Ireland – Part 3

14 May

Belfast, Antrim, Tyrone, Armagh, Louth, Dublin

A police patrol car in Belfast, looked like it should have been in Afghanistan, that’s the Police Station fortress behind it

A native of the UK, the original polyanthus, only comes in pale yellow

Belfast was full of sculptures. This one is called Ring of Thanksgiving

intriguingly they had the same lamp posts along the River @@@ as they had in London

Dennis’ maternal grandmother’s family name is McBride.  The family purportedly came from the County of Antrim.  Nola, Dennis’ mother, has few details about the family but records in NZ mention that a couple of them may have been involved with the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Dublin.  Dennis is keen to find out more details about this and any other information he can glean would be great.  So we took a trip to the town of Antrim with this in mind.
It had been a week since we were last in a motorcamp so we called in to the local one in the village of Antrim.  It was located next to a large lake, Lough Neagh, much the size of Lake Taupo.  This campsite was not affiliated to the Caravan Club at all and proved the fact that joining a Club offers you good value.  We had been paying around 11 Euros (8 pounds) in the other Irish camps but this one was 23 pounds per night.  The manager was a strange little gentleman, to say the least, with a very volatile nature!  He reminded me of a couple of Middle Eastern men we know back in Wellington, who both have a very short fuse!  At odd times he would start shouting for no apparent good reason and begin to swear and curse!  One occasion which prompted this reaction, was when he watched Dennis empty the motorhome’s grey water tank in the grey water sump provided and then furiously tell me that my husband had used the wrong sump, although it was clearly labelled as Grey Water Sump!  ” That was for caravans ONLY as they have less water than that great, big, motorhome you drive!”  “But it’s labelled as such, and it’s an underground sump, isn’t it?” I meekly replied, astonished at him shouting at me,  “Yes, BUT it’s only for caravans, they don’t hold nearly as much water!  Yours is over there!” pointing to another grey water sump complete with a small sign, for Motorhomes and Buses.  This was an underground system as well, connected to the other!  Although he had clearly stipulated that we were to park on Site No. 4 he hadn’t labelled  most of the sites, so I was tasked to walk up and down the lanes to determine which of the identical paved areas was No. 4.  He stood beside the Office watching all this and commented on how thick I was!  He would not give refunds out if you bought too many tokens for the washing machine and dryer, so I was advised to buy them one at a time, even though it turned out I needed more than one, which he would have been fully aware of but I had to make several trips!  The bathrooms were another hilarious thing altogether.  You have more than likely seen push button taps in public toilets, it saves the tap being left on for hours.  Well, in these bathrooms the showers had the same invention!  First of all, once entering in the cubicle you had to turn around carefully, clutching your towel, clothes and toilette bag to your chest and holding your breath to successfully close the cubicle door.  Then once you are ready to go, press the button and wait for the water to heat up before stepping into the luxury of cascading, slightly warm, water, (you were unable to adjust the temperature).  Oops, press the said button again to continue!  Eventually, you have managed to wash your hair and body and now are ready to towel yourself dry.  Well, there’s nowhere to stand, other than under the shower head, where while drying my hair I inadvertently knocked into the button, only to soak my towel!!  At this stage I am laughing like a maniac!   When I asked the manager about directions to another town we were planning to visit, I got this tirade about “the bloody, bastard, terrorists that now run this country!” for 10 minutes.  Dennis had been treated to the same story on the previous day as the result some other comment or question.  It really is time that the local Council changed their Camp Manager.  Unusually for camp sites they had a beautiful TV and games room, the only problem was that it closed at 9p.m. sharp, when the manager left for the day!

Cute wee terraced houses in Antrim

The township of Antrim was pretty cute.  Lots of history with remnants of an old town wall, market square and those old terrace houses with short doors.  They have a brand new library that was so large and impressive it actually looked out-of-place in this small town.  Throughout the Irish isle there is a huge emphasis to help people connect to their family trees.  During the great potato blight of the 1840’s and the subsequent famine, 1 million died and another million emigrated to America principally but also to Australia, Canada and a few to New Zealand.  Libraries, museums and other establishments are quite used to descendants coming to enquire.   Dennis spent a bit of time trying to find out more about the name of McBride, only to discover that there are various ways to spell the name and that each way of spelling had 1000’s of listings.  There were 1800 McBrides listed for the County of Antrim alone!  He really needs to get more specific information about Christian names, birth places, etc to establish where he might start.

Quintessential Irish! This woman driving her mobility scooter on the road when there is an extra wide pavement provided! The looks bare in my photo but it actually was pretty busy.

