National Geographic : 1940 May
OLD IRELAND, MOTHER OF NEW EIRE By Whatever Name, 'Tis the Same Fair Land With the Grass Growing Green on the Hills of Her and the Peat Smoke Hanging Low BY HARRISON HOWELL \WALKER With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author BLUE turf smoke hung like a thin mist over white cottages against the green hill as I walked up an Irish lane. I breathed deeply; I breathed Ireland. From an open door of a snug thatched home came accordion music, and the tap ping accompaniment of feet on the stone floor vibrated in me. A girl laughed. A man began a Gaelic song. At the little square window a woman was smiling and singing, too. On the hill a crisp wind from the sea whipped my coat, cooled my cheek, and left the taste of salt on my lips. Below spread the harbor of C6bh where I landed only yesterday. Yet, caught in a spell like that which made early English settlers more Irish than the Irish themselves, I felt already old in Ireland. OLD ERIN'S WAYS IN NEW EIRE Although England controlled this island outpost for hundreds of years, Gaelic cul ture never died completely. Even the con quering British could not resist Irish music and poetry, the language, and the smiles of the colleens. In the 14th century English warriors put down their swords and picked up harps.* And now, some six hundred years later, the people of old Erin are turning back to ways of their Gaelic ancestors to strengthen the free Irish State as a separate nation (map, page 653). The original Irish lan guage, homespun customs, and age-old in dustry I found almost everywhere in a ran dom journey through this country that retakes the ancient name of Eire.t As if he had known me all his life, a friendly farmer paused on the road to speak. "Is it as green as you thought it would be?" and he looked out over the rolling fields. "Yes, and even fresher." "You should see my wheat in the wind; it moves like a sea in fine weather." The lilting rhythm of his expressive phrases sounded like well-scanned verse. Together we walked down the steep road to C6bh. "Goodbye, now," he said. "Mine is the farm just across from the graveyard where Lusitaniavictims are buried. If you're free on Sunday afternoon, come over. I have a family-and daughters, too." I told him I'd call on Sunday. Byrne's flower garden almost concealed his low house. Fuchsia and lupine grew as high as the roof. Roses rambled every where. "That's all Eileen's work," Mr. Bvrne told me. Eileen was a bright-eyed daughter. With another daughter, lithe Pauline, and a neighbor girl, I walked to a Norman castle at Belvelly. It was several miles north of C6bh as a crow might fly, but not as Irish lanes go. When our walk ended at eleven, scarcely an hour after summer darkness, my legs felt like anchors. I think we followed ten of the fourteen miles of shore road that cir cumscribes the island on which lies C6bh. CORK AT WRONG END OF BOTTLE A big liner at anchor in C6bh's harbor reminded me of a model boat in a bottle. I wondered how the vessel had slipped through the neck; actually the entrance is a mile wide. At the wrong end of the bottle is Cork, on an island near the mouth of the River Lee. Its name comes from Corcaigh, Gaelic for marsh. On Monday I wandered through Cork, second only to Dublin in size among the cities of Eire (page 654). Amidst all the bustle of Patrick Street gleamed a tiny corner of Celtic Ireland. On a rustic workbench lay scraps of sil * See "Ireland: The Rock Whence I Was Hewn," by Donn Byrne, NATIONAl. GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, March, 1927. t Pronounced "Air-e ."