Your Favourite Posts of 2016

Horses at Caherdaniel

It’s that time of the year again! The wonders of technology enable us to know which of our posts have received the most views: we can see how many people clicked on each article although we don’t specifically know who you are! This is great for us, because we can get an idea of what you – our readers – like to see and this helps us when considering what to write in the future. Not that we necessarily always respond to the statistics, because sometimes we just think there are things that you need to know about, regardless of their potential popularity or otherwise!

Not in the ‘top ten’ – but through the year Finola has expanded – and passed on to you – her knowledge of the wildflowers that make the hedgerows and verges of West Cork so colourful (bee in fuschia, left), while Robert has used the Olympic year of 2016 to examine the history of some sporting events in Ireland (Tailteann Games 1924, right)

So, during this year, Finola and I have published exactly 100 articles for Roaringwater Journal: that’s almost one each every week. It’s fascinating for us to look back and see where we have been, what turns our interests have taken, and of course to see how well (or otherwise) our writing was received. Statistics are one thing, but it’s your comments that really inform us – so keep them coming…

From Outposts of Empire: memorials in St Barrahane’s Church, Castletownshend (left) and St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (right)

Top of the board are two posts from Finola: one from the beginning of the year – Outposts of Empire, which researched and reviewed some of the monuments that are to be found in Protestant churches, cathedrals and graveyards in County Cork and Dublin. It’s a rich history of often only distantly remembered soldiers and battles. Why is this such a popular post? Perhaps because 2016 has been the focus for commemorations: the centenary of the Easter rising, and the fact that one hundred years ago many Irishmen were dying in the Great War. That has rather coloured the whole year in Ireland and Finola’s post – which also mentions some of the experiences of her own family – probably touches on many fertile memories.

Skibb men

How are ye keeping?

The next post in popularity dates only from last week: Finola’s latest humorous exploration of how people speak in West Cork – How are you keeping? This has become our top ‘viral hit’ on our Facebook page with thousands of views and 69 shares to date… Finola describes it as her ‘latest instalment of the How to Sound Like You’re From West Cork course’. The fifth of the series so far, it’s hilarious and has clearly captured the imaginations of our local readers.


Fourknocks, Boyne Valley: fetch the key and let yourself in…

To balance things out a bit the next two posts in popularity have come from Robert: Aweigh in Kerry – which delighted in the discovery of a boat-shaped house (pictured on the page header – an architectural gem) – and Fourknocks – the Little Giant, an account of a very unusual archaeological site in the Boyne Valley, north of Dublin. We were very taken by this site and its eccentricities: in order to gain access we had to collect the key (from a farm a mile away – and leaving a deposit of 20 euros) and let ourselves into the tomb which has some beautiful rock carvings.

East Window and Apse

Magnificent mosaic work in the Church of the Ascension, Timoleague

Next up is Finola’s Mosaics and Maharajas – an exploration of a wonderful church in Timoleague with walls decorated in mosaic tiling. But there’s also a strange and poignant story which this church reveals to us (read the post)… And – what’s in a name? Well, perhaps the more bizarre – or seductive or beguiling – the title of a post is, the more hits it gets! Finola’s The Murdering Glen (a valley north of Bantry, again, with a story attached) certainly attracted a lot of attention.

On the walk

looking towards west

Upper picture – the murdering Glen; lower picture – Robert’s imagining of the Cape Clear Stone restored to its rightful place on the island…

Robert’s report on the passage tomb on the summit of Cape Clear – and the story of the carved stone that’s now in the Cork Public Museum comes next: Cape Clear – the Stone that Moved, closely followed by Finola’s post on the historic walled town of Youghal in East Cork: Youghal’s Walls. Then we had ‘Auf der Waltz” – The Journeymen, a popular piece about two German apprentice blacksmiths who passed through West Cork this summer as part of their three year travels through Europe gaining experience towards becoming masters of their trade. This was also written by Robert.

on hungry hill

The Journeymen exploring beautiful West Cork: Hungry Hill (photo by Dietrich Eckardt)

Rather than list all the other posts in some sort of ‘order of popularity’, let’s round up with our own favourites. Finola has been enthusiastically researching stained glass windows in churches – wherever we travel. Besides her continuing respect for Harry Clarke – probably Ireland’s finest artist in this medium – she has discovered the identity and work of artists who inherited his mantle when he passed away (far too young) in 1931. The Harry Clarke Studios continued on until 1973 and also produced some stunning work. Have a look at Discovering Richard King to appreciate just one of the artists who followed after Harry. Another of Finola’s great posts on this medium – The Christmas Story, One Window at a Time – appeared only two weeks ago.

