Rosscarbery Ramble: 25th June 2023

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Fuchsias flower continuously from mid-summer to the early frosts, providing colour and interest with their pendent blooms. Their flowers are diverse, ranging from dainty and elegant to bold and bright, which makes them great additions along the roadside in West Cork, whose people have adopted this shrub as their emblem.  And so it was, as we travelled around on Sunday 25th June, all twelve Austin Seven cars, enjoying the summer sunshine, the greenery of the countryside and the clear blue from the Atlantic Ocean with the hedgerows of Fuchsias in full bloom.  Wonderful.

At 11:15, and on time, our convenor Chris O’Mahony welcomed our members to our summer run in the hear of West Cork with special attention to our northern brethren and friends, led by Basil McCoy.  We were very pleased that they turned up in goodly numbers and he assured them they would be pleased with the route he had mapped out for the day.  The terrain expected was to be typical of the area, hilly, twisty and with beautiful views of countryside at its best.  Without road maps, it was a case of follow the leader.  For what it was worth, Chris handed out cards bearing his mobile number; the reaction from the locals was to the effect that they had been trying to remove Chris’s number from their iPhones.  So, off we went with Chris and Anne to the fore.

We passed through Glandore, busy as usual, but not a place where one could park up a dozen Sevens, compact and all as they are.  Wonderful views of the sea from the seating areas outside the various establishments, full to the brim with day trippers and holiday makers enjoying the mid-day sunshine.  We caried on via Union Hall without a stop as far as Castlehownshend, an attractive village situated on the coast about 8km from Skibbereen. The village developed around the castle, which was built in the mid-1600s by the Townshends and is the seat of the family. The steeply inclined main street runs down to the castle, the quayside and the harbour. 

A unique feature of Castletownshend is the two sycamore trees growing in the roundabout in the centre of the village. The present sycamores replace two trees planted in the 1800s. There are many buildings around the village of interest, a very pleasing village to explore not forgetting the Castle and Saint Barrahane’s Church (Church of Ireland) that stands on a hill with wonderful views overlooking the village and it is located close to the castle. It contains beautiful stained-glass windows by Harry Clarke and many historic relics and memorials to the families of the village.  Of particular note are three large stone tablets, which tell the history of the founding families, many of whose members are buried in the peaceful graveyard attached to the church.  Our readers may be interested to learn, Somerville and Ross were the pseudonyms of cousins Dr. Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Florence Martin, pen name Martin Ross (1862-1915), who wrote a series of humorous novels and short stories.

Most of their books were set in a background of West Cork at the turn of the century and told of the experiences of an Irish Resident Magistrate. Their best-known writings were first published in 1928 under the title The Irish R.M. Complete and later Experiences of an Irish R.M.  Somerville and Ross are buried in the graveyard at the rear of St. Barrahane’s Church, marked by two simple headstones. In the church is the organ Dr. Somerville played for many decades.  Right in the heart of the village, at the Sycamore roundabout is the Egon Ronay pub and restaurant – Mary Anne’s.  Having parked up at the Castle road leading to the Church, we all strolled up to Mary Anne’s for morning refreshments in the courtyard to the rear.  Interesting that the grapes on the vine in the adjacent summer room were thriving well for this time of year.  Afterwards, many of our group visited St. Barrahane’s Church and graveyard, to take in the beauty of the place and indulge for a few quiet moments of the splendour of our surroundings and the wonderful place that it is.

Off we went again heading for Tragumna Beach, a very popular spot especially on Sundays and even more so in fine weather.  Our journey, along the Wild Atlantic Way included a stop off for a photo opportunity at the WWW iron marker and a few business matters that required attention.  In welcoming members and guests to West Cork, a presentation of a spalted beech bowl on behalf of our Club was presented by Ian Clayton president emeritus to Basil McCoy the leader of the Nothern delegation as a memento of their visit.  Ian also presented Chris O’Mahony with another spalted beech bowl with thanks for his kindness in preparing and arranging for our Rosscarbery Ramble.  There evolved a mutual expectation that we will reciprocate each other’s early summer runs, North and South, next year. 

