|Adjacent to the church is a stone shrine believed to be older than the church and to mark the grave of St Cronan|
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Today has been sunless, still, overcast and wet but I have enjoyed my day immensely. This morning I spent writing in the cottage. This afternoon I donned the hat and calf-length raincoat I bought yesterday at Ennis and went out into the mist and rain in search of the remains of an early Christian church I understood to be somewhere across the fields from the cottage. As seems to be the case with a great deal of the Irish countryside, this area is littered with built evidence of human occupation and use and continuity of ideas since at least neolithic times. The most recent of these, satisfying a human need of an explanation for being, for some kind of god, is the seamless transition from Pagan to Christian.
Despite the remoteness of both the cottage and the church the stroll to it is remarkably well way-marked; first along tarmacked country lanes and then through fields divided by stone walls well provided with ancient-looking, lichen-covered stone stiles. The ruins of the small now roofless but well maintained church, dedicated to St Cronan of Roscrea, or Tuamgraney, possibly date from the 12th Century. A number of interesting romanesque carved heads have been built into the walls of the church. Adjacent to the church is a stone shrine believed to be older than the church and to mark the grave of St Cronan. As may be but, in common with so many ‘sacred’ places, the paddock containing the church and shrine did, for me, exude a powerful ‘atmosphere’ of peace and well-being. Today this feeling was somewhat enhanced by my believing, not without some concern, that I could hear there, or above the song of a Robin and the alarm call of a frightened Wren, almost hear snatches of ethereal sounding music.
I wandered along what passed as a path for a short distance beyond the church and stumbled upon a spring and a wishing well, concreted and obviously, judging by the healthy layer of coins at its bottom, very much in current use. Beside the ‘well’ was an earthen mound topped with a broken standing stone.
Returning to the cottage, I lingered at the roadside to gather rain-washed blackberries and while doing so was relieved to hear, loud now, the source of the ‘ethereal music’ I had imagined I had heard earlier; from a nearby cowshed I could clearly hear far from ethereal sounding pop music being blasted out from a radio within.
Hurrying back to the cottage under a lowering cloud base with rain falling with increasing determination I stopped briefly to photograph one of my hardier neighbours (Top photo). As I did so a flock of Curlew appeared from out of the mist behind me, wheeled above, piping mournfully, then flew low over a stone field wall to fade back into the rain-mist from whence they had come. This timeless awareness of the continuity of existence of all things, both animate and apparently inanimate, is something of a reality I think I may have been drawn here to find.
This morning, for the first time since, almost three weeks ago, I was on the ferry to Venice, I am feeling sufficiently relaxed to essay a blog post. Since my landfall at Venice I have been more or less continually moving. This had not been my intention but, in my case at least, the circumstances of travel have been mind altering. I had not expected the drive across Italy into France to be as easy as it happened to be. Arriving in France early in the evening of my first day of travel towards Ireland encouraged me to abandon my original plan, to move gently north and west, in favour of a new plan; to reach my chosen objective, Ireland, as soon as possible.
Shortly after emerging from the Mont Blanc tunnel I turned of the main road and booked into the delightful Aiguille du Midi at Les Bossons near Chamonix. Delightful in every respect but accordingly expensive, providing further encouragement to hurry on.
On the outskirts of Laon, a mediaeval town I have long wished to explore, I booked into an adequate if utilitarian hotel, equally expensive as the Aiguille du Midi but considerably less delightful. I would have liked to stay at Laon for a while and may, one day, make a dedicated visit but this time I had resolved, with some regret, to press on.
Only four days after leaving home, at about two o’clock on 16th September, I drove out of the shuttle train into the bright and sunny Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone. Shortly after I was enjoying, in an old haunt of mine, the Rose and Crown at Elham, a delicious pint of Kentish ale.
Since the idea of making Ireland my ultimate destination first entered my head, I had intended to visit en-route my sister in Scotland, a diversion made easy for me by having family and friends living at strategic distances along the way. An so it was that I broke my journey north at Canterbury, Boston and Glossop.
After spending four pleasant days with my sister I took a two hour catamaran ferry trip from Troon to Larne.
Ireland surprised me. I had expected it to be little different from Scotland, it is not, after all, so far away but it felt very different. Heading for the Giant’s Causeway I drove north along a beautiful coast road that snaked between the sea on my right and a patchwork of small, neat fields on the rolling hills on my left. Near Bushmills I booked into Islandcorr Farm B&B, which should have been an ideal base from which to write, sketch, paint and dream but, tired and disinterested, I did none of these things. I did however get some much needed exercise. During the morning of what was reported to be the warmest day of the summer I walked north along the lower coast path at the Giant’s causeway to the point at which it has been closed. In the afternoon I walked the whole of White Park beach, a huge stretch of tide washed sand on a part of which cattle were contentedly loitering; something I had never seen before.
From Antrim I headed, on a dreary and sometimes wet day, west and south through Derry, Donegal and Leitrim to Sligo where I loitered to pay my respects to Yeats. From Sligo I drove on through Mayo and Galway arriving in the early evening of 29th September at the Burren, County Clare where I have taken for a while a small, very basic, but adequate cottage.
Needing adequate ‘gear’, a waterproof coat and hat, and a means internet connection here I spent my first full day at Ennis, Clare’s largest town where I found everything I needed.
Ennis, in common with every town I have driven through in the Free State, is a wonderfully colourful collection of small independent shops and bars.
This is not much of a post and is certainly not the kind of post I hope to be making while away on my search for whatever it is for which I am looking but I wanted to have it out of the way; to clear the way perhaps for the kind of introspective posts I had come here to Ireland in part to essay to make.