We are at Newgrange, Bru Na Boinne in Gaelic, a great Megalithic passage tomb dating from 3,200BC – it pre-dates the Pyramids. Built over fifteen years by those hard working Neolithics, who back then, had a bit of a round table conference and decided that a nearby hill would be a good possie for a monument. So they, the elders, set the peasant class to pulling huge four ton stones on rollers from a quarry way away and erecting them to make the rather elaborate ‘passage tomb’, orientating the narrow passage so that the winter solstice shone down the shaft warming the bones lying there. And the markings engraved on the stones. It would have taken years to work out the correct sun angle as they would also have had to contend with not only cloudy wintry weather, including snow, but had to carefully determine that they actually had the lowest angle of the sun. As well as contending with marauding Vikings coming to steal their goats and return the Neolithic’s wives for new ones who could row a Viking ship.
We did not get close to the monument as there were thousands of people there, disgorging from and/or clambering into huge coaches, coming in cars, camper vans and even a few motor homes. Its all well done, organised, meaning the carparks, entry walkways, information, come cafe, come ‘museum’ building are all well presented, laid out and designed. The tours were booked out over two hours ahead and one cannot get within cooee of the monument as its restricted to those on an official tour who had the intelligence to book ahead. And, as part of that, get to travel to the monument on a special bus as its about 2k’s from the info building. But we did see it in the distance from the trellised entry walkway, it, the trellised walkway, please pay attention, is surrounded by lush vegetation like some of those ‘down the bottom of the cliffs’ places near Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. We had a good squiz in the museum, saw the Gaelic/Irish speaking short movie version of the making of the monument, it followed by the Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Bogan versions. The megalithic monument at near 80 metres in diameter and 13 metres high is monumental work by peoples with primitive tools but wise heads. Its surrounded by 97 contiguous (look it up O’Brien) kerbstones like a fence.
I formed the view after careful study and consideration of the artefacts, the writings and the Bogan version short movie, that what actually happened was this.
Wart and Twig, the tribal leaders and elders of the Neolithic Centre Alliance are getting concerned about the unruliness in their tribe. Men want a shorter 70 hour working week and longer drinking horns. Women want access to cheaper Wooly Mammoth Togas and to learn how to row. And, the bloody teenagers are scribbling graffiti with their flint stones on tree trunks, sacred boondies, and doing burnouts and doughnuts late at night in Dads Mammoth pulled sleigh. Wart and Twig, after a night on the hogs bladder supplemented with inhaling smoke from dried Wooly Mammoth Dung, came up with a plan to build a tomb. But it needed an edge, a good edge. And so it came to pass that a rock lined dark Tomb orientated to the winter solstice was decided upon, then the lot covered in dirt. Thousands of tons of it. Being wise in the way of men, Vikings and goats, but not women, Wart and Twig realised that that would not be enough as it would take fifteen years at least to build according to their engineering draftsman Freckle. Their tribes men already wanted shorter hours and longer drinking horns. It was Twig who came up with the idea to make it, instead of a dark tomb, a PICTURE SHOW. Wart he said with some excitement, ven de soon cums vunce a ear, over fyfe diys, ve lettuce de trybe cum see the soonlit scratchings on da rocks inside. It was an absolutely brilliant idea and deciding to call it an iTomb was just the Rats Gold Tooth. But don’t mention the fifteen years until the first sun picture is shown.
We extract ourselves from the mass of humanity wanting to see a 3,200 year old iTomb, there’s only space in there for three bodies, the picture show only happens for five days in December, and as its August, we push on looking for the ‘Hill of Tara’ but as usual, the combination of Daisy Trump the Google Maps lady, and me, we go around in circles surprising some farmers who hadn’t seen a motor car before. Tara is one of the most iconic ancient sites in Ireland. It has mounds, enclosures, a passage tomb, pillar stones and its where the kings of Ireland were crowned. Possibly, as it depends on which Professors University had the Bag of Lollies. Lots of other places claim this also but this is Ireland and its full of Tall Stories, Leprechaun’s, Elves, Goblins, Fairies and men with far too much Guinness in them. The passage tomb is small, about 10 metres diameter and I go stand on top for a squizz about avoiding sheep jobbies of which theres plenty about as the shepherd seems to have run out of sheep doggie bags. Theres an oldish 1822 church here also, just over there surrounded by ancient crumbling walls, crumbling people, shady trees and inside, a tourist bureau. Of sorts. The parking area just down the hill is now fair crowded, no bay markings, so since we arrived, we now have cars everywhere.
