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The gale had now fallen to a breeze which before evening became a calm. The sea gradually became smoother, and the remainder of the voyage to Galway was of the most enjoyable character.
Steaming south from Tory, the ship passed Bloody Foreland. Conspicuous on it is one of the signal towers which are to be seen on so many prominent points on the west coast of Ireland. They were erected at the beginning of the present century, and formed part of a system by which the approach of a hostile force could be communicated by signal in the most rapid manner then known to military science.
The mountains of north Donegal were now to be seen to great advantage, dominated by the bold top of Muckish, and the grey cone of Errigal.
The smaller islands which stud the coast were left at some distance, but the steep cliffs of the northern Aran Island, or Aranmore, with their many trickling waterfalls swelled by the previous night's rain, were passed at a short distance.
South of Aranmore the coast recedes, and the ship bore on towards the bold headlands of south-west Donegal. Slieveatooey rises from the sea a little to the east. The cliffs of Glen Head are passed, and we look up the little Glen Bay, to the green slopes of the sacred Glencolumkille. The bold cliffs with their contorted strata round Malinmore Head are now reached. Then passing within the low island of Rathlin O'Birne, the giant cliffs of Slievleague break on the view.
Leaving these behind the ship pressed southward, and an hour later the little island of Inismurray lay beside us. There seemed nothing to suggest that this tame little isle was once the home of a fort-building prehistoric chief, or that for centuries saints and scholars had here lived, leaving graven in its hard stones the strange wealth of carved ornament, in which the great symbol of the faith is traced in such variety of quaint and sometimes elegant design.
It is unnecessary to describe what is to be seen on Inismurray. Mr. Wakeman's report on its remains has been published by the Society, as its extra volume for 1892, and it is needless to repeat here what he has so well represented with pen and pencil.
A landing was effected partly in the ship's boats, and partly in those of the island, at the new pier at the S.E. of the island, not marked on the map in Mr. Wakeman's report. Thence westward, about a quarter of a mile, by a road dotted with the comfortable cottages of the people to Leachta Coluimkille, one of the characteristic stations on the island. It consists of a small altar-like erection of stone with a flat upright stone rising from its centre, engraved with crosses; the whole surrounded by a low quadrangular wall of stone. Near this is Temple-na-mBan, the Women's church. Turning here up a narrow path we arrived almost immediately at the south gate of the cashel.
The cashel enclosing wall is pre-Christian, and much of it, especially its outer face on the northern and eastern side, remains very much in its original state. Some re-construction, including two entrances, took place on the southern side after it hecame the abode of a Christian community, and some further restoration was carried out in recent years by the Board of Works. Some of the stone chambers connected with the wall are probably as old as the original erection of the fort, while ono of the churches may be as late as the fifteenth century. Besides three churches and several bee-hive cells, the cashel contains three detached altars and a number of crosses. Only a very short time could be allowed here, and before more than a hasty examination of the cashel could be completed, the steamer's whistle, all too soon, recalled us from these remains of a far past to the requirements of the present.
We should not leave the island without observing that the people, who seemed healthy and comfortable, showed a friendly and generally unobtrusive interest in our visit, and were ready when occasion arose to offer such hospitality as their circumstances admitted of.
Returned to the ship, we had time to look at the fine outline of the north Sligo and Leitrim range of mountains, Ben Bulbin standing strikingly out from the rest, with flat top, and strangely weathered, almost vertical sides.
The " Caloric " was soon under way towards Sligo. Near Rosses Point at the entrance to Sligo river, she anchored for the night, the great cairn on Knocknarea looking down on us from the south, and Ben Bulbin keeping guard to the north-east.
A very early start was made from Sligo. So early that few were on deck, until the bare cliffs of Erris had been reached. Here there was a striking view of the weird rocks called the Stags of Crosshaven, rising perpendicularly from the ocean at some distance from land like the skeleton of a lofty island. Erris Head was passed and we steamed southward along the low coast of Mullet and its outlying islands. Now the giant cliffs of Achill loomed ahead. Gradually the great mass of Croghaun was neared. Then rounding Achill Head, an indescribably beautiful effect was produced by the height of Croghaun towering over the line of bills which ends in Achill Head. The ship now steamed towards Clare Island, our next stopping place, and the beauties of Clew Bay opened out, with the cone of Croagh Patrick in the centre of view.
