The following is the co-first prize, 500 words on a topic of one’s choice, for Turtle’s Caption contest. Themarvelousinnature asked me to write about “the prettiest place on earth”. I hope you like this little photo essay. All photos by Eyegillian.
My great-grandfather’s immigration papers state that he was a stonemason. There’s just the one word, and as he changed his profession on arriving in Ontario, no one knows how he plied his first trade, let alone where he plied it, for his county of origin is not mentioned in his papers.
In Ireland, everything of age and mystery is of stone, be it castles and churches of the Common Era, or walls and burial sites built before any Christian existed.
Were the round towers built to watch for, and warn against, Viking invaders? Or to shield monks, grain, and sacred objects from the assaults of their enemies? Or to hang the bells that summoned people to prayer in times of peace? Or for all three purposes? No one is absolutely sure.
In more recent history, more subtle monuments of Catholic worship dotted Ireland like sheep: the holy wells. These seemingly functional sites were named as places where one could slip away to pray, without fear of reprisals by the English Protestant overlords. Many can still be found, in various states of repair or disrepair. We found a few of them.
At St Cuan’s well in County Galway, we had to climb a fence into the field. As we approached the fence, two horses trotted up to greet us. They bore no human-made trappings. Although horses usually make me nervous, these two seemed sprinkled with fairy dust. I half-expected them to speak.