It occurs to me that I haven’t taken you all on a trip around our tidy little town of Maynooth. That’s not just me calling it tidy, I’ll have you know, but all of Ireland, at least for 2016.
Maynooth is situated on one of the branches of An Sli Mhor (pronounced ‘sleemore’), or “The Great Road,” created some thousands of years ago, and people settled at various points along the ways, one of them being Maynooth in what is now County Kildare.
It also is situated along the Royal Canal from Dublin, another important source of trade for many years from its creation in the 18th century. This now lives as a biking and hiking trail and Eric and I took a little ride last week to get to the Garda station to register with the police, as we were told to do. The canal way is a lovely path along water, with reeds and waterbirds along they way, who seem somewhat annoyed at the human interlopers of their homes.
In the Norman era, late 12th century, County Kildare was given to the FitzGerald family by the ruling Norman Richard “the Strongbow” Clare. The Fitzgeralds built a castle on the great road, strategically located for defense and promptly took up residence and rule of Ireland, largely ignored by their British overlords. They continued to buy up land around Maynooth and further to the south. Maynooth then, could have been considered the capital of Ireland for several centuries. In 1534, however, Thomas FitzGerald, also known as “Silken Thomas” for his lavish clothing, decided he’d had enough of even nominal British rule and rose up against Henry VIII, leading the English to storm and destroy Maynooth castle. For his efforts he was executed, and the Fitzgeralds moved out of Maynooth to a castle down the road and then to Carton House, a Palladian style estate built in the 1700s on the land acquired by the Fitzgeralds during their long rule.
The main road in Maynooth is then capped by these structures, the ruined castle on one end and Carton house on the other. The castle is a tourist attraction, open in the spring, and Carton House is a hotel and golf course.
St. Patrick’s College/Maynooth University is a huge part of the town, and when school is in session the population of the town doubles from 15,000 to 30,000. St. Patrick’s College was established just beyond the castle as a Catholic seminary in 1795, so that young priests wouldn’t have to travel to France for an education and thus be swayed by the happenings of the French Revolution and get any pesky ideas about freedom. In the early 1900s, secular education was added. I’ll share more pictures of the campus in a different post, as I’ll be going to the old library next week.
As for our Maynooth, it’s a modern small town. There’s a main street with restaurants, pubs, a bookshop and the library. There’s one main intersection running through, the north south road takes you out to our house. Here’s a series of photos showing the ride from one end of main street to our house!
And here I am on my bike, graciously loaned to me by our friend Alena. That’s about 20 pounds of groceries I’ve got loaded on, not atypical before we discovered grocery delivery service, thank goodness.
If it seems that I’m dressed for a nuclear winter, I am. The weather here has been cold and misty in a way that seeps into your bones. Rain comes with wind such that umbrellas are useless against the damp, flipping themselves inside out as if to commit seppuku in the face of their futility. Van Morrison sings much of water, whether it be “streets wet with rain,” “misty morning fog,” or “oh, the water” and it makes sense after being here, where so far the sun has been a reluctant friend. [confessional side note – this seems a good a place as any to finally admit that it wasn’t until I met Eric that I learned that Van Morrison was Irish. I had thought he was Dutch, in the vein of “Van Halen” or “Van Helsing.” You may now mock me for this. It is deserved.]
Living in the mist, as it were, I think often of the Ray Bradbury short story “All Summer in a Day.” [Click to read, it’s a short four pager.] I think I first read this in high school, and it’s stuck with me ever since, a haunting read. Set on Venus, where the sun shines for one hour every seven years, it focuses on a classroom of children who cruelly lock a student in the closet during this one hour, depriving her of her moment of sunlight. The children realize their horrific act, but no matter, the time has passed and won’t recur for another seven years.
I’m told it’s not quite so infrequent here as that, though it feels it, and I await its appearance with bated breath.