Eleventh Hour

I write this at 11am on the 11th November 2018 – exactly 100 years since the ending of The Great War. I have been aware of the significance of this moment of remembrance since my childhood: wherever we were at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we had to stop what we were doing and be silent for two minutes. This – and the horrors of war – have been in my psyche forever.

Growing up in Britain there was always that awareness of the two world wars, and the losses and sacrifices that they caused: every town and village has its war memorial, giving the names of those who died. That first – Great – war also affected Ireland but, until quite recently, it seems those Irish people who died because of it have received scant commemoration. But – as always in Ireland – once you begin to turn over the stones you do find the history; today’s post looks at just a few examples of memories and commemorations of the 1914 – 1918 conflict.

Firstly, the poetry. Yeats wrote of war poets – “We have no gift to set a statesman right.” I think he was wrong – poets and artists are probably most able to express emotions about war and its outrages in ways that others can approach and embrace. Francis Ledwidge, although an ardent Irish nationalist, states that he . . . joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilization and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions . . . Only a poet, surely, could describe an army as feminine. Ledwidge gave his life in pursuit of the cause: he was blown to pieces at Ypres on 31 July 1917. A year previously his friend, Irish patriot (and poet) Thomas MacDonagh, was executed (for his part in the 1916 rising) by soldiers in the same uniform that Ledwidge was wearing. The irony is only compounded by the fact that the poet’s Lament for Thomas MacDonagh can be seen now as Ledwidge writing on his own fate:

He shall not hear the bittern cry
in the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain
  
Nor shall he know when the loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.
  
But when the dark cow leaves the moor
And pastures poor with greedy weeds
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

Last week saw the opening of a new exhibition at the Cork Public Museum – Cork 1918: Victory, Virus and Votes. There are photographs, posters and artefacts – all very well displayed – telling the story of the involvement of people from Cork in the Great War, the political fallout from the War and the aftermath of the world wide Spanish Flu epidemic which claimed millions of victims. It’s a must-see exhibition and congratulations are due to Dan Breen and his dedicated team at the museum for bringing it to fruition at this appropriate time. The images above and below are from the new exhibition.

Today Finola is thinking about her grandfather – Sgt William Owen Roberts – who served in the Welsh Fusiliers and had a distinguished military career which included the Boer War and the Chinese Boxer War. He served in the Great War and was captured and interned in Germany and Holland. He contracted and died of the Spanish Flu on 15th November, 1918 – just a few days after the end of the conflict – at the age of 39. His grave is in The Hague.

There can be only a few families not affected by the wars of the twentieth century. My own Uncle Jack died in a prison camp in the 1940s, while my mother’s mother was a victim of the flu epidemic, dying in 1918 and effectively orphaning my mother (aged four) and her three siblings, as their father was away serving in the army.

Tucked away in burial grounds around Ireland are the graves of those who died in Europe between 1914 and 1918 in that awful war – and of those who died subsequently as a result of injuries and mental stress arising from the war. We mark them out on our travels around the country. The graves – erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – are of a distinctive uniform design, originated by the architect Edwin Lutyens (who also designed the great Thiepval Memorial in France, the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world, inscribed with over 72,000 names). The sheer magnitude of that number – people of whom no trace is left other than a name carved on stone – is bewildering. The image below of Thiepval is courtesy of the CWGC.

Ireland does now have its own dedicated national war memorial to commemorate the Irish men and women who died during the First World War. The idea was first mooted in 1919 but took years to gestate. Lutyens was commissioned to design formal gardens in Islandbridge, Co Dublin, in the early 1930s, and construction work was largely completed in 1937, following by the establishment of trees and landscaping, an essential element of the design. The 1939 – 45 war in Europe delayed the opening of the memorial, which languished and suffered from decay and neglect for years after that. It wasn’t until 10th December, 1980 – following restoration by the Office of Public Works – that the Irish National War Memorial Gardens were formally dedicated, and they are now maintained to a high standard. As a point of interest, the gardens include classical pavilions – ‘Bookrooms’ – designed to house the memorial record illustrated by Harry Clarke and inscribed with the names of the 49,400 Irish soldiers lost during the Great War. The image of the memorial gardens below is by Diego Lopez Sebastian. The ‘tailpiece’ is a Harry Clarke Illustration from Ireland’s Memorial Records.

For us, perhaps it’s those tucked-away and often forgotten graves in the corners of Irish cemeteries that are the most poignant. We know that each one tells a story: we can’t know that story – but hopefully there is always somebody who does know – and who passes on the memories to future generations.

