Coumshingaun in December 2020

We are visiting Crotty’s places, and Coumshingaun is next on the list. I will write more about the lake in January. Today I want to tell you about a man who had lived around there most of his life, 200 years after William Crotty.

The Hermit Lackendarra.

This picture is linked to the blog of a native of Kilmacthomas Tom O’Brien, novelist, playwright and poet living in Hastings UK. Tom wrote the hermit’s story in 2014, sharing his own memories as he grew up in the area. My plan was to write about Lackendarra in 2019, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his settling in the Comeraghs, but none of my plans have been working since… Yet, I didn’t give up on the idea. In November, I met a solo hiker who mentioned the hermit, and I knew it was the time to finally put up a blog post.

I had never been to the hermit’s cave, but I had a map from Barry Dalby of EastWest Mapping and spotted the rock from the main road. It took a while though, but on a fine and chilly December day I was finally standing there, as close as I could get to the place. The rock looked massive, its surface was glowing in the low winter light.

Before he became known by the name of Lackendarra, Jim Fitzgerald was a young lad raised by his grandparents in the townland of Castlereagh near Lackendarra on the other side of the Comeraghs. According to Census, he was born in 1891, and it also fits with the record of his death in 1959 at the age of 68.

Jim enlisted with the Royal Irish Regiment in 1914 and was sent to Mesopotamia with the 1st Bn Connaught Rangers in 1916. In 1918, he was discharged with diagnosis “melancholia” due to suffering a severe shell shock, a broken man, physically and mentally.

Unable to fit in and keep a job, he went to the mountains looking for a place to live away from society.

After days of search, he came across a cavern in the cliff behind Coumshingaun lake. It seems the cavern was the one where William Crotty used to hide his horses and stolen cattle.

“A few nights after his arrival, he had been awakened by the piercing wails of a woman and the agonizing groans of a man. The sounds were followed by the clip-clop of hoof beats and the echoes of clashing steel. After the some time the tumult had retreated along the tunnel – way to the north, and faded away…

The unearthly noises had continued every night without any variation, until his nerves eventually forced him to depart. “I thought Crotty’s ghost was after me and I could not suppress the fear that his gander resented my presence”.

Old Jim of the Comeraghs by John Scarry, The Wide World Magazine: Vol. 118, No. 700, November 1956

Jim left the cavern, but used a cave under the fallen rocks as his summer residence.

Before I continue with the story about my hike, I want you to watch this amazing video by Tom Fitzpatrick and learn more about The Hermit Lackendarra. It is a 17 minute video and some extras, not a single minute too long. I share this video to celebrate all the kind people who took care of a stranger, a broken man, expecting nothing in return.

Lackendarra from Tom Fitzpatrick on Vimeo.

*

I parked at Kilclooney Wood car park and being a polite (and curious) person started a small talk with these two gentlemen getting ready for their hike. The weather was extremely windy and chilly. I couldn’t miss noticing their serious hiking gear which meant they were up for the 4 hour cliff hike around the lake. My Sketchers walking shoes were noticed too, and frowned upon 😉 I asked about the Hermit’s cave and got the directions.

Meet the rock climbers – educator and mountaineer Jack Bergin and director of Dunmore East Sea School Robert Marchant.

I was glad I didn’t wear my Earth Spirit sandals that day… I wear them all the year round – just add an extra pair of socks in winter. They are great on the rocks and rugged terrain – I can feel the earth beneath my feet and never slip. Another good thing about them – I don’t do any damage to the soil and vegetation. It is very important for me because I often walk off the trails to take photographs. Even the Sketchers look heavy to compare with my favorite sandals.

This is an old photograph, and it was the view I expected, but there was no pine tree anymore. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was an artificial pine tree, so it definitely wasn’t cut down for timber!

I looked around in confusion, and there it was, all broken into pieces.

Now I know what the tree was made from.

Instead of walking up the slope, I continue straight ahead until the path takes me to the stone wall. Then I just follow the wall. I wouldn’t walk here in summer because of the ferns and other thick vegetation.

I look back at the coum trying to spot the brave rock climbers. I don’t feel the wind here, but I have seen the forecast… Hope they are all right…

Finally I see the Lackendarra’s Rock. It is not as close as I expected, but I wouldn’t cross the fencing. I just stand there thinking about everything I know about the man.

