The Best of Five

It’s been five years! That’s a long time to have kept up a journal, with original pieces appearing every week – usually two, each of us writing a post. It keeps us busy: 464 posts to date. We thought we should do a review of the posts which have been most popular: viewed by the most people. These are not necessarily the ones we would consider to be our own favourites: we’ll let you know what we feel our ‘finest hour’ has been next week – while you are all preparing the Christmas lunch!

We never quite understood the all-time popularity of Beyond Leap, Beyond the Law, my post which was simply a collection of photos taken at the West Cork village’s 2015 Scarecrow Festival – with a little bit of history about the place added in. It was certainly a wonderful display of the imagination of the people of Leap. Have a look at the post: just one or two photographs don’t do it justice.

Up next is Finola’s piece from 2016 – Outposts of Empire. This was a much more scholarly article, and involved a lot of research. As you must know, we never pass a church or a burial ground without a full investigation: they provide a wealth of local history. Finola became fascinated by the memorials – mainly military – which appear in Protestant churches around the country. This led her down the path of her own ancestors, many of whom served in the Irish regiments of the British forces. She found this wonderful photo from around 1900 of her Brabazon forebears. Her grandmother Marie is in the centre of the back row, while her great grandfather John Edward Brabazon, who had served in India and Afghanistan, wears a military medal. The two younger men are Finola’s great uncles Michael and James, and they are wearing the uniform of the Royal Hibernian Military School.

Finola’s series on ‘how to speak like a West Cork person’ was a winner, the most popular being her fifth episode: How Are You Keeping? Here is a link to all of them. They make amusing reading, but at the same time they give a lot of insights as to how the Irish language has coloured the way English is spoken here. And here is Finola’s great picture from that post: two Skibbereen gentlemen who might well be asking how are you keeping?

Archaeology comes next, with my account of a most eccentric decorated chambered cairn within the Boyne Valley complex: Fourknocks – the Little Giant. I was particularly taken with the adventure of visiting this tomb, from the first moment of having to collect the key from a farm a mile away in order to let ourselves in, to the experience of being inside with the door shut behind us: total darkness at first, but gradually becoming aware of the remarkable 5,000 year-old zigzag carvings on the rock surfaces within.

I’m pleased that the fifth most popular post of all time is also the one I most enjoyed writing: Aweigh in Kerry. This was all about a very unusual piece of architecture which we found while travelling in Kerry – a house shaped like a ship, sitting in the sand dunes on the shoreline of Ballycarnahan townland, facing a most spectacular view across to Derrynane, the home of ‘Ireland’s Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell. I was an architect in a former life, and I would have welcomed a commission such as this. It was built in the early 1950s.

Sixth and last in this little review is a post from Finola (happily, we had three each in this list of the top most popular posts!): Castle Haven. Such an account of a place in magical West Cork – which typically offers everything anyone could want in beautiful landscape, village architecture, archaeology, history, literary heritage, art and the omnipresent Atlantic coastline – is exactly what we aspired to for the foundation stone of Roaringwater Journal when we set out, in 2012 on this happy, continuing journey.


Beyond Leap, Beyond the Law…


A West Cork village is named after an athletic achievement that happened 400 years ago: this must be an unusual appellation… The next stop after Skibbereen on the N71 road going east to Cork is Leap. Locally, this settlement is always called ‘Lepp’ – perhaps in defiance of the English epithet, and in defiance of the English forces who, after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, pursued the Irish chieftains – no doubt intending to make examples of them on the gallows.

The leap?

Lift to the jazz Festival

Strange things are happening in the village of Leap… These hitchikers are trying to get out of town!

In the west, an O’Donovan (we don’t know which one) was being chased by an English contingent and reached the 12m wide gorge over the Mullaghnagowan River that flows out into Glandore Bay. It was a point of no return, and O’Donovan took the risk and urged his horse on… He (and his horse) made it, and we may assume the pursuers didn’t, as O’Donovan escaped and his feat became a legend, and the village of Leap has made sure that it won’t be forgotten.

Leap sign

O’Donovan leaped into the wild lands of West Carbery and, the story goes, from that day onwards the phrase beyond Leap, beyond the law… entered into the local parlance. We live beyond Leap, so I suppose we are also beyond the law!

Leap street

Leap’s busy main street (top); the gorge where the famous ‘leap’ took place (left) and a visitor from the bay holding up the pub sign

Leap is a good stopping point if you are travelling the Wild Atlantic Way. We called in there on Saturday and filled up with a hearty breakfast in Ger O’Sullivan’s Wild Atlantic Diner. There are a number of other equally good hostelries to cater for all tastes, as well as a large furniture shop (O’Donovan’s), a petrol station, a builders’ merchant and a fascinating ‘collectibles and curios’ store. It’s a lively place and hopefully benefits commercially from the considerable traffic on the main road, although that aspect might also be seen as a downside to those who live within its environs.


Dining out in Leap…

We chose our day in Leap to coincide with a Scarecrow Festival: a competition to see who can produce the wittiest or spookiest scarecrows – bearing in mind it’s Hallowe’en next weekend. The people of the village have completely embraced the idea, with something over 80 imaginative (and hilarious) entries set up in all available locations: along with us there were many families out on Saturday enjoying the entertainment.

As with anywhere in West Cork – and, indeed, in Ireland – there is plenty more history relating to Leap. Dean Swift spent some time in the area in the early 18th century, and I found much information relating to Myross Wood House, a large residence close to the water which was built by the Rev Arthur Herbert in the mid 1700s. In 1826 this house passed to the Townshends, the first of whom was John Sealy Townshend, a Trinity educated lawyer and Master of Chancery. I was intrigued to find that John had suffered from consumption as a child and had been cured by an aunt who dosed him with slugs taken in sugar and honey…

The Myross Wood Estate remained with the Townshends until 1946, when there was no male heir. It was bought by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and has been used as a retreat and study centre for priests. The community is still at Myross.

Big cat small cat

bride and groom

The Tiger is a permanent fixture at Ger’s Wild Atlantic Diner (top) – the white Cat may not be… Worth considering getting married in the village (above)?

Ger O’Sullivan has created a dizzying viewing platform over the gorge where the O’Donovan leaped into legend. Keep an eye – perhaps at Hallowe’en his ghost will make an appearance!