Above: two tucked-away West Cork war graves. The left-hand picture has an example, lower left, and is at Abbeymahon Graveyard, Courtmacsherry. On the right is an example at the ancient burial ground of Castlehaven.

West Cork in Photographs – Your Favourites, Part 2

Courtmacsherry Bay

A winter walk in Courtmacsherry Bay

Part 2 of your (and our!) favourite West Cork photographs of 2016. If you’re not here already, as they say in West Cork – Where else would you want to be?

Banners up

The new Ballydehob Tourist Information Centre

Castle in the mist

Kilcoe Castle in the mist

Colours of West Cork

Toormore – the colours of West Cork

The Fingers

The Fingers, Gurranes, near Castletownshend

Summer in Goleen

Summer in Goleen

Three Castles

Three Castle Head

Black Castle

Black Castle, south of Lowertown

Mizen North Colours

North Side of the Mizen

Sun sets over Long Island

The sun goes down over Long Island

And an extra – one of my own favourites from this year. No drama – just a quiet sunlit meadow, an old stone barn and a colourful house. My West Cork.

Eugene and Margaret'sIn case you missed it, here’s a link to Part 1 of this two part exploration of West Cork in photographs.

 

All the Trimmings

Near Dunmanway

In my two previous posts on our wonderful West Cork colourful houses, A Lick of Paint and An Extra Lick of Paint, I’ve concentrated on overall house colour and on how that colour stands out in the landscape or the streetscape. Since that second post was written, in March, two of the most colourful houses I photographed have been re-painted, both in shades of khaki. Am I chronicling an endangered species? I hope not!

Boatmans

So in the spirit of celebrating our colourful tradition, I am devoting a post to the trim choices – the window surrounds, the doors and the chimneys, the shop fronts – that add to the vibrancy and delight of our neighbourhoods, villages and countryside.

VERY VERY PINK

The most common trim choice is white and often that seems the only, or perfect, choice. Or perhaps the safest. It certainly provides a lively contrast to a bold colour.

Marine blue

Orange you glad to see me?Gallery, Union HallWhite and bold-colour contrast can also look charming the other way around – white walls and colourful trim.

However, the juxtaposition of two bold colours, or even three, for walls and trim is irresistible.

Purple on Mustard

Windows are a natural focus for colour. Sometimes the frame and the surround is painted the same colour and sometimes two colours are employed, both contrasting with the wall colour.

Ballydehob windowsills

A local tradition seems to be to paint the chimneys the same colour as the walls, although occasionally the trim colour is used instead. I particularly like the chimneys in Eyries on the Beara Peninsula. Note the jaunty use of the trim colour on the chimney pots, on the second-to-last house in the lower photograph.

Eyeries Chimneys

chimney trimMany traditional village or town commercial buildings here are masonry, with the shop-fronts in painted wood. A few examples here – although traditional shop-fronts deserve a post to themselves at some point. I also include cafés, restaurants and pubs in this category.

Causkey's

The Coffee Shop Union Hall

Kinsale is a cornucopia of colour! Herewith just a few examples of what you’ll find if you wander its streets.

Van

Trim colour is often used to good effect on garden walls and gate posts in addition to the house. Here’s a fetching example from near Union Hall .

Swedish

So – what do you think, Dear Reader? Do you have a favourite among these examples? Do you have any photos of your own to share? If so, comment below, or drop by our Facebook Page and vote for the one you like best. I will finish with one of my own current favourites and an exuberant addition to Ballydehob.

Budds

The Village That Never Was

Colourful Courtmacsherry

Colourful Courtmacsherry

In the Days of Yore – when I first started to visit the west of Ireland – I travelled on the good old Swansea – Cork Ferry. It’s such a shame this route has now been scrapped (not once but twice): it was an overnight crossing, leaving the Welsh port at 9pm and arriving in the mouth of the Lee estuary at dawn. I felt there was nothing more beautiful than the slow cruise up through that great natural harbour in the early morning sunlight: passing lighthouses, lookout towers, mothballed ships, the Irish Navy and the coloured terraces of Cobh (pronounce it Cove), before disembarking at the exotically named Ringaskiddy Terminal.The Swansea-Cork ferry, the Celtic Pride1980s

image006

Swansea – Cork Ferry: above – Celtic Pride, 1980s, below – MV Julia, withdrawn in 2011

Part of the excitement of that journey was the anticipation of the drive down to Ballydehob and beyond. I always went on the R600 route, passing through Carrigaline and Kinsale – stopping, of course, at Ballinspittle to check that the BVM was safely in place at her grotto – before heading out along Courtmacsherry Bay. The journey alongside that ribbon of water – the road hugs it for some 10 kilometres – is recommended as an exemplary introduction to the landscape characteristics of rural Ireland.

