Your Favourite Posts of 2016

Horses at Caherdaniel

It’s that time of the year again! The wonders of technology enable us to know which of our posts have received the most views: we can see how many people clicked on each article although we don’t specifically know who you are! This is great for us, because we can get an idea of what you – our readers – like to see and this helps us when considering what to write in the future. Not that we necessarily always respond to the statistics, because sometimes we just think there are things that you need to know about, regardless of their potential popularity or otherwise!

Not in the ‘top ten’ – but through the year Finola has expanded – and passed on to you – her knowledge of the wildflowers that make the hedgerows and verges of West Cork so colourful (bee in fuschia, left), while Robert has used the Olympic year of 2016 to examine the history of some sporting events in Ireland (Tailteann Games 1924, right)

So, during this year, Finola and I have published exactly 100 articles for Roaringwater Journal: that’s almost one each every week. It’s fascinating for us to look back and see where we have been, what turns our interests have taken, and of course to see how well (or otherwise) our writing was received. Statistics are one thing, but it’s your comments that really inform us – so keep them coming…

From Outposts of Empire: memorials in St Barrahane’s Church, Castletownshend (left) and St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (right)

Top of the board are two posts from Finola: one from the beginning of the year – Outposts of Empire, which researched and reviewed some of the monuments that are to be found in Protestant churches, cathedrals and graveyards in County Cork and Dublin. It’s a rich history of often only distantly remembered soldiers and battles. Why is this such a popular post? Perhaps because 2016 has been the focus for commemorations: the centenary of the Easter rising, and the fact that one hundred years ago many Irishmen were dying in the Great War. That has rather coloured the whole year in Ireland and Finola’s post – which also mentions some of the experiences of her own family – probably touches on many fertile memories.

Skibb men

How are ye keeping?

The next post in popularity dates only from last week: Finola’s latest humorous exploration of how people speak in West Cork – How are you keeping? This has become our top ‘viral hit’ on our Facebook page with thousands of views and 69 shares to date… Finola describes it as her ‘latest instalment of the How to Sound Like You’re From West Cork course’. The fifth of the series so far, it’s hilarious and has clearly captured the imaginations of our local readers.


Fourknocks, Boyne Valley: fetch the key and let yourself in…

To balance things out a bit the next two posts in popularity have come from Robert: Aweigh in Kerry – which delighted in the discovery of a boat-shaped house (pictured on the page header – an architectural gem) – and Fourknocks – the Little Giant, an account of a very unusual archaeological site in the Boyne Valley, north of Dublin. We were very taken by this site and its eccentricities: in order to gain access we had to collect the key (from a farm a mile away – and leaving a deposit of 20 euros) and let ourselves into the tomb which has some beautiful rock carvings.

East Window and Apse

Magnificent mosaic work in the Church of the Ascension, Timoleague

Next up is Finola’s Mosaics and Maharajas – an exploration of a wonderful church in Timoleague with walls decorated in mosaic tiling. But there’s also a strange and poignant story which this church reveals to us (read the post)… And – what’s in a name? Well, perhaps the more bizarre – or seductive or beguiling – the title of a post is, the more hits it gets! Finola’s The Murdering Glen (a valley north of Bantry, again, with a story attached) certainly attracted a lot of attention.

On the walk

looking towards west

Upper picture – the murdering Glen; lower picture – Robert’s imagining of the Cape Clear Stone restored to its rightful place on the island…

Robert’s report on the passage tomb on the summit of Cape Clear – and the story of the carved stone that’s now in the Cork Public Museum comes next: Cape Clear – the Stone that Moved, closely followed by Finola’s post on the historic walled town of Youghal in East Cork: Youghal’s Walls. Then we had ‘Auf der Waltz” – The Journeymen, a popular piece about two German apprentice blacksmiths who passed through West Cork this summer as part of their three year travels through Europe gaining experience towards becoming masters of their trade. This was also written by Robert.

on hungry hill

The Journeymen exploring beautiful West Cork: Hungry Hill (photo by Dietrich Eckardt)

Rather than list all the other posts in some sort of ‘order of popularity’, let’s round up with our own favourites. Finola has been enthusiastically researching stained glass windows in churches – wherever we travel. Besides her continuing respect for Harry Clarke – probably Ireland’s finest artist in this medium – she has discovered the identity and work of artists who inherited his mantle when he passed away (far too young) in 1931. The Harry Clarke Studios continued on until 1973 and also produced some stunning work. Have a look at Discovering Richard King to appreciate just one of the artists who followed after Harry. Another of Finola’s great posts on this medium – The Christmas Story, One Window at a Time – appeared only two weeks ago.

