Friday, August 29, 2008

Dublin to Dysert O'Dea

I was looking through the O’Dea Clan guestbook and came across an entry asking for tips on how to maximise the experience of a trip to Dublin and including Dysert O’Dea ( Clare) over four days in Nov. I like this sort of question. So here’s my list for those who are into culture, history, heritage etc.

1. Get to a trad session in a Dublin pub, maybe The Merchant or Hughes.
2. A play in the Abbey, Gate, Project or wherever.
3. A hurling match in Croke Park (weekends), you won’t see anything like it elsewhere.
4. Nicest walks in Dublin area are Bray to Greystones or path around Howth Head
5 Kilmainham Gaol for 1916 era history museum.
6. Going to Dysert, get the Burren Map ( Tim Robinson’s 2 inch map), and the "Book of the Burren" ( o'Connell and... v readable) and see some best archaeological sites (eg Caherconnell Fort) in Ireland, walk the green road, take time to enjoy Black Head round to Doolin ( get out of the car for this), enjoy a good meal in Corofin.
7.Take boat from Doolin to Inis Oirr ( if weather permits in Nov)
8. See Cliffs of Moher and St Brighid’s well on road to liscannor.
9.Have a pint in Liscannor.
10. Or skip 6-10, see Yeats Tower , Coole Park and Kilmacduagh monastic ruins outside Gort and onto Galway for a day/night around town.
11. Returning to Dublin detour to Strokestown for Famine Museum. If time permits detour later to take in Fore Monastery ruins near Castlepollard in Co Longford.

I forgot days were short in Nov.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fish Stone Water

Holy wells have an atmosphere about them that is unique. They are portals into another place: ancient, otherworldly, magical, serene. They and the practices associated with them are at odds with a world becoming increasingly homogenised and functional.

I’m just after finding the website of Sláine, Guardians of the Wells. This may turn out to be a great find as I’ve been thinking of taking a tour of holy wells around Ireland for years. You can find it at

If you’re not into the well thing, take a look at Fish Stone Water: The Holy Wells of Ireland by Anna Rackard. Publisher: Attic Pres. A beautiful book published some years back. After that, visit St Brighids Well, Liscannor, Co Clare. And that’s my ‘starter pack’ for potential wellies.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

“Rachel Giese The Donegal Pictures”

Rachel Brown (formerly Rachel Giese) published “Rachel Giese The Donegal Pictures” in 1987. I got the ideas for some for some of my poems browsing through this beautiful book.
Since then she has had a number of solo exhibitions in Ireland. She has also published Solstice, a collection of photographs from the Connemara-Mayo area, as well as Sweeney’s Flight, a book which features her photographs with Heaney’s poetry. It is no surprise to find her sharing a book with Heaney: her work is poetic, evocative and very beautiful.
To view a selection of her images, follow the books link at her website: I guarantee you’ll want to buy the books.

The following is a poem from “Sunfire”,it is based based on one of those images, a boy in a farmyard in Donegal.

The Country Child.

The country child
runs in and out of rain showers
like rooms;

sees the snake-patterns in trains,
the sun's sword-play in the hedges
and the confetti in falling elder blossoms;

knows the humming in the telegraph poles
as the hedgerow's voice
when tar bubbles are ripe for bursting;

watches bees emerge
from the caverns at the centres of buttercups,
feels no end to a daisy chain,
feels no end to an afternoon;
walks on ice though it creaks;
sees fish among ripples and names them;

is conversant with berries
and hides behind thorns,
slips down leaves, behind stones;

fills his hands with the stream
and his hair with the smell of hay;
recognizes the chalkiness

of the weathered bones of sheep,
the humour in a rusted fence,
the feel of the white beards that hang there.

The country child
sees a mountain range where blue clouds
are heaped above the horizon,

sees a garden of diamonds
through a hole scraped
in the frost patterns of his bedroom window

and sees yet another world
when tints of cerise and ochre
streak the evening sky.

He knows no end, at night
he sneaks glimpses of Heaven
through the moth-eaten carpet of the sky.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Yeats Exhibition

If you’ve not been to the Yeats Exhibition in the National Library, put it into the diary; it’s excellent.

But isn’t it time the capital offered a large scale exhibition that honoured all the literary figures of Ireland from the bards of old up to Roddy Doyle today. I mean a major, permanent exhibition bringing us on a tour through the literary history of the country.

What a pantheon: Dean Swift, Synge, Sean O’Casey, Beckett, Goldsmith, Brian Friel, Yeats, Joyce, McGahern, George Bernard Shaw, Mangan, Heaney, O’Cadhain, Bram Stoker, Kavanagh, Seán Ó Ríordáin, Maeve Binchy, Wilde, Flann O’Brien, Ó Direáin, Brendan Behan etc. If you also include writers who had significant links with Ireland, or, for example, those whose ancestors were Irish the list becomes nothing short of incredible.

With a cast like that it could change from month to month, changing emphasis, theme whatever. It could incorporate films, filmed dramas in various languages, weird and wonderful adaptions of plays etc. The possibilities are myriad; it could hardly fail to be a success.