Shopfronts And A Far-Flung Town
From bagatelle to picture book.
In Kilkenny, on the way to Athy, tea was called for.
Something else was calling me as well, not sure what.
Maybe it was just a postcard in the newsagent's shop.
Bridge over the River Nore.
Then on to Athy.
Like a lot of Irish towns, it's having a hard time at the moment. Sadly, there are boarded-up shops and bars dotted around the streets.
A local photographer had an idea to improve and brighten the image of closed-down business premises, by putting up photographs of Athy people instead of blank and foreboding boards in the windows and doors.
The Canal Side Inn has a lot of windows and doors, so a lot of photos are there. The whole set-up around the town is known as The Athy Expo.
There was a lot of noise coming from the other side of the canal. Over there was a place that's definitely not shuttered up. The grain depot. It seemed as lively as it's probably ever been. A huge lorry was unloading at the base of the grain elevator which blows the crop high up into the silos. It all looked rather dramatic with towering angles and acres of steel work.
The canal here is the Grand Canal
from Athy to Dublin. Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, when describing barges arriving in Dublin with their cargoes bound for the Guinness brewery, said they came from 'a far-flung town'. That'll do for a title.
Here's the Athy Lock.
The moored barge '113B Athy' is overtaken by a form of transport still seen on the streets in town.
Here, the Barrow River flows under the Crom-a-Boo Bridge past White's Castle in the centre of town. The Grand Canal joins the river nearby.
So on to the shopfronts. There are still a lot of bustling businesses with colourful frontages giving Irish towns lots of character. It must take a typographer with special skills to lay out the multi-coloured Gaelic script a foot or more tall.
This has been done before on postcards and in books, but here's a gallery of Irish colour. First, in Clonakilty.
(Photo from The Little Room)
The Guinness vans over here are the purest black possible, with the deepest of shines. Absolutely sparkling like mirrors.
And in Athy.
The 'bar' inside Kanes Bar where I learned about Culnacleha.
Not a Sainsburys
And now in Mountshannon on the shores of Lough Derg.
Also known as 'Spud's Place'
"Hold on.... How did this dull old frontage get in on the act?"
"Look at the next photo. This is a true Heritage Building!"
The last stronghold in Ireland of the long-lost art of telephone cord repairing.... "Number please?"
Must be worth a mention, no?
Let's move on quickly, a hundred yards down the road.
The modern version of the Mountshannon Telephone Exchange would easily fit into the jacket pocket of whoever lives here.
In the harbour, someone's been reading 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'.
Phaedrus is here.
There'd always be someone to talk to on that boat.
(OK, tenuous link there, but I need to get a motorbike in somewhere.
Both names come from the Greek for 'bright' - one f
the other m
Sculpture entitled White-tailed Eagle.
They're establishing themselves on one of the islands here.
In the Dingle Book Shop was a glossy volume of outdoor photography entitled something like 'Irish Light'.
This is my attempt....
Still in Mountshannon, this signpost was a bit perplexing for a moment or two.
Until I discovered it was pointing the way to Holy Island. Not the one off of the Isle of Arran but here on Lough Derg near the Mountshannon jetty. And I learnt that the distance indicated is miles, not that other measure people seem to use when the fancy takes.
Returning to Athy for a moment, and wondering last weekend what I might find in O'Brien's Bar, well, I found out.
Frank O'Brien was behind the bar and got straight into showing me postcards and letters he'd received from visitors to last year's Shackleton Autumn School. They were from travellers and researchers working in Antarctic islands like South Georgia, and bases on the peninsular.
He'd met the Irish explorer Frank Nugent a few times. So I mentioned how, during his talk in Anascaul, the name of his boat-builder had caught my attention.
"So you're a C'nyon!" said Frank.
"Well, my wife's family is too," he continued. "I've been to those same churches, Bekan, Logboys and around. She had family from those villages.
You must be a distant cousin of my son! I always say, you don't have to look far for your own relatives! Except my son's in Japan just now."
I had a feeling I'd learn something unexpected in O'Briens, but didn't imagine that.
Just to round things off, in Kanes Bar the landlady told me that Culnacleha is Gaelic for cornerstone
So that's why the little cluster of cottages at a corner on the Claremorris road is called Culnacleha.
And this might be the answer to another of those 'questions at the end of the Universe'.
"What is time?"
Here's the answer. Time is an Inch. Or a few of them.
QED - (A book in the lounge of the Anascaul B&B)
Must get back home now to some piano lessons....
Posted by Ken Thomas at June 28, 2013 08:16 PM GMT