The Wonder of Blue

photo by eoin mac lochlainn of bluebells blooming in the Vale of Clara

Isn’t there’s something special about the colour blue.  Lapis Lazuli – I heard about it first in art college – it was the finest and most expensive of all the blues and was used by the artists of the Renaissance, especially for the robes of the Virgin Mary.

As early as the 7th century BC, it was mined in the Hindu Kush mountains of northeast Afghanistan. It is a deep blue metamorphic rock which has been prized since ancient times for its heavenly hues. It is said that Cleopatra applied it, ground into powder, for her eyeshadow. It was also used on the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (check out his blue eyebrows).

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of bluebells in Killinthomas Wood

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of bluebells in Killinthomas Wood

So Lapis Lazuli came to my mind when we were wandering through the verdant glades of Killinthomas Wood near Rathangan in Co. Kildare recently.  Have you ever been there? Maybe not, they say that it’s one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. It is a beautiful mixed woodland of oak, beech, holly and hazel, richly carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic and, adding to the enchantment, a serenade of songbirds at this time of year.

Of course, it was the bluebells that we went to see – and we weren’t disappointed – but they’re only there for a short while, before the leaves in the canopy above are fully developed and preventing the sunlight from reaching the forest floor. It was wonderful to be there just at the right time.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Lapis Lazuli in the National Library Dublin
Lapis Lazuli, seen at the Yeats exhibition in the National Library, Dublin

So the Irish for Bluebells is:  Cloigíní gorma.  Tá cloigíní gorma againne inár ngairdín chúl agus is aoibhinn liom iad a fheiscint faoi bhláth ag tús mhí na Bealtaine gach bliain – ach nuair a chonaic muid na sluaite neamhaí sin thíos i Choillín Tomáis le déanaí, chuir sé gliondar ar mo chroí.

N’fheadar an bhfuil focail i nGaeilge ar Lapis Lazuli?  Carraig na Maighdine, b’fhéidir… Ní raibh aon téarma le fáil ar ach d’aimsigh mé freagra ar . “Leac neimhe”- nach deas an t-aistriúchán é sin.

Slán go fóillín.  Don’t forget: your comments are always welcome 🙂

Killinthomas Wood

Yeats exhibition at the National Library


  1. I also adore blue. Here in southern Ontario there’s a tiny flower, scilla, that blooms early in spring and also spreads like a magic carpet. I think it’s my favourite flower – by now fading for another year.


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