Ireland Revisited, Part 8
On the Famine Trail in Search of Ancestral Roots
Part 8: Dingle Golf Links
Thursday, June 19, 1997 - Dingle Peninsula, Lewis -
Rising to a dreary, misty morning, we dropped our laundry off at a nearby service housed in a squat, concrete block building. I returned to Dingle Golf Club for what turned out to be a delightful round of golf as the morning showers ceased and the sun came out for much of the afternoon. The Irish weather forecasters don't speak in terms of "sunny" and "cloudy," with permutations in between. That's because it's cloudy everyday, or at least every day we've ever been in the country. The best you can hope for is that the forecasters use the word "dry," meaning absence of rain.
With more cheery weather and the benefit of some hard-won, local course knowledge, I played better than on the previous day, shooting a 44 on the front 9. However, I only managed a 51 on the back 9 as walking up and down the links while pulling a cart through thick turf took its toll. The pace of play slowed considerably due to a ladies' "competition," as they call an interclub match. But the views of the blue Atlantic tossing about the cliffs at Sybil's Point were almost spiritual in beauty.
Later, I "collected" Betty and we drove to nearby Clogher Beach, a half-moon shaped spread of sand perhaps 150 yards across ringed by steep cliffs. We poked
|Betty at Clogher Beach|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
Since it was so early by Irish standards, the drinking hadn't really started at the pub and we had plenty of time to visit with a chatty, fresh barmaid, who was the daughter of the pub's owner. Her name was Gra'nna (pronounced groan-yah) O'Connor. She told us more about the shooting of "Far and Away," confirming our suspicion that the sloping land-drop to the Clogher Head cliffside we had walked around a few hours earlier had, in fact, been one of the locations. An open area of mostly gravel had been the site of a re-created, 19th Century Irish village set built of fiberglass for the movie.
Gra'nna told us that a helicopter had crashed into the ocean right at the base of the cliffs while filming. Divers retrieved a very expensive camera, but the helicopter wreckage was not recovered. A few miles away, a pub overlooking the sea has several photos on its walls of local residents who appeared as extras in the movie; oddly, none are of Tom Cruise or other celebrities. The everyday Irish priorities seem to have a different order than do those of star-struck Americans. There were no markers or even notations in the guidebooks about the filming sites, which I'm sure would be of interest to American tourists who had seen the movie.
Thursday, June 19, 1997 - Dingle Peninsula, Betty -
The day started out looking dreary, but as the day went on it started to clear to the point where it didn't look so much like rain. Buzz left for the golf course. I decided to stay around the Wine Rock and catch up on my travel journal and do some reading.
I went outside and sat in the sunshine on the stone wall around part of the property, enjoying the wide-open spaces, the wonderfully fresh air and the sight of a farmer, his son and their sheepdog across the way. Their tractor was pulling a trailer carrying what looked to be small pieces of pinewood. The dog hopped up on the wood after the lad closed the gate and was quickly joined by the boy, a chainsaw and a jug of petrol. The sheep are grazing in a pasture across the road, Slea Head Drive, and I can see the Wine Strand and cliff from where I sit. The wildflowers on the edge of the road and in the pasture are so beautiful.
Two Frenchwomen came out of the restaurant, after stopping for lunch with their tour bus, and picked some wild fuchsia growing alongside the road. I thought Noreen would have had our room freshened up by now, so I picked a variety of wildflowers and interesting grasses and took them to our upstairs room, where I put them in a water pitcher. I wish I had all the variety of free flowers at home so I could fill vases. It is truly amazing how many types of wild flowers grow almost everywhere in Ireland. Even the shrubs have flowers. Those who have rose bushes have blooms the size of saucers.
When Buzz returned from golf, we drove a few miles to a beautiful beach before going to dinner. It was one of the beaches at Clogher Head Point we had seen from the road high above during our drive the day before to the Blasket Island ferry. The waves were rolling in and breaking on the rocks and cliffs. It was quite windy and quite beautiful. We found a large dolphin that had been washed way up into the rocks; it looked as if it had been dead a long time. There were signs posted on the cliffs above the beach saying that no swimming was allowed due to dangerous currents. I know the photos we have taken here will not do any of the views justice. Almost everywhere you look there is a magnificent view of the ocean or countryside on the Dingle Peninsula. I am glad we decided to stay here.
That night, we ate at Begley's Pub at Ballydavid, for the second time. I had the Smerwick Harbour Crab Claw Salad with pickled red cabbage and a side salad. It was very tasty. The chef made his vinegar/oil and herb salad dressing especially for us again.
Photographs taken today included shots of the laundry and Post near Ballydavid and Ceann Sibeal Golf Club near Ballyferriter.
Friday, June 20, 1997 - Dingle Peninsula, Lewis -
Heavy clouds and a brisk wind blowing chilled air off the ocean and an occasional
|Betty at Gallarus Oratory|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
Nearby is Gallarus Castle, a 12th Century Norman Tower owned by the Fitzgeralds. They were members of the Irish Catholic nobility, until it was overwhelmed by Oliver Cromwell's Protestant forces about the time the Pilgrims were seeking new homes in America. The tower ruins are being restored and I was astonished to see a work crew using ancient scythes to cut back the overgrowth rather than gasoline motor-powered bush hogs or weed whackers.
A half mile or more away is the ruins of Kilmalkedar Church, a Romanesque
|Betty at Kilmalkedar Church|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
The markings and signage in what is left of these very important structures is minimal. There is no security, not even fences. A young Irishman, who appeared to be a student working a part-time job during the tourist season, collected one-Pound admission fees at the Oratory, the only example we saw of active government protection of the irreplaceable structures on the Dingle Peninsula. He told us the word "Oratory" was a derivative of the Latin word for "place of worship." He was surprised when I offered my opinion that such a structure would not survive in the U.S. due to the deliberate acts of vandals. He asked in all sincerity, "why would anybody do that?" His surprise was genuine. While they seem to blank out the Great Famine, the Irish take extremely long views of history and have a respect for tradition and place that transcends anything I've ever encountered.
We drove into Dingle Town to change more American Express travelers checks for Punts (the dollar was weakening, down from $1.537 per Pound to $1.552). We were advised by a woman teller at the Bank of Ireland's currency exchange window that it would be to our advantage on future trips to await arrival in Ireland before changing money. The reason is that Ireland wants dollars and will pay more for them than will U.S. banks making available the exchange service. Back home, First Tennessee had given me a rate of $1.59.
We had a nice lunch at the Chart House and then took in a local history/heritage museum in Ballyferriter that featured many Gaelic objects. Betty learned to write our name in Ogham. We also visited the village church, where all notices, signs and services of the Mass are in Irish. I lighted candles for my Irish forebears and the unnumbered victims of the Great Famine.
We had a fairly good dinner that evening in what the locals claim is the best restaurant in the area, Gorman's (Tig Ui Ghormain Caife na Mara). While the atmosphere of the place was quite nice, we didn't think the food was any better than that served by the more modest Begley's. We were seated next to an English couple in their 60s who now live in Australia. They were on a walking tour around the Dingle Peninsula that was taking them six days. When the showers come, and they came every day during our stay, the intrepid English put on raingear and keep on trekking.