En Route to Bekan in September

I was back in my childhood places – the village of Greenwood and the parish of Bekan – in East Mayo at the week-end and heard talk of a strange walk the previous Sunday when about 60 people gathered, I’m told, and made their way through fields and paths in Larganboy, Lassany and Lissaniska. It’s part of the En Route public art project coordinated by Aileen Lambert and supported by Mayo County Council. They walked and told stories of personal memories and associations with these local tracks and ended the trip on the old school route from Lassany to Bekan.

It all got me thinking of my own walks to Bekan School – on roads, not tracks – in the month of September when we started back, lucky if we had pristine new school books to be carefully covered with wallpaper left-overs; but more often than not it was hand-me-downs with the finger-prints of older brothers and sisters on the pages. We gathered in Greenwood and set off for the first meeting point at the end of the road where we met the scholars from Riasc near the lake where we fished for perch with bamboo sticks and wriggling worms; then on to the low crossroads to be joined by the strollers from Cullintra on the Knock Road where we had gathered in the summer to watch the cars speeding on their way to Knock Shrine; then up ‘the hill of the wood’ to the high crossroads and a convergence with the meanderers from Erriff and Knocknafola before the final run-in to Bekan, feeling resentful that our classmates in Spotfield had such a short distance to walk from home.

After school in  those early weeks of  September it was a quick change of clothes and down the lane at the side of our house that connected Greenwood to Riasc and Larganboy; the fields all had their names  – our’s  were Ait Abhaile, Craggach and Lios  Ban – and it was at the end of the road that we gathered fists of blackberries for the jam-making before setting off for home, mouths stained with purple berry juice and the marks of indigo school ink still on our fingers.

Thanks to En route for getting my memory juices flowing.