Thursday, 15 March 2007

Go West

Looking for some wilder remoter areas we headed West initially towards Glencolumbkille ( or Gleann Cholm Cille in Irish Gaelic, seeing as how this area is part of a Gaeltacht or Gaelic speaking area) County Donegal. . We went via Londonderry, or Derry as it is known in the South, Limavady, Strabane, Stranorlar, Ballbofey, Donegal and Killybegs. Killybegs is the largest fishing port in Ireland, so the Town name sign informed us. We got there after dark and reached as far as Carrick ( An Charraig) and decided to stop. We got some groceries from the local shop (not just for local people!) where we bought some wine, apparently the shops sell bottles of wine but you have to buy bottled beer from the pub! After being informed that there were no campsites nearby the woman at the shop assured us that we could stop in the large carpark by the shop if we tucked into the side so that the Garda ( Garda Siochana – Guardians of the Peace, in other words the Police) wouldn’t bother us. The Garda didn’t bother us…I wish they had come past as from around 9pm ‘til 1am at least, the local boy racers buzzed up and down the street doing ‘doughnuts’ in the carpark… they also thought it funny to beep their horns quite a lot too!

We moved off pretty early in the morning and carried on to Glencolumbkille, as the signs advised us that there were megalithic tombs and Dolmens to be found there. We stopped and hunted around and even asked some people there but were unable to locate these massive structures!! We did however find this lovely beach with fantastic surf waves.

And this little folk museum with a thatched roof.

Looking at the map we decided to head for the Belmullet (Beal an Mhuirthead) peninsula or Achill Island ( Oilean Acla) Co. Mayo, as they looked even more remote. On our way back we stopped at a layby just outside Dunkineely as we had picked up a wifi signal and were trying to catch up with emails etc. A little green car drew up on the other side of the road and an elderly gentleman approached us. He introduced himself as Mike Gorman who lived in Dunkineely. He told us he had been thinking of getting a campervan and inquired where we bought ours etc. We invited him in, showed him around and gave him info re Ebay (where we bought the ‘van from). We gave him our email address ( and he gave us his. Funnily enough he also names his old dog Henry in his email as we have our old dog Womble in ours. He explained that he writes children’s stories entitled Henry and Me about this dog who has no back legs, and that he also writes poetry and admires W B Yeats. He quoted Yeats’ “ The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

He then asked us to wait while he went home to bring back some info on Yeats for us and copies of some of his own poetry. He was gone quite a while, and explained when he returned that he had written a poem about us and our meeting. This is a copy of what he gave us –

At the Roadside

This place is like a magic carpet
The changing weather causing,
A continuous mood change to the sea.

The wind is moving the waves like a painter
Wielding his stubborn brush,
Creating a beauty in colour and shade.

Sea splashes and hazy rain on his
Jacket reflecting the sunbursts and
Glinting, glinting..

Now and then a melody on the wind
A piano – In this wind,
I raise my field glasses

And there in the distance a large house
Still larger windows, - overlooking the sea,
There she is ---Playing at her piano.

No wonder the Irish have stories about
Banshees and goolies and things that go
Bang – in the Knight ---‘Knight?’

‘Oh’ yes dear lady. A Knight, I hear you say,
‘Oh yea’, ‘Oh yea’, It was a knight,
Riding the biggest Sea Horse you ever saw.

A magic carpet of green.
Each time I step on it I hear another Legend.

I should
have stayed in bed.

Mike -------I think

Julie and Peter Hope you find your
Green field, yea I’m sure you will

Mike Gorman, at the roadside.
St. Valentine’s Day ‘07

This is another one of Mike’s poems, an homage to his hero, I think?


Ben Bul Bin, I am here
Not to see you did I come,
To see a friend at Drumcliffe,
To get some business done.

I feel the pull towards you come
When I enter your domain,
That towering mount above me
The footprint of Ben Bul Bin.

The awesome presence I felt, therein
Ben Bul Bin, when I came
The footprint of the ice is there
So glad am I to feel your name.

Names and stories of the past
Call out to me, I feel them,
I can’t ignore these feelings now
As I gaze on you Ben Bul Bin

Now to your home I came my friend
To learn your ill therein,
So no approach, I’ll make tonight
I’ll turn towards Ben Bul Bin.

I cast my shadow at your door
I’d like to say hello,
To leave you in Peace, tonight my friend
Towards Ben Bul Bin I go.

Ben Bul Bin, I am here
Not to see you did I come,
To see a friend at Drumcliffe
To get some business done.

WB Yeats is buried in the cemetery at St Columba’s Parish church in Drumcliffe under the shadow of the mountain Ben Bulben near Sligo. His Self-penned epitaph on his grave reads –

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death
Horseman, pass by!

Some time later I visited and read some of Yeats’ poetry, I particularly like this one –

Men Improve with Years

I am worn out with dreams;
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams;
And all day long I look
Upon this lady's beauty
As though I had found in a book
A pictured beauty,
Pleased to have filled the eyes
Or the discerning ears,
Delighted to be but wise,
For men improve with the years;
And yet, and yet,
Is this my dream, or the truth?
O would that we had met
When I had my burning youth!
But I grow old among dreams,
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams.

The weather took a turn for the worse on our way round the coast, blowing a gale and raining stair-rods so we unfortunately didn’t manage to go and pay homage Yeats’ grave.

We stopped in Bundoran to get some milk and bread etc and were advised by the woman in the shop “not to stop and camp in Bundoran or we’d get ‘riddled’”!! We were not too sure what this meant, but decided not to hang around and find out. We managed to find a pitch at a campsite that was closed but they let us stay on their hard standing seeing as how we are self-sufficient. Pretty uninspiring and unwelcoming really!!

The next place we stopped, Ballycroy Co. Mayo, was much better. We had to stop on the way as the weather continued to worsen and we took stopped at Cleary’s pub and grocer shop and were permitted to pitch up in their car park for the night, just as the storm came to a head with thunder and lightning above our heads. We had tea then spent the evening in the pub playing pool and drinking Smithwicks!!
Cleary's bar and grocery shop with Ballycroy Post Office at right angles!
Irish Post Offices, post boxes and vans are green!

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