Tag Archives: ireland

The Emerald Isle

Caps for sale

Gypsy Wagons

Just some kid

Phantom velvet

A fine seat for a masochist
Stone shrooms

Bring us one
One guess

Bunratty Castle, still looking good
Try walking down these stairs in metal boots

Crossing the River Shannon

Doolin Town in Dingle

I bet she has a hard time clapping

Famine Hut: starving with a great view

Woolly Tocks

Bringing business to the Aran Islands

Sunken chapel in an old cemetery

A fine and private place

A labyrinth of rock walls

Aggressive snorggling

Really letting the place go

Ubiquitous Vans shot

Hobbits were here

What are you rooking at?

Give thanks and praise

Oh, Mama

Arches

Someone needs a comb

One of the forty shades of green

Danger!

The hippies were here!

The Burren

The Irish burn peat instead of wood

Save the date!

Seaside charm

The deep green sea

The Cliffs of Insanity

Last week we visited The Cliffs of Mohr on Ireland’s western coast. You may recognize said legendary cliffs from the 1987 classic The Princess Bride, in which a particularly hearty Andre the Giant (as Fezzick, the mostly gentle giant from Greenland) scaled these walls by climbing a thick rope, while carrying the swarthy Indigo Montoya, reluctant Buttercup, and abusive shrimp, Vizzini. An impressive feat, to say the least. More recently, You-Know-You thought this sea cave was the perfect place to hide his locket Horcrux. In reality, these cliffs are an intense geological feature made of Namurian shale and sandstone, and currently a finalist for the Seven! Nature! Wonders! Of the World! The cliffs are home to more than twenty different species of birds, including those bad-beaked puffins. Mohr is also subject to some fierce, fierce winds. Many people have actually been snatched by this angry air and gusted right off the ground. Over the edge. To their death. Yeah, so don’t mess around.

A rich dude named Cornelius build this mini-castle to impress the ladies. True.
Mermaid Stonehenge?
For creepin’
At their maximum height these bad boys rise 700 feet from the water.
Breaking the law in multiple languages

What Fresh Hell Is This?

A Brief Survey of Choice Traditional Irish Ballads:
Or how to be a truly sad and lovesick bastard

(1) Danny Boy
(Classic Irish heartstring-puller, in which our dear Danny Boy is heading off to war, pretty much guaranteed never to see the singer, or a good day, again.)

“And if you come, when all the flowers are dying,
And I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.”

(2) Fields of Athenry
(That same old story in which a young lad is arrested for stealing the lord’s corn, and thus set adrift on a prison ship bound for Australia, leaving his true love a single mother…)

“Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.”

(3) I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
(In which a beloved wife dies a slow and painful death, and her devoted husband escorts her body back to her native Ireland. Incidentally, my grandpa Van used to sing this song to me when I was but a wee lass. Because we liked to keep it real and not sugar coat it.)

“The roses all have left your cheek, I’ve watched them fade away and die…”

(4) An Emigrant’s Daughter
(A haunting sea shanty in which a daughter is put on a boat to America. But she gets a fever. She starts hallucinating. And, because this is an Irish Ballad, she dies. The they throw her body into its watery grave.)

“Oh please ne’er forget me though waves now lie o’er me
I was once young and pretty and my spirit ran free,
But destiny tore me from country and loved ones,
And from the new land I was never to see.”


 
(5) Carrickfergus
(In which a man starts hitting the bottle after being cuckolded by a bawdy and humorous ditty.)

“But I’ll sing no more now till I get a drink,
For I’m drunk today and I’m seldom sober…”

(6) My Dark Rosaleen
(Here a man gets his serious pine on while missing his boo, Rosie.)

“Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon.”

(7) I’m Stretched on Your Grave
(I think this one pretty much speaks for itself…mel-o-drama!)

