“If you’re Irish, come into the parlour…..” But who’s not? Not even a wee bit?

We arrived in the North by ferry from Scotland en sharpish route to spend a week in coastal Donegal via Belfast and Derry. With limited time, and being very near the Belfast Botanical Gardens, we decided to go there,

Orange on green with white....? Belfast Botanicals

Orange on green with white….? Belfast Botanicals

where our Irish Luck beset us, thrusting us immediately into the terrible thorny heartbreak history of this country, for directly adjoining the Gardens is the Belfast Museum,

Woman in bomb blast. Image by Rachael -  Glass Win

Woman in bomb blast, FE McWilliams, Image by Rachael – Glass Win

showing the exhibition The Art of the Troubles.
Then, via a fast train to Derry later that day, we walked The Wall that split the town into two  famously warring camps divided along religio-political lines. Here at the interface, the 1998 Peace Agreement looks a fragile thing as marches every summer, apparently insisted upon by Protestant Loyalist extremists, not only enrage the minority Republican Catholics, it refreshes memories sorely in need of rest and fans anew the flames of hatred.

On the one side of the wall...

On the one side of the wall Loyalist extremists rage….

...and on the other, the Republicans of The Bog....

…and on the other, the Republicans of The Bog….

...and in the middle is the grief....still

…and in the middle is the grief….still

...and you'd never guess who was there too....

…and you’d never guess who was there too….

Except for our Brit bits and our pre-Abott Australian bits….and perhaps some stray bits, we both have 100% Irish bits, and so feel

Friday night at the Bridge Bar, Bundoran. Our host Connie, buxom bloke in blue checked shirt on a mean guitar

Friday night, Bridge Bar, Bundoran. Our host Connie, buxom bloke in blue checked shirt on a mean  guitar in fine voice

a strong attraction and affection for this country, its tragic history, and especially its Guiness. Our mixed-matched hosts, Catherine and Connie combine Counties Armagh and Donegal/Dublin respectively. For the whole week we were there, we heard not a single voice raised in argument – truly witnessed the eminent possibility of a lasting Irish Peace in our time!

On the strength of our wonderful wild Highland tour of Scotland, we ventured to do the same in Ireland. So we embarked on another wilderness tour which took us to Counties Meath, Mayo, Galway, but unfortunately, not to Kerry. For strictly sensory and learning impact, we’d have to say Rabbie’s Scotland is hard to beat. But for getting down home and personal with all the sad misadventures of any and every Paddy and Joe you may ever meet, Rabbie’ s Ireland wins hands down…if you’d care for proof…bear with…read on… According to Darren, our Irish tour guide: on his homeward trek, following a 3-day bender, Paddy comes upon a priest baptising people in a river…

Not the River in question, but pretty splendid anyway

Not the River in question, but pretty splendid anyway

He watches awhile as the priest solemnly dunks each newly professed believer who then answers him with fulsome assurances that, “Yes, I saw the face of Jesus”, whereupon the priest fervently blesses each one, repeatedly saying something like: “Holy Father, we are grateful to do your good works. We mortal sinners give you our thanks for your gentle mercy and goodness. Satan has been vanquished here today!” When the good priest invites Paddy to take his turn, Paddy agrees and smartly enough is duly dunked.

Not the River in question, but the Monks' fishing trap on Lough Corrib, circa 15th or 16th century

Not the River in question, but the Monks’ fishing trap on Lough Corrib, circa 15th or 16th century

Asked by the priest if he saw the face of Jesus, Paddy replies in the negative and asks to take another dunk. The priest obliges, holding Paddy’s head firmly under the water for a more extended time. Asked again by the priest if he had seen the face of Jesus, Paddy, spluttering and breathless, again replies in the negative, but with some doubt, that maybe he saw something but could he not take another dunk to make it out more clearly? The third time the priest dunks Paddy far more firmly and for a far more extended time. When he finally allows Paddy up, and asks him if this time he’d seen Jesus, a barely conscious, spluttering and coughing Paddy manages to say, “Father, I’m so sorry. I tried and tried. I thought it was Jesus but it wasn’t. Are you sure this where he went down?”

