We’re back from a few days in Limerick with Amanda – she of Holy Wells of Cork and Kerry – and Peter. It felt like we were sneaking over the border into unknown territory! What – do Cork and Kerry not have enough holy wells for you, Amanda? It turns out that the answer to that question is no – Limerick beckons and we obey the call.

We managed fifteen wells in an afternoon, a morning and a whole day – along with some stained glass, some random archaeological sites – and a steeplechase! See Robert’s post for more on that story. I’ll probably write more about the wells in future, but for now take a look at Amanda’s latest post to get a sense of one of her objectives for the trip. The bit I am writing about is our walk up to the top of Ardpatrick and what we saw there (above, above and below).

At the end of the full day, having slogged across (I’m sure) half of muddy Limerick, Amanda airily announced that our last location of the day might be up a slight rise. Knowing Amanda, a vision of Jacob’s ladder arose in front of me – and I was not wrong! But what a site – Ardpatrick is one of those places that you can’t believe you never knew about before and are SO glad you do now!

At the top of a steep hill, it’s an early medieval monastic site, with the ruins of a church, the stump of a round tower, an erstwhile holy well, and a large graveyard. The road up has been recently concreted, probably to make it easier to access the graveyard. 

Limerick seems to specialise in ancient graveyards marooned in the middle of fields, with little visible sign of roads leading to them. We saw several like that over the course of three days and this one had the added feature of being on the top of a mountain. The original road to it was known as the Rian Bó Phádraig, or the Path of Patrick’s Cow. Like many another saint (St Manchan, for example), Patrick had a cow to supply his milk and this cow had mighty horns which she used to plough a path up the hill so he could build his monastery at the top.

The actual shape of the site isn’t as obvious on the ground, but it appeared to have been a typical early-medieval ecclesiastical site comprising of a group of buildings within one or more circular enclosures. The monks lived in small huts, there was a central church (often containing relics of the founding saint) and in this case there was also a round tower. This illustration is at the beginning of the walk to the site.

There would have been a complex of fields and dwellings around the site and these are most clearly visible now from the air. Also from the air can be seen the original Rian Bó Phádraig and the approaches from either side.

The round tower is just a vestige now, but Brian Lalor in his book The Irish Round Tower (more recently re-published as Ireland’s Round Towers) says, When fully standing, the tower would have dominated the landscape, even from a great distance, and is among the finest sited of all towers. He suggests a date of 11th to 12th century and states, The paucity of the tower remains are more than compensated for by the interest and drama of the site.

The church is a confusion of walls and one archway, much broken down and ivy-covered. Although some authorities suggest that the church had antae (see this post for an explanation of antae), typically found on churches of this era, those antae are not obvious now and the church was probably re-built on several occasions over the centuries. Indeed there is one account that it was burned down in 1114.

That same source, The Annals of the Four Masters, tells of the death of the abbot in 1129. 

In this year ‘Ceallach [Celsus], successor of Patrick, a son of purity, and Archbishop of the west of Europe, the only head whom the foreigners and Irish of Ireland, both laity and clergy, obeyed; after having ordained bishops, priests, and persons of every degree; after having consecrated many churches and cemeteries; after having bestowed jewels and wealth; after having established rules and good morals among all, both laity and clergy; after having spent a life of fasting, prayer, and mass-celebration; after unction and good penance, resigned his spirit to heaven, at Ard-Padraig, in Munster, on the first day of April, on Monday precisely, in the fiftieth year of his age. His body was conveyed for interment, on the Wednesday following, to Lis-mor-Mochuda, in accordance with his own will; it was waked with psalms, hymns, and canticles, and interred with honour in the tomb of the bishops, on the Thursday following. Muircheartach, son of Domhnall, was appointed to the successorship of Patrick afterwards 

O’Donovan’s translation, available here

The holy well (above) has been covered in ‘for safety reasons’. It held a cure for rickets, lameness and rheumatism, and according to the folklore if you saw your reflection in the water, you’d be grand. But if you didn’t, you’d be dead within the year. Perhaps it’s just as well it’s filled in.