Antrim Round Tower built in 10th century is 28m tall. It’s the only thing left of a monastery. Trees beside, not in frame, were much the same height

The following day was Good Friday and we searched for a Church to attend worship.  Apparently in Northern Ireland, Good Friday is classed as a Bank Holiday, which means just what it says – the banks were closed.  Everything else was open and trading, even the Council workers mowing lawns and repairing pavements, etc were busy.  And no Churches were open at all!
Whenever it rains or at around 4p.m. each day the cattle are back inside the farm sheds.  The farmers certainly are careful to look after the growing pasture.  Each day when the cows return inside, the previous evening’s manure is spread onto the grass that was grazed that day, so around 4.30p.m. everything has that distinctive aroma of fresh dung strewn around the countryside.  The offending paddocks look gross after this treatment, turning from light green to BROWN but within a few days the new growth disguises it again.  Three year crop rotation is universally practised by Irish (actually more so in Northern Ireland) and British farmers.   One year it’s rape seed (for oil) or broad beans or peas, the next pasture and then either barley, oats or winter wheat.  If the farm has no animals then instead of pasture it will be a vegetable crop.  All this makes for an extraordinary patchwork scenery of varying colours, especially when the golden rape seed flower is in bloom.  These countries are so beautiful to travel through!  We never get tired of it.

Beautiful, productive land

Rape seed in flower


One of Dennis’ detours lead us to the Creggandevesky Court Tomb built in 3500BC sitting beside the Lough Mallon

A clearer view of a peat harvesting site

A few years ago Dennis and I watched a movie about the IRA bombing in Omagh and the aftermath investigation.  The film was very moving and gave me an insight into how it must have been for the locals to live through The Troubles.  Just the normal, everyday people who wanted to live their lives in peace but instead had their lives turned upside down by their own countrymen.  It’s not a film that you could say you enjoyed because of the sobering content but it was very worthwhile and thought-provoking.  With this in mind we travelled inland to Omagh to basically “pay our respects”.  Arriving there was like every other town we’ve been to, a busy high street shopping area, old churches, library, information centre, etc.  We noticed what we thought was a monument in the main street, but it didn’t have any inscription on it or a notice of any kind so we were a bit confused.  We stopped off at the Information Centre and there we were told the story of the commemoration.   A Remembrance Garden has been established a block away from the main street.  There’s a short history of the event of 1998 and the names of the 31 slaughtered on that day, carved in a semicircular rock wall.  Above and alongside this wall are 31 poles with mirrors attached, directing the sunlight beams onto another 2 larger mirrors, which then direct the beam of light to another mirror way down the road, which in turn sends the concentrated beam of sunlight around the corner and directly through the opaque heart at the top of the first monument we saw on the main street, at the exact location of the blast!  Unfortunately, the sun was not shining the day we were there but looking it up on the internet later, we could visualise the effort.  As it happens, Omagh has the least amount of sunlight in the whole of Northern Ireland, but when it does shine, the effect of those concentrated beams must be extraordinary!  You can look it up on http://www.omaghbombmemorial.com/.  It seemed to us to be a fitting reminder that did not consume the town and turn this terrible negative into the only reason to remember Omagh by.

The monument on the main street

Omagh Remembrance Garden, with the 31 mirrors

With Omagh and its history still in our thoughts we kept on driving down, back to the coast.  We came to the River Clanrye which is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland again.   On the north side of the river is the city of Newry and on the other bank is a tiny little place called Omeath, where we stopped right on the beach for the night.  Newry is a busy port, with a ferry terminal and wharves for container ships, etc.  The difference between the two sides of the river was dramatic.  The north channel was obviously dredged to allow these large ships access but on our side the mudflats stretched out for miles at low tide, with no industry whatsoever.  Someone had emptied a dump truck of golden sand right beside the road on our side, to give children a small space to play that was a few square metres in size, and other than that it was mud.  After a quiet nights sleep we woke to hear on the news that there had been a BOMB discovered just alongside where we had driven the day before on the way to Newry!  The Army had successfully deactivated it during the evening!  IRA sympathisers have taken responsiblity for it and over the next week or so we heard of more attempts to place live bombs in the same general area.  It sure concentrates the mind to be that close to something that destructive and recognise that The Troubles are not necessarily over.  We are thankful and blessed to know the presence of God in our lives and His care for us always.

