Another Day, Another Cemetery

Thursday, 25 June 2015
After breakfast I couldn’t resist taking my camera out to the plantings at the entry of the hotel. At an American hotel, the beds would be symmetrical and manicured to within an inch of their lives. Here at the Portmarnock, the gardener has used a more eclectic style, and I like it.

It’s wild and overgrown. Coral bells (heuchera) and grasses and other things I have no idea about. That red, though—it pulls everything together, doesn’t it!

It’s wild and overgrown. Coral bells (heuchera) and grasses and other things I have no idea about. That red, though—it pulls everything together, doesn’t it!

I love the variety of leaf color in this heuchera (coral bells).

I love the variety of leaf color in this heuchera (coral bells).

Allium—a flowering onion.

Allium—a flowering onion.

These little daisy-like flowers don’t even look real, they are so perfect.

These little daisy-like flowers don’t even look real, they are so perfect.

This looks a little like moss rose, but is probably a sedum. I think.

This looks a little like moss rose, but is probably a sedum. I think.

Again … I have no idea.

Again … I have no idea.

We had to drive back into town (more banking business), then drove back via Howth (pronounce this with a long O: HOE-th), which is both a peninsula and a village. As you might imagine by its location, it’s a very well-to-do Dublin suburb.

There are several nice walks along the cliffs, and one of these days … but my feet were still problematic. So we drove. But honestly, the streets are very narrow and confusing. I needed a map! The one thing I hadn’t thought to bring. Ah well.

So we traveled back up the coast past Portmarnock and stopped in at Sonairte, which is the National Ecology Centre, near Laytown. Discover Ireland says,

Sonairte was established in 1986 by members of the local community and concerned environmentalists to promote environmental awareness and education. Sonairte has been certified as an organic food producer with the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association since 1986 and has been teaching organic horticulture and providing courses in various aspects of environmental education ever since. … Their courses aim to provide information, education and practical skills on a range of topics, such as biodiversity, organic gardening and sustainable living. Their approach is holistic, and with small numbers on each course, learner focused.

It’s settled on an eighteenth-century farmland and buildings, including a walled garden (Lots of information at their website here.)

This courtyard is surrounded by outbuildings; I believe what you see on the far right was once the house. There was a school group present when we strolled through.

This courtyard is surrounded by outbuildings; I believe what you see on the far right was once the house. There was a school group present when we strolled through.

A better look at the house.

A better look at the house.

We strolled around the gardens … I took some photos. There was a professional photographer there, too, taking what looked to be high school graduation photos of a couple of teenage girls.

A wall and flowers … simple beauty.

A wall and flowers … simple beauty.

Behind the house was an old orchard with poppies growing between the trees.

Behind the house was an old orchard with poppies growing underneath the trees.

The trees—what do you think? apples? crabapples?—probably dated from the time of the house, which is 1750-ish, according to signage we saw on site.

The trees—what do you think? apples? crabapples?—probably dated from the time of the house, which is 1750-ish, according to signage we saw on site.

I wandered into the gift shop to browse, we admired the windmill, and then we got back in the car and headed to Duleek. I’d read there was a nice pile of rocks there—and indeed, there was.

Duleek began its life as an early Christian monastic settlement, founded by St. Cianán, who was the bishop of Duleek in the fifth century. (All that’s left of Cianán’s church is a wall about a block away.) In the late twelfth century, the Augustinians built a new abbey, St. Mary’s, of which much more remains.

Approach to St. Mary’s.

Approach to St. Mary’s.

At one point, the Church of Ireland built a newer building on the grounds. That building was later turned into a restaurant, as you can see in the photo above. It’s a little … unsettling … but it could have been worse. (They could have painted the building blue, or something.)

The west side of St. Mary’s fifteenth-century tower.

The west side of St. Mary’s fifteenth-century tower.

The tower and this small chapel are all that’s left of what must have been a very large church, here seen from the east.

The tower and this small chapel are all that’s left of what must have been a very large church, here seen from the east.

It’s said the body of Brian Boru, killed in the battle of Clontarf, lay in state here at St. Mary’s in 1014, as it made its way to Armagh for burial. Brian Boru was an Irish high king, founder of the O’Brien dynasty, who unified many regional kings to break the political domination of the Uí Néill family dynasty. Brian Boru is considered a hero in Ireland, and his accomplishments should not be underestimated—though he apparently had a very good publicist (probably a grandson or greatgrandson), whose account of his explots assure his place in Irish history.

Brian Boru would not have rested in this church—it’s too new. But you can see here the “ghost” of the much older (pre-Norman) round tower, against which the newer, fifteenth-century square tower was built. Brian Boru rested in that church.

Brian Boru would not have rested in this church—it’s too new. But you can see here the “ghost” of the much older (pre-Norman) round tower, against which the newer, fifteenth-century square tower was built. Brian Boru rested in that church.

Inside the chapel, with the box tomb.

Inside the chapel, with the box tomb.

Some websites have called this an altar but I believe it is a box tomb. The top lifts off. You’d be someone important, to get a grave like this, above ground. Note the gravestone embedded in the wall at the rear, which lists a dozen or more burials, all from the early 1700s.

