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Howth, Republic of Ireland September 10th 2023 – Come Home Journal #22

A reckoning of the journey (turas) to tour Dancing Shadows in Ireland, a retrospective of my film works as part of the Come Home project.

A strange and spectral head the gaunt crag rears,
And ghostly seem the wings that hover nigh.
Are these dim rains the phantoms of old tears
In Ireland’s Eye?

Sir William Watson

The seagulls have been imploring me for days to come to the sea. Tugging at me again and again. You can see it in the photos I’ve taken. They swoop low to me. They shit on me. They caw and sing until I can no longer stand it. To the sea I go. By train to Howth. the closest body of water I can get to by train.

Howth is an Irish village on the Howth Peninsula, east of central Dublin. The grounds of 15th-century Howth Castle have rhododendron gardens and a transport museum with local trams. The 19th-century Martello Tower houses a vintage radio museum. The medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey lie nearby. A clifftop trail has sweeping sea views. But I don’t see any of this! Walking into Howth from the station the waaterline is jammed with people in the middle of a community arts festival. How lovely, just for me!

I’m stopped by a ferryman. “Do you want to go to Ireland’s Eye?”

Getting on a boat is literally the last thing I’d do after I’d do anything else! I worry about seasickness. I’m not made for boats I tell him. He says the bay is calm. I must look ashen.

“You’ll be fine. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

I imagine he’s idea of lying is not like my idea. But I take him at his word and say yes. I ask him where to go.

“Do you see that red boat there?”




“No. There to the left!”


“It’s on the left but stay to your right.”

“Oh yes I see the red boat.”

“That’s the one. So you go past that red boat. It’s the blue boat further up.”

I tell him I see it so I can walk off in that general direction and find it myself. There must be signs. I spend the next 15 minutes trying to get to the red boat I need to go past but there are people everywhwere and odd piers that start and end.

And then I remember it’s the blue boat!

I’m on the water. as the boat rocks gently I’m reminded of the times dad took us out in ‘Róisín‘ a speedboat. I always felt safe on the water with him there. An old family story of him reaching into the water to grab a child that had fallen in. His big hands with deft touch and raising the child up and into the boat with a giggling laugh that was like a song to joy.

Water is not my happy place. I literally feel all at sea, my kinetosis (motion sickness) slips into overdrive. But today the ferryman is right, he has not lied, the sea is calm and calls like a siren of old. This journey for me is not about calm, it is about daring. So I step out into it.

And I love it, this country. Just offshore is Ireland’s Eye, an island bird sanctuary with an ancient ruined church. Originally called Inis Ereann (Éire’s island). Éire is both a woman’s name (Erin) and Gaeilge for Ireland. The Vikings translated this to Ireland’s Ey, with ey being the Old Norse word for island.* So there is no ‘eye’ just a typically easy way to stomp over and replace an ancient language.

The birds cack and caw and the island slowly reveals itself. More photos in the link below.

Off the boat now the skies have opened, if its not rough below it is above. Sheltering under awnings I talk with Irish women visiting Howth about women travelling alone. They tell me I’m brave, I tell them I have never felt more free.

At the railway station the entire festival population have had the same idea. There is no shelter, the rain is pelting, I stand definitely dripping. A young woman offer to share her umbrella. We talk about Ireland. We are both from here and not from here. Belonging in a way only the diaspora understand.

That night Mella and I sit on bar stools while music from a session wraps us to the place in an embrace no time and no phrase can share.

* Ireland’s Eye Wikipedia

IMAGE CREDIT: The Eye from the Train by Erin M McCuskey

The image journal can be found in this Collection – Ireland –  Flickr Album – in this album – Ireland’s eye


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