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Tag: Clare

A Pagan Place

Wednesday, 17 July, 2019

“The towns were the colour of a creamery tank, pewter.” The novelist Edna O’Brien was born in Tuamgraney in County Clare. Many of her books are infused with that peculiar Irish sense of locality. The father in A Pagan Place (1970), in which every character is frustrated to the point of madness, had this Celtic notion of place to an uncanny degree in those pre-GPS days. Snippet:

“When the car crossed from one county to the next your father knew although it was not written up. He knew the fence or the stone wall, or the tree, or whatever it was that marked the boundary between one county and the next. If there was something in particular that he pointed to, you tried to focus it but your stomach began to sway and the sway interfered with your vision. Excitement got the better of you. Each time when he said ‘Look’, you got dizzy and couldn’t see.”

A Pagan Place


Clare music: pipes and concertina and jigs

Tuesday, 16 July, 2019

The concertina player Liam O’Connor and the uilleann piper Cian Talty live beside each other in Glendine, just outside Miltown Malbay, the unofficial capital of Irish traditional music. Liam’s mother is the well-known tin whistle player, Bríd O’ Donohue, and Cian’s grandfather was Martin Talty, a dear friend of the legendary West Clare piper, Willie Clancy. Nuff said. Scaoil amach an bobailín!


The scandalously naked Burren

Monday, 15 July, 2019

The name means “stony place” and it is one of the strangest landscapes in Europe. What’s called The Burren occupies most of the top western corner of County Clare and this region of solid rock, which looks like a desert, is quite the opposite. Cattle are fattened by its limey grass and Arctic flowers blossom beside Mediterranean perennials between the niches of the limestone slabs. Emily Lawless (1845 – 1913) set her novel Hurrish (1886) in what she called this “Iron Land”. Snippet:

“Wilder regions there are few to be found, even in the wildest West of Ireland, than that portion of north Clare known to its inhabitants as the Burren. Seen from the Atlantic, which washes its western base, it presents to the eye a succession of low hills, singularly grey in tone — deepening often, towards evening, into violet or dull reddish plum colour — sometimes, after sunset, to a pale ghostly iridescence.

You picture them dotted over with flocks to sheep, which nibble on the sweet grass… But these Burren hills are literally not clothed at all. They are startlingly, I may say, scandalously naked.”


Peadar O’Loughlin, RIP

Tuesday, 24 October, 2017 1 Comment

Born in the parish of Kilmaley in County Clare on 6 November 1929, Peadar O’Loughlin was a traditional musician’s musician. He happily shared his tunes with a younger generation, typified by Ronan Browne and Maeve Donnelly, eager to learn a style that was sparsely ornamented but powerfully rhythmic, and his playing, on fiddle, flute and pipes, reflected a gentle, generous personality that will be very much missed.


Aeroplane of unrequited love

Friday, 5 May, 2017 0 Comments

He describes himself as “an electronic music producer obsessed by the culture of Ireland.” He’s Daithi. She describes herself as “Singer-songwriter-human, from Co. Kildare, Ireland.” She’s Sinéad White and the two of them wrote Aeroplane.

According to Daithi and Sinéad, the song was inspired by old Irish TV dramas from the 1980s and ’90s. “True to the people of Ireland at the time, the characters in these shows all seem to have a hard time expressing their feelings, and we wanted to write a song that imagined what was going on in their heads, while they stumbled through talking to their love interest. The video for the song uses footage from a short film that was shot in my home town Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, in the 1990s.”


Shamrock of stone

Friday, 17 March, 2017 0 Comments

When the British poet and war-time diplomat Sir John Betjeman visited the west of Ireland in the 1940s, he stayed with Lord Hemphill and his beautiful American wife Emily. She had met her titled husband while riding in the Borghese Gardens in Rome in 1926 and they married a year later in New York. The couple then moved to Tulira Castle, the Victorian bastion built in Galway by Edward Martyn and immortalized in George Moore’s Hail and Farewell. By the time Betjeman arrived, however, Emily was involved in a passionate affair with Ion Villiers-Stuart, as she revealed to him when they cycled through the primeval-looking landscape of The Burren. That day’s events led to one of Betjeman’s finest poems, Ireland with Emily. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Ireland with Emily

Bells are booming down the bohreens,
White the mist along the grass,
Now the Julias, Maeves and Maureens
Move between the fields to Mass.
Twisted trees of small green apple
Guard the decent whitewashed chapel,
Gilded gates and doorway grained,
Pointed windows richly stained
With many-coloured Munich glass.

See the black-shawled congregations
On the broidered vestment gaze
Murmer past the painted stations
As Thy Sacred Heart displays
Lush Kildare of scented meadows,
Roscommon, thin in ash-tree shadows,
And Westmeath the lake-reflected,
Spreading Leix the hill-protected,
Kneeling all in silver haze?

In yews and woodbine, walls and guelder,
Nettle-deep the faithful rest,
Winding leagues of flowering elder,
Sycamore with ivy dressed,
Ruins in demesnes deserted,
Bog-surrounded bramble-skirted —
Townlands rich or townlands mean as
These, oh, counties of them screen us
In the Kingdom of the West.

Stony seaboard, far and foreign,
Stony hills poured over space,
Stony outcrop of the Burren,
Stones in every fertile place,
Little fields with boulders dotted,
Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted,
Stone-walled cabins thatched with reeds,
Where a Stone Age people breeds
The last of Europe’s stone age race.

Has it held, the warm June weather?
Draining shallow sea-pools dry,
When we bicycled together
Down the bohreens fuchsia-high.
Till there rose, abrupt and lonely,
A ruined abbey, chancel only,
Lichen-crusted, time-befriended,
Soared the arches, splayed and splendid,
Romanesque against the sky.

There in pinnacled protection,
One extinguished family waits
A Church of Ireland resurrection
By the broken, rusty gates.
Sheepswool, straw and droppings cover,
Graves of spinster, rake and lover,
Whose fantastic mausoleum,
Sings its own seablown Te Deum,
In and out the slipping slates.

John Betjeman (1906 – 1984)

The Building, Ballylanders, Limerick, Ireland


Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted

Monday, 20 July, 2015 0 Comments

We’d like to thank Noel and Patricia and Shane Connolly for an excellent experience of the Burren. For them, here’s an excerpt from Ireland With Emily by Sir John Betjeman:

Stony seaboard, far and foreign,
Stony hills poured over space,
Stony outcrop of the Burren,
Stones in every fertile place,
Little fields with boulders dotted,
Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted,
Stone-walled cabins thatched with reeds,
Where a Stone Age people breeds
The last of Europe’s stone age race.

The Burren


The stone shamrock

Sunday, 17 March, 2013 0 Comments

When he visited County Galway in the west of Ireland, the British poet and diplomat John Betjeman stayed with Lord Hemphill and his beautiful American wife Emily. She had met her husband while riding in the Borghese Gardens in Rome in 1926. A year later they married in New York and moved to Tulira Castle, […]

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