Nov 29, 2010

What Do You See? Part Two

Following up on my last post. I did not see everything you saw. How interesting! That cute, blue shop did not really look like an outdoor store, did it? And yes, the cow is fake, but it is standing outside a "butchery" so I guess it's advertisement.

It's true that the cars park all directions. One of my Irish friends told me he was surprised that in America you are supposed to park in the same direction on the side of the street.

I did see lots of CCTV signs. Maybe this is a Northern Ireland thing because of the troubles. I don't know. Someone should enlighten me. But it didn't bother me. We certainly have them all over in America.

Here's what I noticed that I thought was a bit out of character: the mini van. Not that the Irish don't drive them, but larger vehicles are rare. The streets lack the multitude of SUVs and large pickups that we have here. The reason is likely due in part to the narrow roads and in part to the high prices for fuel. Economy cars are the way to go.

I enjoyed hearing all your observations. How about another go at it? (And yes, there is another minivan, but trust me, there were not many. I just happened to take two photos of them!)

Nov 26, 2010

What Do You See?

Let's have fun here. Here's a shot I took in a town in Ireland. Sorry, I can't remember where. Could have been Bushmills, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I noticed a few unique things in this picture. What do you see? If you've been to Ireland before, is there anything you notice here that is a bit unusual?

Not everything is unique in this picture. What do you see here that is typical of Ireland?

Anything surprise you? I hope you'll all play along. I'll add my observations later. But I bet someone will notice something that I didn't!

Nov 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Glad you stopped by!

I'm not really here, you know. I'm at mom's enjoying thanksgiving dinner.

The topic of Thanksgiving came up when we were in Ireland. One of our friends told me that she celebrates Thanksgiving. Well, not really, she said, she just likes the food.

Ha! Isn't that what thanksgiving is all about in the US too?

I found this Q&A from someone the UK to folks in the US amusing. Especially the different definitions of what jam and jelly is. You might enjoy it too.

Seriously, I hope you take time to count your blessings and see what God has done.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 24, 2010

Fairy Bushes

There are fairy bushes or trees growing in Ireland. That probably doesn't surprise you, I bet. If you are superstitious, you will not cut one down or disturb it in any way. These trees are using hawthorns. Apparently the folks at the Saint Patrick Centre are not superstitious because they transplanted this one in their rooftop garden. Maybe the fairies won't mind since the garden is a collection of all things Irish.

One fairy tree caused a major highway to be re-routed, which according to one report I read delayed the project by ten years. Ten years! I can't imagine why going around it took so long, but then I'm not superstitious, so....

A man named Eddie Lenihan, a storyteller who apparently believes what he preaches, objected when the road was planned because an important fairy tree was in the way. He said it was the meeting point for fairies from Munster when they are preparing to battle the fairies in Connaught. The road was moved and apparently the fairies now can enjoy the ease of travel along the nearby highway like everyone else. Hmm...wonder how the fairies in Connaught feel about that. If Lenihan was actually helping the Munster fairies out, maybe he should watch out for those Connaught fairies who might be seeking revenge.

But since this all took place eleven years ago, maybe it's all settled. So, if you thought belief in the fairies was an ancient practice, think again!

We took the photograph below while we were driving somewhere in the vicinity of the Antrim coast in the north. Obviously these farmers went to a lot of trouble to stay clear of this tree!

Nov 22, 2010

Two Surprises in Ireland

Palm trees???
Actually, I did know about this, but I didn't expect there to be so many of them. The weather is moderate enough to allow them to grow (they are not native, by the way) but they don't
necessarily thrive there. My question is why??? Why plant one? I don't think they are attractive and let's not pretend we're in Florida.

The other surprising thing (and I did not know about this before I went) is that fuchia grows wild in Ireland in big huge bushes. They are beautiful. I approve. :-/

Just wanted to share.

Nov 19, 2010

The Magpie

Driving around Ireland we noticed large black and white birds that seemed to be everywhere. Once while a friend was driving us, Tom asked what it was. "Oh, those magpies!" the friend replied, and he counted them whenever they flew by. He explained that there is a poem that tells you that seeing one by itself was bad luck. Of course, after that we started counting them, and wouldn't you know it. Half the time we saw a lone bird. But no worries, as soon as we saw another one we added it to the total, never admitting we saw one by itself. ;-)

We didn't take any photographs of them so I borrowed the one above. (Wouldn't want to pretend that we are that good at photography!) Here is the poem (there are a couple of versions):

One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that's best to miss.

