Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Of Chieftains, Blossom Trees and Sunday Thrills

We had rather a different weekend - for us.

We got in the car and headed off inland. We don't do that very often, so it felt as if we were on holiday, or in a foreign country - or both.

The wide, flat horizons of Roscommon and Westmeath are very different to the coastal landscapes we are used to here, and while I wouldn't want to swap, it was nice to explore them for a few hours.
We were on a mission, but we managed a little detour to look at some trees. All grist for the mill in deciding what to plant in place of my poor, decapitated, hanged-drawn-and-quartered elm tree.

As well as the trees, our journey took us past the Chieftain which is always a pleasure.

The Chieftain by Maurice Harron

The Chieftain, who guards the pass into Sligo over the Curlew Mountains, is quite stunningly beautiful and never fails to move me. He stands high above the road, overlooking the ancient battlefield at Ballinafad, where the Irish routed the Brits back in 1599, and it's nice to know he's there, keeping watch. No one could slip into Sligo without him seeing. He is lifesize and looks completely real. As real as a ghost. A wraith-lord waiting, silently watching - as he watched for the first English soldiers to appear on the pass 400 years ago.It's as if he has been there ever since and Harron has somehow conjured him into nebulous reality.

(Honesty compels me to tell you that the Curlew Mountains ought really to be called the Curlew Hills, but that doesn't have the same romantic ring.)

Before we lived in the Emerald Isle, we used to visit regularly. That was years ago, long before the Chieftain was placed on his mound high above Lough Arrow to thrill you on your way. Then, there was just the old, winding road that twisted to the top of the Curlew pass, but even then it was a thrill because from there you had your first, distant view of Benbulben, Sligo's iconic mountain and you knew the wild, wonderful west coast was only an hour away.

Perhaps the Chieftain can see the sea, from his lofty perch. But he would need to turn his head - and he is too busy, watching.

Benbulben, Sligo's iconic mountain

But, thrilling and all as it was to see the Chieftain and look at previously unknown blossom trees, they weren't my only treats at the weekend.

We also went to the cinema.

I would like to be able to tell you that we go to the cinema every other weekend.
Alas, it is not so.
We always mean to, but it's just far enough away to require a certain commitment.

But we were determined to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and  it was totally wonderful, so if you haven't seen it, do.
We went on Sunday afternoon and had the felicity of being half the audience! (It was a very early screening, but it suited us perfectly.)

I have to say we laughed out loud at regular intervals. Honesty again compels me to tell you that the other half of the audience didn't - but maybe they were just more contained than husband and me. Maybe they laughed quietly, to themselves.
It was poignant and touching too, and riotously colourful, as you would expect. It has immediately soared into my extremely select bracket of 'top movies' and I came out wanting to see it again as soon as possible.
Highly recommended.

We even saw a rainbow as we came out of the cinema - but I can't promise that you will too.

We even saw a rainbow

The tag line from the movie has been adopted into our family phrasebook forthwith:
'Everything will be all right in the end. And if it isn't - it isn't the end.'

Amen to that.

The Chieftain looms on the top of the hill - you see him first from far away


  1. Fabulous. This is another warm post that makes me want to follow in your footsteps. Thanks for the film tip. And I love the Chieftain. This part of Ireland is entirely unknown to me.

    1. Thanks, Isobel. I'm very touched by your comment.

      The Chieftain is worthy of your admiration. As is Maurice Harron!

  2. The Chieftain - O'Rourke fought the Elizabethan soldiers and succeeded in killing Sir Conyers Clifford at the Battle of the Curlews in 1599. Sir Conyers, who was originally from Kent in the south east of England, was respected by the Irish for his fair treatment and they buried his body beside the abbey on Trinity Island, Lough Key but his head was removed and taken to Ballymote Castle. His wife died at the age of 38 years having been married four times - not easy being the wife of a soldier in the late 1500's - and was buried in Dublin. This was the last battle in which the English were routed by the Irish.


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