Killary Bay

Samuel Gamble Bayne
Leenane to Recess (2) | Start of Section

Next morning we crossed Killary Bay in a boat, and while doing so we noticed that the captain held his leg in a very constrained position. We asked him if it was stiff, or if he was troubled with rheumatism. "No; to tell your honor the truth, there's a hole in the boat, an' I'm jist kapin' me heel in it to save her from sinkin'."

After landing we drove to Delphi to see its lake and woods; then on to Lough Dhu, a long sheet of water from the banks of which the mountains rise to a height of twenty-five hundred feet. Delphi is one of the loveliest spots in Connemara, but we can hardly go as far as the enthusiastic Englishman who wrote: "It may be safely said that if Connemara contained no other beauty, Delphi alone would be worth the journey from London, for the sake of the mountain scenery." Delphi House formerly belonged to the Marquis of Sligo, and at one time he lived there. We returned by driving round the head of the bay, with a horse that would have retarded a funeral procession. Within a mile of the hotel there is a double echo, which we tested by loud whistling on our fingers. After crossing the bay, the echo came back to us with great strength, striking our side of the mountain again and thus making a second echo.

On the morning before we left, I lay in bed half asleep, and, as the bedrooms in the west of Ireland rarely have any locks on their doors, our confidential "boots" stole quietly into the room and, looking at me, soliloquized in a tender tone, suggestive of a tip if I should hear him: "Sure, his honor is slapin' loike a baby, an' 'twould be nothin' short of a crime to wake him up this wet mornin'; I haven't the heart to do it." And he walked out of the room with his eye on the future.

The following day we "took in" the Killaries, as they are called. This is a long arm of the sea, surrounded by high, bold mountains, clothed with very green verdure to their tops. It is a wonderful fiord, which has scarcely any parallel in the British Isles and much resembles the coast scenery in Norway. Capacious and fit for the largest ships, it runs inland to the very heart of the mountains for a distance of some nine miles. The mountain scenery on the north of the fiord is incomparably the finest, the enormous walls of Mweelrea, the "Giant of the West," and Bengorm rising abruptly to the height of two thousand six hundred and eighty-eight feet and two thousand three hundred and three feet, while the excessive stillness of the land-locked water, in which the shadows of the hills are clearly reflected, makes it difficult for one to believe that it is the actual ocean which he beholds.

That night, after a drive of twelve miles, we reached Casson's Hotel in Letterfrack, where we asked for a fire in the dining-room, as it was cold when we arrived. The maid brought a burning scuttle of peat, the smoke from which did not subside during the entire dinner, but it looked comfortable, to see each other through it, reminding us of cheerful fires and warm nooks at home; the comparison could go no farther, however. We asked the maid for a wine-list, in order that we might try to overcome the effect of the smoke, and she responded, with great naivete, that she had no wine-list, but would bring us a sample from every bin in the cellar.

In a few minutes, sure enough, she bounced into the room with her arms full of bottles, saying: "Take yer ch'ice, gintlemen; there's nothin' foiner in all Connemara!" We took her at her word; she had not deceived us—the bottle we selected was a good claret.

Read "On an Irish Jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara" at your leisure

On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara

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Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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