More magpie folklore from BBC news:

"Large blackbirds, like crows and ravens, are viewed as evil in British folklore and white birds are viewed as good," he says. "Magpies have a dubious reputation because they are a bit of both. Over the years they have been lumped in with blackbirds."

The negative connotations attached to magpies can be traced as far back as Shakespeare's time, when their "chattering" was complained about.

In the late 19th Century, superstitions circulated locally, says Mr Roud. So, in Durham in the 1880s, it was believed they were the only bird not to go on the ark with Noah, preferring to sit outside "jabbering over the drowning world".

Nov 18, 2010

Downpatrick Cathedral

Downpatrick Cathedral in County Down, Northern Ireland, sits elevated above the city streets and is a beautiful place. During the 7-8th century a Christian monastery occupied the hill where the cathedral now sits. This monastery, like so many others, was victim to frequent Viking attacks and in the 11th century a round tower was built beside a stone church, apparently better to withstand attack. The round tower was taken down in 1790, sadly. (Personally it's interesting to me to note that my ancestors would have seen it because they left the area around 1770. It would have been in ruins then.) The remains of the round tower was then used to restore the stone church.

But most interesting (for us today and for pilgrims for centuries) is that the area was said to hold the earthly remains of St. Patrick. In 1900 a granite slab was placed over his grave (to discourage grave robbers.)

The grave was also supposed to hold the remains of the other patron saints of Ireland, St. Brigid and St. Columcille (Columba.)

Below is a picture of St. Patrick's grave apparently before 1900.


It is generally accepted that the main walls of the Cathedral date from the years after 1220. Then the monks, in a petition to Henry III, King of England, referred to the fact that the House of Saint Patrick, which had often been destroyed and burned, was being rebuilt again. Further destruction took place during the wars with Edward Bruce in 1316 and finally, on the suppression of the monasteries in 1541, the Cathedral was laid waste. Notwithstanding its ruinous state which lasted until 1790, King James I granted a Charter to the Cathedral in 1609, providing for a Dean and Chapter. The Charter also decreed that the Cathedral should be dedicated to the Holy Trinity, as the former Celtic church had been before the arrival of de Courcy. Rather than lose the connection with Patrick, the name began to be used for the growing town, which assumed the name Downpatrick.

Although successive deans continued to be installed within the ruined walls, there were no funds to rebuild the Cathedral until 1790 when Wills Hill, the Earl of Hillsborough (and afterwards first Marquess of Downshire), along with the then Dean, the Honourable and Reverend William Annesley, provided the impetus to commence the restoration.

The interior of the cathedral is much newer than the exterior but still old by American standards.

Nov 17, 2010

Glenstal Abbey

My friend from Dublin, Patrick Comerford, gave me The Glenstal Book of Prayer when I visited him. I did not go to the Glenstal Abbey, which is in County Limerick, but I'm enjoying the book and finding it very meaningful. It's a Benedictine abbey. I found this lovely version of the Beatitudes on YouTube and wanted to share it with you.

Nov 12, 2010

Clough Castle

There are so many ruins in Ireland you could just drive by them and not notice them, especially those lying in the midst of modern settlement, like Clough Castle. Our hosts, Alister and Eileen McReynolds, stopped their car on a busy road to allow us to get out and take a look.

Clough Castle is an earthwork Norman structure built for defense. I suppose all castles were built for defense, but this one employed an elaborate earthwork. We had to climb to get to the ruins.
In the picture above you can see that timber buildings were thought to be part of the structure. An excavation of the site showed that a palisade had stood at the top of the motte. The castle was originally built in the 11th century, added to and changed in the following centuries and the stone keep that remains was built sometime in the 13th or 14th century. A hundred or so years later the stone keep was rebuilt into a tower house.

I think it's interesting how modern towns have grown around these ruins. Most of the ancient sites are protected, of course, but these ruins are just part of the landscape now, something that just amazes me, an American tourist.
Below is the view from the castle. It was definitely worth the hike!

