Ireland day 0033. Sunday 31 October 2021- Samhain
|Today’s summary||Tour organised by Boyne Valley walkers around the historic and hidden Dale area of Drogheda. Then shopping for domestic hardware in the evening|
|Today’s weather||Heavy rain overnight then bright sunny morning. Clouded over in the afternoon then started raining again in early evening. Cool breeze. About 10C|
|Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
(Click button below to download a GPX of our walk round Drogheda’s Dale area today)
Coming to live in Ireland is like enrolling yourself in a total immersion history course. It seems as if everyone here is interested in and knowledgeable about the history of the island, both political and mythological.
Today we dived a bit deeper into the pond of history, by joining a walking tour of Drogheda, organised by the Boyne Valley Walkers. The exploration was based on the theme of Samhain. This is an ancient Celtic festival, which marks the turn of the weather at end of the Celtic summer and the start of the winter. Samhain happens as 31 October ticks over into 1 November – and indeed the Irish Gaelic word for “November” is Samhain. Nowadays, the celebration is rolled in with Hallowe’en, and much of the historical significance has been lost amongst the imported commercial frippery.
But today, our tour focused on the hidden Dale of Drogheda – accessible only through a tunnel in the harbour wall. There are a few small cottages here now, but in the past, a thriving community of as many as 400 people lived in the Dale, abundantly supplied with fresh water and crops, and protected by the steep banks from the elements and invasion.
Our guide was Brendon Matthews, an extremely knowledgeable local historian. Although we only covered a few hundred meters in our exploration, the density of historical fact was remarkable. We learned about the relocation of St Patrick’s Well, the culveting of the stream, the Cromwellian siege, the myths and legends of the Red Man of the Boyne, and the history of the Millmount (the mound in the centre of Drogheda with the Martello Tower and modern day museum on it). In fact the Millmount has a fascinating and surprising history. Recent ground penetrating radar and tomography investigations have revealed that buried in the bottom of the mound are the probably remains of a Cyst grave, built some 4000 years before the Martello tower was plonked on top of it.
And perhaps even more surprisingly, it isn’t actually a Martello tower at all – although it looks like one and was built at the beginning of the 19th century at the same time as the other Martello towers. This one isn’t on the coast, and the wall is of equal thickness all the way round, rather than being thickened on the coastal side. So was probably more to provide a lookout point and refuge from landward domestic invasions, rather than from Napoleon’s forces which would have arrived by sea.
Although the tour was fascinating, it was also extremely cold. So afterwards we retreated to the security of Tesco (there are no restrictions on Sunday trading here) to stock up on more domestic furnishings. This was an important task because we had assumed that we would be able to keep the flat clean with just a dustpan and brush. But this conservative premise was quickly proven to be hopelessly optimistic as the dust and grime from our comings and goings was rapidly accumulating to the level where even I thought it was not just unattractive but probably also a health hazard.
So we bought a vacuum cleaner. A snip at a mere €45 and lets face it it does feel like that’s all it cost – but it did do the job and I had the satisfaction of cleaning the whole flat in 5 minutes. Which is somewhat quicker than I think I would have managed with the dustpan and brush approach.
Domestic chores completed, we are now reflecting on what we learned with glass of supermarket plonk, and listening to the Hallowe’en fireworks popping off like a battle zone outside.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)