Bells in the Clouds and Fire on the Road
I picked early blackberries this week on the road that connects the main arteries from Kilkee to Doonbeg to the north and Kilkee to Kilrush to the south. It is the West Clare area of Corca Baiscinn and that has to be one of the most musical place names that I know of. The roadside is aglow with blooming montbretia and a woman with wild hair is sweeping at the road’s verge as if it is a hearth with a blazing fire.
The road climbs to a hill-top where you can see for miles around and across to Scattery Island. It is said to be the site of a penal mass rock and there are a series of memorial stones to St Senan, patron saint of Inis Cathaigh – Scattery Island. One of the plaques has an image of the holy man receiving a bell from heaven – lifting it down from the clouds. This was one of the stories collected by the children at Bansha School, just down the hill from me, as part of the Schools’ Folklore Scheme (1937-1938).
St Senan’s Well is in Kiltenane Cemetery, down the hill and just across from the school and in a place so serene and nestled in the quiet of the landscape that you think to yourself that this must be the most ideal of resting places. And after that you pick more blackberries until you figure you have enough for an apple and blackberry crumble .
Before heading back – purple blackberry juice staining your fingers and the orange glow of montretia all around – you start thinking that there is the stuff of a poem in this place.