Geashill – Tree Project Award!

Last year I mentioned that my home village Geashill was running a Trees for Family scheme, as part of its general Tidy Towns project.

Well Geashill was awarded Joint Winner of the Tree Project Award and my dad was present to accept the award (with his co-conspiritor Michael Guinan!).

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Home Tourist – traditional music

While at the Hotel Doolin, we were delighted when two (local?) musicians staying playing.

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Home tourist – Doolin, Co. Clare

Am home for a family wedding! Huzzah! 

We’re staying in Doolin, an incredibly picturesque costal village and the access point to the Aran islands (so I’ve definitely been here before as a childling). 

Doolin Peer    

  Which was sad because – storm Gertrude aside – I was really looking forward to a dip…  
  Not the greatest videos in the world, but that noise you hear is wind! And it was powerful and awesome to behold!! 

MUSIC VIDEO – The Chieftains

A Breton Carol

MUSIC REVIEW – Granuaile

The title is a shocking lie. This is less a review and more a plea for someone else to fall in love with this incredible album so that I have someone to talk to and squee about it with.


Written by Shaun Davey for Rita Connolly, this album chronicles the life story of Grace O’Malley (c. 1530 – c. 1603; also Gráinne O’Malley, Irish: Gráinne Ní Mháille – isn’t wikipedia handy?). The album was released in 1985…which means that I’ve likely been listening to it since I was three years old. 

[spotify spotify:user:drneevil:playlist:7f3QeG1YUv4b8g8Oq7oqGe]

A hauntingly beautiful mix of classical and Irish folk music, my preference has always been to listen to the whole album, in order. However, if you’re looking for a quick sample, check out the second track – Ripples in the Rock Pools.


Within moments, I feel transported to a different time, as though I am witness to a younger, wilder Ireland. The music somehow manages to capture the spirit of the sea as well as that of the woman riding the waves. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Rita Connolly singing these songs*. The album was created with her in mind and she delivers on every single track. Her voice can be gentle, pure and dreamy or raspy, powerful and dominant, depending on the story being told; the chapter in Grace O’Malley’s life.

I was going to write a little bit about Granuaile and the meaning behind the songs. However, I found the sleeve notes from the album, which covers both far more eloquently and comprehensively than I could.

From the Granuaile album 

The songs on this album are based on a mixture of legend and fact surrounding the life of Grace O’Malley. While legend states she was a ‘pirate queen` the facts show she was an extremely courageous woman who stood up for her rights during the turbulent 16th century, a period of great social and political change in Ireland. Furthermore, she defended her rights not just as a woman but as chieftain and commander of a fleet of war and trading ships with which she dominated the waters off Western Ireland. By land she stormed and defended castles, engaged in the then favourite Irish practice of cattle-rustling, gave birth to four children and in general showed she was equal if not the better of any man.

Dubhdrarra was Grace’s father, she was raised in the O’Malley family home on Clare Island at the mouth of Clew Bay, Co. Mayo. Her first husband, known variously as Donal-an-Cholgaidh, (‘of the battles’), and Donal-an-Cullagh, (`the Cock’), was reputedly killed by the Joyce for seizing one of their castles. This became known as Caislean-an-Circa (`Hens Castle’) following Grace’s successful defence against English soldiers from Galway. The beacon on the Hill of Doon was one in a chain of signals erected by Grace throughout her territory.

Hugh de Lacy is said to be the name of a man she rescued from shipwreck during a storm off the coast of Achill. Grace avenged his death by slaying those responsible and taking their castle.

The ‘Hen’s March’ includes a reference to Grace’s liking for gambling and her imprisonment in Dublin.

Richard-an-Iarainn was her second husband whom she is said to have divorced under Brehon Law with the words `I dismiss you’. The marriage produced Grace’s favourite son, Tibbot (later 1st Viscount Mayo) and she remained on good terms with her ex-husband, supporting him politically until his death in 1583.

At this time Irish tribal politics of feud and allegiance reached new extremes of confusion due to the gradual replacement of the old Gaelic system by English Law and custom. Sir Richard Bingham is generally reckoned to have been the most ruthless of Queen Elizabeth’s governors in Connaught where he showed little sympathy towards those slow to adapt. In 1588 approximately half the Spanish Armada was wrecked down the length of Ireland’s western coastline. Fearing an invasion the English authorities took steps to ensure that those who survived were either imprisoned or slaughtered. Three months later Bingham was able to report to Elizabeth `the men of these ships all perished save 1,100 or more which were put to the sword’.

In 1593 Grace O’Malley, then well into her sixties, sailed to London to appeal directly to Elizabeth against Bingham’s continued harassment of both herself and members of her family. What these two formidable women said to each other is not recorded but it is known that Grace returned to Ireland with the concessions she sought granted, Capo da Buona Esperanca was the 16th Century name for the Cape of Good Hope; `as near to heaven by sea as by land` a contemporary seaman’s proverb.

(I don’t know who exactly wrote this, but if you do, let me know and I’ll credit!)