I look back at the coum again. It is very tempting to walk to the lake from here. It is what Lackendarra would do. There is a sheep track, and I follow it.

The sheep track is winding between the ferns. The rocks grow bigger as I come closer, and smaller again when I look back.

At this point I decide to turn left to may be join the trail. The place feels like a wind tunnel and I worry about the lads.

Robins and rabbits distracted me. It was after 3PM when I finally got to the lake. There I met another hiker, Garreth, and we exchanged some bits of information about the area. When Garreth left, I had the whole coum to myself. It was quite dark, I took a few pictures of a shallow stream and walked towards the far end of the lake. It is a half of a mile long walk, and I wouldn’t go to the caves anyway, so I just took this picture from a distance. To get a sense of scale, look at the white dots – the sheep. The Crotty’s cavern is in the centre. On the right side of the cavern the rockfall created a series of caves where Lackendarra would stay in summer.

This is an older picture. The place doesn’t change much over the seasons.

I am delighted you learned another bit of Co Waterford history. More about the lake in my next blog. And yes, the brave rock climbers returned safe and sound at the time I was done with my photography.

I hope you had a happy Christmas. There are too many people in the world haunted by their memories, fears or pain. Sometimes they are too different for us to be comfortable with. They might feel the same about us. It is a fragile territory where only a pure compassion can operate. My New Year’s wish for you is that your life is full of love, joy and prosperity, and also compassion – the key to all good in this life.

Thank you for being friends.

  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

85 comments

  1. What a fascinating story! I can fully understand how he wanted to be rid of society. Am I bad for thinking like this? Living on a boat for 21 years, it was easy to sail away from people. 😉
    Happy New Year! x

    1. Happy New Year, Nilla! It is very inspiring to know that there is somebody in this world who can sail away like you 😉 This freedom makes your writings so unique.

  2. Great images and blog. You have some interesting individuals in your area. Happy New Year and looking forward to more of your entertaining blogs next year!

    1. Thank you so much, Syd! It is an overdue post, but I wanted to see the rock before writing anything. Took me a while… Have a happy and safe New Year! Love your blog. Your works are such an inspiration.

  3. How interesting. I was raised in Nevada where there are many hermits out in the desert mountains. We call them “desert rats,” as many have guns and do not like their privacy interrupted. Thank you for the lovely wishes and I wish the same for you … Thanks for the lovely views of Ireland over the years.

    1. Thank you so much! Wow, I have never heard of such hermits. Hiking in Nevada is a bad idea, I guess. Comeragh mountains are relatively small, and the land is private. One cannot just go and settle there. Jim Lackendarra was a harmless man, a veteran, and the locals ‘adopted’ him. He lived in the mountains 40 years.

  4. Fascinating story! I am glad you and the climbers made it back safely. You certainly take us off the beaten path. Thank you for the New Year’s wishes – may 2021 be better for us all, my friend!

    1. Thank you so much! ❤
      I wish I could climb! Even if by a miracle I made it up the cliff, the path is very narrow in some places and I would be a nuisance for the other climbers. I will share other people's pictures in my next blog:)

    1. Thank you so much, Diana. I was touched by those people’s kindness too. They looked after Jim without patronizing or interfering. His dignity was always respected. I love country folks. They are the best.

  5. You are one determined wanderer, fearless and eager to follow difficult terrains and ancient legends. The story (and video) about Lackendarra are riveting. The images you have produced are at par with those I find in venerable journals like NG.

    Merry Christmas to you, Inese!

    1. Ah Uma, you always too kind. You will be disappointed in me when I post my next blog. I will share a hike for the weak and afflicted like myself, and show you a glimpse of a breathtaking trail, way out of my league 😉
      Hope you and your family are well. My friends and family have been hit with the virus, but no one is in the hospital, thankfully. I wish you all the best things for the New 2021. We will persevere.

  6. The artificial pine tree is similar used on the film set of Band of Brothers. Wondering if it was left behind after filming for something or other and whether there are more in the area.

    1. No, the tree is actually an old communications mast. I will post a picture in my next blog. After they erected the new mast they probably decided it was the time for the old tree to go. Pity, it was quite a landmark.

