Archives » Ireland

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

The Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s most southerly point.

The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse is situated at the very tip of the Rhinns of Galloway Peninsula.

Lighthouse from car park:-

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

From approach path:-

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse From Approach Path

The Lighthouse is one of the Stevenson family lighthouses and was designed by Robert Stevenson grandfather of the writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

Information Board:-

Mull of Galloway Info Board

Foghorn from lighthouse:-

Foghorn from Lighthouse

It’s quite a steep way down to the foghorn via the path:-

Foghorn from path

On a good day you can see from the lighthouse not only Cumbria and Ireland but also the Isle of Man. It wasn’t a good day – as you can see from this photo of the nearby rocks:-

Mull of Galloway rocks

Whithorn

And so on our journey through Dumfries and Galloway it was on to Whithorn.

Whithorn has an important place in Scottish history as it was the location of the first Christian Church in Scotland after St Ninian crossed over from Ireland in the year 397 or thereabouts and the ruins of the mediæval Whithorn Priory stand in the town.

Architecturally Whithorn is a typical small Scottish town with stone built houses. I wasn’t really expecting any Art Deco but it does pop up in unlikely places.

Charles Coid, Butcher:-
There is a hint of eastern influence to this but the date in the cartouche is 1934 – slap bang in deco times – the geometric surround to the proprietor’s name with its mosaic construction and the towered roof line give it the look.

Art Deco Style in Whithorn

What looks like an old Woolworths; now houses “The Whithorn Story”:-

Old Woolworths, Whithorn

Georgian house:-

Georgian House, Whithorn

Memorial plaque to George Dickie, “Jack Brent,” member of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War:-

Spanish Civil War Veteran Memorial, Whithorn

Pend leading to Whithorn Priory:-

Pend Leading to Whithorn Priory

The coat of arms above it is the Royal Arms of Scotland:-

Coat of Arms, Whithorn Pend

Priory side of pend:-

Pend in Whithorn, Priory Side

Shutters on pend windows:-

Shutters on Pend Windows, Whithorn

Children of the Dead-End by Patrick MacGill

Caliban, 1983, 310 p, plus ix p Introduction. First published in 1914. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

Children of the Dead End cover

In some respects this is an odd choice of book for inclusion in that 100 best Scottish Books list. MacGill was Irish and the book starts off in Ireland with the early life story of Dermod Flynn, offspring of a poor family living off potatoes and buttermilk (with the occasional variation of buttermilk and potatoes.) When Dermod takes exception to his schoolmaster picking on him and hits him back, his schooling is over and he is packed off to be an agricultural hired hand – in effect, a slave for six months – so that he can send money back to his mother and father. But the majority of the book is set in Scotland to where Flynn decamps as a member of a gang of potato-pickers and ends up as a tramp until, via a stint on the railway, he joins the workforce building the aluminium works at Kinlochleven.

In the text MacGill affects to be giving us Flynn’s unvarnished autobiography, denying any artifice, explicitly stating that he has taken incidents from his (Flynn’s) life – though the assumption is that they are from MacGill’s own as his biography is all but identical – and written them down, but there is an organisation to them, a novelistic arrangement that belies such simplicity.

The itinerant life, the characters Flynn meets, are described in detail. The brutal existence of the life of a navvy, the arbitrary dangers it involved, admirably demonstrated. The only interests of the men of the gangs at Kinlochleven – outside working hours – are drinking, gambling and fighting one another. Somehow through all that Flynn learns to read, to jot down poems and incidents which he sends to a newspaper and whose acceptance is briefly parlayed into a job as a journalist in London. But the “civilised” life does not suit him.

However, at the core of the book is Flynn’s connection with Norah Ryan, a girl from his village of Crossmoran in Donegal, who came across to Scotland as part of the potato-picking gang but to whom Flynn neglected to pay attention as he fell into gambling and, consequently, she into a relationship with a farmer’s son which will not end well.

MacGill also brings out the ungratefulness of the general public who do not care about the dangers the navvies endured, the risks they took, but after they are laid off – all but en masse – only see itinerant wasters before them.