1. Dubhdarra
Dubhdarra he’s a-sailing
Far out in the blue ocean
Far beyond the misty mountain
On the sun stream he’s riding with the wind

Lost in a million dips and hollows
Swallowed in the racing horses
Dubhdarra will always return
To take me up in his arms

Angels hasten into the daylight
As the shadows fade away
And the rainclouds move among the islands
Far down in Clew Bay

I am waiting, waiting on the white shelled sand
In the sea garden drifting far out to sea
I’m sailing far out to sea

Dubhdarra he’s a-sailing
Far out in the blue ocean
Flying canvas with the seagulls
In the freedom of a kind and gentle wind

Angels hasten into the daylight
As the shadows fade away
And the rainclouds move among the islands
Far down in Clew Bay

I am waiting, waiting on the white shelled sand
In the sea garden drifting far out to sea
I’m sailing far out to sea.

2. Ripples in the Rockpools,
Ripples in the water of the rockpool sun
Ripples in the water of the rockpool sun
Ripples in the water of the rockpool sun
And the boats are in for winter

Donal-an-Chogaidh will you marry me
Donal-an-Chogaidh will you marry me
Donal-an-Chogaidh will you marry me
Will I carry your three children?

Ripples in the rockpools, ripples in the sea
Ripples in the sand dunes rolling into Connemara
Ripples in the rockpools, ripples in the sea
Ripples in the sand dunes rolling into Connemara

Donal-an-Chogaidh will you sail with me
Donal-an-Chogaidh will you sail with me
Danal-an-Chogaidh will you sail with me
From here to far Conuna ?

Ripples in the rockpool etc.

I can feel the tide falling in the rain
I can feel the tide falling in the rain
I can feel the tide falling in the rain
But the wind is surely rising

Donal-an-Chogaidh you will come to no good
Donal-an-Chogaidh you will come to no good
Donal-an-Chogaidh you will come to no good
I shall leave you and take my dowry

Ripples in the rockpools etc.

3. The Defence of Hen’s Castle
I had word of your coming
This is no surprise
To find oneself thus surrounded
Nor to feel such tears of anger

Now the cock crows no more
The hen shall slam the door
No raider, housebreaker
No bandits sheriffs men
No Galway blow-in
Shall here lay a claim

This poor widow-woman
Long before now
Has stood her ground
Amidst the white winter fury of the ocean
She has outfoxed
The running surge of the breaking wave
And thus humbled
She will bow before no man

Go kindle torches
High on the hill of Doon
The night’s ablaze with flames on the hillside
In the morning ye shall find comfort

4. Free and Easy,
What can you see from the masthead?
Spanish ships a – fishing
What can you see from the masthead?
A Portugee from Newfoundland

Rising up on the breaking wave
Let it carry you over all the sea in the morning
Weigh, hey, and up she rises,
Sun is up, the bird’s a-wing
And we’re sailing free and easy

What can you see from the masthead ?
A trading ship for Galway
What does he pay for the passage?
A just reward for the pilot

Rising up on the breaking wave etc.

We’ll stay at sea when the wind is keen
and waves begin to billow
We’ll keep to the sea when the wind it fails
And homeward bound we’ll row

Where shall we go for a cargo?
We’ll run right down to Vigo
And if the Bay shall make a storm
We’ll take a look in at Bordeaux

What spy you now form the masthead?
An Algerine on the quarter
What shall we do to greet him?
Acquaint him with our ordnance

Rising up on the breaking wave etc.

5. The Rescue Of Hugh De Lacy
Hugh De Lacy
He is going down
He is going down

Hugh De Lacy
His race is run
His race is run

As the ship goes under
White peaks of foam
Go soaring up the cliffs of Achill
Many men roll away this night
Let no one say
The O’Malley’s fear their own water
Nor did they
Ever loose a chance
For plundering shipwreck
Heave ho

Hugh De Lacy
He has won my heart He has won my heart
Hugh de Lacy
They have cut him down They have cut him down
Oh, I shall have
My vengeance sweet My vengeance sweet

6. Hen’s March
There came to me a man
A man of wealth and iron
I with galleys and trade
We made alliance and marriage and all
Married for one year certain

Upon the passing of the year
I did command
Changing of the guard
And castle gates were bared and closed
Richard I dismiss you

There came to me a son
A son named Tobbot-na-Long
He shall be my pride and joy
And he shall have my love
More than any other

There came to me a Lord
Deputy to a Queen
Plumed and feathered and buckled and bowed
And with a thousand horse
A thousand more behind him

There came to me no luck
The day the dice were thrown
Down upon the Desmond land
And now I am a year alone
Alone in Dublin Castle

There came to me a judge
With whom I did converse
Galloping horse cost
The promise of good behaviour oh
The promise of good behaviour

7. The Death of Richard-an-Iarainn (intro)

8. The Death of Richard-an-Iarainn
It is a cold wind
That carries no forgiveness
It is a cold wind
That blows form sea
Richard-In-Iron I love you

You’re so hurt
And wounded so
Lay you down to sleep
You’re so hurt
Battles are lost
Battles are won
Rest your head

It is a cold wind
That carries no forgiveness
It is a cold wind
That blows form the sea
Richard-In-Iron I love you

