FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD … TO FASTING GEESE!!

“There must have been a huge amount of turf cutting here during World War 11,” Colm commented as we walked through thousands of acres of bog on Knockatagglemore hill in Kilcummin last Sunday.
 
The hundreds, maybe thousands of turf banks, are now overgrown.
 
‘From this those unable or unwilling to walk can enjoy a prospect as good as any earned by the hardiest mountain climber’ is the description of the view from Knockatagglemore by Tom Barrington in his encycloepedic ‘Discovering Kerry’.
 
From across the top of the hill you felt if you stretched out south-south-east, you could almost touch the extraordinary breast-shaped Paps. Then panning west by Crohane, Bennaunmore, Mangerton, Torc, the Eagle’s Nest, Purple, Glena and Tomies.
 
Continuing along the whole range of the Reeks. If the day had been clearer the view would have gone on to Drung Hill near Kells and Knockadobar east of Caherciveen.
 
Moving north, in our line of sight directly west the haze or low cloud hid Loch na dTri gCaol and Dingle Bay all the way to the Blaskets. Now north west the whole range of the Slieve Mish Mountains. Last Sunday’s weather only allowed us see as far as Caherconree. In better conditions the view extends to Brandon at the western end of the Dingle Peninsula.
 
While the mountains are the most striking aspect of the huge panorama perhaps the most unique is the view of six lakes. I don’t know of any other single spot where one can see the three main Killarney lakes (Lower, Middle and Upper), a glimpse of Lough Guitane, as well as the much smaller Lacca and Kilbrean lakes
 
On the drive home we called to Kilcummin Old Graveyard which also has a great high view of Killarney mountains and lakes. We re-visited some of the scenes we talked about in our radio walk here at the end of January. A podcast of the programme can be heard on www.radiokerry.ie. – scroll down through The Saturday Supplement/Frank Lewis to January 28. 
 
The 12th century church of the remarkable St Cummian after whom Kilcummin is named. The thatched roof
 was set ablaze in 1652 by Cromwellian cannon fired from Finnegan’s Cross away down below.
 
‘Erected sacred to the memory of Rev Timothy Sheahan, the beloved PP of Kilcummin for 46 years, died 8th July 1850 in his 86th year.’ He is particularly remembered for his effective food distribution during famine years. Sheahan was criticised by neighbouring parish priests for refusing help to vagrant destitute people from outside Kilcummin.
 
This headstone records ‘In memory of Mary Shahan aged 18 years. Died on the eve of the family’s departure to America in 1850. This tablet is lovingly erected by her brother Maurice on his first visit to his native home 1882.’
 
This is known as ‘the famine grave’. It records the awful tragedy of a family devastated by famine, recently bereaved and Mary’s brother prospering in America.
 
The beautifully engraved headstone with the Riasc cross marks the grave of John and May Teahon. He served as principal of the nearby Coolick National School for many years. As well there are graves of famous Kerry footballers Dee O’Connor and Eugene Moriarty. And so much more.  There is a book, even a library, in every graveyard.
 
 
A week ago last Sunday the deep green of the early wild garlic leaves were already richly carpeting large areas on Ross Island.  Now is the time of year to pick the leaves for salads or as a herb flavouring.
 
Siubhan and I had gone to walk along the northern shore of Hyde’s Bay but the access path was flooded. Ross Island is my special dawn chorus place from an hour before sunrise from now until well into June.
 
The photo is of a raised area east-north-east of the estate road to the Library Point between the road to the copper mines and the road to Governor’s Rock.
 
The real secrets of Ross Island are off the road. There are many tracks to be followed and they are full of surprises. Sometimes the going can be demanding, but there are many places to rest aching legs.
 
The Magnolias are one of the great early celebrations of nature. The huge pink-white blossoms cover every inch of these large shrub-trees. They are at their very best these days, but go to see them now, before a storm, heavy rain or frost take the flowers away for another year.
 
The poet Wordsworth’s favourite flower the lesser celandine is invasive and can take over – like it is threatening to do in what is left of the lawn at Gallan Eile after the ravages of great red deer stags. When it opens in sunlight the star-like rich orange-yellow flower reminds me of the wide-eyed attention of a little girl.  To continue the parallel the flower closes in dark or rain.
But the lesser celandine is one of the first flowering heralds of spring.  It is particularly striking in large groves or thickets in woodland.
 
The daisy is everybody’s delight but the dedicated gardener does not like it in the lawn. The lawn at Gallan is lucky not to be pulled and tugged by a dedicated gardener. And the geese have plenty to eat. It is not difficult to feed sculpted birds.
 
And lesser celandine, daisy, flowering winter heathers and the occasional stag make the garden at Gallan Eile an even more interesting place from which to see cloud rising off Glena mountain.
Frank Lewis
 

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