National Geographic : 1927 Mar
VOL. LI, No. 3 WASHINGTON MARCH, 1927 BY DONN BYRNE W HEN an Irishman looks at his country from a distance, as from America or Australia, the exact size of the country is apt to disap point him. The longest line of land which can be drawn is three hundred miles: from Fair Head, in the northeast, to Miz en Head, in the southwest. Taking the country as a rough lozenge, the short diagonal from northwest to southeast is about two hundred miles (see map, page 262). The terrain itself may be roughly di vided into three parts: a mountainous region in the north, an equally mountain ous region in the south, and a great cen tral plain. The mountains in the north of Ireland are a geological continuation of those of Scotland, and those of the south a like con tinuation of the Welsh mountains. The Irish Central Plain is opposite what in England is called by soldiers the Chester Gap, and so, naturally, the Irish Central Plain is England's logical and only mili tary outlet to the northwest. It was and is as natural for the possessors of Eng land to invade Ireland as it is for a human being to turn from left to right. TARA ONCE THE SEAT OF IRISH KINGS The rich and fertile province of Meath was the possession of whatever tribe in Ireland could take and hold it. In earliest days Dublin and its Liffey was not the principal site of the Irish kings, but Tara, in Meath, and the Boyne, with its holms of lush meadow grass, its infinity of sal mon. In the southwest Limerick was hardly less important. Limerick was pro tected on the west by the Atlantic and on the east by the wide and dangerous Shan non. The Shannon is considered the real military frontier of Ireland in the west. The greatest of English soldiers, the Lord Protector Cromwell, did not dare to in vade Connacht (Connaught). II I suppose that to an anthropologist the smallest gesture of a man reveals the soul within him-that is, if anthropolo gists believe in a soul, which I do not know. I have never met an anthropolo gist at the races. This mind and body business is too subtle for us Irish to see. We will stupidly go on believing that kindness is not begotten by logic, nor heroism a product of carbohydrates. Assume with me, to avoid argument, that folk have souls, and I will attempt to show you what is back of our race. "Fine words," says the English proverb, "butter no bread." But I distrust the ultimate wisdom of a race which evolved that miracle of huckstering: "Honesty is the best policy." "When gentlefolk meet, compliments are exchanged," say the Chi nese. Our "Go manee Jeea git!" "God bless you," "Jeea is Mwirra git!" "God and Mary bless you!" mean so infinitely more than "How do you do ?" A GIVING, LOYAL PEOPLE Even in English, our people saying good-bye to a friend will always add, "God bless you!" There is no assump tion of courtesy. It is there inherent.