Posts tagged ‘Sligo’

July 26, 2012

Ben Bulben

One of the first things that a visitor to Sligo will notice is the impressive shape of “Ben Bulben” dominating the skyline to the north of the town.  The name is an anglicisation of the Irish Binn Ghulbain, meaning “Gulbans’s Peak” or “Jaw-shaped Peak”.  W.B. Yeats in one of his last and most well-known poems ‘Under Ben Bulben’, penned the  line: Where Ben Bulben sets the scene, which I think describes the mountain perfectly.  (If you are interested, I wrote about Yeats and Ben Bulben before here).

Ben Bulben impressively sets the scene for what ever the performance might be, whether in mythology, such as with the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne or the poetry of Yeats, or the more recent pantomime of Andy ‘the Bull’ McSharry, a farmer who fashioned himself after John B. Keane’s famously unaccommodating character Bull McCabe in The Field.  Ben Bulben had its role to play in more troubled parts of Irish history too, such as a refuge (albeit a futile one) for IRA soldiers during the Civil War or as the backdrop for a huge “Brits Out” (180 ft wide and 25 ft high) sign during the 1970’s.  A good starting place to find out more about this fascinating mountain is this Wikipedia article.

Below are a few photos of the mountain all taken a couple of weeks ago.

From the West (just of the N15).

From the Forestry road to the North.

From the South.

From the top (photo taken by Sonja).

These photos were taken while we were up in Sligo for the New Wine Summer Conference.  One of the great things about Sligo is its beautiful landscapes and seascapes which more than in any other place I have ever been make me want to fall on my knees and worship the One who brought it all into being…

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast in the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:5-9

July 19, 2012

Glencar Waterfall

Glencar Waterfall, perhaps best described by W.B. Yeats in his poem “The Stolen Child”:

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star…

I remember years ago some of the instructors from the Activity Centre where Sonja and I worked abseiling down this waterfall – to me it looked like sheer madness but to them merely an afternoons entertainment!

Last week, we were up in Sligo for the New Wine Summer Conference – a truly remarkable, wonderful (and at times overwhelming experience).  As well as the conference it was good to catch up with old friends and to take a few photos…

Photo Notes:
The picture above was a thirteen second exposure.  I wanted as long an exposure as possible to get the water to look like a veil, unfortunately though I had left my tripod behind in the boot of the car.  Thankfully there was a fence on which to rest the camera but the disadvantage of this was that I could not take the photo from the angle I wanted (hence some of the ‘plunge pool’ is missing) and it simply was not possible to hold the camera steady enough to get a high level of sharpness – all lessons learned for another time – oh and I needed a polarizing filter also, to cut down on the glare.

Larger version on Flickr here.

May 18, 2011

Hargadon Bros.


Back in the days when we lived in Sligo this place was a favourite haunt.  You could buy a box of Cornflakes from the shelves of grocery items (if you felt so inclined) and then a pint of Guinness and no one considered that strange.  The best thing though was the little alcoves to sit it – two or three or perhaps at a push more of you could get a good bowl of soup (and a glass of free water) and have a private lunch screened off from the outside world.  Summer in Sligo only lasted for a couple of days in June but the rest of the time there was always a turf fire going so there was always a haze of smoke giving ‘atmosphere’ to the air.

Sligo has changed much since then; they built a ‘bypass’ through the middle of the town, an architecturally disastrous shopping centre and several housing estates on the outskirts, some of them remaining long half-finished.  But despite all this it remains a special place, with a heart and character able to withstand the greed and ignorance of modern ‘development’ (gosh I’m sounding like a grumpy old windbag so I’ll stop there!)

Anyway, despite being closed for a couple of years (due to the building of the aforementioned shopping centre), it is great to see Hargadon Bros. open again and more or less unchanged from what it was.  If you were wondering why the photo  looks a mess it’s because I took the roll of film out of the camera in bright sunlight – you can get away with this using 35mm film because it’s in a metal cartridge, but I was using medium format 120 film, with only a paper backing :-( lesson learned the hard way…

May 15, 2011


1104Velvia_036It was a lovely still evening, I had to feel a bit sorry for those in their sailing boats, almost going nowhere.  But then that’s O.K. isn’t it?  It’s good to not always be rushing around but occasionally just sit back and drift a while, feeling the cool evening breeze on your face and listening to the gentle movement of the water.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Mark 6:30-32

