Tiny Ireland

Bunratty Castle

If you live around here or have visited Ireland you’ve seen them in all the best gift shops: Tiny Ireland – those intriguing paper models of Irish buildings and towns that make the perfect gift.

Top photograph: Bunratty Castle. Above: Skibbereen, the model and the real thing, and Tiny Cobh

They say that a true craftsperson makes it look easy. But this week we visited Tiny Ireland in her studio and found out first hand just how much talent and research and imagination goes into every single detail.

Anke with boxed Gallarus

Anke shows us her Tiny Gallarus

And who is Tiny Ireland? Meet Anke Eckardt. She’s lived here in West Cork since she was a little girl, plays a mean tin whistle, is an artist, a master joiner and boat builder and joint owner with Rui of West Cork Boats. The idea for Tiny Ireland came to her when she made some paper models with and for her son Fionn to complement his train set. That was ten years ago. She has been making models ever since, but devoting herself seriously to it for the last five years.

Designer at work – Anke in her studio. Full marks for anyone who can guess the pub she’s working on.

Anke starts with familiarising herself with the town or village. She wanders round with her camera, talks to everyone, gets a feel for the place, and then does extensive research on the history of the area. In the case of West Cork, like any other native she already knows every inch of it – the stories, the atmosphere, the iconic buildings, the colours and contours of the landscape. She tries to capture that same sense of place wherever she goes.

UCC

GPOTop: Both Anke and I went to University College Cork and the Quad holds a special place in our hearts. Bottom: Anke’s contribution to the 1916 commemorations – the General Post Office in Dublin

Back in the studio she decides on which buildings to use and starts drawing and painting and figuring out what should go where on the model and what extra details to include. Each building occupies one sheet in the kit. Anke wants each sheet to be a beautiful object in itself, to be poured over before you even start the scoring and cutting process. Can you imagine the cleverness it takes to construct even one building? Add to that all the little details that go into making it unique and contributing to its cultural and geographic character.

Glucksman Gallery in box

Not just traditional buildings! Here is the ultra-modern Glucksman Gallery at UCC

We came home with a Tiny Kenmare kit so that we could experience the assembly process first hand. Not only was this great fun but it gave us additional insights into both the craft of model making and the lovely additional details that Anke has inserted into each piece – details that extend the model into little bits of history.

Robert assembles Packie’s Pub

The second Kenmare building we assembled was O’Donnabháin’s pub and guest house (pronounce it O Dunn-eh-vawn’s). Look around the side – Anke has added the image of a funeral coming over a suspension bridge. Curious, I looked up what this was all about and found that Kenmare did indeed have the first suspension bridge ever built in Ireland – read an amusing account of its history here – and that the funeral was a real one, that of an IRA man murdered by the Black and Tans in 1921.

Kenmare Funeral

On the shelfKenmare is as scenic and colourful as any town anywhere has a right to be. It’s a great shopping town too, with wonderful cafes and pubs, and right on the justly-famed Ring of Kerry.

Colourful Kenmare 1

Every model Anke makes is unique and delightful. Individual pubs, shops, castles, etc are often made at the request of the owner. Here’s one for Tigh Neachtain in Galway. Anke showed us a draft of the Explanation sheet that goes with it. It’s an object lesson in how one building can encompass the story of a town. Richard Martin, by the way, is better known to history as Humanity Dick.

Tig Neachtain

Tig Neachtain ExplanationFor tourists, Tiny Ireland models make the perfect gift, light and packable and chock full of the real Ireland. For all of us, making one engages us in a creative act that comes out of the rich imagination and artistic talent of Anke Eckardt.

Tiny Bantry

Evans InteriorTiny Bantry – note Miss Evans traditional shop on the right. Here’s what it’s like inside. For more on this and other traditional Irish shops, see Shopping for Memories

And it’s not just models. Recently Anke has started to produce charming watercolours of the traditional shops and pubs she loves. We in Ballydehob have loved her posts on our wonderful old shopfronts. Here’s an example – Just drive down our main street and you can’t miss The Chestnut Tree.

chestnut-tree

Happy cutting and glueing!