This water was known as Timoleague Bay until it became silted up in the 18th century

This water was known as Timoleague Bay until it became silted up in the 18th century

What was formerly Timoleague Bay is now known as Courtmacsherry Bay. Timoleague was the head of the navigation and thrived from wharfs built in front of the medieval Priory there until a catastrophic earthquake occurred in Portugal in 1755 causing a tsunami which hit the coasts of Britain and Ireland and dramatically changed the topology. This bay is one example: the inlet was no longer navigable for sea-going vessels up to Timoleague, and new piers and quays were built further to the east, closer to the mouth of the estuary, on the north facing shoreline. The place we now call Courtmacsherry didn’t exist until after this maritime event (hence the title of this post).

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 changed the shoreline of Britain and Ireland

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 changed the shoreline of Britain and Ireland

So how did the name ‘Courtmacsherry’ come about? It’s an unusual one, and a bit of a mouthful – locals call it simply ‘Courtmac’. According to Sean de Barra of the Courtmacsherry Historical Society the area was settled by the Hodnett family from Shropshire, in England:

…In the course of time they became more Irish than the Irish themselves and took the Irish version Mac Seafraidh…

…Which sounds like Macsherry – the prefix Cuirt would have been ‘Manor House’ or ‘Mansion’.

The Hodnett name is still familiar in the area

The Hodnett name is still familiar in the area

Although I travelled so many times along the road up to Timoleague it is only very recently that I actually diverted to visit Courtmacsherry. I’m very pleased that I finally did: it’s an attractive settlement which displays many aspects of its 300 year history. I had heard of the place – it has a lifeboat which is twinned with the one in Bude, Cornwall (have a look at this post). I worked for very many years in Bude with Jonathan Ball, who was Coxswain with the Bude boat and he led (and still leads) a choir from the Bude crew who have an annual twinning visit with the Courtmacsherry crew.

The Courtmacsherry Lifeboat has recently been in the limelight as the Centenary of the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania by a German torpedo has just passed (here is a very detailed account of the tragedy). The RNLI lifeboat Kezia Gwilt was on call during that event (having to row the 11 miles out to the wreck because there was no wind to sail her with) and helped rescue survivors. Sadly, 1,198 of the 1,959 people on board lost their lives on 7 May 1915.

Notice Board

Model of Lusitania on display in Courtmacsherry, 2015

Model of Lusitania on display in Courtmacsherry, 2015

*

The village is unusual in that it has virtually only a single street facade, which follows the line of the water. Finola liked the colourful house fronts! Fishing is still a living here, just about. Tourism is important nowadays: we certainly appreciated the hostelries, including the Golden Pheasant Cafe. There really are Golden Pheasants in the cafe garden and – to my delight – Robins and Chaffinches who will eat from your hand. Also, in the aviary, a magnificent Eagle Owl. Apart from all this the food is excellent!

Golden Pheasant

Single sided street...

Single sided street…

As with our own village of Ballydehob, Courtmac was served by a branch of the West Cork Railways. Although planned as a three foot gauge ‘roadside railway’ (just like our Skibbereen to Schull line), the Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Extension Light Railway was actually built to full gauge, and lasted a little longer: our line closed in 1947, this one in 1960. The track bed from Timoleague has been made into a scenic waterside footpath covering several kilometres.

Railway Line Walk

Timoleague Station around 1910, top left – seaside Courtmacsherry 1950s, top right – the waterside walk along the old railway line, above

Our visit to Courtmacsherry was too short: we will be back soon, to take in the Castle and the Abbey – and to try and find out why it has an area called Siberia! My researches showed that there is another Siberia in Ireland: it’s in County Sligo and is also known there as Slieveroe. In that case the name is said to have come from  An Sliabh Rua, which means ‘Red Mountain’ – but there are no such topographical features in this part of West Cork.

