West Cork in Photographs – Your Favourites, Part 1

Navigating Mizen Head

A fishing boat navigates the rocks of Mizen Head

Our Roaringwater Journal Facebook Page features lots of our photographs of West Cork – two or three every week – and we know by the views and the ‘likes’ the ones that capture your imagination. It’s become a tradition here with us at the end of the year to go through them all and show you the top choices. Think of it as our Christmas present to you, our wonderful readers – nothing to read, just images of our gorgeous part of the world to drool over. Of course, we have our own favourites too, even if they didn’t get as many likes as others did, so we sneaked a few of those in here two. This is the first of two posts – the next one in a few days.

Sheeps Head November Day

Sheep’s Head

Chough by the Gate

Chough in the rain

Fastnet in the sunset

Fastnet Lighthouse at sunset

2 0f the 12

Two of the arches of Ballydehob’s famous Twelve Arch Bridge

Roaringwater Bay from Sailors' Hill

Roaringwater Bay from Sailor’s Hill above Schull

Gougane Oratory 2

Gougane Barra in the autumn

To the Mass Rock, Sheeps Head

Walking to the Mass Rock, Sheep’s Head

Kealkill 2

The archaeological complex at Kealkill – a five stone circle, a standing stone pair and a radial cairn

Rossbrin Dawn

Rossbrin Cove dawn

The next batch (Part 2) is now up. Enjoy!

West Cork Speak: Lessons 3 and 4

How are ye?

How are ye?

You all did very well, Dear Readers, with learning to speak like a true West Cork denizen. I was especially proud of all the grands and likes you appended to your emails and comments. So, now, I think it’s time for the next couple of lessons.

I wish I could really capture for you the true cadence of the language here – the colourful vocabulary, the way stories are infused with a humorous acknowledgement of the foibles of the teller and the audience, the up-and-down rhythm of the speech, the expressiveness of all communication. But at least I can teach you some of the basics, so you will feel at home when you get here.

Would you be after some scallops?

Would you be after some scallops?

Lesson 3: Using the Conditional Tense

Today’s first lesson deals with the importance of mastering the conditional tense – in other words, using the word ‘would’ and all its variations, where the rest of the world would use the simple present or past tense. This has the effect of softening a statement in quite a delightful way, but it can also be confusing if you’re not used to it.

At a recent class I took, the instructor presented her credentials by saying, “I would have qualified in 1996.” Now, if someone outside West Cork had said that, you would have been waiting for the rest of the sentence…”Except that I failed the exam,” perhaps. But she was simply saying, in the West Cork way, “I qualified in 1996.” It’s just a bit more roundabout, a bit more diffident, a bit less assertive, than baldly stating a fact. Here’s how I normally say something, followed by how it is said in West Cork:

I got married in 2004. 

I would have been married in 2004.

I don’t like jazz.

I wouldn’t be a huge fan of that kind of thing myself, now.

Hi, I’m Finola.

’Tis lovely to meet you. I would be Finola.

I’m always exhausted after yoga.

Sure, ’tis tiring, like, but you would feel great after it, wouldn’t you?

That guy is a crook.

He wouldn’t be the saintliest of fellas, like, but he would have had a hard time of it as a young lad.

I asked him to bring the umbrella.

I asked him would he bring the umbrella.

This will take some practice: set yourself the task of turning one declarative sentence a day into a conditional statement. You would want to spend a fair bit of time on it, like.

And where would you be from, now?

And where would you be from, now?

Lesson 4: Pronouns

Pronouns! Most of them are the same as English elsewhere, but with two important differences.

You/Ye. If you look up the word ye in a dictionary it will tell you the word is archaic, and died out in general usage several hundred years ago. Not in West Cork! It is in common usage, here and elsewhere in Ireland, as the plural of you. So, if you meet a group of people and are addressing them collectively, you say “How are ye?” I must say, this make eminent sense. How often do we have to qualify you by saying “I mean you, plural?” Or, “I mean both of you?”

Herself would have raised the ducks.

Herself would have raised the ducks.

Now so, are ye ready for the last biteen (we’ll deal with that word another day) of the lesson? On we go, so, to reflexive pronouns – those are the ones with self at the end of them. They are used in Ireland in a variety of ways. Himself and herself are sometimes used to denote a husband or wife, but also can have a slight suggestion of amusement or mockery.

Himself would be holding forth about politics the whole evening.

I’d like to stay a while longer, but herself has the tea on the table at six sharp.

Is it yourself? It is indeed.

It will be time for a quiz soon, so ye should study what we’ve learned so far and I’ll think about a suitable test, and maybe some prizes. Wouldn’t that be grand? Himself thinks so, too.

Is it yourself, Sean?

Is it yourself, Sean?

Mizen Magic

We’ve done several posts on the Sheep’s Head and the marked hiking trails that crisscross that peninsula. But we actually live on a different peninsula, The Mizen, and it is just as glorious and wild and beautiful.

Map of Mizen and Goleen

The road to the Mizen Head starts at Ballydehob, runs along the southern side of the peninsula through Schull and Toormore and on to Goleen and Crookhaven. At the far or western end are the beaches of Barley Cove and the Mizen Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre. There are no villages on the northern side of the peninsula until you reach Durrus, which also marks the start of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula. It is bounded on the south by the waters and islands of Roaringwater Bay and on the north by Dunmanus Bay. The whole peninsula is rich in history and archaeology and we plan future posts about many aspects of life here.

For the moment, a flavour in photographs of what The Mizen landscape has in store for visitors.

Dunbeacon Stone Circle

Dunbeacon Stone Circle

Ballyrisode Beach

Ballyrisode Beach

Dunmanus Bay

Dunmanus Bay

Mizen Head

Mizen Head

Dunmanus Harbour

Dunmanus Harbour

Three Castle Head

Three Castle Head

The Last Post

The view from Nead an Iollair

The view from Nead an Iolair

The time has come to say goodbye to West Cork. Yes, it really has been six months, and we leave next Thursday.

