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Nicholas Mackey

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I write. I take photos. Go figure.

A Visit To Ireland in September 2018

As an expatriate Irishman now based in London who has lived out of Ireland since 1979, I have been back many times over the years but a trip completed in September 2018 to Counties Meath, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Kilkenny and Dublin with my wife and two close friends (also living in London) turned out to be an uplifting and moving experience.
Over the six days of our Irish visit, I wanted to explore what Ireland is as a country, its people, history and culture and, of course, what it means to be Irish. It was not all serious of course as there was plenty of craic introduced at many opportunities enroute; thankfully we were blessed with the best of weather throughout.

I had devised an itinerary that started in Co. Meath with a visit to the Hill of Tara, exploring an ancient place with a history going back nearly 6,000 years. The Hill of Tara ranks high in the collective Irish memory where mythology, spirituality, power and the ceremonial have been part of the Celtic psyche for millennia. It can be easily reached from the nearby Jordanstown/Old Ross Road where the entrance is replete with well-presented, informative signage describing the archaeology, geography and the fabled symbolism of the hallowed site. As you walk over the windswept rolling hills of this place, you begin to imagine what sacred and powerful events must have occurred on this soil all those years ago.
For more detailed information, please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_of_Tara

Afterwards, we headed over to Trim (also in Co. Meath) and visited the magnificent Anglo-Norman castle there built by Hugh de Lacy in 1180. Our friends were captivated by the fact that the Normans had visited Ireland also after conquering England in 1066 but I pointed out that it was the beginning of a sad and bloody tale with the domination of Ireland by a certain foreign power. 752 years of colonial rule kicked off when two Irish high kings, became locked in a sordid squabble for supremacy in their neck of the woods way back in the 12th century CE and one of these kingly protagonists, a certain Dermot McMurrough inveigled the English monarch at the time, Henry II, to send over an Anglo-Norman lord of Wales, Richard FitzGilbert, Earl of Pembroke (aka Strongbow) and a posse of soldiers to enable the aforesaid Dermot M. re-establish his position of power. Looked at from the perspective of the cold light of day, this episode of political shenanigans more than eight and a half centuries ago served as the progenitor of where one country came to be subservient to its nearest neighbour for three quarters of a millennium. But I digress.

After our Hill of Tara visit, we drove westwards through Westmeath, Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon in glorious sunshine and in the afternoon arrived at our destination: the Riverside Hotel in Sligo town where we had a marvellous view of the River Garavogue. We visited the Yeats Society Building in the heart of Sligo where some fascinating details and memorabilia associated with 'W.B.', (one of Ireland's literary Nobel Laureates), are on show to the public - a chat with the curator also proved to be entertaining and enlightening. "Cast a cold eye on life, on death Horseman pass by" - the self-written epitaph on Yeat's grave in Drumcliff churchyard, Co. Sligo "under bare Ben Bulben's head". 

The following morning, in continuance of the focus on classical Ireland, we ventured out of Sligo town and climbed the hill of Knocknarea, an outcrop of limestone reaching 327 metres (1,072 feet) in height on a windy and showery morning. At the plateaued summit, we gazed in wonder at the high rocky cairn, legendary burial mound of Maeve, warrior queen of Connacht - Connacht being one of the five ancient provinces of Ireland: the others were Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Meath. From the top of Knocknarea, we also had a marvellous 360-degree panorama where it is said that six counties can be seen.
Later, we found ourselves at the seaside in Strandhill and ate at the incredible Shells restaurant on the sea front. My friends remarked how delicious the food was and the very high standard of service despite the place being packed. Even though this was only the second day of our visit, we noted the friendliness of everyone we came across.

A further peep into Ireland's past was next on the cards so we visited Lissadell House and our inimitable guide, Leo, who was a tour-de-force character in not only beguiling us with an entertaining account of the house, the people associated with Lissadell such as the Gore-Booths, W.B. Yeats, et al., but Leo also gave us a fascinating albeit unorthodox, no-nonsense view of Irish history which held us in thrall, his delivery peppered with wicked humour.
It may interest you to know that my Scottish grandmother told me when she was a 'gel', that she had ridden on horseback with the Gore-Booth sisters, Eva and Constance in the grounds of Lissadell. But I digress again.