Some websites have called this an altar but I believe it is a box tomb. The top lifts off. You’d be someone important, to get a grave like this, above ground. Note the gravestone embedded in the wall at the rear, which lists a dozen or more burials, all from the early 1700s.

There are several ninth-century (according to my research) Celtic crosses in the graveyard, in varying stages of decay. I didn’t catch them all.

All that’s left of this one is the top.

All that’s left of this one is the top.

You can barely see the crucifix on it.

You can barely see the crucifix on it.

Remember that these large churches were laid out in a cruciform design, so what you see left here is only one quarter of what it once was.

I am taking this photo from what was probably the nave.

I am taking this photo from what was probably the nave.

At some point this effigial tomb slab was set on its side to keep it from breaking or being walked upon (as tourists sometimes do). At one time it lay flat on top of a box that contained the remains of James Cusack, bishop of Meath 1679–1688.

At some point this effigial tomb slab was set on its side to keep it from breaking or being walked upon (as tourists sometimes do). At one time it lay flat on top of a box that contained the remains of James Cusack, bishop of Meath 1679–1688.

There was, of course, a lot of interesting gravestone art.

This gravestone was laid in the 1700s (see upper left corner), though it probably stood upright then. This is what I could read: Requiescat in Pace / This stone and burial *** / Belong to Nicholas Walsh / City of Dublin Linne** / Draper and his Family.

This gravestone was laid in the 1700s (see upper left corner), though it probably stood upright then. This is what I could read: Requiescat in Pace / This stone and burial *** / Belong to Nicholas Walsh / City of Dublin Linne** / Draper and his Family.

This one reads: This stone and burial / place belongeth to / Richard Purfield and / his posterity who dep- / this life the 16 of Feb’ry in the year / of Lord 1733. Aged 33 years. The escutcheon is interesting too. Is that a dog? a deer? above the helmet?

This one reads: This stone and burial / place belongeth to / Richard Purfield and / his posterity who dep- / this life the 16 of Feb’ry in the year / of Lord 1733. Aged 33 years. The escutcheon is interesting too. Is that a dog? a deer? above the helmet?

Yet another escutcheon. And underneath: This window was / made by Sir Johne / Bellewe, knight, and / Dame Ismay Nugent.

Yet another escutcheon. And underneath: This window was / made by Sir Johne / Bellewe, knight, and / Dame Ismay Nugent.

I loved the shamrocks on this one—among them the I.H.S. monogram with a cross springing from the cross-bar of the H. It also features a heraldic cross, called a moline cross, which is often associated with the Benedictines.

I loved the shamrocks on this one—among them the I.H.S. monogram with a cross springing from the cross-bar of the H. It also features a heraldic cross, called a moline cross, which is often associated with the Benedictines.

The anchor symbol stands for hope or eternal life; it’s also a Masonic symbol.

The anchor symbol stands for hope or eternal life; it’s also a Masonic symbol.

Even without the dates, I could have told you this was a Victorian-era gravestone: look at that ornate I.H.S.monogram (with shamrocks growing out of it!), and the ivy, which represents friendship.

Even without the dates, I could have told you this was a Victorian-era gravestone: look at that ornate I.H.S.monogram (with shamrocks growing out of it!), and the ivy, which represents friendship.

This one is simple and heartbreaking: a dead lamb atop a cross.

This one is simple and heartbreaking: a dead lamb atop a cross.

The church, tower, and graveyard lie between two well-used streets, and there’s a sidewalk that bisects grounds. While we were there people cut through often: a man in a suit, a woman pushing a baby in a stroller, a couple of teens. You don’t see that too often in American towns, where the graveyard is often a public one, separate from the churchyard.

My eye is always caught by ironwork, this ornate and Victorian.

My eye is always caught by ironwork, this ornate and Victorian.

A closer looks reveal a stylized flower … perhaps an Easter lily (which often symbolizes virginity or, simply, youth) or maybe even a passionflower (symbolizing Christ’s passion).

A closer looks reveal a stylized flower … perhaps an Easter lily (which often symbolizes virginity or, simply, youth) or maybe even a passionflower (symbolizing Christ’s passion).

After the quiet afternoon in Duleek, we made our way back toward the coast and the Strand Road home. It had been overcast all day, and islands and cliffs were shrouded in mist.

Ireland’s Eye and the Howth peninsula.

Ireland’s Eye and the Howth peninsula.

And as chilly as it was, people were still swimming out there!

We could here these teenaged boys shouting and teasing each other all the way from out balcony. (See? Lower right.) If you zoom in you can see two of these boys are in swimsuits with no shirts! Brrrr.

We could hear these teenaged boys shouting and teasing each other all the way from our balcony. (See? Lower right.) If you zoom in you can see two of these boys are in swimsuits with no shirts! Brrrr.

We had a simple dinner in the Seaview Lounge—too cloudy to count airplanes—and then ordered ice cream to take upstairs to our room and those wonderful strawberries, where one of us watched a little television and one of us read. (I was reading Ben Fountain’s brilliant Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.)

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