What makes small parts of Ireland particular and ‘unto themselves’…

Over the last few days John Waters has had a couple pieces (here and here) on the canals of Dublin (of which there are two, of course)… Belfast doesn’t even quite have one, since the Lagan was until more recent times been navigable into the centre…

But Waters’ pieces put me in mind this description of the poet Phillip Larkin’s description of a bike ride down the Lagan tow path on 7th June 1951:

The weather was hot and splendid, & the riverside deserted except for a horse drawn barge. It’s almost entirely unspoilt, no houses anywhere, only lock gates & occasional refreshment stalls (shut). I saw something I imagined to be a magpie, heard waterrats clopping in and out of the shallows, & hardly sneezed at all, but free to wonder at the unbroken blue sky, cliffs of wood shadow descending to the water, & the thick anonymous dust that softly powdered my pedalling shoes.

After going some miles, I came up onto the road, & stopped at a small licenced house near Ballyskeagh I’d noticed before. An old man came in from the garden to serve me, & the pub was another minor ‘find’, being strangely English, with a dartboard and & Albin (Aldin?) hunting prints on the dark walls, & and behind the counter ancient mirrors inscribed with proprietary brands of spirits dating from about 50 years ago, and a vast collection of regimental badges.

Resting on top of the ‘reredoes’, as you might call it, was a German helmet – not the kind we know, but the real old 1914 Uhlan spike-topped variety, its gold chain tarnished, but still carrying an aura of evil as in the early pages of illustrated histories, Louvain Cathedral mouldering, etc..

The Larkin extract is from Letters to Monica published by Faber and Faber and available from the Slugger book store at Amazon

PS, I’ve an idea that the pub is talking about is Robbie Stewarts, but I’m happy to be corrected…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty