So there was this conversation about what was the true Connemara – was it the mist-covered mountains, was it the bogs and the myriad lakes, was it the stone walls and the little fields or was it Cois Fharraige by the sea…
When there’s no television and no broadband, some people go a little crazy, I suppose, but I remember insisting: – that there had to be the sea, and floating seaweed, and the lonesome cry of the curlew; there had to be the scent of turf fires burning; there had to be mountains in the distance, and always, the possibility of rain – but most of all – there had to be the Gaeltacht people, and Gaeltacht life.
And Ros Muc has all that – no wonder that the poet and revolutionary Patrick Pearse was drawn to it, back in the last century. “The most intensely Irish-speaking part of Co. Galway (indeed of Ireland) is Iar-Connacht”, he wrote to a friend, “and the most Irish speaking part of Iar-Connacht is the parish of Ros Muc. It is out of the tourist track but the scenery is wild and glorious…”.
Last week we were over there again, this time with independent filmmaker Marcus Howard, and we were working on a film about Patrick Pearse. We did an interview with Colm Ó Mainnín who has a great store of knowledge about the area and about Pearse’s time in Ros Muc. We also interviewed my brother Fearghas who is a schoolmaster in Indreabhán.
So what do you think? Why do we keep going back? Do you have special places that you return to again and again? What is it that draws you back there? I’d love to hear your stories…
Now, a bit of a photo essay for you today. I’m just back from the wilds of Connemara and yes, I can confirm that it’s all four seasons there, in the one day. What a wonderful place to visit.
But did you ever hear of Mám Éan? – It’s a holy place in the middle of the Maumturk mountains and we had the special privilege of joining the local community there last week for the annual pilgrimage on the first Sunday of August.
This pilgrimage, linking back to the Celtic harvest feast of Lughnasa, was revived in recent years by An tAthair Micheál Mac Gréil. The pilgrims walk from either side of the Maumturks to the site. Two holy wells, St. Patrick’s Bed and some other leachtana are the focus of older customs, while more recently the revival has involved the Stations of the Cross and then Mass at the restored Mass rock. There is a statue up there too, sculpted by Clíodhna Cussen.
I have to admit that we beat a hasty retreat afterwards, as a roguish raincloud dumped bucketfuls of rain on top of us as we clambered down the mountainside. However, in no time at all, the sun retook control of the elements and pierced the clouds with glorious shafts of sunlight.
Agus muid ag déanamh taighde ar Éirí amach na Cásca i Ros Muc, chuala muid tagairtí go minic ar an bfhear ar léim amach an fhuinneog. Ach cé bhí ann agus cén fáth gur léim sé amach fuinneog?
Pádraig Ó Conghaile an t-ainm a bhí air, príomhoide Scoil Náisiúnta an Ghoirt Mhóir agus b’eisean an fear ar thug Pádraig Mac Piarais go Ros Muc don chéad uair riamh. Tá Micheál Ó Máille, an príomhoide san scoil céanna inniu, tar éis leabhar iontach a fhoilsiú faoi agus bhí an seoladh oifigiúil ar siúl an Aoine seo chaite ag Scoil Náisiúnta Bhriocáin, an Gort Mór.
Bhí sé an-dheas go raibh gar iníonacha Phádraig Uí Chonghaile ann chomh maith don ócáid agus ag deireadh na h-oíche, nocht siad pictiúr a bhí daite agamsa dena seanathair.
But why did he jump?
Well, really you need to read that wonderful book by Micheál Ó Máille to get the full story but this man Pádraig Ó Conghaile was involved in the War of Independence. (In fact, he was the man who brought Patrick Pearse to Ros Muc in the first place).
He was the schoolmaster and one day while he was teaching in the classroom, the sound of an army lorry was heard approaching in the distance. The Black and Tans! Quick as a flash, he jumped out the window at the back of the school and escaped up the Gort Mór mountain.
During our art project Ag Seasamh an Fhóid, I painted his portrait and then, last Friday, following the book launch, the painting was unveiled by his grand daughters Philomena Ní Leathlobhair and Máire Barnard.
(Scroll down for a more “revealing” post, in the English language)
Fuair mé glaoch ó Joe Steve Ó Neachtain an lá cheana. Bhí sé tar éis mo scannáinín a fheiscint ag Scoil Samhraidh an Phiarsaigh agus thaistigh uaidh é a fheiscint aríst!!! “Ar theacht an tSamhraidh” a bhí i gceist aige, an gearrscannán a chruthaigh mé mar chuid den togra ealaíne “Ag Seasamh an Fhóid”. Bhuel, tá clú agus cáil ar Joe Steve mar scríobhnóir, aisteoir, drámadóir agus craoltóir agus mar sin, le barr fiosrachta, d’iarr mé air céard a bhí i gceist aige.