Lying off the east end of Clare Island, a landing was effected near a quadrangular tower or house, which formed the castle, or part of the castle, of the celebrated Grania Uaile. More than a mile west of this, near the road, is the ruin of a building understood to have been a small house of the Cistercian Order. The western end is in ruins, the eastern end contains two chambers on the ground, each with a chamber above. The south-eastern lower chamber was a chapel, or may have formed a chancel to a larger church of which the nave is ruined. The plastered ceiling of the chapel vaulting retains indications of fresco painting, but nothing can
Iovr. B.s.a.i., Vol. v., Pt. m., 5th 8eb. S
be distinguished of its design. The chapel also contains the tomb of Grania Uaile, or at least of some members of her family, the O'Malleys. The windows in the east wall indicate a very late date.
The island has recently been purchased by the Congested Districts Board— a change which has revolutionised its land tenure. It is stated that until this change the land was worked by certain groups of tenants holding in common and sharing in the farm work, and having unlimited commonage rights over the pasture. The new proprietors have abolished this system, allotting certain lands in severalty to each tenant, and strictly defining pasturage rights.
Barley, rye, and potatoes are grown, but the chief industry is fishing and kelp burning.
It had been intended to take a pilot at Clare Island, to take the ship up the Killery Bay. At the time of our visit, however, the pilot was absent. The steamer sailed thence to Inishturk, and here a further attempt was made to secure a pilot, but in vain; so this deviation from our course had to be abandoned. Here was a most beautiful view of the Connemara Highlands. Opposite, the opening of the Killeries could be traced. Above it rose the dark mass of Muilrea, and its attendant mountains. A little to the south was the varied outline of the Twelve " Pins." To the north-east the blue cone of Croagh Patrick ; and northward Clare Island, and still further the high ridges of Achill closed the view.
Leaving Inishturk, the ship proceeded outside Inishbofin, and Inishshark, and bore south-east to High Island (called also Ardillauu or Ardoilean), a small uninhabited island some miles west of Aughrus point, the most westerly point of county Galway. Lying in deep water at the sheltered side of the islet, the ship's lifeboat was lowered and took a party of about twenty to its rocky and, except in one or two places, unapproachable shore.
This lonely isle, like so many on our coast, was the seat of an early religious establishment. There still appear the remains of a cashel, a very early small church whose lintel has an inscribed cross, two cloghauns, four crosses, and other remains.1
Leaving High Island, the " Caloric " directed her course towards the long low point of Slyne Head, with its dotted line of rocky islets stretching out to the furthest rock, on which a lighthouse stands. When this was rounded the course lay straight to Aran; and the blue hills of Connemara, and its low broken coast, fringed with the slowly rising smoke from scores of kelp fires, receded into the dim distance.
At 8 p.m. the ship anchored off Kilmurvey, in the Great Island of Aran. Tho little village lay opposite, up a little creek with a small beach of bright sand. To the right about Onaght there seemed nothing but bare rock marked by horizontal terraces like the opposite hills of Burren. Further south, rising slightly but sharply from the rounded outline of the hill, could be detected the great wall of Dun Aengus, on the opposite side of the island.
A few corraghs at once put out from shore, and in an hour there must have been more than twenty at the ship's side. Many of the natives came on board, and some of them sang Irish songs, and danced jigs remarkably well. The corraghs are in more general use in Aran than at any other place that the ship called at. They are the direct descendants of the hide-covered wicker-frame boats, which probably brought her earliest human inhabitants to Ireland. The corragh of to-day consists of a fairly strong wooden frame, on which are nailed length-wise light laths two to three inches apart. Over this frame is a double covering of canvas which is freely tarred within and without. The canoe thus formed is very buoyant, and can be rowed with great rapidity. They contain no seats except those for the rowers. This makes them inconvenient boats for passengers, who are obliged to accommodate themselves on the bottom of the boat sometimes in not very comfortable attitudes; while many carry away on their clothes reminders that tar takes some time to dry. They are excellent sea boats, however, riding over waves which would swamp a heavier boat, and with any reasonable care are perfectly safe. One accident only occurred during our stay—an accident which might have led to very
1 A paper describing the antiquities of this island, written by G. H. Kinnhan, appeared in the Froc. R.I.A., vol. x. (1869), p. 551. He mentions that the remains were much injured about fifty years ago, and many of the most interesting of the carved stones carried away.