Ireland

Little Island I

If you are looking for a unique place to stay in Waterford, you might think about the Waterford Castle hotel and Golf Club on the Little Island. I borrowed this aerial view image from the Golf Open Competitions website – you can also click on the image to view the page. It is a very good site, covering all the golf events in the country.

I put three marks on the map: the ferry point, the castle, and the guide beacon – a tower standing on the sand spit. We will walk the perimeter of the island – it will only take an hour of brisk walk and two blog posts 🙂

This is a Google map with the same marks.

Little Island is located on River Suir just 2 miles from the estuary, and encircled by the Queens and Kings Channels. The strategic position of the island has always attracted settlers. The island changed hands several times. First came the monks, then the Vikings, and finally the Normans.  The FitzGerald family being the cousins of Strongbow were awarded this land for their part in the Norman Invasion. They built a Norman keep around which the rest of the current castle was built over the centuries. The island was connected to the mainland by wooden boats, but the residents would also use the stepping stones to cross the north channel ( then called the Ford) to attend the mass. Obviously, the channel wasn’t navigable as there was a depth of only two feet at low tide. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the channel was cleaned and deepened.

The FitzGeralds owned the ‘Lytle Yland’ for almost eight centuries. The land was farmed by the lord and rented out to tenants to be used as pasture, and to grow crops. Pay and conditions were good. By the 20th century, the island developed into the self contained community. If you are interested, here is a link to an absolutely fascinating article by Tom Dooley on the history of the Little Island, found on the page #49.

The Little Island was first leased and sold in 1958. After that it changed owners another couple of times. The castle was turned into hotel in 1988, and 48 three-and four-bedroom garden lodges were added in 2007. I won’t share any reviews. I only help you discover the island and have a pleasant time walking around. Isolation and ambiance of the island are worth the money – you can also book a whole lodge for the price of a room in the castle if you travel with your family and want to save a little. By the way, they say you might see ghosts in the castle and fields. Is it why I never met another walker in the remote part of the island?

Mary Fitzgerald‘ ferry takes us across the King’s Channel which is the old natural bed of the river Suir. One-way winding road goes up the hill to the castle car park through the green canopy full of wildlife. We won’t see the castle until the last minute – it is hidden in the high trees.

We drive past grazing deer.

This one is very inquisitive.

A young song thrush tries his voice.

A red squirrel with a white tail and white ear tufts is digging in the grass at the side of the road.

Suddenly the main entrance of the castle appears on the left.

When we are done with our walk, come in and ask for a cup of tea and a cake. Even if you are not a resident and didn’t make a reservation, there is a good chance you will be served.

You can walk around the castle and count the cute gargoyles.

A tiny garden offers tranquility and mystery.

To follow our plan, we take a trail that starts at the car park, and walk through the patch of trees. Some lucky residents have seen badgers and hedgehogs around the castle, but this happens early in the morning or late at night. We just see more deer 🙂

A grey squirrel resides in this part of the island – there is enough food for both species.

These pictures were taken in August – the Butterfly Month in Ireland.

Our path reaches the river. There is a patch of thistles, a favorite spot for butterflies. Let’s have a look.

This is a brand new Peacock butterfly, the most spectacular of the Irish butterflies. It will overwinter in a tree trunk or another dark place, and resume activity in March.

Small tortoiseshell is a very common butterfly also known for its hibernating habits. Every February-March I find one or more in my kitchen where they overwinter somewhere behind the cabinets.

Meadow brown female is not as hairy as her colorful cousins.

This is Red admiral, a beautiful migrant from Southern Europe.

Red admirals are not shy. One lands on my shoulder, stays there for a couple of minutes and then returns to the thistles.

Butterflies have a variety of predators. This one has been in a fight for his life 🙂

After admiring the butterflies, we walk west towards the Islands Edge. Little Island is a nesting place for herons, and you will see many of them at the water edge and in the fields.

A group of Godwits inspect the muddy riverbed.

Various waders can be seen picking lugworms : Curlew, Godwit and two almost identical Lapwings.

We walk past the castle and enter a wooded area.

We walk to the point where the path merges with the road that brought us to the castle. As we are not leaving the island yet, let’s walk back to the castle, have a cup of tea by the fireplace in the Great Hall, and get ready for our next adventure..

