Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Travel Tuesday: By the sea...

Looking toward Lambay Island in the Irish Sea, North County Dublin
It is not simply that I am deeply attracted to the sea off of Ireland because of its beauty. Being near the sea gives rise to thoughts about how important a role the Irish sea and the Atlantic ocean played in the lives of my ancestors and family members who lived on the island of Ireland.

The sea brought my mother, father and brother to Canada, and although none of my ancestors further back emigrated away from Ireland, some of them did travel on holiday across the sea to England and to France. One family member in particular — Tom Kettle (1880-1916) — travelled across the Atlantic to New York City by ship, and to Chicago, in the very early years of the 20th century, to raise funds for the Irish Parliamentary Party.

In the west of Ireland, members of my father's family farmed land in Leckanvy, Murrisk, near the natural ocean bay called Clew Bay, on the Atlantic ocean. The tides of the sea, with their rhythmically moving waters, would have been a part of each day for them. My father's grandparents briefly farmed there before migrating to Dublin, but his great-grandparents, and other family members farmed in the area for generations.

On my mother's side, my great-great-great grandfather Thomas Kettle (1799-1871) farmed land near the Irish sea in North County Dublin, as did generations before him and after him. His granddaughter, my mother's grand-aunt, Alice Fitzpatrick Ward was married to a Master Mariner, Captain James Joseph Ward. The sea brought her husband to her, and tragically, life on the sea took him away from her.

When my mother was a child, sometimes her father would take her and her siblings out to Dublin Bay at low tide. The children would use little lengths of wood, the ends of which their father had whittled to a sharp point so that together they could dig through the sand, uncovering and collecting cockles and mussels. Grand-aunt Alice would cook the selection of clams in a large pot over the fire, and the family would sit down together to enjoy them with fresh baked soda bread and sweet butter. Mom had such fond memories of those days, with little granules of sand clinging to her socks, the scent of the sea in her hair, and the saltiness of the day's catch upon her tongue.

Just down the road, on the way to Howth Head.
Across the bay from the Poolbeg Power station. The lines of mist are from the rain on the opposite side of the bay.
Recently deceased Irish poet Seamus Heaney uses the sea as a metaphor in a favourite poem of mine:

Lovers on Aran

The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas

To possess Aran. Or did Aran rush
to throw wide arms of rock around a tide
That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?

Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves' collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity. 

From the Summit of Howth Head, looking toward the light house.
Occasional gorse fires change the colour and contour of the landscape.
Early evening, and the light and colours change again.
Click on images to view larger versions.


  1. Jennifer, I always enjoy your posts. Your photos and writing are lovely. I feel like I've just come in from a visit to the sea.

    1. Thanks very much for your comments Colleen. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.


  2. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photographs, Jennifer, and for the tender post about the sea. Lovely in so many ways.

    1. Thanks very much for your comments Nancy. As always, they are much appreciated.



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