The King of Cong for one day only...
REGULAR readers will understand that I do not need much of an excuse to travel to the west of Ireland, so I jumped at the chance when invited to be for one day, and one day only, the King of Cong. Not only that – I drank in the same pub as the Duke, and then set off from Ashford Castle, once owned by the Guinness family in the oar-trails of St Patrick himself to the Island of Inchagoill.
Cong is in County Mayo, a small village set between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib, and the place achieved legendary status when the film director, John Ford, transported half of Hollywood across the Atlantic, including John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, to film the 1952 classic, The Quiet Man.
If you haven’t seen it, then you must, if only for the longest fight scene of any film known to man, when the Duke plays Trooper Thornton, an ex-boxer who comes home to find his idyll, fights Red Will Danagher, the brother of his sweetheart played by O’Hara. The pair battle through the village, stop for a pint and cross a river, before carrying on the fight, followed in procession by the local population, including assorted clergymen placing bets, and even a man from off his death bed.
As for St Patrick, I am sure it was himself who provided the beautiful sunny day as our group of 18, remarkably fresh considering the damage they had done to assorted barrels of Guinness, boarded the ‘Lady Ardilaun’ to head across the clear blue waters of Lough Corrib to Inchagoill, where the great man’s Navigator, Lugan, is buried.
Nowhere else in the world could you walk up and touch such an ancient grave stone, and trace with your fingertips, the second oldest Christian inscription in the world, beaten only by a relic in the Vatican’s catacombs.
Now, it has to be said, I am not the most religious person for a number of reasons, but anyone with a spiritual side to their soul could not fail to be moved by the ruddershaped stone and its simply hewn 5th century legend, ‘Lia Lugnaedon Macc Lmenueh,’ which translates from the old Gaelic as, ‘The standing stone of Lugna son of Limanin.’
Limanin is reputed to be one of St Patrick’s Sisters, so that’s good enough for me.
Skipper Patrick Luskin proved to be a worthy boatman and island guide, because no sooner had he moored on the island, than he left the boat in the safe hands of his wife, who also served the drinks on board, and marched ahead of us visitors to ensure we got the full story.
One of his daughters was baptised in the ruins of St Patrick’s Church close by.
Patrick and his Navigator, and indeed all those who followed him onto to the island would have had no problem feeding themselves,as Lough Corrib is teeming with fish, including the biggest brown trout you can imagine, one of their number a deep feeder, which has learned the art of eating other fish, weighed in at over 22 pounds, while the infamous predator of the deep, the pike, has tipped the scales at 50 pounds.
There is an abundance of wildlife, both in and around Lough Corrib, including herons, terns, many species of wildfowl and one of my favourite, the woodcock. Otters, mink, stoats, frogs, bats and much more.
Lough Corrib can be divided into two parts: a smaller shallower basin to the south and a larger deeper basin to the north. These two parts are connected by a narrow channel. In the southern and eastern parts of the lake the lake bed is dominated by limestone bedrock covered by deposits of precipitated marl.
The surrounding land is mostly pastoral farmland to the south and east and bog to the west and north.
In addition some areas of scientific interest adjoining the lake eg woodland, callows grassland and raised bog, have been incorporated into the site.
The lake supports one of the largest areas of wetland vegetation in the country. This vegetation is best developed in the shallower southern basin of the lake just north of Galway city.
The shallow lime-rich waters in this area support the most extensive beds of Charaphytes (algae) in Ireland. These beds are an important source of food for wildfowl.
The earliest land plants probably evolved from a charaphyte-like ancestor, perhaps 450-470 million years ago. Imagine what the world would have been like if this evolutionary step from charaphyte to land plant never occurred; without land plants to provide food, land animals (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, us) would have never evolved. You wouldn’t be reading this page.
Check out www. corribcruises.com for more information, or mail Patrick Luskin direct on firstname.lastname@example.org.