Dwight Peck's personal website

The north of Ireland, April 2007

Winter 2006-2007 spent waiting around for winter

Ireland (and Northern Ireland) in the springtime

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Rathlin Island -- the East Lighthouse

We're marching out of Church Bay, 12 April 2007, bound for the East Lighthouse. The children's playground on the right has this charming sign on it:

"Adults are not welcome unless accompanied by a responsible child."
(The rusted bolts make it look a bit like an untidy crucifixion.)

We were walking out towards the East Lighthouse on the approved tarmac road, and then a sort of fit overtook us, and we just couldn't walk on the tarmac anymore, so we hopped it and wandered off into what's apparently forbidden territory, i.e., the coast.

Ah! That's much better, we can breathe more freely now. Sheep farmers seem to be so possessive (like we were going to kick their sheep or something)! And the views out here are worth the trouble!

Kristin ambling towards "Bruce's Castle". Oh what a great lot of history has preceded us here! Robert the Bruce sojourned here after the thorough thumping he received from the English at Perth in 1306, living in a cave at the base of those cliffs, dining upon his shoes until they ran out, and meditating upon a spider trying over and over to build a web which taught him the value of perseverance, so he went back to defeat the English at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Bruce's Cave is said now to be accessible only by boat, and I believe it.

The narrator inhibiting our view of Bruce's Castle. The "Castle" part came about years after Robert the Bruce himself had gone off to join the Long Fathers.

Here's another Rathlin historical tidbit: During the "Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland", Mr Francis Drake (not yet "Sir Francis" and not yet having set off on his famous Circumnavigation of the World (1577-1580)) commanded the ships that brought Sir John ("Black Jack") Norris's English troops and cannon onto Rathlin Island in 1575, where Ole' Black Jack destroyed the Bruce Castle and massacred the entire populace of the island. All of them, by the reports. Just one of many Rathlin atrocities.

Kristin preparing to visit Bruce's Castle or what's left of it. Bruce's famous spider cave is down somewhere on the right. Speaking of Rathlin atrocities, The Hill of Screaming, in the middle of the island, got its name from when the women and children of the MacDonnells retreated there in 1642 and got to watch all of their menfolk being butchered by the Clan of Campbell.

You'd think we'd have progressed a bit since then. But then you pick up a newspaper.

Kristin and Robert the Bruce's Spider Cave (below).

All that's left of Bruce Castle, after Black Jack Norris got done with it in 1575. (One of his near successors in Ireland, Arthur Lord Grey of Wilton, beseiged a small Spanish/Italian invasion force at Smerwick in the southwest of Ireland, November 1579, and then granted them safe passage home when they surrendered, and slaughtered them all after they'd turned over their arms.)

The view southwards from Bruce's Castle

After all this grim talk of atrocities, it's getting time for a little snack.

A lesson in not leaving your camera unattended. Sitting down for a little pre-lunch snack, getting up again afterward -- it's not as easy as it once was, and it's certainly not graceful.

* Munro-ing is a British hobby of walking up and checking off on printed lists the ca.540 mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet high (915 meters) that were catalogued in 1891 by Sir Hugh Munro (or the ca.300 now recognized by the Scottish Mountaineering Club as separate peaks). Martin Moran did all of them in one winter season, 1985 (I read his book enviously); Steven Fallon has completed the whole Munro list 13 times. But we're Marconi-bagging instead.

The East Lighthouse has been flashing warnings, etc., off Altacarry Head since 1856, but more importantly for those of us who have made a munro-like hobby* of checking off Marconi sites around the world, it was here that Guglielmo Marconi and his pal installed a wireless transmitter for Lloyd's of London and in July 1898 transmitted the first commercial radio signals, sending advance warning across to Ballycastle of the successful return of transatlantic Lloyds-insured ships returning to Liverpool around the northern coast of Ireland.

We're so pleased, because this is our first Marconi site since visiting the "Marconi Lookout" on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, in 2006, whence the clever inventor tried to send the first transatlantic radio signals to Europe in 1911.

Lost again

A small mountain tarn, west of the East Lighthouse.

And there's the East Lighthouse itself, from the little tarn.
(Scotland can just be discerned on the left horizon on a hazy day, 11 miles off.)

This is such a neat pond that, whilst Kristin wandered off a few kilometres away to find a good place for lunch, I lingered long and took pictures of it from different aspects.

That's Fair Head on the horizon.

The East Lighthouse again as we hasten to rejoin Kristin farther along the coast before the lunch is gone.

And still farther along the Rathlin Island coast, looking to the west.

Blocked in our lunchward path by cliffs, we are circling back around towards the WWII Coast Guard lookout on Ballyconagan, a National Trust property since 1997.

Coast Guard lookout, and lunch.

Another lovely pond on the way back to Church Bay

Kristin pointing towards McCuaigs pub over in Church Bay -- following which, a giant piece of salmon at The Manor House (that's a sarcastic private joke).

The village school. Children above 11 years of age have to go off to boarding schools on the mainland. The under-11 children go to school here -- three siblings from one family and the son of our hosts at The Manor House. That's 4 in all, this year.

The lower church -- the Gage family church, in fact.

The Manor House again, an extremely lovely building. Richard Branson of Virgin fame contributed significantly to renovating the whole row of buildings there, in gratitude for having been rescued after crashing his transatlantic hot-air balloon just off the northern coast in 1987.

Leaving Rathlin Island: Kristin and The Muckmaster.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 9 May 2007, revised 27 March 2008, 12 August 2014.

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