You’re so hurt
And wounded so
Lay you down to sleep
You’re so hurt
Suffer alone
Close your eyes
I dismiss you

9. Sir Richard Bingham,
Bingham was wounded
When he fell in the cold waters of Lough Mask
He must have heard laughter
For to see his countenance he looks right ill
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

Inish Glora, Eagles in the darkening sky
Carrick Monagh, heaving over with a cursing eye
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

Sir Richard Bingham, I will not yield
To your lovely Lady Elizabeth
Whose duty you betray

Bingham who watches
He would beggar my kingdom by new laws
I wish him to America
There to die on a Spanish sword
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

Meet me off Erris
Meet me in four fathom close to shore
But burn no lantern
The Gallowglass go to Iar-Connaught
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

Sir Richard Bingham, I will not yield
To your lovely lady Queen Elizabeth
Whose duty you betray

I burned the houses
Spoiled the cattle of Murrough my son
For he went against me
When all my horse and beef were run
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

I’ve seen the gallows
and mourned Owen and prayed for the life
Of Tibbot held hostage
He shall have my ships he shall have my guns
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

Sir Richard Bingham I will not yield
To your lovely lady Queen Elizabeth
Whose duty you betray

Sir Richard Bingham I will not grieve
When the devil take you underneath the grass
And thorn grow upon your grave

Old Sandy Mullet,
Set all jib-sails to run free of
Duvills riptide
In the Bulls Mouth the channel fills
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

The willow tree bendeth
The willow gives in the strongest wind
But the oak tree tumbles
Rent asunder limb by limb
And it seems like thunder, looks like rain

I’ve been to Ulster
With O’Neill and O’Donnell I spake
Of seaman’s rumour
Of an army sailing form Northern Spain

10. The Spanish Armada
The Spanish Armada
Was blown off its course
Far to the north west of Rockall

Medina Sidonia
He knew what would befall
Those who closed with a lee shore

Wounded in Calais
And pounded at Gravelines
Laid over in the Atlantic

Raised upon mountains
And sunken in valleys
Spanish galleons run for shelter

What say your pilots
On their high and lofty castles
Cast among uncharted soundings

The sea bed rises
Throws foam up to heaven
And cables they break asunder

There is no handhold
In thundering water
Nor any means of rescue

Now Spanish gold
Slips down through the fathoms
So deep to lie forever

And silk and treasure
Roll in a sandstorm
Into the shallows and bays of Mayo

A drowned Spanish army
Invades unhappy Connaught
And Fitzwilliam cries for reinforcements

The English horsemen
They ride in the distance
And the Irish pick for the salvage

I wish I had never
Been a witness
To such savage scenes amidst the spoils

They cut down flowers
That could have been planted
And blossomed on less barren soil

11. The New Age
Now the ships leave drawn upon the tide
Lost in the rise and fall of the waves
As near to heaven by sea as by land oh
They sail to seek their fortune in the new age

Gold and silver form Peru to Spain
Strange tales of savage bands amidst the ice
Beyond the banks of Newfoundland

A great wind blows across from Africa
Below Capo de Buona Esperanca tempests rage
As near to heaven by sea as by land oh
They sail to seek their fortune in the new age

Farewell the land we’re leaving
Dark skies, the waves rise
The sea’s a-heaving

Rolling along with the breeze on the quarter
Along the horizon the mother and daughter of storms
And the raindrops like musketballs holing the water
The air is full of salt but sun is sure to follow

Upon the flood many strangers
The Narrow Seas of England and sandshoals
Queen Elizabeth far up the Thames
Surrounded by music and rivers of pearls
We found good favour
And have returned home again to Rockfleet
That I defend
Til I die
As a haven
In the storm

I am waiting, waiting on the white shelled sand
In the sea garden far out to sea
I’m sailing far out to sea

*I’ve seen cover versions pop up on youtube now and again but never actually clicked on any of them, just in case.

HOME TOURIST – Glasnevin Cemetery 

On my recent trip home; I visited Glasnevin Cemetery for the first time. We went because – a – it’s a place of great historical importance and – b – because my mum is deeply morbid, with a clear obsession for cemeteries. Don’t believe me, ask the Elf – she was dragged to at least 2 during her short visit to Ireland!

Glasnevin is immense and it feels as though every significant personnage from recent Irish history is buried there. So this post will not attempt to mark out every single grave and headstone that we passed. Rather, I will post about some of the highlights of an enjoyable and informative tour. Also, it’s a cemetery, so the emphasis will be somewhat focused on that aspect. Nor will I be emphasising the architectural aspects – sorry Burke and Emmett Crosses – as I know nothing about them.


The Significance of Glasnevin

In Ireland, prior to 1832, there were no cemeteries for Irish Catholics. Due to the repressive Penal Laws; there were also heavy restrictions placed on Catholic services in public. As a result, many Catholics were holding limited funerals services for the deceased in corners of pre-existing Protestant graveyards.

Daniel O’Connell (more on him later) lead a campaign to change this situation legally after an incident in 1823 where a Protestant Sextant reprimanded a Catholic Priest for holding such a limited funeral mass, causing some outcry.

