01 September 2011

Eolaí and his Painting Tour: Week Nine

Years ago in Mayo, whilst spending my days bounding across bogland to one neolithic site after another, my afternoons poring over German analyses of ancient battles, my evenings having a jar in McGuire's bar, and my nights playing backgammon before a turf fire, I was introduced to a wonderful 1841 travel book, Caesar Otway's Sketches in Erris and Tyrawly, in which the inestimable Tipperary Anglican opined:
'We now came in sight of Lough Carrowmore, the largest lake in Erris; it is one of the three lakes which Partholan, if we are to believe Keating, discovered on his inspection of Ireland after his landing thereon -- others had not yet been formed. But though it be old, it is ugly; the eye looking northward from the road we are travelling on, taking in nearly its greatest length, about four miles; and it is far from beautiful -- the surrounding hills are neither grand nor varied in their forms, the desolate bog comes down on all sides, and surrounds it with its melancholy cincture; the islands are few and flat, and not even a furze, or bramble bush decorates their stony and wave-washed shores, over which the cormorant urges its slow and ungainly flight, and from whose rocks the curlew sends its melancholy pipe. I have not seen since I left the borders of Lough Derg, (where supersition disgraces what nature has made but ugly,) a more desolate, and at the same time unpleasing water, than Lough Carrowmore.'
You don't get that in Bill Bryson. 

We left the Brother last Thursday after he'd arrived in Bangor Erris, having cycled in the rain and the golden hour through the beauties of Ballycroy. The next day saw him setting off north again, along the western shore of Lough Carrowmore, through Barnatra and Inver, looking over towards Rossport before making his way to Pollatomish, there to stay at Kilcommon Lodge, one of my favourite places in Ireland, and I place to which I'd love to go back.

Though it be old, it is ugly. Right... it's worth clicking on the links for the colour original, btw

You'll know of Pollatomish, of course, if you've watched the news at all in Ireland over the last few years. It's an absolutely magical place in the most beautiful of surroundings, which sadly has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. There was a major landslide there in September 2003, and though that'd be problem enough, it pales into insignificance next to the story of the Corrib Gas Field, Shell to Sea, and The Pipe.

If you haven't seen The Pipe, or An Píopa in its Irish-language version, then you should track it down. Somehow. It's both heartbreaking and inspiring, and important too. The whole story is one people should know, inviting questions anybody interested in modern Ireland should be asking. I visited Broadhaven Bay a few times just as this whole storm was beginning to brew, so it's kind of personal to me, but I think it's something people need to know about. It's not just a story of the usual suspects blocking progress, and I don't think it's typical NIMBYism either. You might disagree with me, of course, but don't do it out of hand, Track down the film, and do some reading, and watch other documentaries, and even visit the area if you can. And think.

Saturday saw the Brother thinking Mayo was so beautiful he needed to see more of it, so off he set to look at the where all the action is regarding Shell's activity, before returning along the eastern shore of Lough Carrowmore through Bangor and Bellacorick, site of the famous Musical Bridge, to his next host, just outside Newport, where he'd planned on being a couple of nights earlier. 70 kilometres of cycling all told, and much of it in the rain, with him arriving in Newport drenched through.

Sunday was a day for painting, and for watching Dublin beat Donegal in what at least began as a very ugly match. 'Japers,' said the Brother, 'Japers, to think I stopped actually watching paint dry to watch this.' Still, Dublin won, the hard way, in what the Brother says was an amazing spectacle. They'll be facing Kerry in the final. It's been a while.

Leaving his hosts with a painting of Skerdagh School, on Monday he was off again, hoping to push himself to Enniscrone. Not sure of his route, he decided that to hold off deciding until he reached Pontoon, between Loughs Conn and Cullin, and by Lough Conn he stopped to drink some tea and eat some boxty. Onward he peddled to Ballina and beyond, before a sudden attack of common sense struck him with the thought that Enniscrone was too ambitious a destination, and he turned back to Ballina.

-- Can I get milk, a big glass, a carton? he asked the man in the B&B.
-- You want to drink milk?
-- I want to make tea all night.
-- I'll give you a big jug, said the man.

Tuesday began as it was destined to continue, with tea, and then the Brother set off, carrying on towards Enniscrone, stopping for potato cakes within sight of Nephin and Killala Bay in Sligo, his fifteenth county. Along the Sligo coast he cycled, past Dunmoran, and stopping for some purchases and another fine exchange.

-- Do you want a bag for those?
-- No thanks, I have my bike outside.
-- Petrol or diesel?
-- Legs. 

He carried on towards his destination, eventually reaching Sligo town, there to imbibe some tea*, to have a wander along the beach, and to watch the sun set.

Yesterday began with an improbably blue sky, and was a day for plotting, with the brother giving serious thought to the feasibility of a few of his planned counties. Without any hosts thus far, Leitrim, Roscommon, Fermanagh, Donegal, and Tyrone were all looking tricky, so lots of thinking was on the cards.

Not just thinking, though; the application of colour to canvas took place as you'd expect, with tea and potato cakes to keep the Brother going, and Ben Bulben away off in the background, as he sat painting and talking on Dunmoran Strand. It wasn't as warm as it might have been, though, and he regretted having left his jumper behind. Of course, the tide started to rise, impatient of the Brother's wishes, that being its wont, and him remembering difficulties at Cork's Garryvoe Beach, he withdrew to higher ground to watch the birds.

As for today? Well, he's been cycling round about, and taken a trip to Rosses Point, where a statue called 'Waiting on Shore' stands in memory of all those roundabout who've lost loved ones at sea; seemingly people have been known to rest trays full of biscuits in her hands. As the evening wore on, the Brother was nuzzled by a friendly Alsatian**, before being taken on a drive out to Innisfree, there to ponder, one presumes, just how simply he could live with bees and beans. And brushes, of course.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow

With the evening drawing to a close, he unveiled his plan for the next few days, an ambitious loop through five counties in five days. Roscommon's on the cards for tomorrow, and he's nowhere there to lay his head just yet, so if anyone's interested, please let him know.

Indeed, if you think there's any chance at all the Brother might be passing within twenty miles or so of where you live, especially if you're in the likes of Roscommon, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Donegal, or Tyrone, and if you have a bed to offer and fancy a painting, do get in touch with him. He's a man of simpler wants than Yeats's islander: somewhere to lay his head, food to eat, limitless tea, and to know where you are.

You can follow the last three weeks of the Painting Tour on the Brother's blog and especially on Twitter, using the hashtag  #paintingtour. His Facebook account's worth a shout too, but Twitter's where most of the real action is. Don't be afraid to give Ireland's first digital nomad™ a shout -- the tour's about social media in Ireland as much as it is art and the Irish countryside, after all.

* Barry's, of course.
** No, not Arsene Wenger, Alsatian though he is and doubtless well-disposed to Evertonians today. A German Shepherd. A dog. Keep up.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great post! Put one of the pics - Justice - on Twitter. Have to say the best photos were in Mayo so far. Great shots and best scenery!