Monsoon tiger

I know it sounds callow to admit it but I’ve just spent my very first holiday in west Cork and Kerry. In spite of the monsoon conditions, I was mightily impressed. Brian Friel type memories of Donegal in the 40s and 50s can be laid to rest. There was no sign whatever of bungalow blight. This is a country that has reinvented its environment with new buildings in the vernacular and fresh coats of paint and decent roofing on traditional buildings absolutely everywhere – as if the whole place had been dressed overall for a big movie shoot. Recycling is the norm, with not a sign of whispy plastic bag trailing round the fuschia by the roadside or the odd rusty Morris minor slumped deep in the hedgerow. Is Ireland becoming France?
The country ‘n western – burger image has been abandoned for crab claws and sauvignon accompanied by the refinement of classical or the austerities of traditional music. The William Trevor image of genteel decay is restricted to the derelict cemeteries of an abandoned order. Yet the accents of new English locals ring out as loudly and confidently as ever heard in the days of Somerville and Ross. Church of Ireland churches have enterprisingly become atmospheric venues for concerts while remaining places of worship. And – as I’ve remembered to add later – every tiny village has a spanking. thriving post office at a time when the UK is closing ours at a rate of knots. Like nothing else, the post office phenomenon shows up the different priorities in the two States over how they treat local identities and rural communities.

Presentations of the national heritage is fair and balanced. Skibbereen museum presents its harrowing tale of Famine without overdoing the grudge against the English establishment. Kerry Museum in Tralee stirred mild controversy with its full-floor exhibition of the life and work of William Melville, a Sneem boy whose life in the London Special Branch and the fledgling MI5 was dedicated to thwarting the life’s work of other more typical Kerrymen, the forerunners of the IRA. But the protest has faded and the Melville exhibition is presented without a hint of embarrassment or even irony, only local pride.

You can tell the weather drove us inside quite a bit. There was time too for the Irish Times. Three pieces in particular grabbed my attention.

The Irish Government is “certain to lose” if it maintains its absolutist stance on banning abortion, as a result of a Polish case before the European Human Rights court..

Fionnuala O’Connor’s piece on Belfast’s Gay Pride festival described tellingly how toleration of the gay nature has now become too embedded to be undermined by the histrionics of the likes of Iris Robinson.

And Political editor Stephen Collins’ analysis of the political position of Brian Cowen bears an uncanny resemblance to similar jeremiads against Gordon Brown.

Not a bad little line-up for the first two weeks of the silly season.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    In English, please.

  • Brian

    Brian – the place is, in short, civilised. Unfortunately, living in the sick counties for any length of time tends to dull one’s sense of what is and is not civilised and acceptable. The North is a lamentable hole riven with bigotry, stupidity, insularity, bad food, atrocious architecure and a truly filthy environment. As long as it remains so, trips down South (with the obvious exception of kips like Dundalk etc.) will continue to feel like trips to civilisation.

  • dewi

    Nice post (for once) – however I can’t quite see how Skibereen could quite overdo its grudge…but glad you enjoyed your holiday….now get back to Scottish by-elections!

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Cant get used to a countryside that has lost its character with its many, many flaws or to a newspaper that has lost its oustanding jounalist – Kevin Myers – with all his.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    The oul’ foreign holiday is hard to beat!

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Pancho’s Horse

    “The oul’ foreign holiday is hard to beat! ”


    Cork and Kerry are in Ireland not in Britain.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    So was Tyrone – once!

  • Brian Walker

    B-J, my draft posted itself before I was ready – the English or my typing must have been terrible uncorrected, though unlike you I was spared it. Sorry about that. Brian namesake, too despairing by half and anyway, I’m hardly dependent on the south for my R&R;. Lighten up old son, the oul’ place isn’t that bad.

    Rather against myself perhaps, I recall a description by Roy Foster in “Luck and the Irish” of how young Prods in the sixties regarded the south. He said they treated it as “Mexico,” i.e. the place where they sowed their first wild oats and learned to drink (or failed to learn). The condescension of that era is well and truly over – though the affection for it as a source of fun and enjoyment remains. And oh, please spare me – I know there’s more to it than that…

  • Katinka

    There is no question that the Republic has moved on from the third world of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and now has a population that is confident in its independence. Britain is not regarded as the ‘ancient enemy’ so much as an equal. There is an increasing awareness and interest in the ‘British’ part of the Republic’s inheritance and history. There is much evidence for this of which the Melville exhibition is but one example.

    A few years ago the people of Kerry voted for the most famous Kerry person of all time. The runner up – if memory serves me – was Tom Crean, the Antarctic explorer and hero of Scott and Shackleton’s expeditions. The Kerry Museum held an exhibition devoted to Crean, who became an officer in the Royal Navy, and who died just before his Albert Medal for gallantry could be converted to a George Cross.

    There were two other Irishmen in Shackleton’d famous voyage to South Georgia. One of course was Shackleton himself, and the other was another Navy rating, Timothy McCarthy who was killed in action a few weeks after returning from the South Atlantic. McCarthy was from Cork, and there is a modern memorial to Crean and McCarthy on the seafront in Kinsale.