In 1832, Glasnevin (known then as Prospect Cemetery) was consecrated. It is one of the few to allow still borns to be buried in consecrated grounds, known as the Angels Plot. Since 1982, cremations have taken place there also.

There has also been a restoration project underway for many years, ensuring that the headstones are raised up, where sinking, and legible for years to come. It was a bit weird seeing all those graves with little notes attached but really interested to see from the watermarks how far they had sunk in a few decades/years.

(Side note – my mum mentioned that there is a really good film that highlights many of the stories of the people buried in Glasnevin. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but here’s the trailer on Youtube!

One Million Dubliners


The Forgotten 10

For my leaving cert (A Level equivalent); I took history and had to pick a specialist subject. I chose Kevin Barry.

FullSizeRender (4)As the tour guide explained, the best way to become really well known in Ireland after your death is to have a ballad written about you.

It was genuinely moving to see Kevin included in the tomb of the Forgotten 10 (though there are only nine remains interred there – the 10th was taking home to be buried alongside his family). Alongside him, his friend Frank Flood.

The tour guide did a great job of painting a picture of this young lad; so proud and so defiant and perhaps not really understanding how bleak his situation was. In court (one he refused to recognise) he sent word to his land lady that he would settle up with her after the case closed.

After he was sentenced to death by hanging, Barry remained stoic, refusing to inform on others within the cause. He requested a soldiers death – the firing squad – but this was rejected. Michael Collins himself was rumoured to have tried to rescue him to no avail.

“It is nothing, to give one’s life for Ireland. I’m not the first and maybe I won’t be the last. What’s my life compared with the cause?

On the 1st of November 1920, at 18 years of age, Kevin Barry was hanged. In 2001, he and the rest of the Forgotten 10 were reinterred at Glasnevin and given a state funeral.

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Daniel O’Connell

The most grand tomb on the site belongs to Daniel O’Connell – the emancipator. Though long considered a national treasure, I have my own soft spot for this great leader.

Way back in time, 1999 ish, my parents drove down to Kerry to visit the O’Connell house. We were unusually disinterested and spent the whole journey grumbling and mumbling. Two teenagers, with the hump. Oh, the joy!

We eventually arrived at his home and spotted his cart. This completely threw the pair of us. ‘What sort of a rip off Cliff Richard is this guy?’ My brother mused aloud ‘To have a cart, what a tit’ or something similar.

At this my father exploded. I tried to help by saying ‘oh come on, it’s not like there’s much call for that in a country and western singer’ and the penny finally dropped. Dad went the colour of a particularly ripe tomato and gasped ‘Daniel O’Connell…not Daniel O’Donnell’ before staking off.

Turns out that Daniel O’Donnell is a singer. Daniel O’Connell was known as the catholic emancipator in Ireland. Bit of a difference there.


The actual lead lined coffin. I kid you not.

Born in 1775 to a Catholic family of diminished means; it was by no means certain that O’Connell was ever destined to play a major role in Irish society. Under the Penal Laws; education had to take place outside of the country. O’Connell was lucky in the patronage of his uncle Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell who enabled him to study in France before taking the law at Lincoln’s Inn.

Well aware of his own abilities, O’Connell became frustrated with the limitations placed upon him by the circumstances of his birth. He channeled this towards his home nation; seeing in Ireland a likewise constrained spirit.  A a lawyer, he was raised to the Irish Bar and formed the Catholic Association, where membership was only 4p a month – affordable even to the most destitute. He cut a strong figure and was known for his fearless acerbic exchanges with all who would challenge him in court, including judges.

During his years in France, during the French Revolution, he had learned to abhor violence and became a resolute pacifist. He spoke eloquently on abolition and alienated many of the Irish US slave owners. Indeed, he met with Frederick Douglass – an emancipated slave, in part at least because Douglass wanted to meet the man his master cursed so vehemently.

Politically – there is just too much to dream of including here. Catholic emancipation, the Tithe War, repeal of the Union – if there was a headliner issue in Ireland at that time; chances are he was involved in the most noble way. In the 1840’s he became involved in trying to secure help for those suffering during the Famine, as they received little if anything from the British state.

In 1847, he headed off on a pilgrimage to Rome and passed away in Genoa. He is believed to have requested that “My body to Ireland, My heart to Rome, My Soul to Heaven”. And so it was. His heart was literally taken out and put into a silver box to be sent to Rome. It’s believed to reside in a bank somewhere – the tour guide had a bit to say about there finally being a bank with a heart but I was still too busy eeewwwwing to laugh.

His body was returned to Ireland where it waited for some 20 years for a tomb grand enough to house him. The tower in the photo at the start, marks his resting spot. His tomb is at the base, under a small mound.

In 1971, a bomb exploded in the tower, likely retaliation for the Nelson bombing in 1966. The tower worked as a gun barrel, shooting the bomb upwards. The grave itself was more or less untouched. Naturally, it was closed to the public. Not closed enough though, there was a window left open and decades worth of pigeons; their droppings and remains were found when restoration work began. The tomb was reopened in 2009.

