A walk through the bog

A rare moment of sunshine inspired us to get out and about on a hike up a valley to an abandoned village in a completely isolated spot. Ten thousand sheep and the kind of solitude that inspires great songs and very strong drink! Caught this pic of the boys perched on a wall, the purpose of which was beyond us, since the sheep could easily get over it. Rick seems to be trying to snort digestive biscuits, so it’s obviously a strange place. The village, actually three houses, was apparently occupied by a murderous chap who was eventually hanged at the penitentiary at Tralee. No rose, I think… (James)

We just got back from a nice walk. We’d seen this sign pointing to a stone circle and thought we’d check it out. Once again James drives us down a narrow lane for quite some distance and came to what was left of a stone circle inside of a fenced meadow with sheep in it. Not terribly impressive, but a Mrs. Healy greeted us and told us there was a nice hike that led to an abandoned “village” . We had to cross their land so we paid 16 euro for the four of us and off we trudged. Unlike yesterday Mrs. Healy is a warm and friendly person, so giving her the money felt fine. So down the track, across a stile then over a bridge and after that a barely discernible path most of the time. The ground was about half bog and half firm, but my boots from REI came through. Not even the hint of dampness inside the boot though I sank pretty deep at times. Poor Morgan and James didn’t have appropriate foot wear so they didn’t fare so well. We climbed and climbed, all the time surrounded by sheep on every side over some truly spectacular but desolate country. Once we got to the top of a ridge looking down into the valley we saw a trail marker above us and realized we’d gotten off track, so moved up to it and finally looked down into the old settlement. It sits right at the base of the mountain that forms the end of the Cummeengeera with steep cooms climbing up the mountain behind the settlement. A crazy place to live, but it turns out that one Cornilius O’Sullivan Rabach lived there and he was a real piece of work. A two time murderer who was finally captured and hung in 1831. The population ranged from 29 in 1841 to 7 in 1871 . It had to have been abandoned a long time back because all that shows are walls, no roofs, or any wooden sections that we could see from that distance. It would have been a long walk in or out and pretty meager in the best of times. We chose not to hike down into it. The going would have been tough, boggy and were fine staying where we were. Back we went reversing our steps but seeing the return of course in the opposite direction. A really beautiful sight and well worth the effort. (Rick)

Hammy Hamilton and the piping cheesemaker aka Hammy and Cheese

Our third day in Kerry (yesterday was an interesting day, but mostly for me because I wanted to drive to Dursey Island, whence come Bridget’s paternal grandmother’s family, the Healys; more on that anon) started with a long walk for Morgan and I up to a stone circle about two miles away, then a drive toCĂșil Aodha, charmingly pronounced ‘coolea’, to meet Hammy Hamilton, a maker of very fine flutes. Jack has an old English flute that needs some repairs, and Hammy does repairs as well. We had a great time chatting with him about different kinds of wood and so forth, and then drove back to Luraugh to make dinner. We stopped in Kenmare to buy victuals, and it turns out the Poor Claires came from there. It’s also famous for lace and very touristy. Anyway, on the way home we noticed a yellow sign that said ‘cheese’, so we bounced down a very, very narrow, lane over hill and dale to find a small farm where a bearded, tie-died t-shirt wearing chap from Lancashire (think Wallace) who sold us a very fine blue cheese, his Bearra blue, and some Gouda style cheese. We mentioned that we are musicians, and he revealed that he has a full set of C pipes by a famous maker who lives in France (anyone?) that he wants to sell. Not too sure about a C set, and I’m not sure which child I’d sell to afford to pay for them. Still, serendipity or what? Then back to O’Sullivan’s for a few tunes and free pints courtesy of Helen Moriarty, the landlady. This time only the locals were there, a table of six older chaps playing a marathon game of whist and an old guy at the bar practicing being a rock. They didn’t pay any attention to the music until we sang a couple of songs, which were greeted with ‘lovely job, lads’ and ‘mighty!’ You get the impression that most folk barely tolerate the dance tunes, as a sort of necessary evil between songs. Mind you, at one point I suggested that we all take turns starting polkas until we ran out, which was actually less fun than you mighty imagine, but the locals did tap their feet along to that…So about those Healeys: You can see why they left Dursey, a godforsaken rock at the end of peninsula connected to the mainland now by a cablecar, and separated from it by a quarter-mile channel of boiling sea that seemed to be flowing in three directions. It would easily take an hour to row across that, and then as Jack pointed out, you’d be on Dursey! I’m hard pushed to imagine what in God’s name people would find there other than complete isolation from the rest of humanity. On our walk, Morgan and I passed the local post office in Lauragh and I wanted to buy a few postcards. Outside the PO was a van which said ‘Sean Healey, construction’ so I found the guy and asked him if he was Sean Healey. He goes, ‘No, he’s not here,’ so we started talking and I explained about the Healeys who had moved to the states, and so forth. After a while, he relaxed and admitted to being Sean himself, grand-nephew of Kathleen Healey or whatever. I figure he must have been wondering who was asking… (James)