The Irish and theres currently 4.8 million of them, have all of a sudden, come to stand on the Hill of Tara and get sheep jobbies on their shoes. We try to get a Jamies, Me, and a Flat White, She, but the bar, cafe, gift, come all things to all people shop adjoining the Hill of Tara parking area, is chokas. I manage to extract our hire vehicle without scratching it, raising my voice nor operating the windscreen wipers to indicate which way I intend to turn. The marvellous Susan is outside chatting and cajoling people to move their vehicles bumpers from within a couple of centimetres of ours otherwise she will A, send in Clive Palmer or B, smear sheep jobbies on their windscreen. Grr grr.
Change of subject now, this is FAMILY CORNER. One hundred and sixty two years ago, in 1856, my great great grandfather said goodbye to his brother Timothy in or near to the small town of Killaloe. Gee I would like to think it was over a drink at Killaloe’s Anchor Inn. Thomas set off afterwards with his wife Charlotte and seven children for a new life in Australia. Timothy a doctor and Thomas a solicitor were the sons of Darby and Catherine St Ledger O’Brien. Their story is outlined in that excellent book, Who Is That Man At The End Of The Table which at last count, had sold three copies. Yay.
Our next stay is a two niter at Maynooth in the once flash Glenroyal Hotel where Sue and I are to catch up with a descendant of Doctor Timothy O’Brien, John Gerard O’Brien of Maynooth.
Maynooth population 14,585 but being a University town, the population swells by near 12,000 when ‘schools in’. Hence the town, has lots of cheap cafes, bars, a nice bookshop and still retains a nice one street central hub from the ‘old days’. But its surrounded by gloss and glamour, tidy similar two storey houses on half acres, neat trimmed hedge rows, kerbed treed streets, a canal for boating into Dublin only 25k’s away and its a nice place. And, it has a crowded Cafe/Bar/Restaurant ‘The Avenue’ where over dins and beers, with my very distant cousin John Gerard O’Brien, I caught a tummy bug. Grr grr. Was it the two half pint Hop House 13 Lager, the pan fried salmon, the bowl of mushy peas (peas are a no bloody no for Desmond) or a ‘bug’ donated by one of the kitchen staff. Whatever, the night and next day was one of Grr Grr. I looked and felt like a man condemned by the Inquisition. Did I mention that Sue had a Pinot Grigio and John Gerard four pints of Hop House 13 Lager. Both of them spent a restful dreamy night and had a happy tummy next day. John Gerard O’Brien and I covered lots of ground on ancestral family matters as he fortunately, has spent years researching the family, his side and mine all as descended from those two brothers. PLUS, yes, he provided me with the ‘Steak Knives’, being a CD with ALL the family stuff he has done, PLUS again, extras being electronic copies of aged books going back to the fifteenth century when us O’Briens were extremely important in Ireland just like Donald thinks he is today.
Until a change in fortunes when Oliver Cromwell, came ruthlessly crashing through in 1649, putting to the sword all those Catholics he found mumbling novenas and destroying their churches after removing all the gold, silver, lead and anything edible. Ollie then confiscated Catholic farm lands, houses, manors, and rewarded his supporters with the confiscated properties saying Here ya ar cobber, take dis bitta land, farm ouse an cows, an stay barrakin for da Protto’s.