Looking over the river to the busy town of Newry

A fine example of a building site abandoned due to the financial collapse throughout Ireland

It wasn’t until Dennis pointed it out that I realised that this house was abandoned too but with the windows painted over it wasn’t quite so obvious. Once I clicked this was quite common

Sturdy enough bar, do you think? They really don’t want us to park in here!

Drogheda was the other highlight for us in Ireland.  What an interesting place!  We took a three hour tour of the various tumuli in the area, actually entering two of the biggest of these.  A tumulus is a burial mound, but these also have ancient religious significance for the people living around the years 3200 to 2000BC.  Both large mounds have specifically placed openings that allowed sunlight to penetrate right into the centre of the dome on particular days of the year.   The Knowth Passage Tomb has 127 massive kerbstones around the base, with a roof of large stones providing a platform for the earth dome on top.   The dome measures 67 metres wide and 12 metres high.  The kerbstones were mostly over a metre in length and had been transported from 70 miles away!  Unusually, Knowth has two passages on the east/west bias that don’t meet but which means sunlight lights up the shaft on both the winter and summer solstice.  It is surrounded by 18 smaller passage tombs on the same site.  Newgrange is older than Knowth and only has one passage, positioned for the winter solstice.  It is also older than both the pyramids and Stonehenge.  We went down through the narrow passage to the central “room” in each of them.  We went into Knowth first, which was pretty well-lit (with electricity) and spent quite some time in the small “room” listening to the guide’s educational explanations.  I was pleased when we emerged into daylight, however, it was small in there and the thought of 250,000 tonnes of rock and earth above us was worrying.  We were warned before we entered the Newgrange passageway that it was tighter than the former one and that it was uphill.  Well, being brave we both decided to carry on but once you ventured forth there was no way to change your mind!  Too narrow to turn around or step aside to let others pass.  I was nervous but pushed through that yuk barrier not noticing that behind me, Dennis was having serious problems.  He has had a traumatic experience as a youngster, when a tunnel collapsed on him and was winded as a result and since then developed claustrophobia.  The fact that once you reached the end of the passage you came into a “room” that would hold 12 people comfortably but on this occasion around 18 squeezed into it, didn’t help his disposition!   We were in there for maybe 15-20 minutes.  It was clear that each piece of rock in the roof was placed at a specific angle and had a groove carved into it to direct any water seepage  away from the chamber.  The guide was quite a story-teller, describing what it was like when she was in this exact place during the week of the winter solstice, hoping that the sun was going to shine that year!   She turned out all the lights, after warning us, and boy was it dark down there!  Then ever so slowly the computer generated light outside, mimicking the path of the low-lying sun, slowly lit up the chamber for our very own solstice experience.  It wasn’t until we came out into the daylight that Dennis told me of his palpitations!  Poor Dennis!

Knowth Passage Tomb

Looking up the narrow passage way in Knowth Tumulus

Newgrange Tumulus. No photos were allowed once inside

Being Easter Sunday we were keen to attend church and after a bit of research on the net we found a small independent Reformed Baptist Church that held their services in a College Hall in the morning and in a classroom in the evening.  Whenever we have attended a church in either England or Ireland so far we have found the people to be especially friendly and welcoming, quite happy to talk for ages after the service but unfortunately not one of them have invited us home for a cuppa.  I couldn’t imagine that happening in the Reformed Churches back home.  Surprisingly for us, there was no Easter sermons, in fact the minister explained an entirely new concept to us, that Good Friday should actually been Good Thursday!  He felt that secular society had worked out the dates incorrectly and so they did not celebrate Easter at all.  Other than that though, it is always so good to meet together with God’s people wherever we are.  A real blessing to realise that God has His followers throughout the world.

Irish sense of humour?

That night we chose a large carpark, part of a shopping mall complex, to sleep our first night in Dublin.  We were fast asleep when there was a knock on the door!  This time the security chap told Dennis that he was about to lock the gates and that we needed to leave the site.  He advised us that we should just drive over the road into the McDonald’s carpark and as they didn’t have a gate we should be okay for the rest of the night!  It did seem strange to us as we always check if there are gates before deciding to park there in the first place, but who would argue with him when we had just been woken?  So we did that and had a good sleep.  The following morning we noticed that actually there were no gates at all, he just didn’t want us in his carpark so sent us to the neighbours!

