Pics of St. Patrick’s Day: How the Irish Saved Civility*

Mrs. Ancient Dan had always wanted to visit Ireland, mainly because her dad had related accounts of his Irish ancestry. I was raised with a Protestant British distaste for the Irish, but with a suppressed knowledge of some Irish blood (revealed by the scattered red hairs visible when I allow my beard to grow). But I, too, wanted to see the place. So, we planned a trip for May of 2016.

Totally unexpected and traumatic things happened 9 days before the planned journey—events that completely disrupted our life and, perhaps worse, seemingly confirmed my cynicism about humanity. Our world was shattered. Nevertheless we decided to go to Ireland anyway, now more for escape from reality than anything else . . . and with dour hearts.

What we found there was a people of considerable politeness, kindness, and civility; just what we needed for encouragement. Mrs. A.D. and I had debated over what the “prototypical” Irish person would be (I argued for a red-headed girl). We were both right . . . and both wrong. I now think of the Irish in terms of temperament rather than outward appearance. And I thank them for challenging me to examine the way I treat others.

Oh, and Ireland itself is pretty nice too. We also “argued” over the “prototypical” Irish scene. We were both right, again. I’ll let pictures tell the story for the rest of this post.

First, the pic-out to St. Patrick: he gestures to Station Island in Lough Derg, site of St Patrick’s Purgatory. On the island, Patrick was shown a cave leading to Purgatory. The island became a center of Christian pilgrimage with penitential stations for preparation to visit that waystation of the Underworld! Those who know me well are aware that I am fascinated with ancient spots considered entrances to the Netherworld . . . but, sadly, the cave has been sealed and covered since 1632 and only genuine pilgrims are allowed out the island today on multi-day visits (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-17)
My pre-trip image of Ireland: abandoned churches with lichen-encrusted tombstones; this is the Hill of Slane (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-09)
Mrs A.D.’s pre-trip image of Ireland: super-green pastures with livestock in the distance; like this scene with the Drombeg Stone Circle in the foreground, one of the many megalithic monuments in the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-15)
The Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s west coast, one of the many natural beauty wonders of the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)
Ardmore: Church Cemetery and Tower; another of the many ruined churches surrounded by graves in the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-10)
Carrigafoyle Castle, one of the many monumental medieval ruins in the country (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-13)
More green pastures and livestock . . . and another of the many megalithic monuments: Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)
The Devil’s Causeway, another of the many natural wonders of [Northern] Ireland; sadly, the Korean Tour group and the gaggle of OU fans would neither help me recreate the “Houses of the Holy” Led Zeppelin album cover, nor get out of the way for my pics . . . (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)
On of my favorite pics of Mrs A.D. and me: together on the rocks of life, but taking it one step at a time (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)

Ireland is a great place to see things and think about life. So, I left there glad to have visited in troubling times and resolved to be conscious of how I treat people and react to circumstances.

BTW, we did DNA tests for Christmas and it turns out . . . I am more Irish than Mrs A.D., much to her chagrin (and my surprise)!
Perhaps that is why , for the first time ever, I wore green for St. Patrick’s Day today.


*A reference to the excellent book by Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (New York: Doubleday, 1995).

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Pic of the Day 2019-01-13: Dolmens [sic] you might get on the bus tour

Because I am about to attend the “Celtic Worship” service at University Baptist Church, I decided to make an additional brief POTD post of domens in Ireland, as a continuance to what has now become a short series of dolmen pics. But are they dolmens? North European megalith-admirers have a lot to work with and have created an array of categories, such as the “portal tombs” featured in yesterday’s post.

Poulnabrone Portal Tomb; County Clare, Ireland (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)

Perhaps the most wide-photographed “dolmen” in Ireland is more officially known as Poulnabrone Portal Tomb. Resembling the form of most Middle Eastern dolmens, it stands majestically in the weird landscape of The Burren, in County Clare. Portal tombs have entrances flanked by tall megaliths supporting the roof, and Poulnabrone fits that description. The parallel sides of the chamber, however, are constructed of multiple megaliths while Jordanian examples usually have a single stone on each side.

Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb; County Clare, Ireland (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)

You might well see Poulnabrone Portal Tomb on a bus tour, but off the main road over the hills but not far away are other “dolmens” even more evocative of the ones in Jordan. An example is the Parkanbinnia tomb (above). These are called “wedge tombs” because the sides generally converge slightly away from the entrance—which is too low to enter standing and, presumably, thus does not rate the designation “portal.”

Meggagh Wedge Tomb; County Clare, Ireland (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-14)

Finally, moving to the east side of Ireland, the Brownshill Dolmen has the largest capstone known. It is also officially a portal tomb.

Ancient Dan stands in the portal of the Brownshill Dolmen, Ireland (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-10)

Brownsville Portal Tomb is also easily reached by passing bus tours. But you should still get a car . . .

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Pic of the Day 2019-01-12: Balykeel Dolmen (you also don’t get this on the bus tour)

Mrs. Ancient Dan’s response to my Facebook share of the previous POTD post (about dolmens in Jordan) is a reminder that most people have seen dolmens in Ireland or other parts of NW Europe rather than Jordan. So, to continue the dolmen theme—and to get an Ireland location on the POTD Map—I will add a couple of posts on dolmens there. This one is an underappreciated gem; the Ballykeel Dolmen.

Ballykeel Dolmen (Mullaghbawn, Newry, Northern Ireland) appears to point at the nearly full moon (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)

Ballykeel Dolmen is off the beaten path (making it a “You Don’t Get This on the Bus Tour” listing), nestled between some residences outside of Newry, Northern Ireland. The site is protected and fenced with a gate an explanatory sign (more portable than intended on our visit), but it is underappreciated and visited only by those that know they want to go there.[1]

Ballykeel Dolmen site (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)

The dolmen lies at the east end of a cairn (pile of stones and dirt) that was built up to and around it in antiquity. It proved a pleasant spot for a sunset picnic dinner in May 2016 with a former student (then studying at Trinity College, Dublin). Takeaway fish and chips (from Fiships in Camlough, Newry) hit the spot!

Ancient Dan enjoys a fish and chips picnic with Van and Felicia at the Ballykeel Dolmen site (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)

Unlike middle eastern dolmens, which are almost universally “trilithions” made from two parallel vertical slabs and another spanning their tops, Ballykeel and many other so-called “portal tombs” in Ireland have a tripod of megaliths supporting the roof slab with one pair of supports forming the entrance “portal.”

Ballykeel Dolmen, showing the three supports with entrance on the right (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)
Ballykeel Dolmen, Northern Ireland, with Van for scale (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2016-05-18)

If you ever visit Ireland, do it with a car. That way you can find and enjoy great out-of-the-way and mysterious sites like Ballykeel Dolmen.

Next up: dolmens [sic] you might get on the bus tour!

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[1] BTW, a great place to find megalithic and other ancient sites to visit wherever you may travel is the Megalithic Portal; here is their page for Ballykeel Dolmen as an example.

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