Mar

16

What with St Patrick’s Day almost upon us, it seems timely to mention the legend surrounding the founding of the early Christian Church at Killaspugbrone (the Church of Bishop Bronus).

The eponymous Bishop was the son a local chieftain, and a companion of St. Patrick. Patrick seemingly lost a tooth on the site, and Bronus took it upon himself to build a Church on the site.

Ask about Ireland have a good piece on this history, including the fact that the Shrine currently resides in the National Museum of Ireland. This description comments that the shrine is

“…a handsomely decorated shrine of wood, in the form of a horse shoe, satchel, or reticule, eleven and a quarter inches wide by nine wide, and somewhat wedge-shaped..

A reticule is a small bag for money or other small items, and it does seem like that Patricks teeth (when they fell out..) were prized.

Nice story – and a good illustration of the local heritage that is all around us.

Mar

16

Though born in Dublin, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats is most often associated with the West of Ireland, and specifically Sligo. Many of his poems refer to local landscapes and places – Lissadell, Benbulben, and Innisfree (Lough Gill) are immediately recognisable to even those briefly passing.

This early poem “Red Hanrahan’s Song about Ireland” is an early one from a collection entitled “In the Seven Woods” published in 1903 :

The old brown thorn-trees break in two high over Cummen strand,
Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand;
Our courage breaks like an old tree in a black wind and dies,
But we have hidden in our hearts the flame out of the eyes
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The wind has bundled up the clouds high above Knocknarea,
And thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve can say.
Angers that are like noisy clouds have set our hearts abeat;
But we have all bent low and low and kissed the quiet feet

Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.
The yellow pool has overflowed high up on Clooth-na-Bare,
For the wet winds are blowing out of the clinging air;
Like heavy flooded waters our bodies and our blood;
But purer than a tall candle before the Holy Rood
Is Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.


Cathleen Ni Houlihan of course is the heroine that has been repeatedly used through Irish literature to represent poor old Ireland. In this poem, a few obvious places on the peninsula are referenced – but where is “Clooth-na-Bare”?

Mar

15

On Friday 9th March, the Dorrin’s & Cummeen Conservation Group (DCCG) were invited to meet with representatives of Sligo Airport and their consultants. Councillor Higgins, Chairman of the Board of Sligo Airport, billed this meeting as the start of a consultation process between Airport personnel and representatives of the local community.

The meeting started with the expert consultants to the Airport giving presentations on why the extension to the East Side was the only feasible option. It became clear that despite this meeting being a consultation process, the Airport were not in favour of changing their plans despite the opposition voiced in two recent public meetings in Strandhill and over 70 objections to Sligo County Council’s Planning Section. The airport also suggested that it would have to close if it did not extend the runway to the East.

A spokesperson for the Dorrin’s & Cummeen Conservation Group addressed the meeting and asked the Airport Company to withdraw the current application for planning permission. He said this would instill confidence in the consultation process between the Airport and the Strandhill community.

He also stated that the application for planning permission submitted by the Airport was comprehensively flawed. The vast majority of Strandhill residents are deeply concerned about building a runway extension on Dorrin’s Strand with the consequent damage to the ecology, wildlife, heritage, and access to recreational activities. Local residents also have grave concerns for the access road to Coney Island and the massive damage to the local fish farming industries by the proposal to divert the channel from its current course.

In response to the request to withdraw the planning application, Councillor Albert Higgins, Chairman of the Airport Company, stated that such a decision would need to be considered by the airport company and that he would bring this DCCG request to the board.

The DCCG concerns with the inadequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement were supported by the Sligo Co. Co. Planning Department who had written a lengthy letter to the Airport seeking further information on a wide range of issues concerning the application.

Mar

12

.
This materialised after a heavy rain shower and brilliant sunshine. Looking North East into Sligo Bay, the sandy edge of Coney Island just visible on the bottom left; Benbulben just out of picture.

Mar

5

The following extract is from the local Strandhill Development Plan, and describes the geography of the pensinsula.

“Strandhill is located 5 miles (8 km) from Sligo town on the western extremity of the Coolera Peninsula. The village extends along the north-western foothills of Knocknarea mountain and is surrounded on three sides by the coast: Cummeen Strand to the north, Sligo Bay to the west and Ballysadare Bay to the south.

On the eastern side of Strandhill, the ground rises dramatically towards the mountain and its northern shoulder extension, which provide a visual barrier between the settlement and the rest of the peninsula.

The general landscape is undulating and influenced by small-scale agricultural activity, which has resulted in a pattern of small fields with mature tree belts and hedgerows, giving way to machair and sand dunes at the coast.”

You can get a nice appreciation for some of this landscape by the birds eye view offered by Google Maps and Google Earth. In particular when when the latter is installed and used in conjunction with this plugin – it enables you to view digital photographs of the area mapped onto the satellite imagery.

It is disappointing however that the satellite imagery at the moment for the whole peninsula is split in terms of quality. The eastern side of a North North-West divide (on a line roughly running from Coney Island just to the east of Knocknarea) is the side which is high quality. To the west of this line is not so good. Difficult to explain in words – have a look here at Google Maps – and you will see what I mean…..

Mar

3

This is the 100th anniversary of the Belfast poet Louis MacNiece; driving to Dublin early last sunday morning, I was listening to John Bowman and the recitation of the MacNiece poem Neutrality (37m 48 secs into the programme) – written in the late 1930’s, its specific reference to Knocknarea and Sligo and the Irish Free State during the Second World War.

The neutral island facing the Atlantic,
The neutral island in the heart of man,
Are bitterly soft reminders of the beginnings
That ended before the end began.

Look into your heart, you will find a county Sligo,
A Knocknarea with for navel a cairn of stones,
You find the shadow and sheen of a moleskin mountain
And a litter of chronicles and bones.

Look into your heart, you will find fermenting rivers,
Intricacies of gloom and glint,
You will find such ducats of dream and great
doubloons of ceremony
As nobody to-day would mint.

But then look eastward from your heart, there bulks
A continent, close, dark, as archetypal sin,
While to the west off your own shores the mackerel
Are fat on the flesh of your kin.

Here is some commentary and comments on the poem. It is Prayer Before Birth however that still sends shivers down me and probably countless other Leaving Cert students from the 1980’s.

Mar

1

Over 40 people attended a public meeting tonight in strandhill to discuss the conservation of Dorrins Strand – the area of Sligo Bay in Strandhill, that will be directly affected by the proposed eastward extension of Sligo Regional Airport.

As with an initial meeting held in the first week in February, the discussion and input from the floor was passionate but reasonable; the common feeling was that the airport company have the requirement to extend the runway due to safety and legislative pressures, but also that the option chosen is a poor one. The consultants report in particular, has come in for some criticism.

Some key tasks will be carried out over the coming days – contact with local representatives, a petition distributed within the local community, as well as a meeting between the Airport company and representives from the conservation group.

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