Flynn’s bitterness towards the church – both Catholic, in Ireland and Scotland, and Presbyterian in Scotland – is no doubt a reflection of MacGill’s own. “The church soothes those who are robbed and never condemns the robber, who is usually a pillar of Christianity….. To me the industrial system is a great fraud, and the Church which does not condemn it is unfaithful and unjust to the working people….. I have never yet heard of missions for the uplifting of MPs, or for the betterment of stock exchange gamblers; and these people need saving grace a great deal more than the poor untutored working men. But it is the nature of things that piety should preach to poverty on its shortcomings, and forget that even wealth may have sins of its own.” He goes on, “In all justice the lash should be laid on the backs of the employers who pay starvation wages, and the masters who fatten on sweated labour. The slavery of the shop and the mill is responsible for the shame of the street.”

In its unalloyed description of the life of the working man Children of the Dead End is of a piece with many works of Scottish literature, so maybe its place on that 100 Best list is justified after all.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Introduction; “is, indeed, that of MacGill’s” (that of MacGill.) Otherwise; “‘His name in Jim MaCrossan’” (is Jim Macrossan,) pig-stys (pig-styes or pig-sties,) “shot the crow” is defined in a footnote as ordering and drinking whisky without intent to pay (in my experience it has always meant to leave, to leave anywhere – or anyone – without notice,) “a group of children were playing” (a group was.) “A shower of fine ashes were continuously falling” (a shower was continuously falling,) by-and-bye (by-and-by,) Lough Lomond (yes, the Irish spelling is Lough, but Loch Lomond is in Scotland; so ‘Loch’. I would never write ‘Loch’ Neagh for the loch in Northern Ireland,) “a pair of eyes were gazing at me” (strictly, a pair was,) “there were a fair sprinkling of them” (there was a fair sprinkling,) sprung (sprang,) pigmies (pygmies,) dulness (I gather it’s an alternative spelling but I’ve only ever seen it before as dullness.) “For whole long months I saw a complete mass of bruises” (I was a complete mass of bruises makes more sense,) a phenomena (a phenomenon.)

Irish Encounters by Keith Roberts

A short travel. Kerosina Books, 1988, 80 p.

Irish Encounters cover

This is an account, initially written for his friends, of a trip Roberts took to Ireland but which he later used as background for his BSFA Award winning novel Gráinne.

It was Roberts’s first time flying and he was nervous but was equally astonished at the quickness of the flight. His trip came before the Celtic Tiger days and Roberts contrasts Ireland – mostly favourably – with the England he had travelled from but does note encounters with beggars. The politeness and hospitality he met with were initially strange to him and he describes navigating Dublin’s streets in a hired car as a daunting task. On only one occasion did he encounter a lack of consideration, when a man in a pub questioned him about the North.

His comparison of real Irish pubs to those in England is very favourable, “smarter and cleaner, and the service leaves us standing.” The addendum, “Try asking for tea in your local English boozer; then count the number of times you bounce before you land in the street,” is perhaps no longer so true. Even so he says about English attitudes to Ireland, “bigotry is time saving; you can form opinions without troubling to get the facts.” It was the ancient monuments he was mainly there to visit though (Tara of the Kings etc.)

One of the things that struck me most about this account was that almost without exception every female (women and girls) Roberts mentions is described as either pretty or beautiful; he even goes so far as to apologise in his head and in print to the author of Molly Malone for assuming he had described Dublin’s girls as “so pretty” merely for the rhyme. Roberts also has a fascination for describing their eyes.

At his trip’s end he had a curious sensation that, “I was led, conducted, given as much at any one time as I could handle. Shown carefully what someone, or some thing, wished me to see,” and conceived “a debt to Eirann, and its tutelary deity”, a debt which became Gráinne.

I rarely read travel books and did so here only for completeness – though there is still some of Roberts’s œuvre I have yet to catch up with. But good writing is good writing wherever you meet it and Roberts was a good writer. Better than good.

Pedant’s corner:- nictating (nictitating,) a stationers (a stationer’s,) tricolors (tricolours,) facia (fascia,) a missing comma before a speech quote, a group of tourists are (a group is,) murmer (murmur.)

Time Travel, Reviews, Hame and Rebellions

In an article in Saturday’s Guardian review, James Gleick examined the history of the time travel story since H G Wells more or less invented the form in The Time Machine. It was a skate over the subject really and veered into the territory of so-called Alternative History which of course I prefer to name Altered History but worth reading all the same.

In the same section of the paper was a review of Annalena McAfee’s new novel Hame. Many reviews are interesting, some make you think “definitely not”. Very few inspire you to go out and read the book concerned. Stuart Kelly’s did just that, as indeed did his review of Kevin MacNeil’s The Brilliant and Forever which I read a few months ago after also reading the same author’s A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde due to the same review. McAfee’s Hame sounds intriguing and possibly funny. Definitely one I’ll look for.