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One panel left unrestored

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A restored panel

Despite being a family man; his wife is buried elsewhere – however, ten of his children and one grandchild are alongside him. As befits any above ground burial; his is a lead lined coffin. After all, all the germs buried with him are all still in there!

Yes, I touched the coffin for luck. Yes, it felt a bit weird to do so.

Now, with the repeal of the Penal Laws, there was an emerging wealthier Catholic middle class. Never one to miss an opportunity; catholics were offered a place close to O’Connell in Glasnevin Cemetary for a mere GB£60 000. I noted that it was a bit mawkish ‘for £60000, buy a grave plot next to the emancipaaaaator’ and the tour guide quickly agreed. If she uses the line in future tours; I want to know! 🙂

This lovely land that always sent
Her writers and artists to banishment
And in a spirit of Irish fun
Betrayed her own leaders, one by one.

James Joyce, Gas from a Burner, 1912
Charles Stewart Parnell

My favourite grave (is that a bit wrong?) belonged to Parnell. He’s a personal hero of mine as I find his story incredibly romantic – our very own lost leader.

The Uncrowned King of Ireland, as he became known, was born into an affluent Anglo-Irish family. His family had links to great families across Europe, England and in America – but it was as an improving landlord and Irish nationalist that he became best known. Parnell believed not in an independent Ireland, but in one devolved from Great Britain.

Parnell entered politics in 1875 and by 1880, was the leader of the Home Rule Party. A decisive speaker, he was known for his discipline and tactical skills. An astute politician, he created the role of the whip and formal party structure and was happy to work either side to gain his goals – to the chagrin of Ulster Unionists and sometime-Prime Minister Gladstone.

By 1889, Parnell had reached the height of his power. He held two significant meetings with Gladstone and it appeared as though Home Rule was within reach, merely a matter of time. Naturally, this was the moment when Parnell was struck down – not by illness or a bullet…but by the moral standards of the time.

Katie (to friends, Kitty to enemies) O’Shea had first met Parnell in 1880. She was married and separated from Captain William O’Shea – a Catholic Nationalist MP. There was talk of making the split permanant but Katie had a wealthy aunt and O’Shea wanted to be sure of his piece of her inheritance. Parnell and Katie fell in love and had three children together. Though unmarried, they lived together and the affair was widely if silently known. O’Shea knew about the pair and was unhappy about it, even challenging Parnell to a duel in 1881, but stayed quiet for the most part.

Until 1889.

It might be pure coincidence that this was the year that Katie’s wealthy aunt died, leaving everything in trust to Katie’s cousins. Something inspired William O’Shea to begin divorce proceedings and to name Parnell as the cause.

The effects were devastating. Parnell’s party split and overnight he was politically shunned. His once glittering career was utterly ravaged, though he was given a hero’s return to Ireland in December of 1890, never fully censured by the ordinary working Irish that he had so passionately championed. To add insult to injury, William O’Shea was granted custody of Parnell and Katie’s two daughters. Catholic Ireland was further shocked when, after the divorce was finalised, Katie married Parnell.

The marriage was short lived. Two months after their wedding, Parnell died in his wife’s arms from stomach cancer. He was 45 years of age.

His supporters – the Parnellites approached Glasnevin Cemetery and said that Parnell would have liked to have been buried within sight of the Church and his great hero Daniel O’Connell, but funds were going to be an issue.

The cemetery returned and said that they had just the site, going very reasonably. The Parnellites were no fools, they knew that something was up so pushed for further details.

The Cemetary wanted to bury Parnell amongst a cholera pit. Cholera – being spread by water – was terribly feared and most Christian souls feared to be anywhere near the bodies of a cholera victim…let alone buried amidst them.

Parnell’s loyal supporters considered. Parnell had been a man for the people; he had given voice to the voiceless, and – when he fell – he was not abandoned by the common people. Fine, they said, we’ll take it.

One more thing, said Glasnevin. Come on now, thought the Parnellities, you’re taking the mick; what’s up was what they said aloud. Turns out that the grave diggers were too scared to dig on the site.

As a result, a mound was built up over the cholera grave with Parnell’s remains within. His resting stop is marked by 8 tonnes of Wicklow granite, with only one word needed.


Cross of Sacrifice,famine memorial

About halfway through the tour we came to a wall commemorating those who have been cremated at the cemetery. It was beautiful but starting to rain so I didn’t take a picture.


There was also a memorial for those who died during the Famine and (above) those who laid down their lives during the Great and Second World War. It was very moving (I know I keep saying that…but it was!) to see something set aside for those who didn’t die in the trenches, especially as so many of those soldiers returned to a country that regarded them as traitors.


I was a bit surprised to see a Cross of Sacrifice (the Christian cross with a bronze sword). Though a frequent sight in other commonwealth countries, I wasn’t aware that Ireland had one.  In fact, we didn’t for the longest time. However, last year, this one was unveiled by President Higgins. I’m delighted – whether you agree that the sacrifice was a noble one or not; I think that it’s terrific that those Irish lives are marked in the same way as their contemporaries around the world and to mark the centennial no less.