Today was a fun day. Don and I made oatmeal for breakfast and enjoyed that. Jack called Hammy Hamilton and we took off later in the early afternoon and visited him. He lives in a little village called Cooley and has a really modest shop. His work is really beautiful and he was very kind to let us interrupt his schedule for a visit. On the way over we took a winding small road up over some hills that led to Hammy’s and passed the highest pub in Ireland. It’s called Top Of Coom but unfortunately it had burned down a couple of weeks back. A real shame it was the only pub in the area. Hammy told us that it started from a pillow that caught fire near the fireplace and somehow got into the wall and took off. Turns out that was a true disaster in several ways. To wit, the proprietors were full swing into a renovation and upgrade, it was the only pub close by the residents of Cooley ( Hammy’s village ) and several others and it was a well known musical venue. There are some famous recordings that were made there. Hammy’s shop is a very minimal space with three lathes and a mill with which he makes his tooling and a small clean room where he does all his finish work, keys and ring work. Billets of Blackwood and Mopani that were partially bored and turned as well as squared billets were lined about on shelves and on the floor. He’s a really open and generous man. He and Jack discussed the little F flute that Jack brought to see if Hammy could restore it. We chatted a bit and sensed that we were cutting into Hammy’s work schedule so said goodbye and drove back over the hill and back to Lauragh where we are staying. On the way back we turned off on a side road that was marked with a sign that said FARM CHEESE. It turned out to be several kilometers of winding single lane, or boreen, that ended in front of a decent cottage with absolutely no indications that we were in the right place! James and Don went looking and Morgan, Jack and I pulled ourselves out of the car when Morgan called us saying we would want to see this. Up some steps we climbed and into a nice sun room and there on a table were some beautiful wheels of cheese. Peter is the name of the gentlemen and it turned out he was originally from Lincolnshire, England and had been living in Ireland for decades. He’s a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor a ready smile and some outstanding cheese. He had a Gouda style and an unbelievably silky blue that he calls Bearra Blue. He’s a small producer about 1000 kilo’s a year, he’d made more in the past, but scaled down some. After questioning us about what we did and finding out that we were here for the music he mentioned to James that he had a full set of pipes in C that he was considering selling since he hadn’t played them in years. I wouldn’t say that sparks were coming off of James, but damn near. James is going to go and check them out possibly with the idea of buying them if they’re affordable. (Rick)

You can see why they left

This is Dursey island, whence come the Healeys, Bridget’s paternal grandmother’s family. It is separated for the mainland but a roiling boiling sea with three crossed tides. You can get there by cable car, should you wish to, but frankly, now that the Brits aren’t taxing the bejesus out of every man and his dog, the attractions have waned.

Adventures in The South and a Trip to Dursey

What I suspected turns out to be true. The fact that we haven’t all lived together and the possibility that there could be issues hasn’t really shown. We’ve been able to make adjustments and catch each other without any ill will. All in all we’re able to negotiate through and around one another with respect and humor. We’ve had some hysterical moments, especially with Jack. Jack is one of the funniest men I know and he’s proven so with all of us. We’ve laughed so hard that we’re left nearly breathless. We drove today down to the end of the penninsula and looked at the island of Dursey across a fairly small channel from the mainland. A truly desolate spot with currents raging through the channel in at least three directions. It creeped me out imagining how long you’d last if you fell in. Not long! The drive down was difficult for me and I decided that the small roads were going to be James’ domain. The lanes are so narrow and the locals drive them with such speed that I don’t feel competent to negotiate them. Anyway Dursey has all of six residents and the only way across is via a small cable car. Some people like isolation and I assume the residents of Dursey are amongst them. Bridget’s family are the Healys who were from Dursey but who now live mostly around Castletownbere. We had a nice late breakfast in Castletown earlier since we had come in with no food. Don and I had oatmeal with fruit and honey and it was just what was needed. We’ve noticed that the cost of living is really rather high here. Being tied to the Euro was helpful when things were going well, but now that the economy isn’t doing well it’s got things in a real funk. Morgan saw a real estate listing that showed a nice cottage that had been originally listed for 230,000 Euro that had been dropped to 90 K!! We drove on to Allihies a lovely little village that overlooks a bay that looks north across to Kerry. We went there because we saw a poster in Castletown announcing the Michael Dwyer traditional music festival. We stepped into a nice pub, O’Neills by name, ordered 5 pints of Murphy’s and started talking to a nice woman named Deirdre who filled us in on the festival. Very welcoming and it turns out that her great aunt was Julia Clifford and her cousin is Billy Clifford both were/ are legendary whistle and flute players. We’ll be going over to the festival this weekend and checking it out. There are sessions happening so we’ll see what happens. Deirdre was telling us that the unemployment rate is as bad now as in the 1930’s and that there was a nice place just behind the pub that someone was trying to sell for 200K that was marked down to 60K. Tough times indeed.