This Blog has Migrated

Dear friends,

This Blog has now migrated to my new website and can be found at

http://tourismpurewalking.com/blog

All old posts have transfered, so none have been lost.

I do hope you’ll enjoy both my new website and my Blog at its new home.

Get in touch, by visiting http://tourismpurewalking.com

or e-mail me on info@tourismpurewalking.com

Slán,

Barry.

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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.

Beached Minke Whale on The Mullet

Friday last was a beautiful day up on The Mullet peninsula. I went to Caisleaán strand on the western side to spot some Barnacle Geese. What I actually found were 9 Brent plus the small matter of a beached Minke Whale.

Some farmers told me the whale had been there several days and if you compare the pictures below with those I took of another beached Minke at Enniscrone last September, here, which was less than 24 hours on the beach at the time, you can see the difference in skin discolouration. Also, both the jaw area and dorsal fin of the Caisleán whale had been buried in the sand by the time I got there.

I estimated the whale at around 9 metres long.

Schizophrenic Coillte

I regularly bring groups walking on Coillte managed land. Although virtually exclusively non-native afforestation, nevertheless these habitats do support a range of wildlife and afford good long off-road walking routes. You can ‘get lost’ in these huge conifer plantations, forget about the world outside for a while and enjoy the fresh air. 

If lucky, you might spot Kestrel, Merlin, Red Deer, Pine Marten, Otter, Red Grouse and small birds, like Coat Tit, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Pipits, etc. These are not the ‘dead zones’ some would like us to believe. Low in biodiversity they are, but ‘dead’ they certainly are not.

I wrote a reasonably positive blog entry some weeks back about the good native forest restoration work ongoing under the EU-Life project. While I know that positive work is currently being done in places like Clonbur Wood and other sites, I also know that very little good is being done on the so-called Millenium Forest at nearby Tourmakeady Wood, where the site is severely infested with Rhododendron. A decade back, Coillte brazenly declared on the signage within Tourmakeady that the Rhododendron was to be eradicated. Nothing of the sort has happened.  

I am a pragmatist who realises that commercial conifer plantations play a role in Ireland’s rural economy and that the state-owned Coillte is not going to stop its main business any time soon. I avail of their open door policy to walkers, cyclists and so on and appreciate that.  

My gripe, however, has more to do with the way it behaves itself. While on the one hand waving its flag about Clonbur et al, on the other hand it seems to have abandoned Tourmakeady.  

Eskeragh, North Mayo

Eskeragh, North Mayo

On Wednesday, I visited another restoration project, this time at Eskeragh, north Mayo. This EU-Life project is about blanket bog restoration. Here, Coillte openly admits to having virtually destroyed the natural habitat, through drainage and conifer planting in the 1980s. It has removed the conifers, blocked up drains in order to allow the site to waterlog once more and has even installed a nice attractive boardwalk with accompanying explanatory panel for visitors. 

Good for them, I hear you cry. 

However, no more than a few kilometres away, I then visited a vast plantation at Carrowkilleen / Carrowgarve. Here, you see the ‘real’ Coillte at work, away from the PR and the public.  

Felling has recently taken place here on a vast scale, far greater than what might be considered reasonable. The destruction is terrible, leaving a landscape of mangled tree stumps, broken branches, churned up ground, compromised water quality and heavy machinery tracks. I hear you say “well, that’s the price you pay for commercial forestry on a large scale”. I reiterate that it does not have to be on such a massive scale all at once.  

The problem here is wanton environmental damage being perpetrated at these sites. I found this upturned drum of gearbox oil dumped in a water channel. You can clearly see that the spout is open. Further along, Pipits and Wagtails dipped their beaks in oil-polluted puddles. A large tyre was dumped in another water channel. This is disgraceful behaviour and demonstrates clear disregard for the environment Coillte claims to care for at other sites.  

So, Coillte, go ahead with your commercial non-native plantations, but why not carry out your business in a responsible and environmentally respectful manner. Oh yeah, and give us more native broadleaves. Oh yeah, and hand over your bogland and forest restoration project sites to an independent body that might actually care and be focussed on sustainability, environmental care and biodiversity.  

Beached Minke Whale at Enniscrone

I took a spin up to Enniscrone this morning to see the unfortunate dead Minke Whale, washed up on the brilliantly named Diamond Valley Beach at Enniscrone.

The whale measures 8.7 m and will remain there until at least this evening and maybe even until tomorrow morning, according to Sligo County Council’s local office.

Minkes are quite common off Ireland’s West coast and are the smallest baleen whale. They have white spots on their flippers and their dorsal fin is quite small and quite far back along the back.

Mountain Challenge Done

On Saturday  last, along with around 55 others, I took part in the Mighty Mayo Mountain Challenge (see entry below).

We started off in two buses from Castlebar and began the climb of Nephin, from the north side, after 6 am. The weather was good and the climb without difficulty. Of course it was cold at the top, but any climb of any mountain in Mayo that you come off still dry is a treat. I took exactly 3 hr 00 to complete the climb and felt fine afterwards. My dodgy knees were still good.

We began the Reek after 10 am and, boy, was it packed. Not only was there the huge Gaelforce West event on, but there were also over 100 climbing in aid of Our Lady’s Hospital for Children, plus the usual individuals, couples and families that are on the mountain any given day during summer.

In fact, I found the Gaelforce guys not to be in the way, but very helpful at making me keep up the pace. With a competitor in front and a competitor behind, you actually didn’t have much choice but to keep moving. I completed it in 2 hr 35, which, while not that fast, wasn’t too slow either. Maybe 8 years ago, I once did it in 1 hr 05 up and 48 mins down. Again, it was dry.

After soup and sandwiches in Croagh Patrick’s carpark, it was off to Mweelrea. The rain started to fall before we got there.

I had been climbing for 1 hr 30 when the group organiser, Vincent, called a halt to proceedings. He was right. It was far too rainy, far too windy, far too foggy and far too dangerous to continue. I had reached the end of the boggy terrain and just about to hit the rocky final ascent, around 30 minutes from the top. Visibility was much too poor and, in such circumstances, you must respect the mountain. I descended in another 1 hr 05 and was soaked through long before I even started to some off the mountain.

In 10 years, I have tackled Mweelrea 5 times and only ever reached the summit on one occasion. The mountain is right on the ocean to the west, with the Killary immediately to the south. Cloud rolls in incredibly quickly. Literally you can see the summit clearly one minute and not 10 metres in front of your nose the next.

I want to thank all of you who contributed sponsorship for this event. It was a great day in the mountains of Mayo. And the knees survived.