I was delighted to be invited to have my work at the Boyle Arts Festival this year – to be showing alongside the likes of Ailbhe Barrett, Joe Dunne, Mark Garry, Joy Gerrard, Josephine Kelly, Miseon Lee, Brian Maguire and Donald Teskey. Curated by Paul McKenna, “Past, Present, Future” was a wonderful exhibition to see and as always, there was a great buzz around the town at the weekend. Above, that was my painting – but there’s more to this story than first meets the eye.
You may remember that I was in the Boyle Arts Festival exhibition a couple of years ago and we stayed in Tulsk, a small village in County Roscommon, about 25km south of Boyle. From there, we visited ancient Cruachan Aí (Rathcroghan), a vast complex of Neolithic cairns, ringforts, burial mounds, standing stones and such from the Bronze and Iron Age.
And our guide brought us to Uaigh na gCat (Oweynagat) which he said was the entrance to ‘the Otherworld’. I wrote about my subterranean adventure here – but suffice to say that it’s a deep dark crack in the limestone bedrock and you wouldn’t want to venture in too deep if you value your sanity.
But back to the present and this time, we stayed near Carrowkeel in County Sligo, about 16km north of Boyle. And we visited the nearby Caves of Keash on the slopes of Keshcorran Hill. There’s all sorts of stories about these caves (the bones of bears, arctic lemmings and wolves were found here, and Cormac Mac Airt, High King of Ireland was apparently born here) but my favourite story concerns an old woman and her wayward calf.
So she was being dragged along by this calf near Cruachan Aí in County Roscommon (she was holding on to its tail) and the calf pulled her down into Uaigh na gCat. Who knows how long she was gone but – would you believe that she eventually emerged into the light of day at the Caves of Keash in County Sligo!
Ahem, so a woman told me that a woman had tolden her…
Finally, there’s a local festival at the caves on Garland Sunday, the last Sunday of July, with athletics, music, dancing – and probably some storytelling too. It’s a modern continuation of the Lughnasa celebrations that have been held here since ancient times. So that’s the past and the present.
Who knows what the future will bring – but I hope there’s art, and arts festivals. (where there’s art there’s hope)