Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Cillín

The cillín forms part of silent grief which was only really was discussed within the last years. There is a cillín in every parish, or rather between every parish, in the country. Many have been erased from the landscape, while others remain as a silent memory to a less compassionate era. I have photos of monuments to the cillín in Gone the Way of Truth. I came across this poem by Derry O'Sullivan while watching a documentary about the Oileán na Marbh, the island of the dead, which served as a cillín in Donegal. This poem, written in Irish with an English translation after it, is about a cillín in Cork.

Saolaíodh id bhás thú
is cóiríodh do ghéaga gorma
ar chróchar beo do mháthar
sreang an imleacáin slán eadraibh
amhail line ghutháin as ord.
Dúirt an sagart go rabhais ródhéanach
don uisce baiste rónaofa
a d'éirigh i Loch Bó Finne
is a ghlanadh fíréin Bheanntraí.
Gearradh uaithi thú
is filleadh thú gan ní
i bpáipéar Réalt an Deiscirt
cinnlínte faoin gCogadh Domhanda le do bhéal.
Deineadh comhrainn duit de bhosca oráistí
is mar requiem d'éist do mháthair
le casúireacht amuigh sa phasáiste
is an bhanaltra á rá léi
go raghfá gan stró go Liombó.
Amach as Ospidéal na Trócaire
d'iompair an garraíodóir faoina ascaill thú
i dtafann gadhar de shocraid
go gort neantógach
ar an dtugtar fós an Coiníneach.
Is ann a cuireadh thú
gan phaidir, gan chloch, gan chrois
i bpoll éadoimhin i dteannta
míle marbhghin gan ainm
gan de chuairteoirí chugat ach na madraí ocracha.
Inniu, daichead bliain níos faide anall,
léas i Réalt an Deiscirt
nach gcreideann diagairí a thuilleadh
gur ann do Liombó.
Ach geallaimse duit, a dheartháirín
nach bhfaca éinne dath do shúl
nach gcreidfead choice iontu arís:
tá Liombó ann chomh cinnte is atá Loch Bó Finne
agus is ann ó shin a mhaireann do mhathair,
a smaointe amhail neantóga á dó,
gach nuachtán ina leabhar urnaí,
ag éisteacht le leanaí neamhnite
i dtafann tráthnóna na madraí.

You were born dead
and your blue limbs were folded
on the living bier of your mother
the umbilical cord unbroken between you
like an out-of-service phone line.
The priest said it was too late
for the blessed baptismal water
that arose from Lough Bofinne
and cleansed the elect of Bantry.
So you were cut from her
and wrapped, unwashed,
in a copy of The Southern Star,
a headline about the War across your mouth.
An orange box would serve as coffin
and, as requiem, your mother listened
to hammering out in the hallway,
and the nurse saying to her
that you'd make Limbo without any trouble.
Out of the Mercy Hospital
the gardener carried you under his arm
with barking of dogs for a funeral oration
to a nettle-covered field
that they still call the little churchyard.

You were buried there
without cross or prayer
your grave a shallow hole;
one of a thousand without names
with only the hungry dogs for visitors.
Today, forty years on
I read in The Southern Star --
theologians have stopped believing
in Limbo.

But I'm telling you, little brother
whose eyes never opened
that I've stopped believing in them.
For Limbo is as real as Lough Bofinne:
Limbo is the place your mother never left,
where her thoughts lash her like nettles
and The Southern Star in her lap is an unread breviary;
where she strains to hear the names of nameless children

in the barking of dogs, each and every afternoon. 
Translated from the Irish by Kaarina Hollo

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tralee Museum

At first glance the town of Tralee does not really look as if it is more than 200 years old, a market town. It has however  a much older history though sadly the medieval town was raised to the ground during rebellions against the English in the 16th century. The picture above was taken in the town's very fine museum which illustrates among other things, Tralee's medieval past. It shows a mercenary soldier, a galloglass holding his claymore.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sculptures of Lynch's Castle, Galway City

Lynch's Castle is on Shop Street in Galway city. In the 17th century, all of the tribes, the merchant families who made Galway a wealthy city, had similar castles. Today, only this and Blake's Castle, close to the old medieval quay remain. Lynch's castle has a strange effigy of  an ape and a baby. According to legend, the animal saved the baby's life when a fire broke out in the castle. Note the Tudor coat of arms above the effigy. Galway was until 1916 a city very much loyal to the British crown. 