Here are two links to my favorite websites where you can read more about history and sailing specifics of the Little Island.

https://eoceanic.com/sailing/harbours/27/little_island

https://irishwaterwayshistory.com/tag/little-island/

We resume our walk in two weeks.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

River Suir burst its banks

I apologize for the silence.

To keep the blog looking updated, I add some more November pictures of a spectacular flood of the River Suir.

On the following day the rain ceased and the flooded area slightly shrank and was disconnected from the river. It will eventually dry up in summer.

The river remains swollen and the walking trail flooded.

Heron doesn’t mind.

Thank you for your kind support.

Have a wonderful week!

Waterford Walls 2019

I was out of town during the Waterford Walls festival this August, and only recently took some photographs, probably covering only a half of the walls. Here is a link to the previous Waterford Walls blog posts if you need it for a reference. Please visit the artists websites. All the links in this blog open on separate pages and your reading won’t be interrupted.

Yasja’s Northern lights-inspired work wasn’t included in the festival map, but I knew it was a recent work. I would have noticed if it has been there before. Yasja is a brilliant artist from Amsterdam and I choose her work for my opening picture.

I walk wall to wall, and it takes me about two hours to see all these wonderful murals.

Niamh Curry  grew up in Clonmel, Ireland. She is a self-taught artist, and her works are recognizable for their bright colors and painting technique. Niamh got to paint in Georges Court, right next to the Waterford Walls headquarters. I love her foxes.

Kevin Bohan, a professional artist and illustrator from Dublin, is a regular guest of the festival. I am a huge fan of his work. Kevin takes part in community projects and generously shares his talent. Here is his Instagram link.

Next to Kevin’s wall there is a Curtis Hylton’s work Ned The Dog. As their website states, Ned is the head of security for Waterford Walls.

I walk uphill to the place where the Birdo’s wall used to be. I am surprised to see Joe Castlin’s work repainted, but I love the fishies by Michael Beerens, an artist from France.

On the other side of the hill I admire a mural by Taquen, a young artist from Madrid.

To learn what the work by Garreth Joyce is about, click on this link .

I walk uphill again (Waterford is not a flat city), to take a picture of another two foxes, this time by Nina Valkhoff, an illustrator and muralist from the Netherlands. Here is a link to Nina’s website. 

I guess it was not easy to paint between all these doors and windows. I think about foxes whose habitats have been taken away by humans…

I walk to the social housing area. The streets and the buildings look dull and monotonous, but I have a map in my hand and know a secret: Waterford Walls festival has reached this colourless place and made a difference. This work by Shane Sutton, an artist in residence with the European Space Agency, might be monochrome, but it added so much color to the street! The artist also incorporated a transformer box into his work. It is transmitting old Disney classic now.

Dan Leo has gifted another beautiful animal to the city.

This is Curtis Hylton’s wall from 2018, but I never used the picture before. Please have a closer look at the fish. It is not a fish at all. What a heartbreaking image.

I wonder what this sad woman represents. The wall by Russ, France.

Another French artist, Kogaone. Here is another link.

A very impressive wall by Sper, an artist from Belgium.

A young artist, graphic designer and illustrator KREEMOS from Russia created this industrially looking puzzle. You will find that it says “Lost in a dream”. Two things caught my eye – a lapwing, one of my favorite birds, and a creative use of the colour palette masking the garbage bins.

Three female artists shared their works in Stephens street. Caoilfhionn Hanton is a self taught local artist who has been with Waterford Walls since the inception. I love the positive energy of her paintings.

Another female artist – FRIZ from the Northern Ireland.

Novice, a street artist from Dublin. She is not a novice in the street art anymore. The meaning of the name is – never stop learning.

Rounding up my walk I found a puffin.

This is a work by Mehsos, an artist from Belgium.

Patrick street in the puffin’s eye – I know that he is watching me as I walk down the street.

The real life sparrows are watching me too.

Thank you for visiting Waterford.  Here is a link to the excellent website by Resa McConaghy, a costume designer and author from Toronto who knows and shares street art  – https://graffitiluxandmurals.com/ Please visit and follow.

Have a wonderful week!

Kilfane Church

The day out with Pat the Fox Man continues.

After leaving Jerpoint Abbey, Pat asked me if I ever been to Kilfane Church. I haven’t, so off we went.

Medieval parish church of Kilfane, now in ruins, is located on the other side of Thomastown, some 15 minutes drive from Jerpoint Abbey. The adjoining structure is a presbytery – a stone house where the parish priests resided in the upper floors.