Republican Plot


FullSizeRender_4 (3)There were a number of very significant graves near and in the Republican Plot. Cathal Bruha; Countess Markiewicz; Harry Boland; James Larkin; Peadar Kearney (author of The Soldiers Song (the Irish National Anthem) and the Rathaille all take their rest in this cemetery. I did think of just including a load of photos, rather than either leaving them our or attempting to relate part of their stories …but photos of graves without any context is a bit weird, no?

Eamon de Valera

Like Michael Collins (below); Dev is a character who has taken on extraordinary aspects within Irish culture.

Beyond a politician, he has been one of the primary and dominant political forces recent Ireland has known. He lead the country for 3 terms as Taoiseach (Prime Minister equivalent) and President twice, only stepping down from public office in 1973, two years before he passed away. He wrote the Irish constitution in 1937 – so when I say that his vision shaped Ireland, I mean it.

However, Dev is a very divisive person also. Those who admire him, do so wholeheartedly, attributing all positive things during his tenure to him. Those that oppose him, despise him utterly, blaming him for every negative or bad event that took place during his lifetime.

History will probably sort it out – nationally, it feels like it’s all still a bit recent for anyone to work out his role objectively.

Growing up though, I was a Collins kid – and Dev, he was the man who orchestrated his rivals downfall. So it was lovely to walk away from Glasnevin with a much more humane view of the man.


Eamon de Valera is buried beneath a modest and humble cross.

It had originally been erected for his son Brian, who had died in 1936, predeceasing both of his parents. Later in life de Valera was asked what marker he would rather have placed there, upon his passing. The assumption was obviously that the stateman would want one that befit his status. Dev simply replied that the cross that was good enough for his son, was good enough for him too.

He passed away at the age of 92, in 1975. Sadly, his grave is the most vandalized at Glasnevin, something I admit to finding shocking and distasteful.

Michael Collins

FullSizeRender_4Finally, we moved onto a grave set slightly apart from the others. Michael Collins resting site is the most visited one at Glasnevin and is never without flowers, sent from groups and individuals from around the world.

It’s almost impossible for me to conceive of summarising his life or achievements. His story has become so embedded into Irish society. Nevertheless for any international readers, into the abyss go I.

Michael Collins was an inspiring orator, charismatic leader and a lifelong passionate advocate for Irish independence. During the tumult of the Great War and subsequent Easter Rising; he emerged as one of the most versatile and resilient leaders of the movement.

In 1921, Collins was sent as a plenipotentiarie to London for the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty. This allowed him the authority to sign on behalf of the Irish parliament. The treaty was hugely contentious and negotiations raged. Collins was fully aware that he was likely sent in order to be the bearer of bad news, a national scapegoat, noting –  “Let them make a scapegoat or whatever they like of me. Someone must go.” The treaty was signed on the 6th of December 1921 and in effect split the Irish Free State from six counties in Ulster, which would remain part of the Union.

In subsequent years, the tale has been spun that it was down to this reason that others among the Irish leadership refused to accept the treaty. However, at the time, the separation of the industrial Unionist Ulster counties was readily accepted and it was the taking of the Oath of Allegiance that caused more significant uproar…despite Collins having cleared the Oath and it’s wording ahead of time.

Regardless; Collins knew that the treaty fell short of the republic that he had so desired. Nevertheless, it would allow for ‘the gun to be removed from Irish politics’. Upon signing the treaty, Birkenhead noted that he may have signed his political death warrant; to which Collins astutely replied ‘I may have signed my actual death warrant’.

The treaty split the party; the republicans and the nation. Collins lead the pro-treaty movement; Eamon de Valera the anti-treaty side. In August of 1922 and against advice, Collins traveled down to his home city of Cork. It is likely due to the secrecy of the meeting that he met with leaders of the various factions to try and bring the Civil war to an end.

The facts of the return journey are disputed to this day. Despite taking a circuitous route and successfully navigating one ambush; Collins was fatally shot.

His death at 32 years during the height of the civil war and 8 weeks before he was to have married, shocked the country. 500 000 mourners attended his funeral in 1922 – an estimated fifth of the total population. There has never been an official inquiry into his execution, though there are a number of theories; from anti-treaty soldiers to British agents to even Eamon de Valera himself.

(If you want to watch a film about Michael Collins, then please don’t reach for the Liam Neeson/Julia Roberts version and expect any great degree of accuracy – it’s very much a hollywood film. I did quite enjoy The Treaty, starring Brendan Gleeson as the big fellow, though.)

O’Donovan Rossa/Padraig Pearse Speech

FullSizeRender_3At 2:30pm every day, an actor appears dressed up in the republican army uniform, playing the role of Padraig Pearse to recite his famous graveside speech.

Basically, the story is this – O’Donovan Rossa was an Old Fenian. Unlike Parnell, he did not reject violent methodology and in 1865 was arrested for treason for being part of the plotting of an uprising. An unrepentant and defiant prisoner, he nonetheless won the seat for Tipperary in 1869, though was unable to take up the MP position due to his imprisonment.

