To prepare myself for the climb, I decided to search out the well of St Patrick at “Ballintubber” Abbey. I would then drive down to Westport and then along the coast to “Murrisk”.
It looked like it was going to be a nice day but it was cloudy and the summit was obscured. I made sure I had a raincoat as the weather can turn in an instance down here !!!
Just as I was coming up to the Abbey I noticed a group of horses lying down in a field. In Celtic mythology a White horse is lucky and is seen to have great mystical qualities. It was also used to inaugurate a King. I think King David has a nice “ring” to it. Too bad I was beaten to it !!!
As I was parking my car, I noticed 7 or 8 males digging a grave in the graveyard. I think the friends or relatives dig the graves, as a mark of respect for the loved one. It struck me as a nice personal touch.
I managed to catch Father Fahy, as he was getting into his car to leave. He very graciously got out and walked with me to the other side of the Abbey and showed me the direction of St Patricks well.
I light heartedly commented, that I would pray for Mayo to win Sundays “All Ireland” against Dublin at the summit. Father Fahy thought deeply for a moment and replied “it will take more than prayers !!!”
Following Father Fahy`s instruction, I quickly found the well. I was a little bit disappointed it was so commercialised, with a modernist bronze statue of St Patrick “all bent over” in a walking pose.
I much prefer a simpler image of the well. I deliberately excluded the extra decorations when taking the photo !!!
“I BIND UNTO MYSELF THE NAME
THE STRONG NAME OF THE TRINITY
BY INVOCATION OF THE SAME
THE THREE IN ONE AND ONE IN THREE
OF WHOM ALL NATURE
ETERNAL FATHER SPIRIT WORD
PRAISE TO THE LORD
OF MY SALVATION SALVATION
IS OF CHRIST THE LORD AMEN.”
The well of course predates St Patrick and would have been sacred to the Celtic people. I noticed next to it is a Hawthorn tree, which is known as the “Guardian tree of wells”. When it is found next to a well, it is supposed to be very powerful. It is associated with the “Faery folk”!!!
The Hawthorn tree is linked with enchantment, hence “Love”. In Ireland a common expression is, he or she is “away with the fairies”. It means they are not here with us mortals !!!
It is considered unlucky, to bring a Hawthorn branch in blossom into the house. It is believed that your mother will then die. My Grandfather a complete sceptic, would not let my mother bring a branch with blossoms into the house.
I filled my water bottle from the well and it tasted very pure. I re-filled it and decided I would drink it when I reached the top.
When I arrived in “Murrisk”, I had a quick meal in Campbells pub to prepare for the ascent. It was nice to see the other walkers, having already made the ascent relaxing in the bar.
I bought a stick for €3 outside the pub, to help with the loose shale on the mountain. The clouds had now parted and it was a glorious day !!! I could feel the sun burning my face but I was not “trekking” in Spain and I knew I would be okay !!! I turned and took a photo of Campbells pub and Clew bay below.
The going was hard with the loose rocks but it was a nice climb, as the scenery was stunning !!!. Croagh Patrick looked majestic to the right of the path.
It got steeper towards “the saddle” preceding “Croagh Patrick” and I could feel my lunch “gurgling” in my stomach. There were a lot of people ascending and descending, all in good spirits !!!
On the top of “the saddle”, I took a short break to enjoy the view. I was glad I had not attempted, to do the summit on my last trip here. I would have been seen nothing but cloud. I took a photo of a “cairn of rocks” left by the pilgrims.
The path then gently started to rise. There was a small pool of water down to the left, far below. Pilgrims had written their names with “shale” from the mountain.
It might not appeal to the purist mountain walkers but “Croagh Patrick” because of its short intense nature, is accessible to the masses. With all the desecration “heaped” on it, it still a powerful sight !!!
Just before the “final push”, there were a couple of stone structures housing basic toilets. I was quite amazed that there was running water and toilet paper and you had to feel for the person, who stocks them everyday. The only way up is walking !!!
I was also told a volunteer in his eighties walks up every day, to pick up the discarded litter !!! They breed them tough down here !!!
The path started to get very steep, with “loose shale” everywhere. There were a lot of people struggling to keep their footing. It was nice to see a generosity of spirit, as the more “sure footed” offered their sticks to others.
I met a nice couple on the way up “Frank” and “Michelle” and took their photo. I suspect there might be “enchantment” in the air !!!
It was a relief to finally reach the top. The reward was an amazing 360° view. I of course was on a mission. I planted the “Mayo” flag and said a prayer to St Patrick and then drank some of his water. I tell you Dublin had better be aware !!! There are powerful forces down here !!!
I lingered for a while taking in the view and enjoying the other pilgrims reactions. I just wished they picked up their rubbish !!! Why people feel it`s okay to dump their rubbish at the top, I just don’t know. If you told them a 80 year old man has to pick it up, they might feel some shame !!!
I deliberately did not take a picture of the rough white church on top. I felt it did not really fit the majestic setting, or one of “St Patrick`s bed”, or a plaque to the stations of the cross, but another “cairn of rocks” by pilgrims paying homage. There is no doubt God does it best !!!
The way down was slow but uneventful and feeling good physically, I donated my stick to a German lady, who was struggling. I took a photo of a pilgrim in a Mayo shirt and flag coming down . I wonder had he been praying too !!!
I was quickly down and I was so glad, that I was not kissed (eaten) this time by the midges. I said Goodbye to “Frank” and “Michelle” and retired to Campbells pub for refreshments.
I felt tired and quietly pleased with myself. However I was soon put in my place by a party of Tri-athletes, who had swum 2km, cycled 90km and then run up the mountain. A couple of them were not far off my age !!!
The next day before departing for Dublin, I visited the ruins of an old Augustinian Friary, just down from Campbells Pub at the beach. The graveyard there, must have one of the most scenic views in Ireland.
I took a photo from the Friary looking up to St Patrick, to show how the weather normally is down here. Even in Summer !!!
My next visit is “Church island” in “Ballintubber” this Saturday, also associated with St Patrick. I hope you will join me there !!!
(Mayo drew with Dublin in the All Ireland Final, so I figure I had better add some extra prayer this Saturday on Church Island. I tell you Dublin, had better “steel” themselves again !!!)
Find out if Mayo, can beat the dastardly Dubliners, after 65 years of hurt in my next post !!!.