Fethard. Although the figure is strategically located facing the old entry into the town, she blends in with the rest of the wall and is only really visible from quite close up. Certainly this is one of the few examples that could truly be described as ugly or frightening with her emaciated look, very noticeable incised ribs, striated chevron pattern on the left cheek and her neck and a large growth on her right ear. Grimly set teeth and large, rimmed staring eyes with pupils add to her hideous appearance. ...

My poor picture. You can find better ones. 
Across the road on a section of the restored wall, we find this modern fertility symbol. Or maybe it is a symbol of something else. 

There is a park between the river and the wall and I met a few other people walking their dogs. The water gate sheela is found at the far end of this wall. 

This old house still has the narrow glass windows created for tax purposes. 

I had lunch at Emily's delicatessen who will make you a fried egg sandwich and a cup of coffee for €5. 

 I enjoyed both while contemplating the story behind this picture.

Since I was so close, I drove a few miles to Kiltinane. These two sheela-na-gig are no longer available to visit. One is on a private estate, and the other one was stolen in 1990. 

Jack Roberts says:

This curious figure that appears as if dancing or doing a jig was originally erected as a quoin stone on the southwest corner of the church. It is one of the figures from which the name entered into common useage after it was described by O'Donovan in the mid 1800s. It was removed from the church by persons unknown on the 9th of January 1990. The crime has never been solved and this most important sheela-na-gig has never been located

The sheela-na-gig was once on the corner of the church now covered in ivy. 

Once I read that, I remembered that I had heard an RTE program about this theft. The program is a good one, and I would recommend it except that it is so wrenchingly sad. 

The robbery was part of a wider spate of thefts, looting or so-called ‘treasure hunting’ that was gone on around the country for many years. Gangs (and it was often organised gangs, but not regular criminals) had little to fear. Rummaging around on national historical sites in the dead of night in these out of the way places didn’t attract much official attention. In any case, if they were caught, treasure hunters faced very small fines and the ownership of what they found was at best disputed, it could be used in evidence but not necessarily seized by the authorities. 

The other Kiltinan sheela-na-gig is on the wall of a well-house at this estate, which is now a horse farm and owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

I do not take for granted that these treasures of Ireland will always be available to random people like me running around the countryside with my books, maps, and GPS phone. Treasures as mysterious, wonderful, and lewd as sheela-na-gig would never last in the States, but would be stolen and purchased by the same monsters who buy looted Native American artifacts

Few minutes after I took the photo of the Kiltinane church, the sun disappeared and it started to snow

I'm safe home how, next to our Donegal fire, looking forward to spring. 

Home again. 

California in Cork

Speaking of spas, I left Mallow with a few remaining daylight hours and went to Fota Island, an old estate that is now a park. Most people go to the Fota Spa or Wild Animal Park, but I go to see trees from California. 

The Monterey Pine has lost a limb. 

But the redwoods are doing fine. 

do miss redwoods.

Pippin and I took a spin through the formal Victorian gardens. 

More snowbells. 

As I left, I noticed this advertisement for "Ireland's Ancient East," a tourism initiative that aims to get International tourists off the Ring of Kerry and into Ireland's other treasures. 

"This is a lush green land worshiped by pagans, stalked by Vikings and attacked, besieged and conquered by Anglo Normans."
Emphasis mine. Good to know which side are you on, Failte Ireland. 

Then back to Cork city for a drink at Mutton Lane with a dear friend. 

Venture inside and the Mutton Lane Inn is dark, wooden and candle lit. The staff are exceptionally friendly, the music is always good and, to encourage conversation, there is NO TV. Ask about the pictures above the bar when you get a chance. Two of our famous Lord Mayors will be looking down on you, along with JFK and Jackie as well as Johnny Cash.

Mutton lane, Crane lane, The Oval and a bunch of other Cork pubs are all owned by the same people, and each offers a different version of what everyone wants a pub to be. So many people come to Ireland and spend too many days in Dublin. I encourage anyone who asks me to jump on the train directly from DUB and get yourself down to Cork and into of these pubs. 

The next day I planned to visit sheela-na-gigs of Tipperary. 

Waters of Mallow

My friends were busy during my day in Cork city, so I thought I might finally go to Blarney. I've never been to Blarney Castle, or Cliffs of Mohor, or Giant's Causeway. I've never been to Rock of Cashel nor Glenadalough. Never been on the Guinness tour, Dublin Castle, nor Kilmainham Gaol now that I think of it. 

So I thought I would go to Blarney. Not to kiss the stone—I doubt anyone could stand for me having more of that. I've heard the grounds are beautiful, and I'm a little embarrassed I've never visited most of the marquee Irish landmarks. 

I drove the 20 miles north of Cork to Blarney, only to learn that it costs €18 and permits no dogs, even if I carried him in the infant sling. I understand "no dogs" rules, so no hard feelings, Blarney. 

I looked at the map, and saw that Mallow, "The Crossroads of Munster," was just another 20 miles north. I've never been to Mallow either, and only knew about it from the song

Warning: earworm

Like many Irish towns, Mallow is sited at an ancient ford. As always the Normans built a castle there. 

Bridge at the ford.

Norman castle, enlarged and fortified in later centuries.

Later owners of more peaceful times left the old castle where it was and built a Tutor castle nearby so they could see it out their front windows. I didn't take a picture of it, but here it is

You can also see the later castle-the-is-a-house in this vid of the dragon throne that sits on the lawn without warning or explanation. 

Magnificent. Who made it? Why? On what occasion? 

Later I learned that Cork County Council commissioned Will Fogarty to create a sculpture after the tree that stood here was destroyed in a storm.  

Snowbells and castle.

Mallow has no sheela-na-gigs, but it has a Lady's Well just off the main street called Dog's Well for an obvious reason once you arrive at it. 

In 1724, discovered curative springs were discovered in Mallow. The town was founded as a Spa town, and it became a holiday health retreat from 1730 to 1810. The curative season began in April and lasted to October. The town began to fashion itself after Bath, building promenades, throwing balls, creating a Long Room, and even bottling spa water to sell in Cork city. The town became known for the wild men who loved to drink, gamble, and hunt - someone called them the Rakes of Mallow. 

Beauing, belling, dancing, drinking
Breaking windows, damning, sinking
Ever raking, never thinking
Live the rakes of Mallow
Spending faster than it comes
Beating waiters, bailiffs, duns
Bacchus’ true begotten sons
Live the rakes of Mallow
One time naught but claret drinking
Then like politicians, thinking
Raise the sinking funds when sinking
Live the rakes of Mallow
When at home with dada dying
Still for Mallow-water crying
But where there is claret plying
Live the rakes of Mallow
Living short, but merry lives
Going where the devil drives
Having sweethearts, but no wives
Live the rakes of Mallow
Racking tenants, stewards teasing
Swiftly spending, slowly raising
Wishing to spend all their days
As the rakes of mallow
Then to end this raking life
They get sober, take a wife
Ever after live in. strife
And wish again for Mallow

Perhaps best they don't teach children to sing along while they dance.