But here’s the thing. If it isn’t obvious how much we have enjoyed it here, then let us spell it out – we have LOVED our time here, in Ballydehob, in West Cork, and in Ard Glas.

In fact we have loved it so much that we are buying a house! It’s the perfect house for us, with views across our beloved Roaringwater Bay, and lots of room for entertaining family and friends. We intend to call the house ‘Nead an Iolair’ – it’s pronounced Nad on Uller, and it means Eagle’s Nest. We will return this summer, although we don’t have an exact date. We plan to resume the blog when we return, although perhaps with some differences. At the very least our sub-title, Six Months in West Cork, will be changing. If you haven’t yet clicked the “Follow” button and left your email address, do it now – that way you will be notified when the blog starts up again.

Peaceful Harbour, West Cork

Peaceful Harbour, West Cork

And so, dear reader, we have a couple of questions for you. Even if you’ve been shy about commenting in the past, make an exception now and tell us –

Which posts, or which kinds of posts, have you most enjoyed?

What do you want us to write about that we haven’t yet covered?

And now, until we meet again…

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

And may you be in heaven half an hour

Before the Divil knows you’re dead.

Finola and Robert

Another Day in Paradise

Another Day in Paradise

Living in Colour

Main Street, Ballydehob

Main Street, Ballydehob

I remember greyness. Grey stone, grey plaster, grey slate, grey concrete, rain-washed grey windows. In 1965 my parents painted our house navy blue, with white trim. In the middle of a terrace of grey houses it caused a minor scandal.

Kilmore Quay Thatched CottageWhile the traditional Irish cottage of the postcards was whitewashed and thatched, with perhaps a daring red half-door, there were always isolated farmhouses in lurid colours in the deep countryside. Inexplicably painted bright purple or tangerine or electric green, they hinted at the farmer wanting something he could find in the middle of the night coming home on the bicycle after a long evening in the pub. But the general change came gradually with the popularity of the Tidy Towns competition, where villagers were encouraged to spruce up their houses, trim their lawns and keep the village neat and clean. I left Ireland in 1974 and a constant delight of visits home since then has been the discovery of Ireland of the Colourful Houses.

2012-05-08 10.51.272012-12-16 12.15.29Towns and villages are a riot of multi-coloured shop fronts and dwellings. In some, the decorous and tastefully pastel abound. The streets that provide most eye candy, though, are those that have kissed goodbye to any sense of discretion in favour of in-your-face vivid and clashing shades. The rainbow streetscapes, whether quietly elegant or flamboyant, work delightfully, buoying the spirits and infusing every shopping trip or sightseeing expedition with a sense of play and exuberance.

2012-05-08 10.45.342012-05-08 11.46.20This is our last post for 2012. HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our dear family and friends, wherever you are. May 2013 bring all good things your way.

Oh, and by the way, the place names competition is still open for entries. Prizes still to be won!

The Sober Streets of Skibbereen

The Sober Streets of Skibbereen

Place Names – and PRIZES!

View from Cappaghglass

Several of my Canadian readers have asked me to do a piece on place names. As a Canadian, it’s hard to fathom that the address ‘Finola Finlay, Ard Glas, Greenmount, Ballydehob, Co. Cork, Ireland’ could actually get to me – “What?” you say, “No street address? No postal code? And how on earth do you pronounce Ballydehob?” (Actually, just Ballydehob, Ireland, would probably make it to me.)

When Ireland was mapped by the Ordnance Survey in the 1820’s to 1840’s, place names were Anglicised mostly by trying to reproduce the Irish names phonetically. With some basic knowledge of Irish it is possible to winkle out the meaning of many place names. The smallest unit of land recorded on the maps is the ‘townland’. This being Ireland, the term ‘townland’ has nothing to do with a town but is a defined geographical area, probably based on very ancients divisions. Townlands vary in size, but 300 acres would be typical. In rural areas, the address often includes the name of the house (Ard Glas), the townland (Greenmount), the nearest town with a post office (Ballydehob) and the County (Cork).


Below is a basic Irish-English dictionary of common place name words. Use it to translate the names of some West Cork place names – submit your responses by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ at the end of this post. Use your imagination, your poetic sense, your personal lexicographic preferences and your sense of humour. There will be LOVELY PRIZES for the best entries!!!

Words for Irish word (translation) Pronounced
Field Gort (small field) Gurt
Ban (meadow) Bawn
Cappagh (tilled field) CAppa
Settlement Liss or lios (round earthen enclosure) Liss
Dun (fortified enclosure) Doon
Rath (round earthen enclosure) Rath
Baile or Bally (settlement or town) BOLL-yeh
Cill (small church) Kill
Hill/Mountain Ard (high place) Ord
Drom (rounded hill) Drum
Cnoc (hill, rocky) K-Nuck
Letter (hillside) LETTer
Croagh (mountain) Croke
Sliabh (mountain) Sleeve
Mullach (summit) MULLock
Terrain Doire (oak wood) Derry
Mona (bog) MOAN-Ah
Carraig (rock) KArrig
Poul (hole, hollow) Powl
Descriptive Mor (large, big) More
Beag (small) Byug
Glas (green) Gloss
Rua (red) RU-ah
Dubh (dark, black) Duv
Ban (white) Bawn
-Een (as a suffix – diminutive: little, small) Een

Place Names around Roaringwater Bay


Oh and Ballydehob? It’s pronounced BAlly-dee-HOB. From the Irish Béal an Dá Chab, meaning ‘mouth of the two river fords’. Just to confuse things.

beal an da chab