The graveyard alone deserves a separate blog post.

Good timing! Inside the church we met a very knowledgeable man who makes a living doing what he loves – an archaeologist, author and photographer Chris Corlett. Chris kindly answered my questions, and as we walked around the church he pointed out many things I would have overlooked. I left the men to chat and went to take some pictures for this blog post.

The biggest (literally) attraction of the ruins is an eight feet tall effigy of a knight in full armor made from a slab of limestone. The knight wears a mail hood and body armor, a surcoat, and a sword on a sword belt. He also wears spurs which means he had fought on the horseback.

The coat of arms on the knight’s shield reveals his identity. It is the Cantwell family coat of arms: annulets and a canton ermine.

The Cantwells were a Norman family, originally from Suffolk. They came to Ireland in the end of the 12th century and were made Lords of Kilfane for their loyal service to Theobald Walter, the first Chief Butler of Ireland. It is believed that the effigy depicts Thomas Cantwell who died in the 1320-s.

Cantwell Fada – The Long Man – is the largest effigy of its kind in Britain and Ireland.

In contrast to the smiling knights and bishops of Jerpoint Abbey, Thomas Cantwell’s carved face looks gloomy and unhappy. The story goes that the reason of his unhappiness and death was his marriage to Beatrice Donati whom he met while on crusade. Beatrice soon bored of her life with Cantwell and befriended the ‘Kilkenny witch’ Alice Kyteler. Both were arrested. Beatrice was held in Kilkenny dungeon but escaped and hid for five month in a monastery. Her husband eventually captured her and killed her accomplice, but Beatrice managed to fatally stab him in the heart with a gold bodkin.

When the church was taken over by the Protestants, the effigy was buried, but later was dug up again. There are four copies of it made in 1852.

The hole in the wall is actually a door to the ground floor room of the presbytery – a sacristy, where the vestments and articles of sacred rituals were kept.

The sacristy.

The stairs go up to the priests’ residency. At the top of the stairs there is a trap door. A hall is on the right.

The trap door.

A toilet.

The floors are gone but you can see where they used to be.

I couldn’t resist climbing the narrow stairs.

One floor up.

Another floor.

I keep climbing.

Finally on the top!

I had to stick my camera out of the narrow window to take this picture.

Back on the ground again. There is so much to see – it is simply amazing.

The bell tower has its own staircase, but it is damaged and too narrow anyway.

Both walls feature original ogee headed doorways.

Ogee arches were introduced to European cities from the Middle East. They were a popular feature of English Gothic architecture in the 13th century when Kilfane church was built.

Stone seats for the priest and his assistants in the south wall – sedilia.

Sedilia still have some ancient red paint residue on the carvings.

Another amazing find is the fragments of the consecration crosses on the church walls.

A new constructed church had to be consecrated, or made into a sacred place of worship. The Bishop would bless the building and anoint it making the sign of the cross with his thumb dipped in consecrated oil. Typically, twelve such crosses were created on the inside walls, and twelve more outside on door frames and corners. Each of these crosses would have been incised and painted afterwards.

You can see two incised circles and a cross incised and painted within the inner circle.

In the end of the 17th century, the church was taken over by the Protestants and the consecration crosses were concealed by plastering over them. When a new church was built just across the road (c. 1825), the roof was taken off the old church.

The plaster is falling off, thus revealing the old consecration crosses. Chris Corlett is sure about another few places where the crosses would have been placed, but you can read about everything in his own publications.

One last look at the church and the Long Man.

I ate in The Long Man pub once … It is ‘closed for renovations’ these days. I just drove over there to take this picture.

Thank you for joining us on this day out, dear readers! County Kilkenny is full of history, and I hope to write more about it in the future.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Jerpoint Abbey tour

Pat The Fox Man and I set off on our historical tour. Pat has never been in Jerpoint Abbey before, and it was fantastic that he had got a tour guide to himself. I and my camera were trailing behind them.

In the pictures: Pat Gibbons and his tour guide Margaret Brophy. I was delighted that Pat had such a knowledgeable guide. Their conversation went beyond the history of the abbey to the history of the whole parish.