I recalled McAfee’s name. She had an article in the Guardian Review some weeks ago which I wished to post about then but at the time could not find on the Guardian website but which now pops up fourth when you search her name there. The article was about the relative importance of Robert Burns and the possible balefulness of his mythologising (Aside. Why does no-one ever question this about Shakespeare?) and the continuing battle over whether Scots is a suitable medium of expression for literature.

My take is if the author wishes to use Scots it is entirely up to her or him. It may reduce the psossible readership but that is a question for author and publisher, not reader. Myself, though not very well versed in it, my mother being the daughter of two English parents, thus hardly a native speaker and unable to expose me to its richness, I do not consider Scots – as some do – as necessarily inferior form to English. It is at times much more pithy.

I have a quibble with McAfee over a detail in that piece, though. She stated that Burns was born “two decades after the failed rebellion against the Union.” While Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Rebellion of 1745-6 was many things, not least the last flailing gasp of a failed dynasty, and the Battle of Culloden can even be considered as in some way (if you ignore its continuation into Ireland even into the twentieth century and possibly beyond,) the last of the Thirty Years War – though admittedly that was mostly fought out in German territories – it was not primarily against the Union. It was less general then that, more personal.

The Stuarts on BBC 2

I watched the first episode of The Stuarts on BBC 2 tonight.

It seemed, like on its first showing on BBC 2 Scotland earlier this year, an odd decision to start with James VI (or James I if you prefer.) There were no less than eight Stuart monarchs before him. In the year of the Scottish Independence Referendum that could be interpreted as a slight, another piece of English ignorance/dismissal of Scottish History.

That the first episode dwelt on James’s desire to unite the two kingdoms as Great Britain might also seem like a dark Better Together plot as the Guardian noted today.

Yet (some, though not all, of) James’s ancestors were spoken of in the programme so the ignorance/dismissal angle can on those grounds be discounted. And the differences between the two countries that then existed (of religion principally,) and in some respects still do, were not glossed over but I was left wondering who on Earth thought broadcasting this was a good idea now. It can only lead to accusations of bias

I had another such disjointed TV experience with the BBC recently. Janina Ramirez in her otherwise excellent Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years War – on BBC 4 last week, this (and next) but also a programme that has been screened before – kept on emphasising how the events she was describing played a large part in how the country “we” live in now came to be as it is. (Note also the “us” on Dr Ramirez’s web page about the programme.)

Yet that country was/is England. Ramirez seemed totally unaware that her programme was to be broadcast not on an England only channel but one which is UK-wide. Indeed that the country all the BBC’s principal audience lives in is not England, but the UK. [Except for powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies legislation at Westminster is for the whole of the UK. No English elected body oversees the equivalent powers to those devolved elsewhere (arguably there ought to be one;) it is the UK Parliament that performs that function.]

Two parts of the UK share none of the history Dr Ramirez was outlining. Wales (having been incorporated earlier) was involved directly in the Hundred Years War but neither Scotland nor Ireland were. Yet she spoke as if that circumstance didn’t exist.

This sort of thing does contribute to a feeling among many Scots (and I suspect Welsh and Northern Irish viewers too) that the BBC is a broadcaster with a mind for England only and too often forgets the three other constituent parts of the UK.

Caramilk

I was thinking about Cadbury’s Caramello again today and I suddenly remembered that the bar had another name, Caramilk. It had disappeared once before and was brought back under a new name.

I can’t now remember which name came first – possibly Caramilk was the one which was around in my youth and Caramello came later.

I looked up Caramilk and it seems there is a bar of this name sold by Cadbury’s in Canada, and Caramello is found in the US, Australia and New Zealand. The Wiki article doesn’t mention Ireland though.

Here’s a link to the Irish shop and its picture of a Caramello bar which looks more like the non-vending machine size I remember buying back in the day. When I looked there though it said, “Sold Out!”

Some of the images on this page (I see mine has got on there somehow; it’s about halfway down) are of the old packaging.

Blast From The Past

I hadn’t seen one of these in years. But on 20/4/13 in my local supermarket I found for sale Cadbury’s Caramello.

Cadbury's Caramello Wrapper

Caramello is much better than the more common Cadbury’s Caramel.

I remember there used to be a Caramello bar about 1½ times the size of this though these ones could be found in vending machines back in the day.