There are Roman built bridges all over the UK

So many people had their own wee potato patch, even if they lived in a multi storied dwelling like this family

The following day being Easter Monday, was an auspicious day to visit the graves of the 1916 Rebellion martyrs, behind Arbour Prison.  Interesting to note was that there was one head stone for a John McBride!  In the middle of WWI, while the English were busy elsewhere,  a group of freedom fighters in Dublin decided to take over the city.  As had happened many times before, the English quashed the rebellion in seven days, but not until many were dead and a great proportion of Dublin city had been destroyed.  The English acted swiftly and between the 3rd and 12th of May they had executed 14 men.  This was seen by the general populace as having been done with indecent haste and actually served to turn the public’s attitude to side with the rebels.  They felt the English had been too severe and what with Irish sons fighting and dying on the Allies side in the Great War on the Continent at that very time, this reaction was a step too far.   Eventually, in 1921 six counties joined to become Northern Ireland, still under English rule, and the other 26 counties set up the Irish Free State.

14 fresh lilies for the 96th Anniversary of the Rebellion

Dublin War Museum is huge. Four buildings same height as these two make up the quadrangle!

We also took a four-hour walking tour around Dublin city.  Our guide was so entertaining, she was a secondary school teacher by profession and took tours on the weekend.  She was very knowledgeable and just loved it when she was asked questions!  Later that evening she was taking another walking tour around Dublin but this one was concentrating on the many pubs in the city!  The mother of all pub crawls, she must have listed about 10 pubs and each one had a special offer of 2for1, or when you bought a guiness they added a dram of scotch, etc, etc.  We were amazed how many took up her offer!

When Queen Victoria stayed at the Dublin Castle to save her looking out onto the slums the Irish built this wall to spare her sensiblities

Our animated Tour Guide in Dublin

Wow! A poster advertising Bic Runga’s tour in Dublin. We were so PROUD!

Once again we drove around the streets of Dublin looking for a suitable site to stay for the night.  We eventually settled on a park just past a railway overbridge.  Just to make sure there would be no interruptions that night we took a walk down the pavement looking for signs telling you how long you could stay for.  A passerby asked Dennis if he was a terrorist?  The look on Dennis’ face!  “Excuse me?”  The guys accent was so broad he had actually asked Dennis if he was a tourist?  When Dennis explained to him, what he thought he had heard the chap thought it was a huge joke and told us they had enough of their own terrorists without importing more from NZ!.  Anyway, he advised us not to park right there as under the cover of darkness that overbridge became the place where junkies came to buy their heroin!  While he was talking, another chap came up and told us the same story!  We thought it prudent to keep on looking.

The overbridge we had intended to park near

Dublin trams are nifty

The following day we took another guided tour, this time around Kilmainham Gaol.  This was where the 1916 Rebels were held and then actually executed.  There was quite a bit of information about John McBride, even a photo of him, and also we learnt that there was another Patrick McBride involved in the Uprising, not a leader so he did not suffer the same fate.  The executions took place in the stone-breakers’ yard.

John McBride’s cell

The Irish flag. The green is for the Catholics, the orange for the Protestants and white symbolises peace between the two

Glasnevin is Ireland’s Necropolis.  It was established in 1824, as before this time Irish Catholics had no cemeteries of their own, because of the repressive Penal Law the English lords had enacted.  Daniel O’Connell, the champion of Catholic rights, fought to have a site where Catholics and Protestants could be buried together and each religion was allowed to hold a burial service there.   This is now a 120 acre nondenominational National Cemetery, where around one and a quarter million citizens are buried.  It is surrounded by a high brick wall, with lookout towers spaced at regular intervals.  This was necessary to prevent grave robbers from snatching newly interned corpses and selling them to medical institutions for dissection!  The tallest monument, a round tower, is the final resting place of Daniel O’Connell.  Micheal Collins, Kitty Kiernan (fiancée of Michael), Eamon de Valera,  Maud Gonne MacBride (wife of John) and Sean MacBride (son of John) are also buried here.  Confusingly, they spelled McBride as MacBride but they are definitely related to John McBride.  Sean was a founding member of Amnesty International and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 and Lenin Peace Prize in 1977.  As yet Dennis has not established that these people are directly linked to his family but will continue to look into it, especially now with this knowledge.
We loved our tour around Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Such a beautiful country, really helpful, happy people and what a great way to travel!

Our journey around Ireland, highlighted in black ink

Coming into Liverpool Harbour the day was so still that one of these turbines was turning

This is what we missed on our ferry trip, an gas terminal in the Irish Sea

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One Response to “Ireland – Part 3”

  1. Joy Roberts May 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Love to read about your journeys , we did enjoy having Nola to stay, had lots of laughs and tears…..will be wonderful if Kathy and girls live near to Masterton, keep safe Love Joy and Billxx

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