Released in 1870 as part of the Fenian Amnesty; O’Donovan Rossa entered into exile in the US, continuing to fund raise and raise awareness for the cause. Though he was allowed to visit Ireland twice in 1894 and 1904, he remained in the USA until his death.

His widow contacted the new republican movement and offered to have the remains returned to Ireland. The movement quickly agreed, sensing an opportunity for propaganda. At the time, due to the Great War, it was illegal for the group to assemble and promote their cause. A funeral however, was fair game.

Thousands assembled to greet O’Donovan Rossa with a hero’s welcome. A young poet – Padraig Pearse – was asked to deliver the eulogy. ‘How hot shall I make it?’, he is reputed to have asked. ‘Hot as all hell’ the feverant reply.

Pearse stepped up to the grave in full uniform. His speech captured the rebel spirit perfectly and was widely reported. From being a little known poet; Pearse had just become the defacto leader of the republican movement to the public.

Now, I didn’t catch the full speech due to space limitations (due to an overpowering need to video every movement my nephew makes), but it was powerfully delivered. I didn’t catch the full version, but you’ll get a sense of the speech below and can find a full version HERE


HOME TOURIST – Altamont Gardens 

En route to the Kilkenny Arts Festibal, we stopped off in Co Carlow to visit another in the garden trail – Altamont Gardens. 

Walk this way…  

Just a little further…  

Altamont Estate ‘the jewel in Irelands gardening crown‘ is believed to have been both a convent and a monestry in its time, as well as a private residence. Though it’s history is a little muddied, as a dwelling the site dates back to at least the 16th century. 

Visitors are encouraged to explore the many trails and walks, whether through the formal or informal gardens or down by the riverside or through the woodlands. 

There’s an artificial (but beautifully embedded) lake just COVERED in lily pads too.   

As you would imagine, the gardens were lush and colourful, especially at this time of year!      

Colour and beauty everywhere…  
The keen observer of this blog will have no doubt noticed that I’m partial to running water. This was a particularly soothing spot and I found myself humming the opening lines of a song from our graduation mass (The River by Garth Brooks). 

You know a dream is like a river, 

Ever changing as if flows…

And a dreamers just a vessel

That must follow where it goes…

There is alao an old (and bit battered) house that will be gorgeous when restored, but in the meantime provides ideal strutting ground for the site peacocks (which sadly wouldn’t oblige me with a photo).    
The 100 steps walk leads back from the river to the grounds, via the Temple (which I didn’t trek up to – gotta leave something for next time!).

I can confirm that there are indeed 100. Yes, I counted. Did you doubt me for a second? 😉  

After all that climbing; there’s a lovely cafe nestled in the garden centre to stop for a break.    

With Pekin Bantams (that’s fancy chickens to the uninitiated)     

And a garden centre where you can pick up some of the lovlies to bring home…  

We spent a wonderful few hours exploring and didn’t see everything. I know that I’ll be back to visit again in the future to find the place transformed by the seasons!

 Open daily from February to November – 9am to 5:00pm

Also open weekdays in December. Telephone (059) 9159444 to check.

Entrance is Free

Guided Tours are available, with adults tickets – €2.75

HOME TOURIST – Geashill – The Glebe Walk

My home village of Geashill holds a very special place in my heart.

Welcome to Geashill, a charming, picturesque village halfway between Tullamore and Portarlington, in the heart of Co. Offaly. It’s built heritage evolved during the 18th century; the Castle dates from the 12th century but its history can be traced right back to accounts of the excommununication of St. Columba at a synod held here in 550 A.D.

From the geocache page

Returning to Ireland at the age of 16 was…a bit odd. It was difficult to know my place in the world. However, I never felt anything but at home in Geashill.

It’s always been a particularly beautiful place (no bias, honest!) and in the last few years it seems that everybody is pulling together to make it even more so. The Tidy Towns Committee in particular (DISCLAIMER – my dad is on it) have been incredibly active at ensuring that the village is presented at its best, while promoting the indigenous natural wildlife.

On my most recent trip home, I took my friend @EllieJayden on a tour. Despite only living 25 minutes away, she had never been before and must have been a bit bemused when I suggested it.

As I could easily wax lyrical about the beauty of Geashill for hours, I’ve decided to focus this post on my special favourite spot – The Glebe Walk.

At the entrance is a nature board – highlighting the diversity of wildlife in the area.

The Glebe Walk - nature board 2

My father – Pat Foley – created the artwork for the board. *proud face*

And just as you enter, is the Insect Hotel.

This was built in 2012, with the assistance of the Killeigh and Geashill Boy’s Brigade.

Insect Hotel


A detailed look at the Insect Hotel

An Insect Hotel is:

a manmade structure created from natural materials, they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the specific purpose or specific insects it is catering to.

The Hotel is a favourtie with local schools – read a recent(ish) report here.


There are also benches and seats along the path.

Hard at work…

There is also a tree planting project underway in the Glebe – known as the Trees for Families scheme.