We pressed on to Galway and checked in for two nights at Flannery's Hotel. The following morning, our tummies fortified by a 'full Irish', we embarked on a tour of the city and the only negative experience of the entire trip was when I was scolded by an elderly Galwegian for taking pictures of boats in the harbour; to date I have no idea how innocently taking photos of an attractive local nautical scene could cause someone to become so exercised. Undeterred, we later drove out to Clifden in search of a well-known eatery renowned for its marine cuisine. But this is Ireland and we were not in a hurry so we detoured to Cong, just inside Co. Mayo and visited the charming town along with the ancient abbey. You will no doubt recall that Cong served as the backdrop for the film, "The Quiet Man" featuring Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne - both Hollywood stars with Irish roots.

On the road again via Clonbur and the enchanting Lough Nafooey (known as the lake of the winnowing winds – what an incredible name from the original Irish) where I regaled our small group about a geological field trip I had been on to the area more than 40 years previously as a Trinity College Dublin undergrad in Natural Sciences. I found myself reliving old memories and dreams and I felt this familiar haunting magic when the Celtic world re-enters my soul. We journeyed on past the incomparable Lough Mask, Killary Fjord, Finny, and stopped briefly at Kylemore Abbey where the afternoon sunshine danced on the waters of the lake enhancing the beauty of the place.
Happily our goal was achieved when we rolled into Clifden late that afternoon and as weary, famished travellers, we were treated to a veritable fish feast at Mitchell's Seafood Restaurant. Most memorable as it was delicious.

We returned to Galway city and headed out to the Latin Quarter (yes, Paris is not the only city with such a snazzy-sounding district) which was pulsating with energy and people. Pretty soon we realised that there was music a-plenty on offer and we found ourselves in the famous musical watering hole called, Tigh Cóilí where a live band was playing some Irish tunes. The place was heaving but yet the people present made room for us with a smile and a cheery word as we were kindly given seats as we supped away on liquid refreshment savouring the atmosphere. The craic was stupendous. My favourite Irish tipple being a pint of porter, aka a Guinness.

We returned to our hotel around 11.30pm thinking we'd get the semblance of an early night but as we walked through the foyer it was obvious a hooley to the accompaniment of music was in full swing. We were invited to join the group, drinks magically appeared on the table where we sat and, from what we could gather, we had crashed a hen party Irish-style with men and women present. We were welcomed into the fold, as it were, and the party carried on to the small hours in a very joyful fashion: life itself and the continuation of life with a most noticeable joie de vivre palapable was the essence of this celebration. A heart-warming way to end a wonderful day.
Or, if I think of it from a philosophical viewpoint, a most postive existential experience. Take your pick.

(To Be Continued)

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Ride Free

Artist Name - Ride-Free-a-poem-by-Nicholas-Mackey-19-May-2022-1.m4a
 

Covid Memorial Wall London 24 July 2021 

Love
Love always
Love you Mum
I love you Daddy
Love children
Love you till forever
To my diamond in the sky, I love you

 

Wear a mask Wash your hands
Care home residents Lewisham
To all the patients of Epsom & St Helier Hospital
NHS workers are 4 life not just 4 Covid
Thank you NHS Love you NHS
All affected by the virus
We love you miss you we lost our world

 

I love you to the moon and back
I love you 300,000,000 times
To All We Love To All Fighters!
Forever in my heart and always on my mind
Precious memories
Death takes a heart that no one can heal
Love makes memories that no one can steal

 

You were young, gifted and black
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name
You are the light of my life
Shine on G man you crazy diamond
No matter what
Love always
For all those who died alone and for the families who never got to say goodbye

 

So many flashbacks not near enough wishes
For all the staff lost in the Chelsea and Westminster (Hospital) RIP
Vax 4 our kids No Vax 4 our kids
To all victims of Covid-19 worldwide we will remember you always with love
More than 1.1 million people still battling post-Covid Syndrome
Never forget
My heart is broken

