June 24, 2013 GMT
Africa, Antarctica, Ireland

A bit of a bagatelle from the Emerald Isle. My visit over the last couple of weeks.
I never expected to find an elephant in the bush in southern Ireland. But they're there if you look.
Some photos from Jungle City Clonakilty

This one was on Inchydoney Island, a short walk from Clonakilty.


Inchydoney = doughnut with a one-inch hole. So they look after their inches and miles here.
The speed limit may be 60km/h, but you should co-operate by not parking for one mile.


Returning along the causeway from Inchydoney to Clonakilty, I decided to snap this photo.
It's what greeted my eyes as I glanced downwards over a disused slipway, right at the water's edge.
Gazing serenely up at me and straight through me to the blue sky beyond, this bright-eyed doll seemed to be strangely bursting with spirit after some eventful journey. Who knows where, how or why?

Just made of plastic, yet with smiley expression that reached beyond the blue of the sky and embraced the whole Universe above. The look of a being, plastic or no, that had found peaceful wide-eyed enlightenment, stranded and broken on an estuary tide-line here in Inchydoney, the doughnut with the one-inch hole.

"I have journeyed through the galaxies. I have traversed the heavens. I have seen the wonders of the universe. But TELL me, what is this THING you call Spirit?"

Perhaps the surfer riding a wave under the same blue sky, a little along the beach from the causeway, would know the answer to 'the question at the end of the Universe'.


Or Professor Orangutan who I met as he reposed on a wall to watch life go by, across from An Teach Beag in Jungle City Clonakilty.


Or Precious Tears the tiger, window shopping along Spillers Lane.


Or maybe Madame Braque the crocodile might know the answer, lurking in the garden of Harte's Courtyard.


Or the mother and baby elephants keeping a wary eye on Precious Tears in Spillers Lane.



Or the big cat guarding 'jagged edge'. (Should be 'jagged teeth' I think).


Or the cheeky monkey sitting on an airplane's steering yoke in Recorder's Alley.


All inanimate beings, like the all-seeing doll on the Inchydoney slipway. But, gazing blissfully straight through all the onlookers, to wherever it is they gaze, maybe they can answer, "what is this THING you call Spirit?"

After a couple of days the wild animals chased me off to Anascaul via Skibbereen.
The Irish Potato Famine hit Skibbereen harder than just about any other Irish town.
A folksong here

In Anascaul it's the time of the -


Even in nearby Dingle the sausages are ready.


Three days of Irish Ice Adventure and Celebration.

From West & Mid Kerry Live

All revolving, like the rest of the world, around the South Pole.
Music, dance, drama, treks, storytelling and more.

The Grand Welcoming Parade kicked things off on Saturday.
And it rained on the parade....

The Endurance battles through an Irish Atlantic storm.

One of Tom Crean's puppies gets a lift.

And 'Tom the Pole' watches over it all as the bow of the Endurance hoves into view.

A special riot of dance, drama, music and comedy entertained all us visitors that evening.


Followed by dinner and Guinness in the South Pole Inn.

Next day was a hike in the footsteps of Tom Crean, from the South Pole Inn to Minard Castle in Dingle Bay. Where in July 1893 he signed up for the Royal Navy at the Coast Guard station that used to be there.


Singer songwriter Cliff Wedgbury (on right) sings 'The Ballad of Tom Crean' on the slipway.

And Michael Smith, the biographer of Tom Crean, relates anecdotes from the explorer's life.

Perhaps this happened to Tom Crean - the lane blocked by cows on the way to milking.

After embarking at Minard, Crean was carried by his navy postings to New Zealand where he signed up for Scott's ship Discovery bound for Antarctica.
After departing Minard, we were carried by our feet to Tom Crean's childhood house, and thence to the place of his burial.

Well, as we approached the cemetary a strange rainbow appeared - there was a lot of rain. It was strange because it was so low to the ground, just skimmimg above it.


And a little way further on, down a path off of the road, was our destination. Which made the rainbow even stranger, because there was no doubt that the left hand end of it must have been over the graveyard.
This was the first time I had been here.

Crean family tomb, built by Tom while he was landlord of the South Pole Inn.

The porcelain floral tribute set in a glass dome was placed on the tomb by Admiral Teddy Evans in 1938, at the time of Tom Crean's funeral.

Crean saved Evans' life in February 1912 by treking solo across 35 miles of featureless ice and deep snow, to raise the alarm.

On our little trek a distant relative of Crean placed a new wreath to mark the occasion.


That evening we were all entertained by Aidan Dooley performing his award-winning one-man stage dramatisation, Tom Crean - Antarctic Explorer.

Followed by dinner and Guinness in the South Pole Inn.

The final day started at the South Pole Inn, to collect our magnificent certificates to mark the occasion of the Annascaul Tom Crean Trail.

'One for the sideboard'

Followed by a rivetting presentation by Frank Nugent entitled 'In the footsteps of Howard-Bury, Shackleton and Crozier'. Title almost self-explanatory, three Irish explorers who tackled Everest, Antarctica and both Polar Circles. Frank's story covered his own amazing escapades in following the footsteps of all three. But in particular his attempt on Everest, and later sailing a replica of Shackleton's lifeboat James Caird, named Tom Crean, the 800 miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia. A voyage that saw the replica boat capsize three times in mountains of waves, with all the crew surviving.
Frank's photos of both his Everest ascent, and his crossing of the Southern Ocean, were stunning.

This eye-opening account, along with more music and children's shows, marked the end of the festival.
Followed by dinner and Guinness in the South Pole Inn.

Where it was then time to contemplate an unexpectedly rivetting part of Frank's presentation.
He had described the design of the replica boat. And his visit to Dulwich College to take exhaustive measurements and photos of the real James Caird. (It's on permanent display there).
Frank then explained that he gave the job of construction to Ireland's best boat builder,
"A superb carpenter by the name of Jarlath C'nnahn."
My head spun..... "Jarlath Who??"
"Rewind a bit there! That was definitely the Dublin pronunciation of C'nyon!"
"Press the pause button please.... I've got a question there.... What name did you say???"

Not nine months ago I'd discovered that a branch of the Cunnane family had become carpenters in Knock, in 1895. And that the pews in Bekan church were made by W Cunnane and Sons, telephone Knock 9.
"What was that name he said??" I had asked myself earlier, as Frank was explaining the finer points of the construction of the Tom Crean. The boat that he would sail across the roughest seas in the world. "Err... can you repeat that earlier bit?"

As soon as Frank finished his presentation I nipped down to the front. I had a slight advantage, as Frank, Aidan Dooley and I all took breakfast together that morning. We were in the same B&B. Where visitors find this reassuring view of the place of pilgrimage, right across the road.


"Frank, can you tell me the name of the constructor again. How do you spell the first name?
.... and the last name? .... C-u-n-n-a-n-e..... Right!
Where's he from, Frank?
Oh, Knock! You don't say!"

I never expected to find another line of my ancestor's family here at the Tom Crean Festival in tiny Anascaul. But that's life I suppose!

I wonder what I'll find in the Shackleton Heritage Centre in Athy, my next stop. Or in O'Brien's Grocery and Bar across the road?

Posted by Ken Thomas at June 24, 2013 02:21 PM GMT

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