“I am stretched on your grave and I’ll lie there forever…”

(8) The Wind That Shakes the Barley
(In which a doomed young rebel loses his love and marches into the 1798 Irish Rebellion, pockets stuffed with oats to munch along the way. Of course, it all ends badly. *Interesting side note: Random patches of barley popped up all over the countryside post-rebellion, indicating both the mass unmarked graves of Irish soldiers (barley in pocket), and symbolizing that stubborn Irish tenacity and a big fuck off to British rule. The Wind that Shakes the Barley is also a gorgeously sad film starting the extremely easy-on-the-eyes Cillian Murphy. In layer upon layer of fine Irish tweed.)

“While sad I kissed away her tears, my fond arms round her flinging
The foeman’s shot burst on our ears from out the wildwood ringing
A bullet pierced my true love’s side in life’s young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died while soft winds shook the barley.”

(9) Four Green Fields
(This song is in it to win it. It pretty much delivers all the goods… plundering, pillaging, loss, starvation, dead family, blood, guts, screaming children, British invasion…)

“There was war and death, plundering and pillage
My children starved, by mountain, valley and sea
And their wailing cries, they shook the very heavens
My four green fields ran red with their blood, said she.”

But, for all their suffering, and proclivity for reliving that suffering nightly through song, the Irish also have a tremendously big-hearted, admirable, and irreverent sense of humor…. and so I leave you with this gem..

(10) Lily the Pink
(In which the dubiously named witchy woman Lily the Pink prescribes her medicinal compounds to cure whatever ails the locals, for which she is immortalized in a drinking song.)

Quotes won’t do it justice, so you’ll just have to listen and watch this amazing cover here.

Forty Shades of Green

The Dingle Peninsula
Yes. There is a real place called Dingle. Berries do not grow there, but peat does. And rocks. Rocks thrive there. And a resident dolphin. In 1984 a lone little dolphin swam into the harbor and never left. Curious and friendly, he has entertained tourists and locals ever since, although “to show his freedom, he never accepts fish thrown by divers or trawlers.” And how did they repay this congeniality and independence? By christening him with the magnanimous name of Fungi. I don’t know what they were thinking. Apparently the name is somehow related to the fisherman who first took a shine to the little tursiops. Apparently his fellow fisherman mates thought it was decidedly uncool to like girly dolphins and stuff, AND, dude couldn’t grow a legit beard, so they taunted him with the nickname Fungus, which they then creatively transferred onto this poor, unsuspecting dolphin.

Going back to Ireland involves at least six to seven emotional breakdowns for me per day. –Anjelica Houston

Anyway, we did not see Fungi the Dolphin, although I couldn’t resist riding his bronze likeness in the harbor square. We did see forty shades of green, herds of woolly sheep, one billion rock walls, the ruins of famine huts (just the laughfest they sound like) miles of insanely narrow, curvy cliffy roads, old cemeteries, and the sea, the sea, the sea. The country is undeniably beautiful, but it is veiled in a deep sorrow, too. It is so easy to see how cold, damp, and difficult poor farming life would have been like in these hills. The very definiti0n of hardscrabble. The embodiment of suck-it-up, stiff-upper-lip, and keep-your-head-down. The Great Potato Famine (courtesy of another, distinctinly less fun fungus) occured between 1845 and 1852 took out a million Irish, causing the country to lose nearly 25 percent of their population to death and emigration. Ireland’s collective history is thick with tragedy. That is probably why they make such fine whiskey and sing the sweetest, saddest ballads in brogue around. Aye, aye, aye, the Blarney Stone really will bring a tear to your eye.


And the Larks They Sang Melodious
But if you want to hear more about it, quit reading this tripe and listen to the Man in Black sing about it, (even if he was more Scottish than Irish). Famine and smokey peat fires aside, in the end, you know it usually always comes down to missing a girl.


And, oh, yes.
Tonight I pretty much got what I wanted out of Ireland… three hours of an old man pick-up band singing in a pub called Durdy Nelly’s (plastered with police badges from the states, incidentally), calling upon Guiness-swigging patrons to sing traditional songs, chorus roaring, hands on shoulders, tweed caps and wool, bohdran and squeezebox. I stood on a bench, clogging my heel against the dark wood, grinning like a fool, knowing I was exactly where I was supposed to be.