April 29, 2011

Land of heart’s desire

We have just returned from a wonderful few days camping in Sligo and even the seven-and-a-half hour drive home has not taken too much away from the enjoyment of it all. Inspired by being in ‘Yeats Country’, these words come to mind:

“… Land of Heart’s Desire,
Where beauty has no ebb,
decay no flood,
But joy is wisdom,
Time an endless song…”

When surrounded by such natural beauty there is however brief, however imperfect a glimpse of that which is beyond this life; where there shall be no ebb or decay, but an endless song of worship of the One by whom all things came into being…

I apologise to any W.B.Yeats purists who will know that my quote is somewhat out of context, but it is what came to mind as I was trying to photograph Ben Bulben with my newly acquired medium format camera (pictures will be a while as I have to send the films away in the post to be developed). In the meantime here’s some pictures I took with my phone :-)

Ben Bulben from Rosses Point

A bit still for sailing!


Tags: , ,
May 6, 2009

A Bleak House

Panasonic LX1, 1/200 sec, f4.9, ISO 80, 112mm equivalent

Panasonic LX1, 1/500 sec, f4.0, ISO 80, 45mm equivalent

To get to this bleak looking place on “Coney Island” in Sligo bay we had to wait until low tide and then drive across what was optimistically called a “Causeway”, but really it was nothing more than driving along the sea bed for a mile or so following the ancient stone cairns marking the route and hoping that you were not going to get stuck in some quick sand!

This house fascinated me. You can see how it was once a very fine place, with a grand entrance stairway and unsurpassed views of the mountains and seascape that form an audience around it. I wonder who lived here and what happened to them? Did they emigrate? Were they forcibly evicted? Was it just too hard making a living on this land? Did they get irreversibly stuck making their way across on the causeway!?

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
(Proverbs 19:21)

May 2, 2009

Lough Gill

Nikon D70s, 4 images @ 1/200 sec, f7.1, 52mm equivalent

For our belated Easter holiday we had a great few days away in Sligo. It was typical April (and indeed Sligo) weather – all four seasons every few hours!

I thought it was about time to change the banner at the top of the page. This one is a panorama of four images taken one evening from the northern shore of Lough Gill. For my wife and I this is a special place, our first house after we got married was just a bit further around the lake from where this picture was taken. It was an old stone cottage with thick white-washed stone walls, a corrugated tin roof, oh and it was damp and with no central heating, just a wood-burning stove to cook on and to provide heat! Sadly it has since been knocked-down and replaced by a large new house that looks very comfortable but somehow doesn’t look right in this landscape (of course you will not get an objective opinion on it from me!)

December 13, 2008

So brief a time we have…

Panasonic LX1, 1/400 sec, f4, -0.33 EV, ISO 80, 28mm Equivalent (Click to Enlarge)

A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

(Isaiah 40:6-8)

“All Flesh Is Grass”by Christina Rossetti

So brief a life, and then an endless life
Or endless death;
So brief a life, then endless peace or
Whoso considereth
How man but like a flower
Or shoot of grass
Blooms an hour,
Well may sigh “Alas!”

So brief a life, and then an endless grief
Or endless joy;
So brief a life, then ruin or relief:
What solace, what annoy
Of Time needs dwelling on?
It is, it was,
It is done,
While we sigh “Alas!”

Yet saints are singing in a happy hope
Forecasting pleasure,
Bright eyes of faith enlarging all their
Saints love beyond Time’s measure:
Where love is, there is bliss
That will not pass;
Where love is,
Dies away “Alas!”

December 7, 2008

Raising Up Valleys And Bringing Down Mountains

Nikon D70s, 1/160 sec, F6.3, ISO 200, EV+0.4, 37 mm equivalent, (Click to enlarge)

Apart from the cold and the rain, one of the things that we often dislike about the wintertime is the darkness, or rather the lack of light. A few years ago, my wife and I went on a tour of a disused slate mine in North Wales that has been turned into a museum. After taking a short ride underground to the first level of caverns (of which there were a further six below us) we got to appreciate just how hard life was for those miners, working six days a week by dim lanterns and in the winter never seeing the sun from one day to the next as they travelled to and from their homes. Today I feel for those tens of thousands of commuters who travel both to and from work at this time of year under sunless skies, so that during the week anytime that they have at home is in the dark.

