History in the stones of Ros Muc

watercolour of Pearse's Cottage by Piaras F. Mac Lochlainn
Teach an Phiarsaigh, le Piaras F. Mac Lochlainn

Scroll down for the English language version below…

D’imigh mé siar go Ros Muc aríst an tseachtain seo chaite. Theastaigh uaim cuairt a thabhairt ar theach an Phiarsaigh agus a fháil amach conas mar a bhí sé aistrithe ón am ar thug mo dheaide cuairt air fadó. Dhath eisean pictiúr den teach sna caogaidí, measaim (níl aon dáta air), pictiúr a bhí ag crochadh sa teach sa bhaile againn le blianta fada.

Bhuel, bhí athrú mór le tabhairt faoi deara – mar is léir ón dá phictiúr atá agam anseo. Tá fásra tiubh ag cúngú thartimpeall an tí anois ionas nach féidir é a fheiscint i gceart a thuilleadh.  Bhí mé ag iarraidh an áit díreach inár shuí mo dheaide (leis an pictiur sin a dhathadh) a aimsiú ach bhí sé deacair mar go raibh an aiteann is an raithneach mhór ag fás go fiáin. Thosnaigh mé ag déanamh iontais ansin faoin aimsear… an raibh sé níos deise fadó, n’fheadar? an mbíodh an ghrian ag taitneamh níos minicí i gConamara, b’fhéidir? An mbíodh sí ag scoilteadh na gcloch, mar a deirtear liom? Mmm… is cinnte nach bfhaca mé féar chomh buí le sin riamh cheana…

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Pearse's Cottage, Ros Muc, Connemara
Pearse’s Cottage, Ros Muc, in December 2015

Well, it has to be said that it rains a fair bit in Connemara. I was there last week to visit Pearse’s Cottage in Ros Muc. I wanted to follow my father’s footsteps and see if I could find the exact spot where he had painted the watercolour above – and to compare the painting with the scene today. But not only is the place totally overgrown, so that you can’t see the house properly, but there’s also a big empty building site beside it. I just can’t imagine that the “interpretative centre” will be ready in time for the commemorations of the Easter Rising next year but that’s another story…

When you look at the dry stone wall in the painting, there’s a strange pointy stone a little to the left of the cottage. Do you see it?  – Funnily enough (or maybe not), that stone is still there! See my close-up photo below. The cottage was built around 1905; my Dad painted the picture sometime in the 1950s; and now in 2015, I’m looking at the same landscape, the same stones… I can’t quite figure out how the cottage is so obscured from view these days – it almost seems like it has sunk a little into the landscape.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Pearse's Cottage, Ros Muc, Connemara
The pointy stone outside Pearse’s Cottage, Ros Muc.

To explain to my friends from overseas, Pearse’s Cottage is especially significant because it belonged to Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. Indeed most of the signatories of The Proclamation of the Irish Republic stayed here at one time or another, in the lead up to the Rising.  It is right in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht, the Irish speaking area of Co. Galway. I’ll continue with this story at a later date.  Your comments are always welcome. Just click on the little brown speech bubble and put your comment there.  Slán go fóill, eoin

http://emacl.com/

http://www.oliviercornetgallery.com/

 

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17 comments

  1. History and stones …. I remember standing at Stonehenge one summer’s morning , seeing the massive standing stones and wondering about the people who had planned this work and those who had sweated to complete it and what motivated them to create this mysterious circle –

    there is something about the eternal pull of landscape, the structures we build, sometimes to complement, sometimes to ruin or obscure it altogether – the way that cottage setting has changed and yet stayed the same, the feeling that our Dad was there then and you are there now – even with the expanse of years elapsed, there is some real connection, some common touch – us with the generations who have passed and them with us.

    go raibh mile maith agat, Maev

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  2. I love your father’s watercolour, Eoin. It’s very neat. When I first saw it I thought it was an illustration from an old book and these usually are of a very high standard.

    It’s so exciting that you could find that pointy stone! The landscape has changed, but you can still see some of the exact objects your father was observing and painting quite a few years ago. You say the cottage seems like it has sunk – well, our landscape changes unnoticeably; in some places the soil erodes, in others it might rise a bit or maybe it’s just that the plants have grown and they create the sinking cottage illusion? K.

    P.S. By the way, I read in one of Bill Bryson’s books why all churches in Norfolk appear to have sunk into the churchyard. Apparently they haven’t; it’s the churchyard that has risen 3 feet or more because of the number of bodies buried there… I’m definitely not suggesting there are bodies buried by the cottage, it’s just that usually there is a logic explanation why some things have changed in a certain way.

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  3. Hi I love to express my thoughts too . I am an artist and blogger and i agree. Art can make changes, especially if the artist can get it seen, my problem. Financial restraints , submission fees, sorry my soap box,. Why would any artist create if they thought it would be ineffective,unloved and hid in a closet.
    I know there are a lot of artists these days but it’s a shame if artists can’t be exposed and of course there are many tastes. But keep relatives and searchers out of it.
    Anyways Congradulations, My strength and pride goes out to you.