Originally a Benedictine monastery built in 1160, Jerpoint Abbey was affiliated to the Cistercian Order in 1180. Scholars believe that Domnall I, the king of Ossory who died in 1176, was possibly the founder of the monastery. This is supported by a charter of King John to Jerpoint Abbey confirming the lands granted by Domnall. The grant happened before Strongbow arrived in Leinster in 1170.

The restoration works are on in the abbey. Some areas are fenced and the north aisle is closed.

You can see the scaffolding in the north isle, behind the arcade of pointed arches supported by large piers. There are six arches, with different design on each pier. Margaret and Pat are walking to the Romanesque west nave – the lay brothers’ choir. It is the place where the lay brothers gathered to attend Mass. The nave originally had an arcaded aisle on both sides. There is a special room in the museum where all the broken pieces of masonry – particularly the parts of arches and piers –  are stored and can be viewed by the visitors.

The west nave window comprises of three round-headed lights.

The Monk’s choir is the east part of the nave.

This is what the windows look like in the morning light from the main road.

The crossing tower above the intersection of the chancel, nave and transept was added in the 15th century. Towers were not allowed by the Order’s authority at the time the monastery was built. The rib vaulting of the tower’s ceiling is well preserved. The pointed arches open to the nave, chancel and both transepts. Each transept has two chapels on the east side.

There are a tomb and funeral slabs in the crossing.

I went to the north transept to check out the chapels. And this is what I found.

Of course I stuck there for a long time watching the mama swallow and her “yellow-lipped” babies.

There is something else quite amazing in the chapels – beautifully carved tomb weepers decorating the mensa-tomb chests. In the picture below you see six weepers – the apostles who can be recognized by the attributes related to the manner of their martyrdom. From the left: St John with a chalice; St Thomas with a lance; St Simon with a saw; St Bartholomew with skin – it is believed he was flayed alive; St Paul holding a sword, and St Matthew an axe. The carvings were made by the sculptor Rory O’Tunney of Callan.

These weepers are St Catherine of Alexandria with a wheel, St Michael the Archangel in the centre, and St Margaret of Antioch wearing a ring broach and stomping on a dragon’s head.

I left the chapels and went to the presbytery to admire the ancient wall paintings.

In the image below, you see three tomb niches in the wall under the painted fragment. It is where two tomb effigies from the next picture were originally placed.

The tomb effigy in background represents Felix O’Dulany, the first Abbot of Jerpoint praised for his ‘zeal, charity and prudence’.  The other effigy (foreground) possibly represents Donal O’Fogarty, another bishop of the Diocese of Ossory.

Bishop O’Dulany died in 1202. They say ‘many miracles were wrought by him’. The face of the effigy is badly worn: it was believed that pilgrims touching the face would be cured of their illnesses.

This is a 15-16th century wall painting after the restoration works. You can see the fragments of two shields with the scallop shells and wild boars – four shells and possibly four boars. Scallop shells represent St James and are the symbol of pilgrimage. I am not sure about the boars. Usually they represent ferocity and power. I should have listened to Margaret’s explanation instead of looking for birds 🙂

The abbey is famous for its large number of stone carvings untypical for a Cistercian monastery. You will find amusing figures of animals and fantastic creatures, knights, damsels, monks and smiling bishops carved on the piers. There are so many carvings that when you come again you will find something new you haven’t seen before.

The west part of the cloister arcade is reconstructed. You will find many lay and religious carvings there, and learn about the armor and clothing worn at the times.

The famous ‘man with the stomach ache’.

View of the tower from the west side of the cloister arcade.

The south part of the cloister arcade also survive.

This part of the arcade would support the roof over the buildings like refectory (dining room) and calefactory (warming house) which are long gone.

As you see in the picture, there is an upper floor that can be reached from the south transept. It is where the monks’ dormitory was located. I want to return to the abbey next year, so I leave the upper floor for my future blog post.

Beautiful Gothic east window dates from the 14 century. You can see the outer halves of two old Romanesque windows – originally a triple window.

Clicking on this link you will find a detailed map of the abbey.

The graves around the abbey date from centuries ago to the present time.

We visited Jerpoint Abbey on a fine sunny day. I want to share a different mood – a poem written by Waterford-born journalist Samuel Carter Hall in 1823, and a series of photographs taken on a gray and foggy morning – all of this in the article written by an author and lecturer Robert O’Byrne.

You have visited one of the finest historical places in Co Kilkenny. Our day out isn’t over yet. It continues to the next blog post 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!