Well, today was much nicer weather-wise, and had some great scenery to boot. But. It was walking 23km entirely on roads. So.
I started in Ballinlough, where I did a little bit of gawking.
I had a long day ahead of me, though, so I headed out and began the long road-ful trek.
This absolutely stunning monument was next to a grungy car repair shop in Loughglinn, miles down the road from Lough O’Flynn. I am guessing she is a representation of Ireland/Eiru herself, in a fashion?
Unlike Lough O’Flynn which had a whole public access experience, Lough Glinn did not – all private property. So I sat next to a fence with a tiny peekaboo view and ate my lunch and later managed to snap this photo between some houses
I didn’t take a lot of road photos today – there was a LOT of road, because it was all road – but this sign cracked me up. Really? There’s no verge? You tell me this now? I’ve probably literally walked hundreds of kilometers of road at this point, most of it vergeless, and NOWHERE BEFORE did anyone see fit to post a sign
I limped into town at a pretty reasonable hour, but my feet were not happy with today’s events. A blister which has been sort of coming and going took everything rather personally, so it’s a good thing I was planning to take a rest day tomorrow anyway. I MAY have to take a second one, because… yeah, it’s kinda bad.
Anyhow, the evening had an interesting wrinkle – Andrew Durkin, fella who runs the rather nice joint I am staying at and who is very kindly giving me my rides during this section, had mentioned a local history buff yesterday. I expressed interest, and he got in touch with the fellow, and he came by for a while this evening.
His name is Myles Sweeney; when we met, I said that Andrew had mentioned he was a bit of a historian. He shrugged and smiled, saying he was really a strategic consultant. Remembering Raymond O’Sullivan’s modest demurral, back in Newcastle, I cocked an eyebrow and said all the historians seemed to say they weren’t really historians, and after all, someone can be more than one thing.
He shrugged again, not arguing with that.
He only had a short time, but we chatted it up extensively. His family descended from the gallowglasses – remember that beautiful sculpture from yesterday? Apparently, though the gallowglasses get a bad rap sometimes in history, they were quite the elite fighting force. Tied in with the Dalriada – a kingdom that spanned northeastern Ireland and southwestern Scotland – the gallowglasses went through intensive training and while they did work sometimes as mercenaries, they held a social status not entirely dissimilar to samurai, or to knights. The prowess of the gallowglasses apparently had a lot to do with keeping parts of Connaught – including the area I’m in right now – free of English rule, to the point that ‘the damned gallowglasses’ were apparently called out in one English land survey as the reason particular parcels remained unsubjugated.
Myles also discussed a well-formed theory behind some of the Irish woes in the Battle of Kinsale (the one where O’Sullivan – along with the other primary Irish leaders at the time – got their asses kicked by the English), relating to abnormally terrible weather at the time. On top of the mini ice age that would have been going on at that point, a Chilean volcano had erupted just three years prior – resulting in famine conditions even worse than they would have been with the English ‘help’, as well as storms beyond the Irish norm. Apparently, English accounts speak of being able to see the glowing of the matchlock fuses of Irish troops… but not the resulting gunfire. Although the Battle of Kinsale took place in the middle of summer, the volcano may have contributed to an unseasonably bad storm, explaining the ‘technical difficulties’ in fuses and gunpowder. Left without their guns, the riflemen apparently panicked and broke formation, greatly influencing the overall tide of the battle in a negative fashion for the Irish. This makes sense – a number of other battles and would-be battles of the time were greatly affected by the weather, including several cases where ships literally could not land due to crazy winds – but this was a particular facet of the battle I had not come across before.
Also, apparently 240 gallowglasses were present at the Battle of Kinsale – with only 30 surviving, the gallowglasses being ‘fight to the death’ sort of fellows. Myles and I wondered together how O’Sullivan came by the gallowglasses who marched with him later on – for they formed a healthy part of his fighting force and undoubtedly are part of why anyone survived the pains of the march – but neither of us knew the answer to that particular question. Accounts refer to them – particularly once the Shannon is crossed, as they were very happy to be back in Connaught and in their ‘home turf’ – which indicates that at least some of them survived long enough to see O’Sullivan into this less hostile territory.
Eventually Myles had to go, though not until we had turned the discussion at least briefly to a mutual interest in systems thinking, but the conversation, as you can see, was very illuminating. The local historical perspectives like this are ones I imagine I would never have otherwise gotten, and I once again feel fortunate that people are willing to share their time like this.
As I ate my dinner, I reflected… I am SO CLOSE, guys. Less than 90km to go to Leitrim, and it’s only about another 60 after that to Blacklion if I decide to do that (still very TBD). Which, okay, doesn’t sound close… but it should be 4-6 days of walking to reach Leitrim, tops, and however much rest I have to splice in there to keep my feet from exploding. And another 3-4 to Blacklion if I do that. CLOSE, considering I have been at this over 5 weeks now, with… (checks post title) 29 days of walking so far.
So. Rest time, foot healing time (pleeeeease blister be nice and heal fast), and… soon… onward. I have about 1.5-2 days more of pure road walking and then back to what are reputed to be some really beautiful trails along the Miner’s Way. Fingers crossed!