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Tag: Glen of Aherlow

Today is Saint Edmund’s Day. It’s personal

Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

According to Bernard Burke’s Vicissitudes of Families, the banner of Saint Edmund, with its three crowns on a blue background, was among those borne during the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. The bearers included Maurice FitzGerald, Robert Fitz-Stephen, Redmund Fitz-Hugh, Meiler FitzHenry and Robert Fitz-Bernard. From then on, Saint Edmund’s banner became the standard for Ireland during the Plantagenet era. By the way, Richard de Clare and Raymond le Gros, who featured prominently in the Norman invasion, dedicated a chapel of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to Saint Edmund.

The banner of Saint Edmund Who was Saint Edmund? Well, when the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia in 869, the obscure King Edmund led the resistance and he met his death on 20 November at a place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Vikings’ demand that he renounce Christ. They beat him, tied him to a tree, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba. Legend has it that his head was then thrown into the forest but was found by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling out, in Latin, Hic, Hic, Hic (“Here, Here, Here”.)

The name Edmund, which is also spelled Edmond, contains the elements ēad (“prosperity, riches”) and mund (“protector”). The Irish Gaelic forms are Éamon, Éaman and Éamann. The corresponding Anglicised forms are Eamon and Eamonn.

Your blogger’s grandfather on the maternal side was Edmond O’Donnell. He is buried in the graveyard of Lisvernane Church in the Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary.


Carraig an Thorabh

Monday, 19 February, 2018 0 Comments

That’s the Boar’s Rock and it’s the high point of a loop walk in the Glen of Aherlow that extends along Sliabh na Muc (the Mountain of the Pigs). Recommended.

Carraig an Thorabh


The well of mystery

Sunday, 31 January, 2016 0 Comments

It was my mother’s custom to fill bottles with water from each holy well she visited. “A neighbor from another world / Residing in a jar / Whose limit none has ever seen” is how Emily Dickinson describes the mystical spirit, the magical genii, that was conserved in those bottles. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson contains 1,775 of her compositions. Number 1,400 begins: “What mystery pervades a well!” Here, the well is not just a vital source of water but a spring of spiritual refreshment.

In the fifth verse, Dickinson issues a stern warning about the arrogance of those who fail to respect “nature”, with its “ghost” of the supernatural, and she concludes by addressing a universal remorse: The regret “That those who know her, know her less / The nearer her they get.”

What mystery pervades a well!

What mystery pervades a well!
That water lives so far–
A neighbor from another world
Residing in a jar

Whose limit none have ever seen,
But just his lid of glass–
Like looking every time you please
In an abyss’s face!

The grass does not appear afraid,
I often wonder he
Can stand so close and look so bold
At what is awe to me.

Related somehow they may be,
The sedge stands next the sea–
Where he is floorless
And does no timidity betray

But nature is a stranger yet;
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

Going to the well for water: St. Pecaun's well is at the eastern end of the Glen of Aherlow, between Bansha and Cahir

Going to the well for water: St. Pecaun’s Well is at the eastern end of the Glen of Aherlow, between Bansha and Cahir in Tipperary


The thirteenth Station: Love

Sunday, 6 December, 2015 0 Comments

The union that was celebrated by the wedding guests on 16 June 1952 at Riversdale House in the Glen of Aherlow witnessed many wonders in the 63 years of its fortunate existence. None was more wondrous than that expressed in the two words “rural electrification.” It would prove to be the tipping point for the enterprise that became the happy couple’s mission in life.

Daddy and Mammy

When many of today’s generation hear about rural electrification, they think either of the developing world or of ancient agrarian history. For my parents, however, their marriage year coincided with the electrification of rural Ireland. It was a happy coincidence because electrification was the difference between power and powerlessness, between past and future, between regression and progress. Tellingly, my mother and father rarely used the word “electricity”. They referred to it as “the light”. If, during a storm, a transformer was affected and power was cut off, the first thing that was noticed was the outage of the electric light as represented by the Sacred Heart lamp in the kitchen. “The light’s gone,” was the phrase that was used to declare the loss of electricity. The use of light as a synonym for electricity was significant in that the alternative state was darkness, with all its metaphorical connotations.

During the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond the first decade of the 21st century, mother and father devoted themselves to raising their family, expanding their business and establishing an envied presence as an example of wisdom, respect and integrity in their community. Such are the rewards of the thing called love, which is, in the long run, unique to each couple, their personalities, their dreams and their principles.

An anecdote sums up what love meant to my mother. One evening last year, her great companion Bridget Fitzgerald arrived with the latest recording by the rural heartthrob, Nathan Carter. We drank tea, listened to songs and then, Bridget holding up the CD cover featuring the handsome Nathan, said, “Kit, wouldn’t you like to wake up in the morning and seen him in the bed beside you?”

My mother glanced at the toothful Nathan and then looked up at the wedding photo from June 1952 and said, “Bridge, if I could, I’d have the same fella again.” Such was love.

Tomorrow, here, our final station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Legacy.


The fourth Station: Faith

Friday, 27 November, 2015 0 Comments

When pilgrims visit Saint Sedna’s Well in the grounds of Clonbeg Church in the heart of the Glen of Aherlow, they tie a piece of cloth on the overhanging tree and bless themselves with its water. Faith and folklore have it that this water will cure eye ailments.

Saint Sedna's Well

My mother’s faith was a theatre of belief and the stage props included places of pilgrimage, holy wells, blessed medals, prayer books, rosary beads, candles and relics. Her spiritualism had all the hallmarks of a Catholicism that was deeply influenced by the elements and the environment. In this way, it harkened back to an ancient time when other-worldly powers could be called upon to help with suffering that no earthly treatment could heal. This confidence in “cures” was also rooted in the memories of the poverty when when people could not afford conventional medical treatment. Even when the rising tide of modest prosperity that swept over rural Ireland in the second half of the 20th century and provided greater access to doctors and hospitals, Saint Sedna’s and Saint Pecaun’s holy wells always offered hope when the diagnosis was grim.

Faith was the glue that held my mother’s notion of community together. Funerals were occasions of grief, of course, but the murmured rosary declared by the bereaved and their friends helped to soften the loss. Happy occasions were enriched by mass and precious memories were kept alive with the help of lighted candles. More candles were brought out when exams threatened or illness occurred. No trip could be made without a sprinkle of holy water on those leaving the house.

Faith was also an occasion for excursions to Knock, Lough Derg, Rome and Lourdes. It was a bond between the believers and it gave them an excuse to talk and laugh. Faith was friendship.

Above all, faith provided the strength to endure. Regardless of the hardships and the humiliations, faith gave comfort. Yes, misfortune was complained about, but it had to be “offered up” and the prayers continued to be said and the candles were lit. The faith was kept.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Writing.


Clonbeg Churchyard

Thursday, 20 August, 2015 0 Comments

Clonbeg Church is located in the Glen of Aherlow and its origins as a sacred place are associated with Saint Sedna, a 6th-century Bishop of Ossory. Today, it is a Church of Ireland property with both a Protestant and a Catholic burial ground. Many of the fascinating headstones date back to early 1700’s, but this one is from the 20th century.

Clonbeg Church


Sixty years ago today

Monday, 18 June, 2012

“Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all. Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses, Saturday no luck at all.” — Wedding day proverb. On Wednesday, 18 June 1952, Michael Fitzgerald and Catherine O’Donnell were married in the village of Lisvernane, County Tipperary. The ceremony was followed by a meal at the […]

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