Day 15: Homeward Bound

We’d had typical weather for Ireland this time of year: partly cloudy, cloudy, mostly cloudy, and rainy. Temperature ranged from only forty to fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, I laughed when I saw the “Spring Arrivals” at Ashford Castle when we were there.Spring Arrivals at Kylemore

Yet for the past seven straight days the sun had shined brilliantly. We knew it had to end. Sure enough, snow began to fall from a slate gray sky as we taxied down the runway at Dublin Airport. That was fine. Nothing could detract from the vivid images fixed in my mind.

Sheep on the Meadow

Colorful SheepFleecy white sheep on verdant Connemara hillsides, many ewes bearing colors. Why? Rams are sometimes put into a harness at mating time. The harnesses have a colored, waxy block in them, which leave a mark on the ewe when mounted, so owners know which ewes have been mated with and which have not. After three weeks the color of the crayon is changed. Any ewe that is re-mated gets the second color on her. This one’s been busy.

And then the babies come.

Baby Lambs Closeup

Gorse

 

 

 

 

Dazzling color came in the ubiquitous Western Gorse, an evergreen shrub prevalent in countries of Western Europe.

These vibrant hues of green, pink, blue, yellow all combined to lighten the gray days. The glorious red-orange of a Renvyle sunset completed the color spectrum.

Stay lovely, Ireland. Then again, I know you cannot help yourself.

Renvyle Sunset

 

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Day 7, Part 2: Cong and The Quiet Man

The town of Cong is located in Mayo County, Ireland. The family of director John Ford came from neighboring Galway, and he had wanted to film his classic movie, The Quiet Man, there. Galway, however, was unable to house cast and crew, but Cong–thanks to Ashford Castle–was, so the decision was made for the latter. Ford was still pretty close to home, though. The bridge over the Cong River tells that story.

Cong County Division

The plaques in “The Quiet Man” Heritage Cottage and Cong Archaeological and Historical Interpretive Centre give a comprehensive portrait of one of the best-loved films of all time. (Words in this post in italics are taken from those plaques, with punctuation replicated as it exists on them.)

The aim of this interpretative centre is to recreate the modern story of “The Quiet Man” film and therefore the ground floor of this cottage is an exact replica of “The Quiet Man” Cottage namely White O’Mornin. The film was shot on location here in Cong and in Connemara during the Summer of 1951. The filming in Ireland lasted six weeks, while the interior scenes were shot on set in America. The film itself is set in the Ireland of the 1920’s.

The original story was written by Maurice Walsh and it tells of an Irish born American boxer Séan Thornton (John Wayne) who returns to his home village of Innisfree in search of the quiet life after accidentally killing an opponent in the ring. Séan buys back the Thornton cottage – “White O’Mornin” much to the annoyance of the neighboring Squire Red Will Danaher and then he immediately falls in love with the Squires red haired sister Mary Kate. With the drunken Michaeleen Óg Flynn as matchmaker and with Squire Danaher reluctant to allow the courtship to go ahead Séan has to battle against the odds to get the hand of the girl he loves.

Cong Cottage Main Room

Cong Sideboard

 

 

 

 

While some of the items in the exhibit were actually used in the film–like the silver tea set above and the hat on the windowsill–others were not.

The model beside the dressing table shows a replica of the clothes Mary Kate wore in the film. The shawl is a Galway shawl and over 200 years old. It is one of the only shawls left in the country the same colour brown that Maureen O’Hara wore in the film…The green dress hanging up on the wall is an exact replica of the one worn by Mary Kate in the courting scene.

Cong Dress and Shawl

Cong Bed

The large four poster bed is an exact replica of the one that was carried across the stream to the cottage by Sean Thornton and the driver of the trap commented, “That’s a fine big bed you have there Mr. Thornton,” while Feeny said, “Ah, a man would have to be a sprinter to catch his wife in a bed like that.”

For the purposes of the film, Cong became the town of Innisfree. The name came from the most famous song written by Dick Farrelly (1916-1990) on a trip from Kells to Dublin.  When Ford heard Bing Crosby’s recording of “The Isle of Innisfree” he knew he had to use it as the theme music for his film.

Beside the news clippings of Farrelly below is, from the film, “The Dying Man’s House.” Ryan’s hotel houses the bar John Wayne visited at night during filming. Ford would worry that he would get into an altercation, but The Duke behaved as a gentleman and was ready on the set as required.

Cong Farrelly

 

Cong Dead Man's HouseCong Ryan's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cong Street

A quiet street in the town of The Quiet Man.

 

Day 7: Ashford Castle

Founded in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family and later home to Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798-1868), brewer and first Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ashford Castle in Mayo County today is a five star hotel situated on 350 acres.

Ashford for Tricia

We didn’t stay there.

We did, however, enjoy lunch on the premises, admiring the fine furnishings on the way to the Prince of Wales Bar. After a bowl of tomato and gin soup, a gourmet BLT, and a little champagne, we moved outdoors. There we encountered a trail of toddlers on ponies returning to the Castle’s stables.

Ashford Portrait

Ashford Ponies

 

 

 

 

One reason we were interested in seeing Ashford–other than its history– was we knew it had hosted Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith’s wedding reception in August of 2001. First married in nearby Ballintubber* Abbey, afterwards they danced to Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” before breaking into a jig played by the Irish group, The Chieftains.

When it was time to exchange wedding gifts, Mrs. Brosnan surprised her husband with  a three-quarter ton ice sculpture of Rodin’s “The Kiss,” a reproduction of which is depicted here.

The Kiss

A second reason we were intrigued by the castle was it was where much of the cast stayed during the filming of John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1951), starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. A number of principal filming locations were in Cong, just a few minutes’ walk from Ashford.

That was our next stop.

*You have to love some of these Irish names. We passed through “Letterfrak” every day later in our trip. But Ballintubber may have that beat.