After several catch-ups with John Gerard, including one at his palatial home he got back off Ollie’s mob, he drove us around the near countryside in his swish BMW and through ‘Carton House’ a massive country estate once belonging to the Earls of Kildare. This estate is 4.5 kilometres square most of it surrounded by a high rock wall built during the potato famine in the 1840’s to provide subsistence wages, a ‘penny a week’ for hundreds of skinny starving men and boys. Its still there at 7km length weaving about the estate which today is all rather posh oozing class, care and wealth. Two carefully manicured golf courses, lakes, follys, a castle, manor house, ruggers fields, racing stables, polo grounds, an estate with fine two storey houses, and ancient historic buildings carefully incorporated into a grand linear hotel. The Golfing Union of Ireland, the worlds longest established golf union in the world is located here and who am I, a non golfer, to argue with that. Men spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and playing with balls. On golf courses, on the ruggers, hurling, cricket, basketball fields and courts, at snooker tables and in their orchestra stalls. Why is it so asked Professor Julius Sumner Miller as he poured a half block of chocolate into a half glass of milk and/or vice versa.
Thursday 23 August, in Dublin, we drop our hire car back, it all in so far as we can tell, good order clear of scratches, dents and marks. But being a Hire Car Firm, those business’s closely related to those run by the Sicilian Mafia, we await confirmation of that.
To say goodbye to Ireland, as we fly out to Scotlands Glasgow on the morrow, we decide to have a last snort at an Irish Inn. And what better place than the Harbour Masters Inn not too far from the River Liffey. Ahh, what a grand place for a final drink, Ahh, a Jamy for Me and a Pinot Grigio for She please barperson. I get a strange look from the Barperson that says Dis wee smarty pance chappie’s from the smashed avo brigade. On our return walk to catch a train back to Maynooth, we pass by The Confession Box Inn a cute as can be old Inn oozing ‘Come Inside’ from every flake of paint, piece of timber and scrawling on its walls.
Among the scrawling’s is this oval brass Plaque set low down on one side of the Inns facade reading At this address in 1793 was born and lived Dionysins Lardner renowned Lecturer, Scientist and editor of Lardners Cabinet Cyclopedia. He did much to popularise science and technology in 19th century Ireland and Britain. Sharp eyed Susan, she has an eye for Inns and personal trainers bearing a resemblance to George Clooney, stands patiently by whilst I touch the plaque and try to open the Inn door, then cries, ‘wait Dearest Husband’, theres another oval brass Plaque set tother side of facade at a higher level. Indeed it is so, and its to do with a bit of scandal so grab a glass of sherry and settle in a comfy chair for, Mary Spicer Heaviside, the wife of Captain Richard Heaviside of the Royal Dragoons, fell deeply in love with Dr. Lardner and they both stole away to Paris. The Captain pursued them, had Lardner flogged and sued him for adultery but could not win back Mary his wife. Dionysins (Lardner) and Mary were later married and spent the rest of their lives together in Europe supported by Lardner’s tours in the United States. Yay for Mary.
Our Dublin to Maynooth train turns out to be a series of six Box Car Bertha like World War Two carriages borrowed from the Balkans during the reign of Mussolini. Pulled by a diesel powered locomotive with stokers on board who look like relatives of Mussolini who avoided his fate, it rattles, puffs and fumes all the way. Theres a toilet cubicle on board in the corner but I don’t want to look in there because I just know I will look down on railway sleepers.
Friday 24th August 2018, ta ta Ireland. We do love all of you, land and people. Apart from Basils Fawlty’s BnB at Donegal and the Royal Hotel at Cookstown. A pox of dung beatles on you both. Yay. There I feel much better.
On the Airport Hopper Bus at 0700, we are into Dublin Airports Terminal 2, a palatial building far more modern that the Blockhouse we arrived into over three weeks ago. Delivered to our propellor driven plane by bus, its a full house on board as the props whirl, the plane a narrow 2 seats each side of centre aisle, shakes slightly, rosary beads come out and we join the tarmac line up for takeoff to Glasgow.
And heres some more Steak Knives. At the end of last year, there were 6,367 pubs in Ireland outside Dublin, compared with 7,931 in 2005. During the same period, off-licences, like our Oz bottle shops, increased by 11.6%. What that all means is, that if you want to do a decent pub crawl about Ireland, and what man or woman would not, then do it soon because pubs are in decline, for in the pubs lies Irelands talking heart.
Ooroo from Desmond 😇