Not only was there Caramello on that shelf but also Tiffin* bars, Mint Crisps and Golden Crisps – all of which have been notable by their absence for years from British shops.

These all may be Cadbury’s Ireland products. The Caramello bears the legend, “Official treat provider to the Irish Olympic team.”

Does this mean Caramello has been available in Ireland all this time?

Cadbury’s website has no trace of these products. Lucky Irish right enough.

*I never ever consumed a Tiffin: they have raisins in them. I always feel eating raisins, sultanas or currants must be like biting into a blister. I try to avoid them all.

The Spanish Armada by Michael Lewis

Pan, British Battles Series, Illustrated, 1972, 239p

My knowledge of the Spanish Armada was hazy till I read this – Drake’s (un)interrupted game of bowls, fireships at Calais, wrecks on the Irish coast. In some respects it still is hazy as Lewis makes the point that very few reliable accounts exist and a high degree of interpretation, even guesswork, is required to make sense of the several running battles that took place over the days that the Armada spent hauling up the English Channel.

The book underlines the unwieldy, and unlikely, enterprise that the Armada represented. It was compromised from the outset by financial considerations which led to the watering down of the original concept of carrying all the necessary invasion troops itself, burdened by the concomitant necessity to link up with Parma’s army in Flanders and saddled with a commander, the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who did not want the job as he thought he wasn’t up to it. Yet had the Spanish landed on and taken the Isle of Wight it might have been game over. The smaller, more nimble English fleet harried them all the way up the Channel and successfully prevented this.

Lewis is excellent on the gunnery aspects of the conflict. I had not realised before that the battles took place at one of those turning points in military history, in this case when oar-propelled galleys were being overtaken by full sail and the principal naval tactic since ancient times, ramming, by gunnery. The English had smaller guns, firing lighter shot with greater range than the generally larger Spanish weapons and took great care not to close with their opponents and so run the risk of damage or, worse, boarding. The Spanish thought this standing off ungentlemanly at best and unwarlike, even cowardly, at worst. Yet the damage the English could inflict was minimal. Only when the Spanish had begun to run out of shot and after the fireships at Calais had finally broken the Armada’s formation did closer encounters occur, at Gravelines. The fireships were, though, crucial in the Armada’s final demise as, to escape them, most Spanish ships cut their anchor cables and consequently had reduced means by which to secure themselves when later facing Atlantic storms. That the Armada declined to sail back the way they had come – favourable winds allowed the English ships to do so – speaks volumes for their reluctance to engage the English again, though.

Aside:
At one point Lewis refers in passing to the matter of Mary Queen of Scots, and praises Francis Walsingham’s “brilliant” detective work. Now, while that poor deluded woman certainly did not help herself, it is possible, even likely, that the final conspiracy may have been more a case of agent provocateurship or, in modern terms, entrapment, by Walsingham’s operatives.

Mention is made of the foul, insanitary conditions aboard ships in those days. Disease, particularly typhus, was rife. The privations the sailors endured are also touched on. That many Spanish ships did make it back to Spain reflects well on their commanders, specifically Medina Sidonia and his (unnamed) navigator. Others, of course, ended up on the shores of Ireland or Scotland. One was even blown back all the way to Fair Isle. Surviving the wrecks in Ireland did not guarantee safety. Unless they were highly ransomable most captives were executed out of hand. Such was the way of the late Tudor age.

Seve

When I heard that Severiano Ballesteros had been taken poorly again I had forebodings and it was only a day later that the news of his death came. At the age of 54 this seems cruelly early.

He was one of those sporstmen whose fame transcended his sport. The evident joy with which he carried out his work stood out against the majority of professional sportsmen, and even more so in retrospect. His fist pump at the Road Hole in the final round when he won the Open at St Andrews epitomised this (though admittedly it is easy to be joyful when you’re winning.)

His greatest contribution to the game of golf was to boost the standing of the game in Europe. It is possible that without him the European Tour would not have garnered such success and also that the Ryder Cup might have fallen into abeyance as the US used to win it more or less all the time (certainly retained it) until the conversion of the contest into the US vs Europe rather than US vs the UK and Ireland.

When his game declined – possibly as a result of the onset of the illness which has now claimed him – it was a disappointment even to non-golfers.

His apparent recovery in 2009 from a brain tumour was good news. Sadly it wasn’t to last.

Severiano Ballesteros Sota, 9/4/11 – 7/5/11. So it goes.

free hit counter script