By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
Do you ever look at the stamps on your mail? The US Postal Service offers many different and interesting stamps that feature a variety of seasonal designs, sports, flowers, history, holidays, and more.
Ireland’s post office also offers many interesting designs and we were delighted to see that detail from church windows by famed stained glass artist Harry Clarke was featured on two of three 2014 Irish Christmas stamps. The third stamp was a Dublin schoolgirl dressed as an angel.
Clarke (1889-1931), his father Joshua, and his brother Walter all worked in stained glass. Harry also illustrated books. We’ve written about Harry Clarke’s amazing artwork before but it bears repeating that if you are near any of his windows, it’s well worth taking a look. Harry’s work is often easy to spot because it is so detailed with such rich, deep colors.
I’ve always loved the story of how Harry’s large three-light window depicting “The Last Judgment” came to be installed in St. Patrick’s Church in Newport, Co. Mayo. In 1926, the pastor, Canon Michael MacDonald, sold his life insurance policy to pay for the windows. The canon specified that Harry himself was to do the work and not his studio. Harry started the work in the summer of 1930 but died the following January. Sadly for Canon MacDonald, the windows were finished and installed by his studio.
This year’s Christmas stamps were from photographs taken in St. Patrick’s Church in Newport by Michael McLaughlin, and in St.Patrick’s Church, Millstreet, Co. Cork, by Bill Power from Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. Both images are details from “Adoration of the Magi” windows in those two churches. The Millstreet photo depicts an angel playing a lute; the Newport image is of the Christ child.
The Irish post office (An Post) plans a series of stamps this year to mark key events of a century ago, including the landing of Irish troops at Gallipoli and the sinking of the Lusitania. Sixteen new stamps will be issued in 2015, we read in The Irish Times.
Two of the stamps will commemorate Irish soldiers in the British Army who fought at Gallipoli in 1915, with some 4,000 of them losing their lives.
Two new stamps will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Mountain Rescue Ireland. Four stamps will be issued to represent Ireland “the food island” and five more to represent the five senses. Another stamp will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats.
Two stamps will be issued to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania, a passenger liner sailing from New York to Liverpool that sank on May 7, 1915, after being torpedoed. The largest ship ever built at the time, the Lusitania listed and sank off the Old Head of Kinsale within 18 minutes after being struck on the starboard side by a single torpedo from a German U-boat. Losses totaled 1,198 passengers and crew while 761 were rescued.
Cobh plans to mark the centennial with a five-month program of events that began last month.
During the commemorative events, the Cunard liner Queen Victoria will be in Cobh on May 7 as part of a “Lusitania Remembered” seven-night cruise to recall the ship known as “the floating palace.” In the evening, a flotilla of large and small boats will start toward Cobh from Roches Point, each illuminated by white lights to symbolize the return to Cobh of boats full of victims and survivors. A museum dedicated to the Lusitania is expected to open then, too.
Be sure to stop into any Irish post office while you’re there and pick up some of these wonderful stamps.
How exciting to read recently in The Mayo News that on Aug. 8 Aer Lingus will fly the first transatlantic pilgrimage group from JFK into Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK) in Co. Mayo.
According to the writer Anton McNulty, “The announcement represents a historical development for the airport and the region, as it will be the first-ever transatlantic service operated by Aer Lingus from the US to IWAK and the first official chartered pilgrimage to Ireland’s National Marian Shrine. The pilgrims, led by Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan, will spend eight days in the region in a specially tailored Pilgrimage program that will showcase some of Ireland’s most historical spiritual sites…”
McNulty reports that Joe Kennedy, chairman of IWAK, was “delighted to see the return of transatlantic flights to Knock after an absence of eight years” and he hopes it will be an important stepping stone in securing regular transatlantic services to the region in the future.
The previous transatlantic flights to Knock you may remember were by a low-cost British airline – Flyglobespan – that flew Boston-Knock for a short while but abandoned that service and eventually went into receivership. That direct flight was a great boon to those who love the West of Ireland and now would probably be even more popular with all the events and places being promoted along the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way.
Speaking of the Wild Atlantic Way, if you decide to drive it while you’re in Ireland, be sure to stop in Brigend on the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal, to have a meal at Harry’s Restaurant, named by the Irish Times restaurant columnist Catherine Cleary as her choice for the best Irish restaurant of 2014. She writes, “The Wild Atlantic Way has a wildly good restaurant in this partnership between chef Derek Creagh and owner Donal Doherty. They serve just-landed fish from local boats alongside just-picked vegetables from one of their three gardens. Irish restaurant dining doesn’t get better than this and they’re selling it at prices that are jaw-droppingly low.”
The Wild Atlantic Way stretches down the coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal to Kinsale in Co. Cork.
Westport (Co. Mayo) has been named 2014 National Large Tourism Town and Kinsale was chosen National Small Tourism Town for 2014. The Tourism Town Award was designed by Fáilte Ireland (the Irish arm of Tourism Ireland here) to promote Irish towns and villages that work to “enhance their appeal to tourists visiting their local area.”
According to The Irish Times, Tourism Minister Michael Ring said the awards “are all about honoring the towns that put tourism at the center of what they do.” Both towns are on the Wild Atlantic Way driving route.
Westport and Kinsale each received certificates and a 5,000-euro grant to further develop themselves as tourism destinations. Competition judges said there is “something for everyone” in Westport and that the coastal town “caters well for Ireland’s climate.”
Kinsale, the judges added, has a “cosmopolitan feel” added to beautiful scenery and narrow streets bursting with history that encourage visitors to get out and explore. “It would appear that Kinsale has something to offer all demographics and its visitors will leave with lasting impressions and memories,” they said.
Other commended towns: Ardmore, Co. Waterford; Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim; Cobh, Co. Cork; Glengarriff, Co. Cork; Kilkenny town, Co. Kilkenny; Killarney, Co. Kerry; Lismore, Co. Waterford; and Portmagee, Co. Kerry.
Always nice to see these towns get recognition. Both Westport and Kinsale are fun places to visit and offer many wonderful restaurants (Kinsale is known as the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland” and Westport’s An Port Mor restaurant has won many culinary awards), good music, and interesting shops that feature Irish-made products. My favorite bookstore, Seamus Duffy’s, is in Westport and it’s a great place to stop. If they don’t have what you want, Seamus and his staff will happily order it.
Looking for things to do in Ireland in February? How about taking in the Feile na Tana (Feb. 6-8) that brings the best of Irish traditional music to the heart of the Cooley Peninsula? The festival is held in Carlingford, Co. Louth, and more information is available from feilenatana.com
For more wonderful trad music, be sure to include The 21st Russell Memorial Weekend Festival on your schedule. The weekend is in Doolin, Co. Clare, from Feb. 26 to March 2 and features workshops in fiddle, tin whistle, concertina, and accordion as well as sessions in the town’s pubs and hotels, a Russell Concert, cliff walk and set dancing. For more, visit michorussellweekend.ie
Do you fancy hearing poetry read by the River Lee? If so, the Cork Spring Poetry Festival is the place for you and it’s scheduled from Feb. 11 to Feb.14 to include readings, workshops, book launches, poetry prizes and more. For details visit corkpoetryfest.net
No matter when you visit Ireland or where you go, there is always a lot to do. Before you leave, be sure to take a look at Tourism Ireland’s informative website - Ireland.com – for details on events, accommodation, and more that will be offered while you’re there.