Around the back

Revisiting

You Favourite Facebook photo - Ballydehob's 12 Arch Bridge

One of your favourite recent Roaringwater Journal Facebook photos – Ballydehob’s 12 Arch Bridge

We’re taking a blogging break for a couple of weeks. Since we won’t be posting during that time, here are a couple of your favourite posts from times past, to keep you going! 

You loved the traditional shops that are still to be found here and there in West Cork. Our Shopping for Memories post features Miss Evans’ shop in Bantry.

Evans Interior

Castles fascinate us all and you liked the post about the tower houses, When is a Castle… and the one about fortified houses, Trading up in Tudor Times. From the second one, here is Coppinger’s Court.Coppinger's Court, Ballyvireeen, near Rosscarbery

Michael Davitt struck a chord with many readers. We are still looking for heroes, and this was a man worthy of the name.

Straide, Co Mayo - Michael Davitt's statue outside the museum dedicated to him

Finally, to celebrate the Chief O’Neill Festival, just on last weekend on Bantry, here is our post on that wonderful event, from last year. Timmy McCarthy was an imposing figure as the Chief himself.Timmy McCarthy as The Chief

Be back in a couple of weeks with new posts!

Your Favourite Posts of 2014

Cape Clear Harbour

Cape Clear Harbour

What were your favourite Roaringwater Journal blog posts of 2014?

Our blogging software provides a running count of visitors to Roaringwater Journal and it’s always fascinating to see which ones receive the most views. Some of them are our own favourites as well, and some can attribute their high numbers to being re-blogged by others, or to being shared on social media. So tell us, Dear Reader – did the software capture it – or do you have a different favourite from our top posts of 2014?

From the Whiddy Island high point

From the Whiddy Island high point

The top two posts of 2014 were the ones we wrote about our trips to Cape Clear and to Whiddy Islands. We loved our time on the islands and intend to go back often – our enthusiasm probably shone through. But it may also be that islands hold a mystique for us that is hard to define – out there in the dawn mist, mysterious and peaceful, whole worlds unto themselves. The islanders of West Cork are worried at the moment by cuts to their development officer funding, and need all the support we can give them. So if you live here, or are planning a trip, include one or more of these beautiful islands in your plans.

Timoleague Friary

Timoleague Friary

Next in popularity was our post on the Timoleague Friary. It’s an iconic piece of West Cork history and architecture – the only sizeable medieval religious ruins we have, perched on a picturesque estuary of the Arigideen River.

I've learned to look carefully for road signs

I’ve learned to look carefully for road signs

Finola’s frustration at the inflexible regulations that treated her like a novice driver, despite forty years of driving experience, must have struck a chord with you. Maybe you dropped by Driving Home the Point to sympathise with her plight, or maybe it was to chuckle over the numerous example of the routine flouting of the Irish rules of the road, or the bemusing driving conditions of many rural roads.

Evans of Bantry

Evans of Bantry

We have enormous nostalgia for the things we remember from our childhood, don’t we? In that vein, it’s not surprising that Shopping for Memories was such a popular post. These lovely old shops evoke a time when a whole variety of shops lined the main streets and our mothers went from the butchers to the greengrocers to the chemists to the haberdashers and, if we were lucky, to the sweet shop on a daily basis.

Carraig Abhainn Gardens

Carraig Abhainn Gardens

But sadly, the numbers of these old-fashioned shops are dwindling. This year we said goodbye to Wiseman’s in Durrus, no longer able to compete against the hardware shops of Bantry. Fortunately, their wonderful Carraig Abhainn Gardens are still open behind the shop – and our description of this hidden gem was one of your favourite posts of the year.

