Peregrine from Finland

Just a short word to let you know that I was recently informed by a staff member at NPWS of a Peregrine Falcon that flew from Finland to Ireland this winter.

The female Peregrine, which was only born in Finland last summer, had managed to fly around 2,000 km, at an age of only perhaps 8 months. She was Finland’s first ringed Peregrine to be traced to Ireland. Extraordinary.

View truly wonderful professional photographs of Peregrine Falcons here.

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On the Newport Mulranny Cycleway

This morning, I enjoyed a cycle on the old rail line from Mulranny towards Newport with Paul Harman of Harman-e-Bikes. Paul has quality battery power-assisted electric cycles for hire out of his base near Westport, with a drop-off and pick-up service available.

The new cycleway is by no means perfect, nor as good as it could have been, but is certainly a welcome addition to the West Mayo outdoors tourism product. Its best quality is that it is off-road and you can’t argue with that, in a country which boasts very few off-road cycling opportunities.

Cycling is a logical and attractive complimentary product to my guided walking tours, especially in and around the Nephin Beg mountain range. So why not consider coming to West Mayo and combining cycling, walking and, indeed, sea kayaking and wind surfing, for example.

When I Met Pat Rua #2

When I met Pat Rua Reilly (then last living survivor of the 1927 Iniskea fishing tragedy that took the lives of 10 men) this month 10 years ago, I started by asking him why it was that the islanders left Iniskea.

BM : Why did ye decide to come out ? What was the story ?

PRR : The story was that they wanted them to go out. The priest went at it, do you know ? And he wanted them to come out. They didn’t like to leave them on the island. And another thing then, the land was going against them, do you know ? It wasn’t growing anything for them. It was burned up.

What happened the land was, they never put fertiliser on the land. It was the seaweed, come to land, they used put on it, do you know ? And it burned the land.

It started bad about after the drowning, after  big drowning. It started burning up. It wasn’t growing right.

BM : And what had it been growing ? Spuds ?

PRR : There were spuds and grain. Oats and barley. It was growing everything.

BM : So ye did not come out against your will ?

PRR : No, we did not. There was land vacancy out on The Mullet and it was divided between them and each family got about 4 or 5 acres, or 6.

BM : And was there any disagreement ?

PRR : No, no disagreement in the world. Everyone wanted to go. They weren’t bothered. They were all agreed to go.

BM : And they left bit by bit, one by one ?

PRR : Some of them left in 1932. As the houses were completed abroad. That’s why we had to wait on the island until 1934.

BM : And what difference did it make to ye to be on the mainland after ?

PRR : Not a bit. Not a bit.

When I Met Pat Rua #1

It’s ten years now since I interviewed Pat Rua Reilly, of Glenlara on the Mullet. Although he passed away in 2008, just days short of his 101st birthday, I still think of him.

Pat was born in 1907, to William and Bridget (O’Donnell) Reilly. He was, at the time of my interview, the last living survivor of the terrible fishing tragedy of the night of October 28, 1927, which took the lives of 10 Iniskea fishermen, including two of his own brothers.

Of course, Pat was interviewed many times in his later life, becoming a living recorder of what life was like on the long since abandoned islands off the western side of the southern Mullet peninsula. Much of the interview I carried out with him is perhaps of little value, but over the coming days, I will transcribe here some of the more interesting passages from that day back in the year 2000.

There was something magical about Pat Rua Reilly. He had a way with words and his voice sang with lovely lilting and music, even though Irish, of course, was his native tongue. Despite the years passing since I interviewed him, I still regularly listen back to the tape as I drive, impersonating the wonderful way he would say little things, like “not a bit” (in response to what difference it made to move to the mainland from the islands) and “you wouldn’t know how they were” (when asked to explain an island custom).

The Iniskea Islands :

Lying 4 km west of the southern Mullet peninsula, the Iniskeas North and South were re-inhabited from the late 18th to the early 20th Centuries. An earlier Bronze Age to early Christian settlement had long since left.

The islands’ population grew steadily through the 19th and early 20th Centuries, even during the period of the Great Famine in the 1840s.

The second half of the 19th Century saw major land management and other changes on the islands, with the result that emigration took place and, perhaps, the hitherto tight social structure began to unravel. Outside influences multiplied and the islands were to change.

The night of October 28, 1927 wreaked havoc on the western seaboard, with over 40 men drowned in a fierce storm, of whom 10 were Iniskea fishermen. Within a few short years, the Iniskeas would be abandoned.

Stroll at Enniscrone

Enniscrone, just over the border in Co. Sligo, has one of the most impressive strands in Ireland.

Below are a few photos I took while walking the loop the other day. Heading out of the village, you can walk for over 3 km westwards, towards the mouth of the River Moy, before turning south, then eastwards through the dunes and the track which traverses the golf course, back to the village.

In the extraordinary weather we’re currently being treated to, it’s a lovely walk.

See my earlier post on a beached Minke whale at Enniscrone, here.

Conall Brutally Killed

Conall, barely 10 months old, was recently found brutally killed in the mountains of the Sligo Leitrim border.

Not the first child of his kind to have his short life savagely ended in this disgusting way, serious questions must be asked of the supposed law enforcement authorities in this country and of those charged with the care of such a young male.

How can people who poison the likes of Conall still be out there, rather than in prison, where they clearly belong ? How many people are there willfully poisoning their neighbours in this fashion ? How difficult can it really be to apprehend and punish severely those who willfully poison others ?

The communities in which this type of scandalous act of killing occur, whether Sligo, Leitrim, Kerry, or wherever, are small. Johnny knows Mick and Mick knows Billy. Get out and catch them and spare our society these criminals, who have no compassion, much less love, for those we share this island nation with.

But more questions :

How can Scotland and Norway continue to send their children to our shores, to be put up against this wanton destruction ? How can their governments allow the exporting of their defenceless sons and daughters to another country where, seemingly, nothing or not enough is done to protect them ?

Shame on Scotland. Shame on Norway. Most of all, shame on Ireland. I am disgusted by all three of you.

Read more here. And here.

A Tourism Without Visiting ?

Okay, so the headline isn’t altogether precise.

What I really mean is, should we not be moving to a type of tourism, in which the visitor doesn’t necessarily get to actually visit everything he or she has come for ? By that, I mean not get to walk on or in the “main attraction”. Or at least, part of it.

The world’s national parks and nature reserves seem to be ever more opened to development. Headlines are all across the internet of “ABC Corp opens $ 300 m resort in XYZ nature reserve”, etc.

I find it can work just as well to introduce a place to people, then bring them so far, explain why we’re not going any further and move away. An example of this would be Tern breeding grounds on pebble beaches. Another would be  seal breeding beaches. Yet another would be delicate wetland habitats.

Sometimes, we come across board walks, for example jutting out into wetlands, so the humans can encroach that bit more and get a better ‘feel’ for the place. But do we need them ? Wouldn’t it be just as good to walk simply to the edge and have a knowledgeable expert explain what goes on inside ? Or perhaps build a sensitively designed, maybe somewhat camouflaged low watch tower on that edge ?

Do we need to place candles inside those 2,000 + year old cairns atop the remote hill ? Maybe we should stop 5 m short of the entrance and simply wonder at the magnificence.

Visiting – yes, but in part and not at all costs.