Trees appropriate to the area (such as Red and Holm Oak, Horse Chestnut, Common Beech) are individually sponsored by the residents of Geashill (though I believe that anyone can seek to become involved). Each sponsor receives a certificate – recording the sponsor and the recipient; a unique dedication and a map so that you can locate it at a later point.

Meet me..the tree! A very meta-experience!

On National Tree Week; the  Tree Planting project celebrated 150 new trees sponsored in the Glebe Walk. Personally, I get a little flash of delight every time I spot one of these posts or labels. It’s exciting to think how these will fill out and complete this space that I love – and for years to come.

As you wander; it is evident that a lot of love and care has gone into rebuilding the bridges and walkways – see HERE for a post on the building process.

A few years ago; a fire was set in one of the dead trees. Thankfully, the damage was minimal and no one was hurt; however, it became necessary to cut away the tree (rather than the preferred route of leaving the stump and branch remains to become part of the ecology).

In June of 2015; ‘Aisling’ arrived to claim the tree stump as her new home.

Due to the light on the day; it was almost impossible to capture the tree sprite in a photo but Ellie managed beautifully.

Aisling in full flight

And for her in full glory

Please note that Aisling was created by Patrick Foley…whom I happen to know…                     

Oh and there’s even a geo-cache to be found!

The Photo credit for many of the shots used above belong to the fabulous and talented @EllieJayden – find her blog HERE and youtube channel HERE 

Find out more information

HOME TOURIST – Delta Sensory Gardens in Co Carlow 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been home a week (just under actually) as it’s been a ridiculously productive trip. 


i loved it before spotting the owl

Aside from podcasting with an awesome mate (what’s that? You haven’t seen THIS?), I’ve walked the beaches in Co Sligo, cuddled my tiny nephew, showed off the beautiful village I hail from, visited with a ton of family and a few friends too and managed to find a new and amazing place to visit! 

The Delta Sensory Gardens describe themselves as “an oasis of peace and tranquility” and right so! Certainly, as I approached the Strawhall industrial estate, I had no idea of the green wonderland that was hidden within.  

Opened in May 2007; Delta consists of 16 interconnected ‘multi-sensory’ gardens over 2.5 acres. Every garden is  unique – with only one shared theme – that there is a therapeutic benefit to people of varying ability from all walks of life. 

Designed to appeal and stimulate the senses; there are many different landscapes for visitors to wander through; from a formal rose garden; to waterfalls; to musically directed fountains (!); to herb gardens; fish ponds and…well, you’re probably starting to get the picture. 


Iris O’Brien Health and Wellbeing Garden

We were particularly lucky to have encountered Angela at the entrance. Her clear passion for the project; extensive knowledge about the plants, gardens and related wildlife and infectious enthusiasm ensured that we headed into the gardens in the best possible mood and mindset. 

My personal favourite was probably the Five Senses garden. Aside from being actively encouraged to eat leaves from herbs & vegetables (!), it really opened my mind to the tactile possibilities of my own tiny garden – which up until now has focused near exclusively on edible herbs and visually pleasing flowers. 

The Stolen Child garden (inspired by the WB Yates poem) was also exquisite, all wild and magical and full of otherness


can you spot the sleeping giant?

We only stayed for an hour or so as I was meeting a mate that afternoon. However, Delta is the sort of place that you could pop into for a half hour to quiet the soul surrounded by nature or that you could spend a day discovering. 

I’m so looking forward to returning and discovering the wonders of the other seasons and bringing EVERY PERSON I CAN in future. 

Interesting Aside:

The Gardens are also the site of the Delta Centre – which provides training, respite, residential and day services to adults with intellectual disabilities. Please see here to read about how the people of Carlow came together to make this wonderful facility available. 

HOME TOURIST – Garryhinch Woods

Every time I come home, I discover a new place that I love!

The last time it was Father Browne – a world renowned photographer based at Emo House (which I don’t think I’ve blogged about – that will be remedied in due course!) which has some particularly gorgeous walks open to the public.

On this trip, we headed out for a stroll in the fantastically atmospheric Garryhinch Woods or Garraí Inse for those conversant in the auld tongue – garden of the river.

2014 - garryhinch

some scouts have been busy

Garryhinch was originally part of the Warburton estate alongside the borders of Offaly and Laois (pronounced Leesh) and divided by the river Barrow – one of the Three Sisters. There are a number of different walks available and outlined on a map that…well, I think it’s upside down from a walkers perspective but heck, it works!

Sadly, after 20 minutes or so it started to rain and we were forced to curtail our walk – though there was still enough time though to pick up on the spirit of the place.

Photo from

Photo from

Deer, pine martins and red squirrel can all be seen here, as well as a plethora on bird life and of course trees, shrubs and plants. I can’t wait to head back on a day when the skies haven’t opened overhead to explore in more details. Interesting side note, the counties of Offaly and Laois are unusual in having greater numbers of indigenous red squirrels rather than the American grey. This is likely due to the increasing population of pine martins – more information HERE and HERE.

For someone who lives in a city, the quiet to be found here is a thing of wonder. No planes flying overhead; any car driving by muted…just the sound of water and rain and wind and nature. If you get the chance, take a stroll. It’s good for the soul.