I didn’t quite draw a blank with ‘Siberia’. Here’s an extract from Eating Scenery – West Cork, the People and the Place by Alannah Hopkin, The Collins Press 2008:

…In July and August, like most coastal villages in west Cork, Courtmacsherry can be too busy; it is heavenly in May and June, September and October. But in winter Courtmacsherry is deadly quiet, prone to dull, dark days of low sky and mist, when you are acutely aware of its north-facing character.The only compensation in this season is the presence of thousands of migrant birds, great clouds of golden plover, lapwing, blacktailed godwits, and Arctic shags, fleeing the cold of Scandinavia and Siberia to roost on the mudflats of Courtmacsherry Bay…

Houseen

Celtic Cousins

Jonathan Ball (right) - Architect, Co-Founder of the Eden Project - and Chorus Master

Jonathan Ball (right) – Architect, Co-Founder of the Eden Project – and Chorus Master

This weekend, West Cork was invaded by Celtic Cousins from Cornwall! By longstanding tradition, a group from Bude and its environs visits Courtmacsherry and the area surrounding it to join Irish neighbours in a feast of music and song: the hospitality is reciprocated when the Irish contingent goes over to Cornwall. The reason? The lifeboat based in Courtmacsherry has long been ‘twinned’ with the lifeboat based in Bude.

Images from the past: Bude’s Lifeboat in earlier years

Images from the past: Bude’s Lifeboat in earlier years (historic images courtesy of Bude RNLI)

The event is becoming an annual treat for us – because I worked in Bude for many years, with the Jonathan Ball Practice. The group that comes over is overseen by Jonathan himself, who won’t mind me saying that he is a Cornishman born and bred who believes that Bude is the centre of the Universe. I know, of course, that it’s actually West Cork that’s the centre of the Universe – so we have to have an annual get-together to sort out our differences…

logo-rnli

First, a bit of background. There are 236 lifeboat stations around the coasts of these islands, and 43 of these are in Ireland. The RNLI has operated life saving facilities in the Republic and the UK since 1824, when the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded as a charity by Sir William Hillary, a soldier who lived on the Isle of Man. The Institution today is supported almost entirely by donations and legacies, and the crews are unpaid volunteers.

Bude, on the north coast of Cornwall, had its first lifeboat as early as 1837. This boat was presented to the town by King William IV and paid for by the Duchy of Cornwall: the cost was 100 guineas. The lifeboat at Bude was withdrawn in 1923, and not reinstated until 1966. At the same time the Bude Lifeboat Singers came into being: this was conducted by crew member Jonathan Ball, and over the next 25 years was much in demand across Britain and into West Cork, and during that time many thousands of pounds were raised for the RNLI and other charities.

Meanwhile, the lifeboat station at Courtmacsherry was established in 1825 – one of the first to be founded in Ireland – and has been active ever since, its Trent class Lifeboat being on hand at all times to save lives and rescue mariners in trouble. The Trent lifeboats are true all-weather vessels in the RNLI fleet, and are exclusively designed to operate in Europe’s most hostile waters.

Courtmacsherry 'Trent' class Lifeboat: Frederick Storey Cockburn

Courtmacsherry ‘Trent’ Class Lifeboat: Frederick Storey Cockburn

As you know, West Cork is also home to many people steeped in music and tradition, so it was only natural that Bude and Courtmacsherry should get together to share tunes and songs – and hospitality.

four alls

For us the ‘getting together’ happened on Friday, when we travelled up to Sam’s Cross: Michael Collins country. We had to visit his birthplace, of course – have a look at our previous post on this great Irish folk-hero. Collins’ local pub was the Four Alls, and that’s where the singers and musicians settled down for a lively session, joined by some of the pub regulars, who added their own contributions.

Jonathan, Finola and myself, having a Michael Collins moment...

Jonathan, Finola and myself, having a Michael Collins moment…

Although a little hoarse from the previous night’s revels, Cornwall gave of its best, with Jonathan himself still conducting – 48 years on! West Cork was well represented by Dan O’Donovan and colleagues – former show band members – and the locals. I felt privileged to be allowed to join in with my own European mixture of English / Irish / French dance tunes.

As dusk began to settle, the next venue beckoned, and we became part of a convoy snaking its way through the most remote parts of County Cork: we had no idea where we would end up! When we finally arrived at Hickey’s Bar in the fine village of Aherla we were completely disorientated.

hickeys

But at Hickey’s we were welcomed with open arms and led into a back room full to the brim with musicians! I counted well over twenty from the Irish contingent and, as the evening progressed into night and then morning, more locals came in to add to the entertainment with songs and recitations.

Somehow, we found our way back to Nead an Iolair – it was a drive of an hour and a half – exhausted, but thoroughly elevated by all the music and conviviality. Only in Ireland (and Cornwall) could you find such a sharing: we are all Celtic Cousins, of course…

RNLI1