The Southern Star


There’s so much going on here in West Cork. You could be out every night if you wanted to be, and  participating in as many community events as there are hours in the day. How do we keep up with it all? Easy – The Southern Star. It comes out every Thursday, and features a pull out Community section that details all the news from the towns and villages around West Cork. Births, baptisms, deaths, marriages and engagements are announced, and be-gowned university graduates are pictured with smiling parents.

Recent funeral in Skibbereen

Competitions are legion – sometimes talent-based, and sometimes sporting, such as the Clonakilty Blackpudding Car Rally. But rural and farming pursuits such as ploughing competitions or agricultural conferences remind us that we are living in a part of the world that makes it living off the land. Recently a tillage seminar attracted large crowds in Bandon, while another one on calf-rearing had over 300 attendees in Timoleague. Cheval rides are often pictured – horse treks for charity from town to town or across golden beaches. A farmer recently put out an appeal for a missing cow:

The animal made good its escape from a farm in Jagoe’s Mills, Belgooly, on Friday, January 17th. The animal may be suffering from memory loss as it was last seen at the racecourse in Farrangalway, before evading capture and taking to the countryside in the Dunderrow area. This is an extremely prized animal.

The farming community has been up in arms recently over changes to the system of government grants known as “Single Farm Payments” and there have been huge turnouts at meetings, protests and rallies.

Divine Intervention at Myross

Divine Intervention at Myross

The ebb and flow of village life is chronicled in the Star’s Community pages. ICA (Irish Countrywomen’s Association) meetings are announced and later described. Local businesses close and the village say farewell to a pair of much-loved publicans. Community members gather to clean up a graveyard (…stone walls emerged and tombs reappeared after years of being buried in undergrowth. The little Huguenot chapel was cleared of saplings and briars…) or celebrate the opening of a new playground, to help neighbours affected by the recent awful storms or to hold a St Brigid’s Cross making session in the senior’s housing complex. West Cork people are upset about fluoride in their water and enthusiastic about the Men’s Shed Movement.

Getting news of cultural events

Getting news of cultural events

Reading the Southern Star is the only way to find out where Road Bowling events are taking place, or horse races. We comb through it looking for the upcoming meetings of the various Historical Societies, the concerts (from orchestral to traditional), the plays by the local drama groups (this weekend, Sam Shepard’s Buried Child in Schull), and the upcoming festivals. Ballydehob will hold its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 17 (a national holiday here) and the theme this year is to recreate the 1914 Postal Directory of the village. We are witnessing the establishment here of an new national tourism initiative, the Wild Atlantic Way, and local communities are being asked to brainstorm how to get involved.

Daisy contemplates her strategy

Daisy contemplates her strategy

I will finish with one of my favourite recent items:

A Cowpat Challenge takes place at Kilmurry National School on Sunday, February 23rd. at 11am. Daisy the cow is coming to the grassy area in the playground which will be marked out into numbered squares. Whoever owns the square that Daisy decided to deposit the first cow pat into, wins a whopping €1,000.

We are posting early this week as we leave for a trip to Ireland’s west coast tomorrow. We still have no telephone or internet so this is coming to you through the kindness of neighbours who have given us access to their WiFi. Next post in two weeks – spring will have arrived by then. Right?

Theme and Variations

November sky at Nead an Iolair

Prelude: November sky over Nead an Iolair

Up on our hill above the Cove we are constantly treated to painterly skies. We could fill a whole blog with these changing skyscapes, and now – in late November – we have an extended period of clear cold weather which offers us spectacular sunsets: each day seems to outdo the previous one. On our walks we can’t resist using our cameras to record the wide West Cork skies, although these pictures are barely adequate to recreate the full celestial symphony. We have tried to come up with words to express to ourselves how magnificent these are: somehow the words seem trivial…. Stunning crops up frequently, as do mesmerising, awe-inspiring, exquisite, sublime, unsurpassed. Perhaps it’s best just to let the images speak for themselves: we feel privileged to be living in this incomparable land.

Bay rainbow

Overture: Bay rainbow

Sheep's Head sky

Arietta: Sheep’s Head horizon

Bow over Bishops Luck

Intermezzo: Bow over Bishops Luck

Ballybane sunrise

Crescendo: Ballybane sunrise

Silver sky

A bocca chiusa: silver Mizen sky

Sky trail

Segue: Meteoric dawn

Rossbrin, dusk

Tranquillo: dusk at Rossbrin

Two suns

Caballeta: two suns

Wide sky

Con fuoco: Roaring Water resplendent


Cadenza: transcendental times


Finale and Coda

A Grand Soft Day

Sometimes the city in which a novel is set functions as a character in the story – a vital influence on events, unthinkable in a different place. I feel the same way about the weather in West Cork. It’s a SHE, of course – in turn tempestuous, caressing, unpredictable, always to be respected and never, ever to be taken for granted. Around here it’s ‘wait five minutes’ forecasting: what it says for the next few days on the iPhone weather app at 9am may have changed radically by noon so we never despair if we see days of rain ahead. We awake to a glorious dawn, with sunshine flooding across the bay and are enveloped in mist by breakfast, only to enjoy a sunny walk that afternoon. The clouds bank up in great mounds, lending glorious light and shade and endless colour variations to the landscape. We have stopped taking rainbow photos because we have so many already. Maybe if I see a triple…

Robert uses the word ‘mizzling’ for that soft wetness that’s one step from mist and that you hardly need a hat for. When we walk along our Greenmount Road to the rise with the great view over to Kilcoe, we can see the rain coming across the sea, slanting down here and there from grey clouds, and sometimes it hits us and sometimes it doesn’t and mostly when it does it’s gone again in a few minutes and we dry out in the breeze that follows it. Odd nights we can hear it lashing on the skylights on the top floor and we echo the Cork people who say “’Tis a hoor of a night.” I remember endless days in Vancouver of rain pelting down and everyone with umbrellas and a grey will-this-never-stop misery sinking into the soul. So far – and maybe we are lucky – that isn’t happening here. We haven’t had a day without some sunshine.

On November the 5th we walked the lighthouse loop on the Sheep’s Head with barely a cloud in sight – what they call locally a “pet day.” This was our third section of the Sheep’s Head Way and took in yet more stunning scenery and a long section where the trail runs on the brink of vertical cliffs, with the waves crashing and roaring below. It was so hot I got sunburn. That might not happen twice: but then again SHE specializes in the art of surprise.