HC Studio, Athlone

The spectacular stained glass work of Richard King, a small detail from Sts Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church in Athlone

For myself, the subject that has engaged me most this year is my Travel by Water’ series: seven posts (so far) on the Irish Canals inspired by my review of Green & Silver – a book which I was given as a prize at school in 1963! We retraced the steps of L T C Rolt, the author of the book, and his wife Angela who took some very atmospheric photographs as they travelled around the Irish waterways in 1946 – exactly 70 years ago. To celebrate my own 70th birthday this year we attempted to replicate each of the photographs as closely as possible with present-day views of the same scenes. The venture has turned out to be a real social history of Ireland and the changes that have happened during that interval of time.

ballycowan sunset

Travel by Water – ghostly reflections beside the Grand Canal at Ballycowan

So thank you to all of you – our readers. Without you our work on Roaringwater Journal would have been pointless. With you – and with the value of your comments and discussions – we feel the whole exercise is well worthwhile – so, please, let us know your own personal favourites… We certainly intend to keep the Journal going for a few years yet! Don’t forget, there is a full index in the Navigation Page – here. And, I’m sure you all know by now, anything highlighted in blue is a link to something else: either another one of our posts in the Journal, or to another relevant source of information on the subject. Good hunting!


14 thoughts

  1. No mention of Finola’s piece on dancing Cappaghglass… that was such a well written piece … I could have done with that interpretive and sensitive writing when I was with CoisCeim… always a must read each week… Barney

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barney, I also felt that Finola’s review of the Cappaghglass dance piece was an excellent piece of writing: I suppose the subject matter was a bit specialised so that post didn’t hit the heights that others did… Many thanks for your kind comments.


  2. Well, just keep going. There’s a great book in the making, if you get round to it before we all expire ! As a graduate historian, I applaud. However, if only there was a blog like this that focused on the future of Ireland, with the same level of interest, on policies for the future welfare and prosperity and sustainable management of the country in every respect – you address the past so well but God Save Us we can’t do much about that now can we (not even those severed heads!) – I would really like to see somebody shine a light on what the government are really doing and not doing about things that now really matter to us all. In short, I am really tired of “Yes We Can” rhetoric (Obama 8 years ago) leading to Aleppo 2016 . What we want is a really serious spotlight on energy policy in this country, immigration policy, why there are any homeless people in this country (bloody disgrace), and all the rest of it. And why are we dumping 8 million tons of plastic into the sea annually ? It seems to me that the “history” of West Cork and Ireland is all very interesting , but it will come to an end unless the present is engaged with the same vigour. The future is ultimately far more interesting than the past – and it is our duty to try and shape it ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, Julian, I appreciate everthing you say. Personally I wouldn’t know where to start on a blog about ‘the future of Ireland’ but that would be a great sounding board: it would be really good to have some idea about how ‘people’ feel about their country and whether they consider their views would ever be taken on board by politicians… But I suppose we live in a democracy and have to start with our elected TDs. Before we vote next time around we should ask them all to state where their (perhaps vested) interests lie – and what is their vision for our future?


      • What you and Finola have been doing is high quality investigation presented in a beautiful and accessible way, which has undoubtedly enriched all our understanding of our past and present environment here. One thing that strikes me is that there is so much “buried treasure” – or rather simply neglected, under brambles, half-forgotten in fields, unmarked – aren’t we in some danger of losing some of this historical or archaeological or architectural heritage ? Is there perhaps a case for drawing up a list of sites that could be better documented, protected, and promoted as “tourist” assets for residents and visitors alike, so that this knowledge can be more securely owned by the nation, and cascade to future generations ? Maybe this is already being addressed piece-meal in fact by County Councils, voluntary groups, and perhaps a bit by An Taisce, etc , but I just wonder if there should or could be some greater impetus and coordination ?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julian, for your further thoughts. There is a record of all the important historic sites – that’s the Archaeological Survey Database of the National Monuments Service: The accessibility and preservation of the heritage here is something which concerns us significantly. Private landowners are usually in no position to restore, or even just maintain, historic sites such as tower houses etc (with a few notable exceptions) and fears of insurance claims discourage allowing access. The result is a benign neglect, and there is no state funding to help. Your earlier point about ‘the future of Ireland’ is very pertinent.


  3. Dear Fionnuala and Robert

    We are deeply indebted to you both for your fascinating insights and the regularity with which you share them with us . I cannot begin to calculate the amount of time , research and commitment this all must take , but Elizabeth and I want to express our grateful thanks and wish you Gods blessings for Christmas and the year ahead Yours sincerely David Ross


    Liked by 1 person

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