Now if you’ve any PC-derived 2nd thoughts about the humour there, just let the Irish bits of you loose to laugh at it. They’re sure to know a good crack….

Newgrange is a 5000yr old passage tomb in the Boyne valley. It is a place of astrological, spiritual, and religious importance,

Its sheer size and elegant curvature makes New-grange the most visited of all the Irish passage tombs

Its sheer size and elegant curvature makes New-grange the most visited of all the Irish passage tombs

best known for the illumination of the tomb passage at the winter solstice. The Neolithic farming community was a devout tomb building society and before the invention of the wheel, transported stones of tremendous size across vast mileages of land and waterways using-log rolling techniques. Around the Newgrange base there are 97 large stones, some highly decorated- especially the entrance stone.

Entrance stone to Newgrange Tomb

Entrance stone to Newgrange Tomb

We were guided along the 19-metre dimly lit low ceiling passage in small groups to a chamber about a third of the way into the tomb. The dim lights were completely extinguished and we were shoulder to shoulder in total darkness – gulp – under tons of earth and rock – double-gulp – in our small group. Before we could panic, our guide demonstrated in facsimile, the winter solstice.

Typical passage tomb ceiling

Typical passage tomb ceiling

As we watched the winter sun creep up the passage, our relief blended with awe at the dramatic illumination of the chamber. Occurring naturally, the phenomena takes about 17 minutes from start to finish at around 9am in the morning. Our demo was less than a minute (thank goodness!)

My inner catholic was doing battle with my inner Celt as I was confronted suddenly and frequently with reminders of the Presentation Order of nuns that provided all my early education in Western Australia. The first time was in Dingle when our lovely host Muirean encouraged us to visit a local museum/chapel.

Education - established via  the inspired mission of Sister Nano Nagle, Founder of the Presentation Order of teaching Nuns

Education – established via the inspired mission of Sister Nano Nagle, Founder of the Presentation Order of teaching Nuns

There we found a mural depicting the life of Nano Nagle (1718–1784) founder of the Presentation Sisters, it adorns the walls of what used to be the sisters’ community room.

Every town we visited seemed to have a strong presence of Presentation nuns. A late night stroll home after dinner and traditional Irish music in a pub in Galway led me to a beautiful wooden door and yes it was the Presentation Convent door! I felt spooked! After all that I think the inner Celt won as I became more entranced with standing stones

Holy Well,  Dingle Peninsular, County Kerry

Pagan Holy Well, Dingle Peninsular, County Kerry

and Pagan Holy Wells.

Our hairdresser in Sligo fascinated us with her brogue and easy friendly manner as her Catholicism flowed through all her conversation, as natural as breathing.

Scene for wishing or praying at "modern" Catholic Holy Well. County Sligo

Scene for wishing or praying at “modern” Catholic Holy Well. County Sligo

In respect of ancient standing stones. Dingle, County Kerry

In respect of ancient standing stones. Dingle, County Kerry

Having allowed ourselves only 2 bedazzling days on the Dingle Peninsula, we have left a great chunk of our Irish pagan selves unexplored there. To fix that, we shall return! To stay in a 200 year-old cottage by a bay on the Wild Atlanic Way for a month come mid November when our Irish instalment will be continued…..

About The Moles

Although moles hold no particular attraction for us, when we moved to Tasmania in 2003, we lived in Mole Creek. With hopes of fitting in sooner rather than later, we embraced the name in our e-mail account. Now that we are heading off on our globe-trot we thought we'd maintain solidarity with moles and even give them an outing, hence the curious id.... -And since Annie's late Mum, Gwen, was pleased to call herself Molesmama, she's coming too. Not lost on us is the marvellous ambiguity inherent in the word and the notion that very little is known about these small, sleepy, dark-dwelling creatures....
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2 Responses to “If you’re Irish, come into the parlour…..” But who’s not? Not even a wee bit?

  1. bluecharminn says:

    Wonderful tales and images… With you in Celtic spirit 😍

  2. The Moles says:

    And right back at ya, girls! We have big regrets that we didn’t get to your part of this wide, wide Wonderworld while you were busy in it between whaling wall and Selkie dreamings….But, dare I say(?) I’m sure one day we will..XX

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