The graveyard is still in active use. One of the features of all the Limerick graveyards we saw on our trip is a curious double-gapped ‘stile’. I wondered if it also functions as a coffin rest, with those carrying the coffin able to pass into the graveyard through the gaps, while resting the coffin on the middle stand. More than one observer has commented that the top piece of masonry on this middle stand probably came from the early church.

It had been a magnificent day – very cold but sunny and bright – and it was getting dusky as we headed back down the hill. It was at this point that I discovered that my cute but ill-fitting wellies were not designed for downhill travel, as my toes slid forward and were soon very painful. This was when I needed the intervention of St Patrick to perform some kind of toe miracle, but alas he turned a deaf ear and in the end I had to come down mostly backwards. The only compensation for descending facing backwards was seeing the silhouette of the mountain in the fading light – the cemetery crosses standing starkly against the skyline.

For more about this wonderful site, have a look at this entry by our friend, the marvellous Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland.

Art/Nature – Incredible Residency Opportunity!

Are you an artist between 30 and 45? Are you inspired by the natural world? If the answer to both of those questions is YES, then here is an opportunity of a lifetime – a residency on a beautiful private estate in West Cork, surrounded by gardens, both wild and cultivated. If the answer is NO, but you know someone who might fit the bill – share the heck out of this post – the Foundation is hoping to receive applications from Ireland!

Ulrike Crespo was a loved and respected member of the West Cork artistic community and a friend and neighbour to us all in this little corner of it. That’s Ulli below in happier times, toasting the installation of a neighbour’s gate.

We were all saddened by her death in 2019 and wondered what would happen to the glorious garden she developed – Glenkeen. In fact, her Foundation, focused on artistic development and opportunities for young people (especially disadvantaged girls) has carried on her work, and one of their programs is this residency opportunity – “ArtNature/NatureArt”.

Glenkeen Gardens is a very special place, full of sculpture and with endless vistas across innovative plantings that mix natural and cultivated areas. Ulli loved this place – it inspired her own photography practice – an ethereal, intensely atmospheric approach to scenes from this nature. Take a look at one of her photobooks, Ephemere, for example, or Flowers or Twilight. Or See some of her landscape photography from her regular shows at the Blue House Gallery in Schull.

There’s a real contrast between Ulli’s photography – especially her soft-focus, gently waving, colourful flower images – and her choice of sculptures for the garden: many of those sculptures seem rectilinear and monumental, and many carry the impression of a portal to another world. 

That portal may well represent the boundary between art and nature, the subject that fascinated Ulli always. Art in her garden is not just in the form of sculpture but in the form and arrangement of the beds and in the glorious summer plantings.

Both images above © Ulrike Crespo

If the gardens can be seen as a blend of the two, other sections of the estate are pure nature. First of all, the estate is on the sea and the frontage is spectacular – giving on to Roaringwater Bay and full of marine life.

This image © Ulrike Crespo

And above it all is the Foilnamuck bog soak, about which I have written here and here. This part of the land has been left in a pristine state and is full of Orchids, Sundews, Bogbeans and Asphodels – a paradise for those of us interested in wild wet places.

The Foundation that is now carrying on Ulli’s work has established these residencies very much in the spirit of her own life’s interests. Here’s a quote from their website

The aim of the programme is to encourage the development of groups of young artists from Europe and Russia and raise the international profile of their work. The theme of art and nature comes from the location of the residency, the Glenkeen Garden estate. To explore this topic as extensively and as deeply as possible, the Crespo Foundation provides artists with a network of humanities scholars and scientists for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary exchange. The intention is for Glenkeen Garden Residencies to give space, time and inspiration for close collaboration as a team, with the goal of producing innovative works that will then be shown in Frankfurt am Main and other European cities, as well as virtually to a broader public.

All the details of the residencies and the requirements of the competition can be found on the website. The application deadline for the next one is January 30th, so no time to lose!

And for the rest of us – let’s just appreciate Ulrike Crespo’s incredible vision for this special corner of West Cork, and the enduring legacy she has left for us all. Each residency will result in exhibitions, so we will all, as time goes by, be able to share in the artistic outcomes from the chosen young artists. Robert and I look forward to this very much.

Finola’s Favourite Posts of 2021

Every year we look back on our posts and choose your favourites and ours to highlight. We select yours based on our readership stats, and our own based on some magical chemistry known only to ourselves. The two often, but not always, coincide. Robert’s selection is here.