 

All for life and love

 

Lockdown 20.03.2020
Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a h-anam*
May Allah forgive your sins
Vladimir 16.08.86 – 30.11.20, aged 34 years
Connie 04.12.32 – 03.05.20, aged 87 years, Bye for now
Rest in peace for all those lost in care homes
Big Sis, Little Bruv misses you

 

Wicked sense of humour
All this fuss over me LOL Bloody rediculus
Gorgeous Grandmother I love you
What would Trevor do?
Biff taken in his prime
Mum fell asleep Valentines Day 2021
Naupani @ heaven.com

 

Bless
NHS
Forever
Hubby
Chaos
RIP
They say that time heals. But time has stood still. Love you lots. I got you Babe

 

Love you, you changed my life, I wouldn’t be where I am without you
Our amazing Superman
You’ll never be forgotten Our hardworking beautiful young Grandma we all love you and we miss you
Still the backbone of the family
our star
Sorry I couldn’t say goodbye
Thank you Whipps Cross nurses you saved my life

 

Sleep tight
Beloved rapper
Beautiful Soul
A true shaker
Not forgotten
Miss you everyday
Ride free

 

 

*Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a h-anam (Irish); translation: may her soul be at the right hand of God

 


Adapted from the writings on the National Covid Memorial Wall, London; seen Sunday morning, 24th July 2021.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Title well chosen! The best memento last. Says so much about the one gone and the one grieving. Thanks for this.
Friday, 29 April 2022 23:18
Nicholas Mackey
We lost two family members to Covid. Meanwhile, another close relative was very seriously ill with it - thankfully, now recovered.... Read More
Wednesday, 04 May 2022 14:00
Rosy Cole
So sorry to learn of your losses, Nicholas. Covid can be a cruel and overwhelming disease. It's strange, though, how grief and sor... Read More
Wednesday, 11 May 2022 19:29
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A life in trees

The other evening, my wife and I went for a stroll along the Thames Path 
not far from London's Chelsea Harbour and stopped to sit awhile in a 
delightful spot known as Imperial Park where greenery and calm are to be 
found.
 
As we parked ourselves on a bench savouring the ambiance of a summer's
eve in a big city blessed with trees, grass and flowers in abundance, I took 
these two pictures from where we sat for those few minutes. 
A gentle breeze made its presence known by playing out a symphonic poem
on the panoply of leaves of the rock elm trees standing close to each other:
music that sounds out a message where life is in the ascendant and it means 
so much to be alive and to be able to appreciate moments of magic like this. 
 
These two images will always remind me of the simple, sublime happiness 
one can experience from the existence of nature all around us. 
 
Onwards and upwards,
Nicholas 
Chosenia tree
Chosenia tree
 
 

Rock elm tree

Rock elm trees
 
 
 
Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Trees have such awesome vigour and staying power. There's a silver birch, fifty or sixty feet high, outside my study window and it... Read More
Sunday, 02 August 2020 16:13
Nicholas Mackey
Thank you, Rosy for reading and commenting.
Saturday, 08 August 2020 11:55
Virginia M Macasaet
Beautiful writing! I sketch trees and they bring me peace and calm :-)
Tuesday, 14 December 2021 08:31
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the now

the now

walking alone ahead

uncalmed

shoved into

that darkened bag

of heavy space

thoughts squeezed nervous

by arrowed cruel command

impatient as a virus

hellbent

on what comes next

the tyranny of now

 

fickle existence

can flick nazi-like

through every soul 

sentenced to

noble and ignoble

versions of now

 

where have all the nows gone?

the awareness

the everything

the stone-hearted conqueror

that is now

 

how does now 

become now?

our memory

the museum of now but

But really what is 

NOW?

 

and how will the future

shape now?

 

P.S. The photo is one I took in 1973 of a solitary figure walking on Wilton Terrace by the Grand Canal near to where I spent my childhood in Dublin, Ireland.

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