Looking at Rossbrin

Last week we talked a little about the history of Rossbrin’s medieval castle, and the importance of this natural inlet as a historical centre of fishery, scholarship and European culture. Rossbrin Cove stills serves as an anchorage and refuge for sailing boats on the edge of Roaringwater Bay, but is now a peaceful haven, with only the sounds of the shore birds and slapping masts to lightly disturb an overriding tranquility that gives the place a very particular atmosphere. Our photograph (above) is taken on the boreen going to the castle; on the skyline in the centre is a wind turbine, and just below that is Nead an Iolair (Irish for Eagle’s Nest). The picture below shows the eagles wheeling over our house, with Rossbrin Castle and our view to the Cove beyond.

I have been exploring images of the Cove and its castle – some historic photographs and a few artists’ impressions. As it’s right on our doorstep, we have taken many pictures of Rossbrin during our years here. I am also sifting through a few of these.

Ten years ago, the west of Ireland experienced an exceptional snowfall, and above is a photograph taken by our near neighbour, Julian van Hasselt, before we arrived. Mostly, our weather is relatively mild due to the effects of the gulf stream on the south-western coast. The castle can clearly be seen here, beyond the fields of Castle Farm. This view of our house (below) was also taken in 2010 by our neighbours Dietrich and Hildegard Eckardt:

I showed a couple of early photographs of the castle last week. Here are two more taken before a substantial part of the ruined structure was toppled by a storm in the 1970s:

It’s good to see a bit of context, so here is another winter view of the castle on its rock with Castle Island behind. That island was also part of the O’Mahony territory. It is farmed by its present owner but no-one lives there now. You can make out the ruined castle on the island by the shore, just to the right of centre; it’s one of many that can be seen on, or close to, the shores of the Bay.

Let’s have a look at some of the art works that feature the Cove and the Castle. Jacqueline Stanley was one of many artists who was attracted to the beauty of West Cork. Now in her nineties, she moved from England to Ireland in the mid 1970s and purchased the old School House at Rossbrin as a country retreat: it has only recently changed hands.Here are two of her works, depicting Rossbrin. You can find more on her website.

I particularly like this view (above) which was painted by Jackie from the vantage point above the high road going down to the Cove, close to the remains of the copper mine at Ballycumisk. Last week I showed a painting by Geraldine van Hasselt, Julian’s mother, also from the 1970s. Every painting or photo is a historical document – and important to retain, in view of the fragile nature of the structure today.

Our friend Peter Mabey is an architect and artist. He has lived in West Cork for a long time: he and I were at college together in Kingston, Surrey, and were surprised to meet each other by chance in Skibbereen market a good few years ago now. Above is one of his attractive watercolours looking down towards the Cove. The vantage point looks remarkably like the one chosen by Jackie Stanley. Below is a drawing of Rossbrin from the monumental work The Castles of County Cork by the late James N Healy, published in 1988 by Mercier:

The ruin is a romantic reminder of past times, enhanced by the changing weather moods of Roaringwater Bay. This photograph, by Finola, emphasises the character of the place:

I can’t resist finishing this little two-part foray into the medieval remnants of our historically significant ‘centre of culture and learning’, which now languish on the edge of the waters below us with an artist whose work we admire: Peter Clarke, who writes and illustrates the Hikelines blog. His watercolour sketches are exquisite and always atmospheric. He has kindly allowed me to use his portrayal of Rossbrin Castle as my tailpiece. Thank you, Peter – and thank you to all the other artists who have been inspired by this remote and beautiful part of Ireland.

24 thoughts

      • I will get you a better image shortly, Richard

        [image: IMG-5863 (1).jpg]

        On Tue, 15 Sep 2020 at 13:33, Roaringwater Journal wrote:

        > Robert commented: “Excellent! Can you send us a photo at some point? Thank > you.” >

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert,
        Please find attached the painting of Rossbrin I mentioned earlier with a link to artist website where there are several paintings of Mizen places.




      • Richard – many thanks. Unfortunately the link to the painting doesn’t work! Just says ‘File not found’… The Tracey Quinn link does work, however, and there are some great cloudscapes there.


  1. I have only just come across this wonderful post: the photographs, paintings and the prose! Perfect, they all lift my spirits. You live in a beautiful part of Ireland, one I have not visited since I was a teenager in the mid 60’s. Since I’ve been living on the same island for many years I really have no excuse for not making a return visit. Are those Golden Eagles above your house? How lucky you are! Now I must take a look at some of your other posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ashley, sea eagles are surviving in Kerry, not too far away as the eagle flies! There were eagles here once, but those in the picture are courtesy of PhotoShop!! However, there were reports of an eagle being seen over Cappaghglass last year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert your confusion is nothing compared to my many many confusions. But one thing I am completely clear about – you and Finola should just carry on with this wonderful blog and Journal. It is a mighty enterprise, which brings joy to many. Bless you both. I have lucky shots occasionally, but you both render wonderful images weekly, for our delectation – so thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Robert, the third photo in this post was not taken by Dietrich Eckardt, or Hildegard Eckardt, is was taken by me, on my own camera in about minus 5 Celsius in December 2010. Copies of this print are for sale through me for a vast sum ha ha , as it is a spectacular photo and a rare event ! I was rather pleased with the brambles in the foreground, which reminded me of Christ’s crown of thorns somehow. The light was amazing, at about noon as far as far I remember. I staggered about in my wellington boots, almost too cold to work the camera. Driving on local roads was out of the question. Fortunately I had plenty of wine and fags in the house to keep me going until the thaw, several days later. The sea froze in the Cove below. The rocks became mini-Eigers, and the landscape drained of all colour. Eerie, for such a colourful place !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apologies, Julian, you are quite correct. I got the two snow pictures confused. Now corrected in the text and thank you, belatedly, for allowing me the use of it – it’s a stunning photo. Thank you, also, for the colourful description!


  4. Love these, and love the whole area around Roaringwater Bay and the Mizen ( probably bias, my grandmother was Johanna O Mahoney ) – and I was also at college in Kingston; the College of Art, way back in the late 1960s! Those were the days . . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary – I think I might have preceded you at Kingston: I started there in 1964. But architecture was a seven year course, start to finish, so I qualified in 1971. Our paths may well have crossed…!


      • Hello Robert – I got it wrong, I was at Central in the late 1960s, I started at Kingston in ( I think! ) 1964 also, but doing preDip then one year on the Fashion course before switching to goldsmithing and jewellery at Central. Lordy, did you know Dan – Dante Vanoli? Or Femme? And so many others, remember that the architects were all very glam!!

        Liked by 1 person

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