I started off the year with a series of three popular posts all called Legends of Mount Gabriel – the first was about poul an oidhean, The Bottomless Lake, while the next two (Fionn, Furrows and Fastnet, and Wrought by Giants centred on the work of Fionn MacCumhaill and other giants in shaping the landscape around the mountain. These were great fun to write – the first one involved some precarious scrambling on cliff faces as we found our way to the lake, making me wonder if the Search and Rescue Team might have to be deployed to get a couple of crazy septuagenarians off the mountain.

West Cork is our beat and I honed in on the Mizen Peninsula – or Ivaha as it was known historically for a series on castles and another on ancient maps. The Castles of Ivaha series has so far covered the background to the castles, and individual posts on Dunmanus, (above) Dunlough (Three Castle Head) (below) and Ardintenant. I plan more posts, although there are only vestiges left of most of the castles of Ivaha.

I love old maps and this year I found two particularly intriguing examples. We don’t know who put together the first one but in the first of two posts (Elizabethan Map of a Turbulent West Cork) I looked in detail at the map itself (below) and in the second (The Story) I tried to figure out what was going on. I’m still trying to figure it out. 

We know who did the second map – the Elizabethan Cartographer Jobson – and why: it was to provide the British crown with the information needed for the plantation of Munster in the wake of the Desmond rebellions. In Planning a Plantation: Jobson’s 1859 Map of Munster, Part 1 and Part 2, I set out to see what we could still recognise of what he mapped over 400 years ago. Turns out (below) – it’s a surprising amount!

Just when we think we know every inch of West Cork, we find new places to explore – a necessity for those times we were confined to our own area due to the pandemic. I loved getting to know the Mealagh Valley in the company of David Myler, who (literally) wrote the book about it.

Lackavaun is a wild promontory on the Mizen (below) that contains sea-caves, whereas Roaringwater Pier still carries the shades of James O’Sullivan who developed it as a once-vibrant community and commercial hub.

The wildflowers of this area are one of my passions and this year I indulged my penchant for slide-shows set to music, one illustrating what I saw as I was Wandering the Boreens, and the other as I was Lying in the Grass. The music is the same in both – Turas go Tír na nÓg by the incomparable late Michaeál O’Suilleabháin from his album, Templum, available here.

Besides these two offerings, I continue to chart the progress of my own One Acre (now four years on) and to wonder at the incredible wildflower abundance on Long Island.

Regular readers know all about my obsession with stained glass and this year the biggest thrill of the year was the publication of The Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass, to which I was one of the contributors under the inspired leadership and editorship of David Caron. I concentrated on the work of George Walsh – that’s one of his gorgeous pieces above. We celebrated with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on Long Island. 

I continue the uphill battle to convince Irish people that there is more to stained glass than Harry Clarke and to do my bit to draw the distinction between Harry Clarke and the studio that continued to use his name after his death. I wrote about one of his undesputed masterpieces – a two light window in Terenure, (detail, below) and then about windows done in his style, in his studios, but far below his standard, in Clarke-style Windows (another musical slide show).

Besides Harry, it was fun to explore the world of Mayer of Munich and the windows that are seen everywhere in nineteen and early twentieth century Irish churches, and to take a quick tour of 20th century made-in-Ireland Nativity images in stained glass (like the Mayfield Murphy-Devitt below).  Most of all, it was lovely to be part of the discovery of a hitherto-unknown example of the work of artist Richard King – hiding in plain sight in Macroom.

Finally, a shout out to wrought iron! This year I went back to my study of old hand-forged wrought iron gates (here and here) and once my eye was attuned to the material, I began to appreciate its use as grave markers and found lots of excellent example of the blacksmith’s craft in West Cork.

Whew! There was more, lots more, but I am pleased with this selection as a great way to mark a banner year for Roaringwater Journal. The blog had over 300,000 views this year and we know from comments that it offered many of you an interesting browse when there was precious little to do in the dark months of lockdown. And – guess what?

We get to mark Roaringwater Journal’s tenth anniversary this year! We look forward to your continued interest, our dear readers – here’s to a brighter 2022!