“Bhuel”, ar seisean, “Tá Oireachtas Chois Fharraige ar siúl an tseachtain seo chugainn agus ba mhaith linn é a chraoladh ansin”. (Bhí comóradh speisialta ar siúl acu i mbliana, ní h-amháin ar Oireachtas na Gaeilge 1976 ach ar Éirí amach na Cásca 1916 agus ar bhunú Chumann Forbartha Chois Fharraige i 1966. Agus ní comóradh amháin a bhí i gceist acu leis an bhféile, ach ceiliúradh mór ar an bpobal beo bríomhar atá ina cónaí i gCois Fharraige).
Ní ghá dom a rá go raibh mé iontach sásta gur iarradh ormsa a bheith páirteach sa bfhéile seo agus, fiú má bhí sé déanach, d’éirigh liom mé fhéin a eagrú agus – as go brách liom, siar go Conamara don deireadh seachtaine.
Oíche dé hAoine, bhí ceolchoirm álainn ar siúl ar dtús: “Caithréim”, á chur i láthair ag Síle Denvir agus a cairde. Ansin craoladh “Ar theacht an tSamhraidh” agus ansin chuir Fíbín “Mac Piarais i bPictiúir” i láthair. Níos déanaí fós, bhí seisiún ceoil ar siúl go maidin, i dTigh Mholly in Indreabháin.
Leanfaidh mé orm i mBéarla anois, mura miste leat…
Now I’m told that I don’t spill the beans when it comes to my art, that I don’t reveal much of my true self, my motivations, my raison d’etre etc. But I dunno, I thought I did – I thought that, if you were reading this blog regularly, you’d have a pretty good idea of where I’m coming from, where I stand on things. But anyway, today I’m going to tell you about a piece of art that I’ve been working on all this year.
It’s a short film that ‘still needs work’ but is a combination of a whole lot of ideas that have been running around in my head for a long time. This film is entitled: “Ar theacht an tSamhraidh” – meaning: as the summer comes. It was shown at a festival in Connemara last weekend and you can see it here below. (If you can’t see it just below here, you should click directly into the blog to see it)
The title refers to a song that was written/modified by Patrick Pearse: Óró, ’sé do bheatha abhaile. This was a song that was sung by the 1916 Volunteers on their long marches, as they trained for the the upcoming battle, and it was also a song that we all learned as kids (well, where I grew up, we all learned it). Generally speaking, I would say that the mood of the song is celebratory; the summer is coming and it’s all going to be wonderful. A more careful reading of the lyrics reveals that ‘our beautiful land has long been in the possession of robbers but, at last, we’re going to rout those pesky foreigners out of town’. Note: I didn’t call the film: Now that the summer has come, I called it: As the summer comes (will the summer ever come, I wonder?) but anyway, the film winds its way from frosty winter, through budding springtime to glorious summer, showing the flora and landscape of Connemara along the way.
But that’s just one strand. The short stories of Pearse are also woven through it. Then there’s my own connection with Pearse, through my father and grandfather. There’s also the characters in Ros Muc who worked closely with Pearse before the Easter Rising. The film explores the rapport that developed between Pearse and the locals back then. In many ways, I can relate to this relationship because in the past year, I’ve been an outsider myself, a stranger from Dublin, getting to know the lie of the land and meeting up with the locals. I heard many stories about Pearse and I felt that I got to know the man and that I could understand him… indeed, I was a bit like him myself – quiet at first but just loving to be there and listening to the old stories… I sometimes wonder if my father was like that too…
I can see now why I haven’t written at length about particular pieces of art before because, as you see, I’ve only just scratched the surface and I’m already running out of ink. There’s more about this project on a previous blog ( here ) but I reckon I’ll leave it to another day to continue with “the revelations”. Is that ok with you? I’ve one question for you – Would you prefer more or less words in the blog posts in future? Your comments are always welcome.
My mother (God rest her) must have taken this photo. It was in Connemara and they were on their honeymoon… it was a long time ago but we still had a copy in a dusty old photo album at home in Ranelagh. It was lovely to see it projected onto the gable end of Pearse’s Cottage in Ros Muc last weekend.
It’s a long story. But maybe today, I’ll just tell you about the short film that I produced as part of my artist’s residency in Ros Muc this year. It’s a collage of images, all merging from one to the next, telling the story of Patrick Pearse and my grandfather and my father and the influence and inspiration of Ros Muc from generation to generation. (There’s a link to the film below – if you can’t see it straight away, you should click into the blog itself).