RIC Crest

An example of an RIC crest from Tralee RIC barracks. The force policed the island of Ireland, becoming the RUC (later PSNI) in Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána in the Free State (later Republic of Ireland) post 1922. Unlike  policemen in Britain, the RIC was an armed forced and the eyes and ears of the the British establishment in Ireland. The crest is on display at Tralee Museum.

The Casement Brigade

A rare picture of the Casement Brigade. The term 'brigade' is perhaps inappropriate as it only ever amounted to a handful of members. The picture forms part of an excellent exhibition at Tralee Museum.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Joe Howley Monument, Oranmore

 A monument to Joe Howley of the IRA who was shot dead on arrival at Broadstone Station, Dublin in 1920. His grave is located behind the old church in the village.

Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea

The grave of Michael A Hess (1952-1995) made famous in the movie Philomena, a film based on the book  The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mass Rock, Galway City

During the Penal Laws the Catholic Church was forbidden in Ireland but it did not put a stop to people practicing their religion and they gathered at remote spots to celebrate mass. This example shows a cross on top of the 'Sliding Rock' at Shantalla. 

The Grave of Michael Collins

The grave of Michael Collins at Glasnevin in Dublin is one of the most visited graves in the cemetery. Fresh flowers are placed there weekly. When the gravestone was erected in 1940, only one mourner, his brother, was allowed to attend. The then Taoiseach Eamon DeValera did not want to attract a crowd. 

Gone The Way of Truth Review

Tom Kenny, writing in his Old Galway column of The Galway Advertiser has mentioned my latest book.

In the second half of the 19th century, the overcrowded condition of the graveyards of Galway was an issue which faced the Town Commissioners. At a meeting in mid-April 1873, one person mentioned that in the previous 30 years, almost two and a half thousand burials had taken place in the little cemetery in The Claddagh, largely as a result of the Famine and its aftermath.
Fort Hill was also overcrowded and the committee there favoured the purchase of a three acre extension to the graveyard, but were afraid that the three acres might not be enough.
Among the sites being examined was one outside the immediate city area on Bohermore. The Bishop, Dr McEvilly, wrote a long letter of recommendation to the Commissioners, at the same time arguing against the Fort Hill idea. It was this letter which was largely responsible for the decision to site the cemetery in Bohermore. The site was bought from the board of the Erasmus Smith School. The older cemeteries in Galway with their ancient graves were to be closed. This gave rise to some discussion as to the condition of the graveyards in the city and in the surrounding area. Cattle and sheep were allowed to graze on some of them. The establishment of this new cemetery, which opened in 1873, was aimed to bring order and control into the whole question of interment and to give dignity to the last resting place of many Galway citizens.
The cemetery has two mortuary chapels, the western one is reserved for Catholic usage, the eastern one for Protestant usage. The Victorians liked to make memorials as ostentatious as possible, often with classical symbols like urns or columns, but people began to wonder about the suitability and cost of such monuments and after World War I and so much loss of life, the public attitude to ostentation and decoration was frowned on.
There are a number of literary people interred in the ‘new cemetery’ as it is still known, Lady Gregory, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Walter Macken, Arthur Colahan, George MacBeth, and William Joyce. There are 17 Commonwealth burials from the 1914-18 war there, and three from the 1939-45 period, and also some of those who were killed in the KLM air disaster.

All this information and much more can be found in a new book entitled Gone the Way of Truth, Historic Graves of Galway by Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill. This profusely illustrated volume is a valuable exploration of an underexplored part of our heritage and features graveyards from all over County Galway. Graveyards may be associated with morbidity but they can also be interesting places to explore and provide us with a window on our past. This book, which is published by History Press, certainly does that. In good bookshops at €18.