The Nativity in Stained Glass

Dear Readers – we know you aren’t all on Facebook, so this is for those of you who follow us on WordPress or other platforms. On our Facebook page, we’ve been running a series on The Nativity in Stained Glass in the lead up to Christmas, so here, in one post, are those photographs and text. All the windows are Irish and 20th century. Merry Christmas to you all!

This one is by George Walsh and it’s in Frankfield Grange Catholic Church in Cork. This scene is part of a larger window, the main scene depicting the Annunciation. More about George Walsh here.

Kevin Kelly was a long-time stained glass artist for Abbey Studios. He loved doing Nativity windows. This one is in Inchigeelagh, Co Cork and featured on a UNICEF Christmas Card. It’s worth taking a look at the detail – amazing for what’s quite a small window.

Our next Nativity in Stained Glass comes from St Carthage Catholic Church in Lismore and is the work of Watson’s of Youghal. While the figures are conventional, the ‘Celtic Revival’ decoration lifts this window far above the ordinary. Read more about Watsons and their mastery of this form, popular among Irish nationalists at the turn of the 20th century.

This beautiful Nativity window is in Mayfield, Cork, in the Church of Our Lady Crowned. The Murphy-Devitt Studios were a group of young, dedicated artist and designers, determined to bring something new to traditional stained glass. We think they succeeded magnificently.

This scene of the visit of the Magi is in Kilcoe Church of the Holy Rosary and is the work of Catherine O’Brien, the artist who worked longest in An Túr Gloine, the Arts and Crafts Stained Glass Co-operative founded by Sarah Purser and Edward Martyn to promote home-grown arts and craft in Ireland. This is a re-working of a previous window by O’Brien, proving that even Arts and Crafts practitioners were not above re-cycling.

What does the Hill of Tara have to do with the Nativity?  In the Catholic Cathedral in Killarney are a whole set of windows that draw parallels between biblical scenes and Irish saints – all part of the push-pull between the Rome-centric internationalisation of the Irish church versus the desire of Irish congregations and clergy to see their own Irish and local saints depicted in their stained glass windows. In this case, the Nativity of Jesus is compared to the birth of Christianity in Ireland when St Patrick lit the Pascal Fire on the Hill of Slane (although the window says Tara, the story is that the high king saw the fire from the Hill of Tara). The windows are by Hardman, before they became Earleys.

The Dominican Convent in Wicklow town has a gorgeous series of windows – the Mysteries of the Rosary. They were done in the Harry Clarke Studios in 1938, several years after Harry’s death, but his influence is very evident. They were mostly designed and painted by William Dowling, but with much input from Richard King. To see if you know the difference between Harry Clarke and Harry Clarke Studios windows, take the quiz, or just cheat and go straight to the answers.

Patrick Pollen, although he grew up in England, made his stained glass career in Ireland. Having been bowled over by Evie Hone’s Eton windows he came to Dublin to work with her. Hone’s influence is readily apparent in these two panels, which form the predella (lowest section) of a window in St Michael’s church in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, dating to 1957. I haven’t written about Pollan (yet) but you can read about Evie Hone here.

We’ve kept the best for last – the genius that is Harry Clarke. This is his Nativity Window, done in 1919 for Edith Somerville and her family, for the C of I Church of St Barrahane in Castletownshend, Co Cork. Lots more about Harry Clarke, Ireland’s greatest stained glass artist.

Our Favourite Photos You Never Saw – Finola

Rabbit Island

The traditional continues, with a twist. This year, instead of photos we’ve already published, we’ve gone through our albums and chosen the ones we didn’t use this year (2021) but want to share now. It’s a fairly random collection – our guiding principle was personal preference or something that jogs a pleasant memory for us, all taken in West Cork in 2021. Some of them are similar to images we have used, but that’s because we take so many! So, as every year, although we’ve provided links to relevant posts, we’ll keep the writing to a minimum – all you have to do is scroll!