According to the writer Pádraic Óg Ó Conaire, my grandfather was staying with Pearse in Ros Muc and he was the one in charge of the magic lantern, an early version of the slide projector. At night they projected images onto the wall outside, as part of the festivities of Fleadh an Turlaigh Bhig and this was the first time that anyone in Connemara had seen anything like it. So we decided to project my short film as a special commemoration of this event. Here’s the film below –
So… mar chuid de chlár Scoil Samhraidh an Phiarsaigh, bhí seans againn léiriú a thabhairt ar ár dtogra ealaíne “Ag Seasamh an Fhóid”, an togra a bhí idir láimh agam fhéin agus Nuala Ní Fhlathúin i gcomhar le muintir Ros Muc ar feadh ráithe. Thaispeáin mise an gearrscannán seo don chéad uair i Scoil an Ghort Mhóir agus bhí Nuala Ní Fhlathúin tar éis ealaín suiteála a chruthú thíos ag Loch an Turlaigh Bhig don deireadh seachtaine.
Nuair a bhí an chuid fhoirmeálta thart agus an phobail ag scaipeadh, d’imigh mise agus mo dheartháir (Fearghas) trasna go dtí Teach an Phiarsaigh aríst. Bhí soilse fós ar lasadh ag Scoil an Ghort Mhóir ach bhí muidne linn fhéin i gcoim na h-oíche. Chuir muid an teilgeoir ar siúl agus sheas muid ansin, le sceitimíní do-inste orainn, agus muid ag faire ar na h-íomhánna tochtmhara ag teacht agus ag imeacht ar bhinn tí an Phiarsaigh.
Buíochas le Dia, bhí an aimsir tirim, bhí an oíche galánta agus d’oibrigh gach rud gan stró don ócáid speisialta seo. Tá níos mó eolais faoin togra ealaíne ar an mblag: “Ag Seasamh an Fhóid” (an chéad nasc thíos)
Yes, you could say that I’m leading a sort of double life this year, here one week and gone the next… and not only that but I’ve got two blogs on the go as well – so this week, I’m going to reveal all, to let you into my secret alternative life, a sort of dream-life where I’m a rambling scholar, wandering along some lonely shore in Connemara…
While the group show “Republic” continues its successful run at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Dublin, over in Ros Muc, things are gearing up for Scoil Samhraidh an Phiarsaigh, a summer school that examines Patrick Pearse’s vision for the future of the Irish Language.
Nuala Ní Fhlathúin and myself have been working on a special art project in Ros Muc during 2016 and my short film about it will be shown for the first time at the summer school at the end of July. Have a look at my other blog: “Ag Seasamh an Fhóid” and you can read all about it.
For me, it’s really about trying to reconnect with a part of me that was almost lost, a journey back in time, looking for… I dunno what – and what did I find? Sometimes, it felt like I was ‘going home’. I have to say that it has been a wonderful experience. It is difficult to explain. But I created this film anyway, to try to bring it all together. It’s entitled: ArTheacht an tSamhraidh and I’ll publish it here after the summer school. The image above is a still from it. I was reading Ó Pheann an Phiarsaigh, a book of short stories by Patrick Pearse, and all the stories are based around Ros Muc, so I went around and photographed those places and created a sort of collage of images. My nephew Pearse McGloughlin created the soundtrack for it.
Nature takes over, gradually covering the ground and climbing the walls of crumbling dwelling places. Yes, back up in North West Donegal again and searching for a house where my great grandmother once lived. This time I had it on good authority that her one-roomed cottage was one of a small group of cottages, ‘a black dot near the letter “S” of Newtown Springfield’ on the map, not far from An Tamhnaigh… Hmmm, exactly how far was ‘not far’, I wasn’t sure.
Well I’ve written about my fascination for crumbling buildings before but here we go again – I have an exhibition in An Gailearaí in Gaoth Dobhair, a solo show entitled Tinteáin and I’m really happy to have the show here because it’s where I first began my series of paintings of empty fireplaces. (The painting above is one of my more recent ones). I’ve told the story of the fireplaces before – see the link below:
A few years ago I was on an artist’s residency near Gort a’ Choirce when I met up with the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh. He showed me one of his poems – Na Bailte Bánaithe – about how spirits haunt the land, long after the people who lived there had gone. Here’s a short extract, with my translation below.
Tá ochlán chaointe sa ghaoth
a shéideann aniar ó Altán
is anseo tá damhán alla
ag fí aibíd an bháis
i bhfuinneog bhearnach an tseantí
inar chonaí mo chineál fadó.
There’s a loud wailing cry on the wind
that blows eastward from Altan
and a spider weaves a shroud
in the vacant window of the house
where my people lived long ago.
…and my uncle mentioned a painting of Mulroy Bay by my grandfather and we wondered what had happened to it. Well I don’t know but I did a painting of Mulroy Bay myself, let’s see now… probably 25 years ago now. That’s it below, possibly the same view that my great grandmother had, fadó fadó agus is fadó bhí…
PS: The solo exhibition Tinteáin follows on from my Diaspora exhibition with the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Dublin last October. It’s on the same theme but all of the works are new.