A group of posts on festivals came next. We wrote about the question our friends asked us when we decided to move here, What on earth will you find to DO? We answered in a series of posts describing some of the local events and festivals we have taken in this year – the Ballydehob Jazz Festival and Arts and Culture Festival (which included our own Rock Art Exhibition), traditional music Festivals in Baltimore, Bantry and Ballydehob, and a host of musical and theatrical events. One day all of you retirees out there are going to discover that moving to West Cork is the best decision you can make!

The next group of posts centred on the Mizen – the Mizen Magic posts where we concentrated on aspects of the Mizen Peninsula that delight us – the Beaches, Brow Head, the Butter Road, Mount Gabriel, the Gortnagrough Folk Museum, and the history and archaeology of this beautiful part of Ireland.

How are ye?

How are ye?

In fairness, like, it looks like ye would have enjoyed our take on how to speak like ye’re from West Cork. Those little posteens made you happy out.

Ye must be a fierce active crowd altogether because you really got a kick out of Finola’s description of her day of sailing and (perhaps her personal favourite in the activities department) her moonlight kayaking on Lough Hyne.

Happy New Year from Robert and Finola!

Happy New Year from Robert and Finola!

And our own personal favourite of 2014? Robert’s post on the Sky Garden, of course! If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll have to do so to find out why this was the highlight of our year in West Cork.

Shopping for Memories

Miss Clerke

In my post Going for the Messages I told you about rediscovering the shops of my childhood here in West Cork. Since then, Miss Clerke’s shop, lightly photoshopped but totally recognisable, graced the front page of the Irish Times Magazine as their illustration for their Ireland’s Best Shops competition. So it’s not just me, then. I’m not the only one with a nostalgia for the old-time shopping experience.

Evans of Bantry

In that spirit, I am revisiting a few of my favourites traditional shops. I have discovered two more shops like Miss Clerkes. First, there’s Evans, In Bantry. Proudly run by Miss Evans, it has the same look and feel of a place unchanged since the 50’s, although perhaps the pinkness of it all might be more modern. It has a lovely atmosphere – when I was in there a couple of kids were trying to decide how to spend their pocket money on sweets from the big glass jars.

MIss Murphy in her traditional shop

MIss Murphy in her traditional shop, Eyeries

 

Lunch is served outside

Lunch is served outside

On the Beara Peninsula we stopped for lunch at Miss Murphy’s store in Eyries and chatted with her about my Great Uncle who had married an Eyries woman. Since I couldn’t remember her name Miss Murphy was unable to help, but she tried, and she made us a delicious basket of sandwiches.

Some shops are a little puzzling – for example, P. Cronin Carpenter in Skibbereen. I’ve never seen it open and I’m not sure what it would sell if it did open its doors. The photo of the interior was taken through the window.

In Bantry one of the Undertaking establishments has a shop. At first I found this idea a little startling, but it makes a lot of sense once you come to appreciate Irish graveyard traditions, including how often people visit graves and leave tokens at them.

half holiday

Shops in Irish country towns follow traditional opening hours. They invariably close for lunch (1PM to 2PM) and generally follow a five-day-a-week opening schedule. This can mean they are closed, besides on Sundays, on Mondays – but other days are possibilities too. None nowadays follows the old tradition of the half day. Remember that? 

messenger bike

And remember how the groceries would be delivered – by a young lad on a messenger boy bike? You can still get delivery but now the messages come in a van.

Levis's Pub in Ballydehob: the traditional grocery section is still intact

Levis’s Pub in Ballydehob: the traditional grocery section is still intact

Of course, one of the traditions we remember about country towns was that of pubs also selling groceries or dry goods – whatever people needed. You went in for a pair of wellies and a dozen eggs, and took your ease with a pint on the bar stool, or a whiskey in the snug, before you left. Levis’s Corner House in Ballydehob has preserved the grocery counter. You can hear Joseph talking about it, and about the great history of this historic pub in the excellent radio documentary “Keeping the Door Open.” It’s about far more than just this one pub – it’s about a whole way of life in rural Ireland. A way of life that still lingers in West Cork…so far.

elegance