    All is not quite as rosy as Mr Walker depicts. There has been much bungalow blight, ribbon development, skyline building and Spanish haciendas, particularly in the area I know best, between Tralee and Dingle.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Fair enough. I thought you were drunk. “Grudge” is a poor description of the relationship, mind.

  • Dave

    Stephen Collins is still traumatised by the discovery post-Lisbon that people can’t be controlled by propaganda that is disseminated via the media and, ergo, that the role of tossers as opinion-formers is wholly imaginary.

  • EWI

    Yet the accents of new English locals ring out as loudly and confidently as ever heard in the days of Somerville and Ross.

    Ah, yes – the sunny ‘days’ of Somerville and Ross, when there was peace and prosperity beneath the benificence of English rule.

    Let’s just not mention the (Land) War.

  • Harry Flashman

    “memories of Donegal in the 40s and 50s can be laid to rest. . .the odd rusty Morris minor slumped deep in the hedgerow”

    Brian Walker showing his typical Derryman ignorance of Donegal, there were never any rusty old Morris Minors slumped in hedgerows.

    They were Ford Anglias.

  • Yellowford

    Was there myself lately. Stayed in Castlegregory. All round the peninsula. Did the Thomas Ashe museum as well. QI. It’s an expensive part of the country though. I had to let a few knackers know I wasn’t an American and thought it unfair to charge extortionate amounts to look at forts or beehive huts that are just as much mine as his. Apart from that, lovely stuff. As soon as you drive into Newry though, you know you’re home. Flags, flags, flags…Is there any need…?

  • Dave

    The usual pattern for abandoned cars during the 70s was:

    Day One to Day Three: All useable parts stripped by plethora of passing opportunists.
    Day Four: Windows smashed.
    Day Five to Day Seven: Car set on fire.
    Month Three to Six: Local council removes burnt-out car.

    The super-rich had two … count ’em …two cars (and would probably Tarmac their front gardens to emphasis the fact). Nowadays even the kids are driving BMWs and a sum of money that once would have bought you a row of houses won’t even buy you a top-of-the-range Merc (common as cat eyes on the roads, anyway).

  • Dave McAuley

    Would the free speech policy of Slugger extend to allowing somebody juist returned from the US to tells us that,”I had to let a few niggers know…”?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I assume not. So why allow ignorant bigotry such as, “I had to let a few knackers know…”?

    Kerry was an uglier place when you were in it, sonny.


  • My main objection here is that:

    the accents of new English locals ring out as loudly and confidently as ever heard in the days of Somerville and Ross.

    Edith Somerville was an in-comer; but her cousin, Violet Martin, was from Ross in the County Galway (from which she took her pen-name). The “English” voices in Irish R.M. are largely those of “Major Yeates” and his wife.

    Those of us who remember, even still practice, the accent of the educated Anglo-Irish know it differs greatly from that of “the new English locals”. I doubt that Drishane and Castletownshend were much troubled by the latter until very recent years.

    St Barrahane’s CofI Church, overlooking the village and close to the castle, was where Dr Edith played the organ each Sunday (the degree was honorary, from TCD, in 1922). Wet or fine, there can be few more attractive meanders than down Castletownshend main street, from the church to the harbour, especially if the dander leads to Mary Anne’s.

    From the days when when some bottled Guinness still came corked, I recall an English public-schoolmaster just arrived, asked if he had slept soundly. No, he responded with a hint of venom, some “bloody fool” had repeatedly flashed a torch at his bedroom window all through the night. The “bloody fool” was, of course, the Fastnet Light. Which goes to prove, once again, there’s none so blind as those who cannot see.

  • Yellowford

    Good analogy Dave. You’ve exposed me…

  • joeCanuck

    Tom Crean, the Antarctic explorer and hero of Scott and Shackleton’s expeditions.

    I saw a documentary about him on Public Television over here about a year ago. He was a truly amazing man, every bit the equal of Shackleton in his courage and fortitude.

  • Greenflag

    jc ,

    ‘He Tom Crean was a truly amazing man, every bit the equal of Shackleton in his courage and fortitude. ‘

    The ‘gentle giant’ certainly was. The documentary DVD narrator Liam Neeson gives a good account of what they all went through .

    As a Dub I have very little respect for those from outside the Pale 🙂 However I always make an exception for Kerrymen . Those feckers have always had the bating of us 🙁

  • consul

    As a Dub I have very little respect for those from outside the Pale

    Thats why no one will be sorry when ye don’t win sam ;¬)

  • Greenflag


    Or words to that effect . Tir Eoghain are in for a hiding 🙂

  • Katinka

    Dare I say it……but Shackleton was from the Pale!!!

  • consul

    Sorry GF think the kingdom have it again zzzzzzzzzzz….

  • Donnacha

    “Sorry GF think the kingdom have it again”

    Not yet they don’t and nor do Dublin. I’d love to see a Kerry/Wexford final. After all they are the only teams in the country to have won four Sams in a row…