A stone row shown to us by the marvellous Walking With Stones.
Nothing lifts the spirits in spring like the exuberantly flowering Blackthorn
And nothing concentrates the mind as this look, noticed in the act of climbing over a gate
Thank you to John Kelly for the treat of a visit to Reen Farm Sculpture Garden
Dunlough Lake, at Three Castle Head – the lake rather than the equally iconic castle
An Early Purple Orchid, spotted at my favourite graveyard
Couldn’t resist the delicate tracery of those wings!
Readers know my love of gates – this fabulous example appeared after I had written my two posts on vernacular gates, here and here
On the Sheep’s Head – taken during our Dander
In Castlefreke Woods – we love walking in woodland in the spring, when the bluebells are out
Inchydoney Beach – Robert wrote about it in his post Inchydoney – And Virgin Mary’s Bank
The magnificently restored Kilcoe Castle at sundown
A mysterious megalithic tomb – we’re not quite sure what type it it – on a mountain in West Cork. We haven’t written about this one yet, but getting to it was quite an adventure.
Muscle beds and a castle – quintessential West Cork! This one was taken from Roaringwater Pier.
The traces of lazy beds can still be discerned on this isolated patch at Lackavaun, on the north side of the Mizen
Early in the new year we clambered around Mount Gabriel, looking for the fabled Cauldron Pool. We found it, with Schull stretched out below.
I think I might have used this one in my Dander on the Sheep’s Head post – but what the heck, I love it so here goes again
Looking across to the Beara from the Sheep’s Head
Great drifts of Thrift at the old mine site at Dhurode, on the North Side of The Mizen

Monica Sheridan and Christmas

I always drift back to Monica Sheridan at Christmas. Ireland’s first TV chef, she lives in the memory for those of us who grew up at the dawning of the television age in Ireland. Her Christmas Cake recipe is a classic and because it is nowhere on the internet, I decided, way back in 2013, to put the whole recipe in a blog post. This actually led me down a rabbit hole because the three posts I have written about Monica Sheridan were published so long ago that they no longer display properly, so I have spent the day updating them. Here is the first post I wrote about her – it was called Monica’s Kitchen and was all about her first cook book.

And here is the Christmas Cake post. She described it thus: unorthodox, unhygienic, almost improper – but it does work. She’s right – I have made it and it is delicious.

Another of her books, The Art of Irish Cooking, was written specifically for the American Market. It’s an Americanised version of the 1965 book, My Irish Cook Book, that I brought with me to Canada when I emigrated in 1974. This was the book I used when I was writing about Plum Pudding, although I didn’t use her recipe, just her pyrotechnics. It would be hard to exaggerate how unappetising the cover of the American version is.

Many of the recipes are the same, but there are significant differences between the Irish and American books. Amusingly, the chapter on ‘Drink’ is re-labelled ‘Beverages.’ All the same colloquial come-here-till-I-tell you chat is here and there’s an introduction by Bob Briscoe, the popular Lord Mayor of Dublin, who can’t resist the Irish-American tropes, saying, Our traditional Irish fare proved itself a boundless source of rugged health and stamina. . . it built the muscles that helped to push the great railroads across the American continent, and the Irish intellects that have adorned the world’s literature. For some reason, the American edition required menus, as if the publisher had said – ‘Yes, but what do the Irish actually eat at a meal?’ Here’s the Christmas dinner menu (with a bonus Expense Account menu delivered with her trademark sense of fun).

I have no idea what creamed potatoes are (mashed with cream?) or why she serves celery twice, the second time ‘curled.’ But this American edition is the only one where she gives a recipe for Mince Pies, so I am including her recipe for Mincemeat, in case there are those of you out there who like to make their own. Other recipes I have consulted call for shredded suet, but Monica keeps it fairly simple, although she does assume you have a mincer. It’s not such a standard piece of kitchen equipment as it used to be, so if you’re not sure what it is, here’s a link. I love her comment on the puddings too!

I’ve never made mince pies myself, but if I was to do it, I think I’d go with this one, from Jusrol ready-made pastry.

All our mothers and grandmothers cooked from Monica Sheridan and Maura Laverty‘s cookbooks. Together, these two women dragged Irish cuisine into the 20th century. Oh – yes, there was Theodora FitzGibbon too – well deserving of a future post. That’s my copy of her A Taste of Ireland in the lead photograph. I have several other cookbooks devoted to Irish cooking, from the 60’s to the 90’s. Fillet Sole St Brigid, anyone? Or a nice dish of Sloke?

Posts about Monica Sheridan

Monica’s Kitchen

Monica Sheridan’s Christmas Cake

Monica Sheridan’s My Irish Cook Book