We parked up in the car park at Tragumna Strand and sure enough there were plenty of people enjoying the fresh warm onshore breeze.  Great to see in position a Life Guard.  Even better to see that the blue flag was waiving signifying that swimming for young and old is safe and secure.  The coffee vendors had their share of Austin Seven customers which led to relaxation and plenty of time to socialise and get to know one another better, sharing experiences and trading knowledge of our wonderful early twentieth century transport.  Needless to mention that along the way of our journey, passers-by were pleased to see our old cars, as were the folk at the beach.

We moved on passing Lis Ard, a very interesting place to visit perhaps for another day, and on to our next stop and an opportunity to enjoy a Sunday meal in one or other of the fine bar/restaurants in the village.   Nearly hidden in its own harbour, this small port of Union Hall has always had a strong seafaring tradition and now provides a safe shelter for its own active fishing fleet as well as anchorage to pleasure boats, and calm water for skiing, diving and canoeing.  The new causeway leading into the village creates a natural lagoon and the sweep of homes and shops surrounding it lend a vision of brightly coloured ribbons on the water’s surface.  

Union Hall is a remarkably Irish village with its roots steeped in history. Archaeological remains dot the area. Castle ruins and forts can be searched out, and a Holy Well dedicated to St. Brigid remains a yearly pilgrimage made by many devotees on the first day of February.  Drombeg Stone Circle is only a short distance from Glandore.  In latter times the village had its share of admirers, and in the 1700’s was lauded by the great patriot dean of Ireland, Jonathan Swift. More recently it was chosen by the director / producer Lord David Puttnam as the venue for one of his latest films “War of The Buttons.” 

Our members and friends dined in Union Hall and were all very pleased with the service offering, ambient surroundings and good Irish home-grown food.  More time for relaxing and mingling with friends.  Surely one could not ask for more.   We departed from the village in twos and threes at unspecified time intervals over the space of half an hour for our home base, taking in the bridge that was the centre piece of the Puttnam film War of the Buttons, a 1994 comedy-drama adventure film directed by John Roberts.

It was written by Colin Welland and based on the French novel La Guerre des boutons, by Louis Persaud. The story, about two rival boys’ gangs in Ireland, the Ballys (working class) and the Carricks (middle class), is set in County Cork, where it was filmed on location.  The film has been classified as a drama and comedy, and the tone is frequently light and humorous. It examines issues of conflict and war, the actions and consequences of violence, and how it can divide and oppose people who can be friends as easily as they can be enemies.  Needless to say, a wonderful not to be missed photo opportunity of our sevens, drivers and navigators for posterity and a very nice memento of a most enjoyable summer run in West Cork.

We thought that an ice cream stop at Glandore would be nice.  In theory yes; in practice, well take account of the fine quality lunch we all enjoyed together with the number of visitors in Glandore itself and the unavailability of safe parking, we motored on, continuing our enjoyment of the rural roads so befitting of our almost 100-year-old vehicles.  A stop to fetch a few cuttings from the fuchsia hedges for our guests as a reminder of their presence in West Cork was appreciated.  We ended up, back at base, at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, with our cars parked up on trailers and our good byes exchanged.  It was a delightful occasion all round.  With thanks to our Northern friends for honouring us with their company. 

With thanks to our members for supporting the occasion.  With special thanks to Chris and Anne O’Mahony for making it all happen. 

We look forward to year 2023 to see what it will bring for this happy bunch of ramblers.

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A one marque organisation, catering for the Austin Seven, is what makes The Irish Austin Seven Club unique. Prospective owners are always welcome to make contact with our membership who will be pleased to present and demonstrate the Seven’s special characteristics and driving experience.

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