National Geographic : 1969 Sep
structure from crashing down upon our heads. Now we were ready for our circuit of the Irish countryside, but we were still not fated to escape the thread of Irish history. We drove south through the green hills of Wicklow, peeked at the potteries and fishing fleets of Ark low, and picked up our history lesson again in, of all places, a County Wexford barroom. Long before dark, Michael Furlong's tiny public house in the village of Foulksmills bulged with farmers still wearing their field clothes and muddy shoes and, to a man, nurs ing pints of dark stout. Behind the bar a sign announced an appearance of the Ballylannon mummers. This would be a rare treat, for few places in the Republic preserve this archaic entertainment. Freedom Fighters Recalled in Song It was nearly 10:30 before the mummers appeared-a dozen men in green military caps and crossed sashes of yellow and green, carrying short wooden swords. To the insis tent sounds of a drum, an accordion, and a mouth organ, they hopped and pivoted in a simple step dance, smacking their wooden blades together in an intricate rhythm. And one by one, in words written long ago to keep alive Ireland's burning desire for independ ence, they took the parts of the freedom fight ers of nearly 800 years-from the Christian King Brian Boru, who defeated the Viking invaders in A.D. 1014, to Father John Mur phy, a priest-leader in a 1798 revolt against the Crown. We dropped by next morning about nine a ghastly hour by Irish standards-to thank Mr. Furlong for his hospitality. One of the mummers, who the night before had sung lustily and often, drooped morosely at the bar. He had brought his bicycle right into the pub with him. One hand steadied it and the other cradled the remnants of a pint. "The morning after do be the worst!" he managed to say. He downed the last drop and pedaled glumly away. At New Ross a bridge carried us from County Wexford to County Kilkenny. In one of the town's narrow medieval-looking streets a Crowding a narrow lane, sheep head for home on the Dennis Crosbie farm at Foulks mills, County Wexford. Photographer Sugar joined the boys at their chores while he stayed at the 200-year-old Crosbie home stead, one of hundreds that introduce paying guests to the delights of rural Ireland. 368 EKTACHROMEBYJAMESA. SUGAR© N.G.S.