  7. Hello Inese,
    Thank you for sharing more insight into the history of this beautiful land.
    As always, it has been a real pleasure to read your thoughtful posts and view your beautiful photographs. Wishing you and all your dear ones a safe, healthy and happy new year.

    1. Thank you so much, my friend! ❤ I have been having a tough time, it is why I post so seldom. Thank you for reading and commenting. I wish you a wonderful 2021! Stay safe, enjoy life, be loved and happy ❤

  8. Magical as ever, Inese. I’ve been away from WP and most other things these last few months. Being unwell, still am, is a curse akin too no other. ‘Tis time I wrote again, and put my mind to work. That said, more importantly, how are things with you? Regards, The Old Fool

    1. Oh Mike, thank you for stopping by. I am so very sorry to hear you have been unwell. The Covid thing didn’t help either, I guess. This year was so bad that I don’t see a single good thing to remember about it, except that we hopefully survive it. Hang in there, Mike. I am off to your blog for more info. Hugs, my friend, and best wishes to you all for the new 2021.

      1. My thanks, Inese. I tend to agree that this has been quite the worse year simply because it’s been all-consuming in terms of a populous acting as one, and in doing so saving the lives of others. I find it saddening that so many idiots out there have shown no care in that regard. At least I got my money back for the three cancelled holidays we’d booked for the continent this year. Perhaps my bonus being that of an illness that would have prevented me crossing La Manche regardless. I live in hope that when eventually this virus is dead and buried that the curse of illness makes its exit. What with Kent being at the heart of the new variation of corona I’ve been avoiding leaving the house. Only yesterday dear Shirl reminded me that I’d been in a dressing gown for the whole of the last two weeks save for Christmas day when our old chum…the only member of our ‘bubble’…turned up. He’s been living back in the UK now following the death of his wife in France. At least he wasn’t alone at Christmas. A good thing. May 2021 be an exceptional year for you. Regards, Mike

        1. Oh Mike, I had two flights cancelled too. Haven’t seen my daughter since May 2019. Need a special Covid visa to fly to the US. Devastating. Guys you are blessed that you have your ‘bubble’. It has been a very sad year for me, in many ways. Young George is a blessing too, and it is so good you had your friend over for Christmas. Just hang in there, Mike. Do stay home, but make sure you are getting fresh air and some exercises from time to time. We will persevere ❤

          1. My thanks, Inese. I’m an everyday gym man…even Christmas day. We’re lucky to have a small home gym at the back of the house. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane and it is a significant help when it comes to fighting illness. I am missing travelling, like you. France in particular. Long ago I have let it be known to the family that that is the land I shall one day want my ashes spread. Staying in is irksome yet we do it. What did annoy me intensely was New Years Eve when…for the first time since we’ve lived here…some young idiots, so many of them by the sound of it…relatively nearby held a firework party. It must have cost them a small fortune. The explosions went on from 9pm to 4am, then the shouting’s of departure. I never slept a wink that night. Such is life, sometimes. Not a copper to be found, then we wonder why the virus is spreading!

            1. Yeah, I too want to strangle people now and then 😉 We are in lockdown since St Stephens day, for two months they say. I am so sorry about travels, I know you love France. These things are so tough to bear. How is your little “French cafe” doing? Probably closed for winter? Open another one in the kitchen – I know you are a fighter!:)

  9. Always a pleasure walking a tour with you. Lackenderra was quite the character. Loved the country side and the rock to house him in the summer. Hidding stolen cattle in the cave. I guess he did have to do what he did to survive. That fake tree was something else. One of the hikers looks almost identical to one of my cousins. Wishing you a belated holiday season and much love which is the umbrella that all else falls under for the new year and throughout the years as well. Love your post. ❤

    1. Thank you so much for your good wishes, Joseph! Jim Lackendarra was quite the character indeed. I love the way he was a part of the parish’s life for so many decades. No, he didn’t steal any cattle. The cavern in the rock at the back of the lake was used 200 years before him by William Crotty’s gang. It looks like their ghosts still stayed around there. I have never made it to the cavern. It is a long hike.
      The tree was actually a mast. I think it had been there for some 15 years. I will write a little about it in my next post.
      Wishing you all the best things and much love for 2021. Take a good care of yourself. ❤

    1. Hi Irene. Thank you for your comment and good wishes. Hope you have settled well in your new place. Best wishes and much love to you for 2021.

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