Nov 10, 2010


When Saint Patrick first came to Ireland as a missionary, he landed at Saul where he converted the chieftain Dichu. Dichu then gave him a barn to hold services (in Gaelic, Sabhail, which became Saul). In 1933 the church above was built to commemorate Saint Patrick's first church. It is a Church of Ireland (Episcopal) and service is held there still on Sunday mornings.

Saul is also supposed to be the site of Saint Patrick's death on March 17 in the year 461 AD.

These pictures are from inside the church.

Below I'm signing the guestbook.
The feeling I experienced when I walked inside the church is hard to explain--peaceful, calming. It was almost as though I could sense the centuries of worshippers who came to that place.

Saul is near the ruins of Saint Tassach's church at Raholp. Tassach was a disciple of Saint Patrick, and was supposedly the one who was with Patrick when he died at Saul. This is supposed to be one of Ireland's earliest Christian buildings, although I haven't yet discovered just old it is supposed to be. The earliest churches were probably built of wood and thus did not survive.

The church at Saul, like so many of the holy sites, is built atop a wind swept hill with a magnificent view. The picture below takes in part of that view. In the distance you can see the gigantic statue of Saint Patrick. (It's the stick like thing sticking up on the hill far in the distance.) You can read more about that statue here. We did not visit this time, but it's on our list for next time.

If you get to Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland, be sure to visit the church at Saul.

Nov 8, 2010

Struell Wells

Downpatrick and nearby Saul are associated with Saint Patrick because the area is said to be the location where he first founded churches. That is why the claim that he also visited and bathed and blessed the wells at Struell in County Down is not far fetched, even if not proven.

What is known is that the wells were sites of pilgrimage from Medieval times. The day we visited Dr. Tim Campbell of the Saint Patrick Centre showed us around. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were the only visitors.

You can see the remains of a chapel built there in the 18th century and never finished (although I don't have a picture of it here.) The springs were visited before the buildings were built around them. None of the buildings is thought to be older than 1600 AD. Like many of the holy sites in Ireland, this was a pagan holy site that was taken over by the early Christians. There is a men's and women's bath house, an eye healing well, and a drinking well. Inside the drinking well, which is roofed, you can see the wicker framework of the roof--well, at least we tried to see it. It was very dark in there! Tom took this picture. Remember, it's an upside down view of the inside roof.

I discovered that the National Library of Ireland has late 19th to early 20th century images from glass negatives on their site. I found many of the sites that I visited in Ireland and I found it interesting to compare how much they changed (or in some cases didn't change) in the last 100 or so years. Here are some of Struell Wells.

Nov 5, 2010

Why I Went North

This picture is in Downpatrick on a street where my Little ancestors probably walked.

Tom and I spent most of our trip to Ireland in the north. That sounded odd both to people here and to the people in Northern Ireland. But I don't regret the decision. Many of the sites I've written about are in Northern Ireland, as were some of the friends I had met over here. We didn't often run into other Americans while we were there. Wherever we went, after we spoke to someone, they looked surprised and said, "You're Americans!" They would always ask us where we were from. When we said Ohio, they said, "Oh" and nodded their heads. We told them it was okay if they didn't know where Ohio was. Many of them had been to New York,Boston, California, or Florida. "We're in the middle," we told them.

I think more tourists should go to Northern Ireland. It's beautiful, uncrowded, and welcoming. There is just as much history and ancient ruins and such. We ate at some wonderful places in small towns.

Many of the tourists who do go to Northern Ireland go there to research their ancestry. We didn't do any research on this trip,
but we did note the places that our ancestors
came from. Mine were from Downpatrick, County Down, and Tom's from Magherafelt, County Londonderry. Driving through the countryside where they probably roamed and on the street where they probably drove their
wagons or carts was inspiring. I've done the same thing in parts of this country where my ancestors lived. You can tell why they settled in eastern Pennsylvania (Tom's ancestors) and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (my ancestors) when you see what that part of Ireland looks like. They felt at home with the landscape, I'm sure.

When we go back to Ireland (we were talking about going back before we even left)
I want to see other areas of Ireland, and Scotland too. But this time I got to go where I wanted to go. I'm sitting at my computer now and wishing I was back there. That memory of green will never leave me. It was amazing.


Nov 4, 2010

Baa, Baa, Orange Sheep?

