The King of Cong for one day only...

Rossendale Free Press - - The Laughing Badger -

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 info@cor­ribcruises.com.

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