HC Studio, Athlone

The spectacular stained glass work of Richard King, a small detail from Sts Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church in Athlone

For myself, the subject that has engaged me most this year is my Travel by Water’ series: seven posts (so far) on the Irish Canals inspired by my review of Green & Silver – a book which I was given as a prize at school in 1963! We retraced the steps of L T C Rolt, the author of the book, and his wife Angela who took some very atmospheric photographs as they travelled around the Irish waterways in 1946 – exactly 70 years ago. To celebrate my own 70th birthday this year we attempted to replicate each of the photographs as closely as possible with present-day views of the same scenes. The venture has turned out to be a real social history of Ireland and the changes that have happened during that interval of time.

ballycowan sunset

Travel by Water – ghostly reflections beside the Grand Canal at Ballycowan

So thank you to all of you – our readers. Without you our work on Roaringwater Journal would have been pointless. With you – and with the value of your comments and discussions – we feel the whole exercise is well worthwhile – so, please, let us know your own personal favourites… We certainly intend to keep the Journal going for a few years yet! Don’t forget, there is a full index in the Navigation Page – here. And, I’m sure you all know by now, anything highlighted in blue is a link to something else: either another one of our posts in the Journal, or to another relevant source of information on the subject. Good hunting!


Your Favourite Posts of 2015

Ross Castle, Killarney

Ross Castle, Killarney

At the end of each year we like to look back at our most-read posts and do a re-cap for our readers. Last year you liked what we wrote about islands, nostalgia, festivals, and the beauty of the Mizen Peninsula.

Did you drive past the Woman in White?

Did you drive past the Woman in White?

Despite all the hours we put into researching topics and sourcing images, this year it was a spur-of-the-moment post done for the sheer fun of it that came the closest we’ve ever come to a viral hit. Yes – that post on the Leap Scarecrows. The little village of Leap went all out and you could just sense the enjoyment that the scarecrow-makers had dreaming up their concoctions.

The One-Armed Michael Davitt

The One-Armed Michael Davitt

We love writing about history and some of your favourites fell under this heading. Robert wrote about Michael Davitt after a visit to his museum in Mayo. His powerful message of peaceful civil resistance struck home with us both.

Where Agnes grew up: Bridge Street, Skibbereen, 19th Century. National Library Collection

Where Agnes grew up: Bridge Street, Skibbereen, 19th Century. National Library Collection

Finola stayed in West Cork, and wrote about the life of Agnes Mary Clerke who grew up in Skibbereen and went on to become a formidable astro-physicist and science writer.

The Elizabethan-era fortified house at Gearhameen, near Durrus

The Elizabethan-era fortified house at Gearhameen, near Durrus

West Cork abounds in reminders of the medieval period. Tower houses and castles stand as ruined sentinels all along the coast. But we also have a type of dwelling known as a fortified house – the largest example is Coppinger’s Court near Rosscarbery – and our post, Trading Up in Tudor Times, set out the main characteristics of these impressive mansions.

Along the Butter Road walk - part of the new Fastnet Trail System

Along the Butter Road walk – part of the new Fastnet Trail System

A local group has been hard at work developing a new system of trails in our vicinity and this summer it was successfully launched. The trails use existing boreens, for the most part, and are filled with unexpected delights and wonderful vistas. Robert introduced the new trail system to our readers in his post Closer Encounters – Fastnet Trails.

'Tis far from induction hobs you were reared

Tis far from induction hobs you were reared

We love to laugh at ourselves in Ireland, and Finola’s post You’re Grand, heavily influenced by the hilarious Tara Flynn and her book of the same name, must have raised some chuckles. Tara has a new book out now, Giving Out Yards, equally hilarious and insightful about us Irish and what makes us tick – or actually, what ticks us off.

Derrynablaha landscape - changed and unchanged

Derrynablaha landscape – changed and unchanged

Archaeology is one of our big topics, and this year three posts made the most-read list. Our account of the expedition we undertook with colleagues to Derrynablaha – a wild mountain valley in Kerry full of rock art – was a hit with many readers. You also enjoyed our account of our visit to the Ceide Fields in Mayo, and Finola’s musings about the humble cupmark and its place in the rock art pantheon.

Skibbereen hosted a wildly successful National Digital Week

Skibbereen hosted a wildly successful National Digital Week

We enjoyed participating in the first ever Digital Skibbereen event – a wonderfully organised set of experiences designed to showcase how Skibbereen is poised for the digital era.

In the Magic Forest

In the Magic Forest

Our readers love to hear about things to do and places to go in West Cork. Robert wrote about our day in the Magic Forest, a feast for the senses and great fun for the whole family. Earlier in the year, in A Mumuration, he described our outing to Ballyvourney to take part in the ancient rituals associated with the celebration of St Gobnait.

Making the Rounds at Saint Gobnait's Shrine on the Feast Day

Making the Rounds at Saint Gobnait’s Shrine on the Feast Day

And what about our own favourites, even if they didn’t make it to the most-read list?

The Infant of Prague - in Prague

The Infant of Prague – in Prague

Robert’s was his post on The Infant of Prague – he was fascinated by the little statues that are so ubiquitous in West Cork houses and was delighted to find the original in Prague and learn about its significance. Our discovery of Oldcourt, with its traditional boatyard and long history was also a highlight.

Old boat at Oldcourt

Old boat at Oldcourt

After dithering for hours, Finola decided that her trio of posts on our West Cork tower houses (When is a Castle?, Tower House Tutorial Part 1 and Tower House Tutorial Part 2) were the most fun to write, because she learned so much and because she got to scramble around old ruins with her camera – possibly her favourite activity in the world.

Dunmanus Castle

Dunmanus Castle

How about you, Dear Reader? Did you have a favourite this year?

And don’t forget, especially if you’re relatively new to this blog, you can check out the Navigation Page to see what topics you might like to pursue.