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  4. It must have been quite a thrill to find that pointy stone in the same place in the wall beside Teach an Phiarsaigh, as in Dad’s picture; I must go and have a look at it. I have always found old stone walls interesting and wonder how long ago they were built. Some must be hundreds of years old.

    I was surprised by some of your observations, however. You wondered, for example, if it had been sunnier, perhaps hotter, in the 1950s.

    Well, the climate was a lot colder in the 1950s than it is today. There has been significant global warming since then, and it is becoming increasingly noticeable in Ireland with stormy weather now normal every November and December, often accompanied by torrential downpours. And I’m sure you’ve noticed the balmy temperatures we’ve been having lately, all through November and early December. In the past, the winter frosts would come early; I remember the chill in the air from early October as I cycled around in the 1970s.

    You were also mystified by the dense scrub of furze, bracken and willow trees around the cottage and by the lake. When our Dad painted the picture, the landscape was almost completely bare.

    In one of your comments you say you heard that it may be because the locals are not farming as intensively anymore, and of course this is the reason.

    In the 1950s, Ireland had over a million farmers (I don’t know how many exactly) and a great many of them were subsistence farmers, growing their own food. Today, farming is a business, most farmers don’t grow their own food, they produce beef, lamb, dairy products and cereals, mostly for export. Their margins are squeezed relentlessly by the meat processors and the multiples, so only large farmers can make a living, and that is with EU subsidies included.

    As a result, the young people from small-farming backgrounds no longer consider a life in farming: they are drawn to the cities, go to college, go abroad. They rarely if ever come back to farm their parents’ smallholdings. Land abandonment is therefore quite visible in places, with a resurgence in scrub woodland, mainly of willows and thorns.

    I really like the furze, bracken and scrub woodland around Pearse’s Cottage. It looks far healthier to me than the overgrazed fields and bogs full of scrawny sheep and cattle that Dad must have seen back in the 1950s.

    This set me thinking about what Pádraig Mac Piarais would have seen and heard when he looked out the door of his cottage in Ros Muc in the early 1900s, say in the month of July.

    Well, the lake was prominent, of course, and surrounded by stone-walled fields backing onto open bogland. There would have been few if any trees to be seen, just fields of pasture, hay, barley, rye, potatoes, cabbages and a few other staples. The air would be filled with the sounds of corncrakes craking, lambs bleating, cows mooing, donkeys braying. The fields would be teeming with human life, as well. He would hear the laughter of comely maidens and sturdy youths, not dancing at the crossroads but snagging turnips, thinning carrots, cutting turf or seaweed, and so on. As he cycled through the little streets of Connemara he would see children at play but not many old folk; all the doctor had to dispense was kind words and cod liver oil, so life expectancy was short.

    Anyway, to get back to today, I think the OPW purchased a bit of land around Pearse’s Cottage, which is another reason why it is no longer farmed. They also developed a garden beside the house and planted some ornamental trees (or somebody did). I doubt there was a proper garden there in Pearse’s day; but there may well have been a kitchen-garden, or gort, with cabbages and the like for the table.

    Certainly, the scenery has changed dramatically since our father painted that picture of the cottage all those years ago, and I can see how you might feel a little sad by the transformation. But at least the pointy stone his eyes rested on can still be seen. Thank you, Eoin, for letting us know about this.

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    • Thank you Cóilín for a very informative comment – and you’re right of course about the climate change happening since the 1950s. My comment about the weather was just joking with our unfortunate brother in the west who seems to live under a constant veil of mist and rain. He valiantly protests that the sun is regularly splitting the rocks over there (but methinks he protests too much). Tá an cheart agat ar fad go bhfuil an aimsear tar éis athrú… Níl na duilleoga go léir tite fós anseo – agus muid i lár mí na Nollag! Nach ait an mac an saol. Slán go fóill, eoin

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  5. That is amazing that the pointy stone was still there…. and captured by the eye of the artist and then today by the artist’s son. I wonder what it’s pointing to….

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  6. Eoin dhil,
    An-dheas do alt agus na pictiuri sin a fheiceáil.
    Measaim go raibh pictiúr Dhaid ó phointe beagán nios mó ar cle ná i do ghriangraf. Feach mar atá binn an ti nios mo le feiceail ins an bpictiur uisce-dhaite ná ins an ghriangraf mar go bhfuil binn an ti nios ingearai leis an te ata ag breathnu air… N’fheadar, fiú leis an bhfásra go leir, an mbeifi in ann nios mo de chul an ti a fheiscint da ngluaisfi ar chle?

    Pat
    Sligeach 11/12/2015

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    • Bhuel Pat, dá ngluaisfinn níos mó ar chlé – thitfinn ón carraig sin agus thomfainn i lár sceach aiteanna 😦 Níl a fhios agam conas a rinne sé é – agus is cosúil go raibh sé ina sheasamh – mar dá mbéadh sé ina shuí ar charraig, bhéadh se ró íseal… ceisteanna, ceisteanna 🙂

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