I took this picture in Ballycastle on the Antrim coast. The farmers in Ireland mark their sheep (many are free range) with spots of paint to identify them, but this was different. They are all orange! No one at our B&B could explain this, so I Google it. Still couldn't find much of an explanation, but others have seen them too in various places on the British Isles. I found this YouTube video.

Don't worry. There are still plenty of woolly white sheep in Ireland, tons in fact. Hopefully this trend won't catch on. Know anything about this? Let me know.

Nov 1, 2010

My Trip in a Nutshell

This is just an overview.

Basically, we started our trip by visiting
Newgrange, which is a prehistoric monument in County Meath in the beautiful River Boyne valley. I'll be blogging more about Newgrange at the Winter Solstice. After that we headed to Northern Ireland.

We were told that you could not tell when you crossed the border, and that's absolutely true. We drove to Moira in County Down, a small town that our friend Alister McReynolds told us would be
central to what I wanted to see. It's a beautiful place and a quaint little town.

The next day we drove to Downpatrick (I'll probably blog at some point about the challenge of driving on the opposite side of the road. Tom did the driving, but the navigating--my part--was almost as difficult!). Our B&B in Moira was Ballycanal.

Our friend Tim Campbell is the director of the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick. We had tea in his
office and then explored the centre, which is an interactive museum detailing the life and ministry of St. Patrick. It is very well done--and they have a cool gift shop as well! (That's Tim and me in the garden behind the St. Patrick Centre.)

Then he treated us to lunch and a tour that included the Down Cathedral, St. Patrick's grave, the church at Saul (the site of St. Patrick's first church and what the Irish call a "thin place")
and more.

The next day Alister and his delightful wife Eileen picked us up at our B&B and took us to more sites. Tom told them I wanted to see old places, so we saw Inch Abbey, Dundrum castle, and more. The next day was Sunday and they again picked us up to attend their church, St. George's in Belfast, a beautiful church. After a brief tour of Belfast, which included the McReynolds treating us to tea and scones at the Merchant (Google it. I didn't get pictures.) they delivered us back to our B&B. In the picture below we are at Newcastle, a beautiful coastal town.

I'm wondering why Eileen's hair looks so nice and mine is being blown all over?

The next day we went (if I'm remembering correctly) to Antrim and the sites there. We also went to Armagh and toured the two St. Patrick's Cathedrals, one Catholic and one Church of Ireland

We met Tim again, and he took us to more places, including the Northern Ireland Assembly where he introduced us to Basil McCrea, a legislator.

Basil gave us a guided tour and even permitted us to sit in and listen for a few minutes as a bill was being debated.

The picture is with Basil McCrea on the balcony of the building overlooking Belfast.

Before we said to goodbye to Tim we met him in Holywood for...not tea, but coffee!

Michael McCullough of the Ulster-Scots Agency invited us to a 2 person play titled The Boat Factory. We enjoyed it although we didn't understand all the humor and had some trouble with the dialect. It was a neat experience, though.

We saw many castles, and ruins, lots of sheep and cattle and swans, ate lots of good food and met folks from England, Scotland, and Germany. We saw many more things than I'm mentioning now, but I'll be blogging about them in the future.

We briefly visited a monastery in Rostrevor at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. It was there, however, that we learned my father went to hospice back home and we tried without luck to return to the US early. Not being able to, we went up to the Antrim coast and Giant's Causeway--an absolutely beautiful place.

I learned later that at the hour my father passed away peacefully, we were observing a full rainbow. I understood what God was trying to tell me.

When we returned to Dublin, and before we boarded our plane home, we met Patrick Comerford who treated us to the Book of Kells exhibit, where we also saw the Book of Durrow and the Book of Armagh. He also showed us around Dublin and gave us a personal tour of the Cathedral, which we really enjoyed. His gift of a prayer book and expressions of sympathy really touched my heart. I had never met Patrick, a priest in the Church of Ireland, in person before, and his kindness and personal attention that afternoon was a fitting end to our trip. When we left him we went to the National Museum of Ireland and saw many of the treasures that I had previously only seen in books and written about. That was wonderful. A special treat was finding my book, Celtic Wisdom, on sale at their bookshop!

That was my trip in a nutshell. Like I said, there is much, much more to tell. It was a wonderful experience with a bittersweet ending. I spoke to my father right before we left the country. He said he was glad I was going on my trip. The rainbow told me I would see him again one day in heaven.