Nature Notebook

 

WHERE THE QUIET MAN WALKED

– fuchsia, montbretia & ‘An Ode to a Cow Dung’

Have you ever seen anything like the fuchsia this year? Hedgerows on Knockanore Hill are laden down with the red and purple flower.

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The house and flower-filled garden of the Hannon family in Laherrough is surrounded by a carefully tended fuchsia hedge. “We need to trim it every three weeks during the growing season”, Ann Hannon said the hedge had been planted by her father in the 1930s when fuchsia was first introduced to Knockanore by their neighbour David Kissane.

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Which of its folk names most effectively expresses the flower? Dancing Lady aptly suggesting the colouful, happy exuberance of a young ballet dancer. Or the Irish name of Deora Dé (the tears of God) perhaps bringing to mind a rich waterfall of grief.

Fuchsia was first introduced to this part of the world from Chile less that 200 years ago. It is said that it was brought to Ireland by Cornish copper miners when they came to work in Allihies on the tip of the Beara Peninsula.

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The Hannon farm is at the end of a cul de sac. It is also well worth visiting to see the Tobar mo Chroi/the Well of my Heart holy well, whose water is said to be good for treating sore eyes. The centre piece of a statue of Our Lady in a glass cabinet and the clear water of the well is surrounded by a fuchsia hedge.  While the Saturdays before May 1st and June 24 (St John’s Day) are the well’s special days Ann Hannon assures “we welcome visitors to the well at any time.”

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On long lengths on the sides of many ditches in Knockanore the orange coloured montbretia is at present bursting into blossom. This is a cross between two South African garden plants. It has acclimatised well since it was introduced here in the 1870s.

But be warned! In case you are tempted to dig out a clump of montbretia it can very quickly take over your garden and it is almost impossible to get rid off.

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The site of the home of the original Quiet Man is on Barra Road on Knockanore and if you are lucky – as we were last Sunday – you might bump into his son Tom Bawn Enright or his daughter Noreen. You might visit the first indoor dancehall in north Kerry, the home of Robert Leslie Boland whose verses included such earthy themes as ‘Ode to a Cow Dung’.

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We started our six hour trek of Knockanore at the Lisselton graveyard to search out a story of the great generosity in famine times of Mary Collins Foley … visit the Cilin outside the walls where unbaptised children were buried. The church would not allow them to be buried in consecrated ground.

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We finished on top of Knockanore with its unparaelled view of the Shannon Estuary, all of the coast and plain of north Kerry with it’s backdrop of mountains from the Cork/Kerry border to Brandon at the end of the Dingle Peninsula, as well looking north to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

Frank Lewis

PS Hear the full story of our drive and walk on Knockanore on Radio Kerry this Saturday morning (July 30) from 9 to 11 or from next Tuesday or Wednesday on podcast (www.radiokerry.ie)

PPS Knockanore is about an hour’s drive from Gallan Eile, our self-catering rental accommodation – for more information or to book a stay Gallan Eile …

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