In our part of the world, Christmas comes in the middle of winter, which is great, because we have something to look forward to. Imagine if as in the Narnia books, “It was always winter and never Christmas”!(1) Christmas is a time of fun and joy and bright lights that shine amidst the darkness of short days and long winter nights. How appropriate it is then that we have our Bible readings from Isaiah and Mark. In a spiritual sense, things had been very dark for God’s people. Isaiah’s audience were captives in Babylon and Marks audience, although not taken captive, were nevertheless under the control of the brutal and all-powerful Roman Empire. God’s people in both settings are feeling rather sorry for themselves, but their deliverer is coming…

So God gives Isaiah this message:

“Comfort my people … Comfort them. Encourage the people of Jerusalem. Tell them they have suffered long enough and their sins are now forgiven. I have punished them in full for all their sins.” (v.1,2)

OK so the people had been taken captive to Babylon and they’d had a pretty tough time and they’d been there for about 70 years but surely this isn’t enough to make up for all the rebellion against God that had taken place over generations? No, of course it isn’t but then again the same wonderful thing applies to us too. No amount of serving God will make us clean and without sin – it is all down to God’s grace, in giving His Son to die for us on the cross. Do you know (I’m sure you do), that all our sins deserve to be punished? We discipline our children and we punish them appropriately when they deliberately do wrong things. In a much greater way, so our Heavenly Father needs to punish our rebellion against Him – but in His infinite love and mercy He chose to punish His own Son in our stead. I’m reading a book at the moment, a work of fiction called the “Shack”(2) . In one chapter the central character of the story, Mack, a Father of five children finds himself in the seat of judgement. A heavenly being puts him in a terrible situation – of his five children two will go to heaven and three will go to hell, and he has to choose which go where. He falls on the floor in agony pleading that he as their Father be allowed to go to hell and suffer for eternity so that his children be spared. When he looks up from his place of agony the heavenly being is smiling at him and says, well done, now you know what Jesus did for you, he pleaded to the Father to die in your stead. And that is what the cross is all about, Jesus dying in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve.

Isaiah put it powerfully, when writing hundreds of years beforehand he said of the Lord Jesus:

“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne … But because of our sins he was wounded … we are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

It’s unfair; we don’t deserve this amount of love! Too right we don’t, but God loves us perfectly and we are very special and precious to Him, as are all people, because He created us and made us in His own image.

Have you heard of the Trans-Sahara Highway? It’s a fairly new road that runs from the city of Algiers in Algeria down through the Sahara desert to Lagos, the capital city of Nigeria. Building this road was an enormous challenge. The desert sands are always moving and the road is often covered, so nylon curtains had to be put up to protect the highway at certain points along the route. The curtains need frequent repairs as the wind and sand break through them. Trees that can survive in the desert have been planted along the new road to grow into a more permanent defence, but many have already died.

Temperatures can vary from below minus 10°C to above plus 40°C, which makes the surface of the road expand and shrink much more than in most places, so there has to be a special roadbed made of sand and seashells to stop it from cracking.

There are many fierce sandstorms, strong enough to blow empty oil drums across the desert and to damage vehicles along the route. As well as all these physical problems, groups of armed bandits work in this area and attack unwary travellers. (3)

Makes travelling on the Dublin road seem almost safe in comparison!

You can almost imagine the wise old prophet Isaiah calling out:

“Prepare in the wilderness a road for the LORD! Clear the way in the desert for our God! Fill every valley; level every mountain. The hills will become a plain and the rough country will be made smooth. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and the whole human race will see it…” (Isaiah 40:3-5).

What is Isaiah talking about, major road works?! Well yes and no… It’s all about access to God. As you know, in the Old Testament, the people did have access to God through the priests in the temple, who would make sacrifices of animals to God on their behalf. This was messy in more ways than one and it was only a temporary arrangement that pointed forward towards the time when there would be a “once and for all supreme sacrifice”. Jesus, God the Son, sacrifices Himself voluntarily and because Jesus is perfect in every way, His sacrifice is sufficient, there is no need for any other. So even though the way to God was at one time difficult, there is now a highway to God via the cross of Christ – all the obstacles have been removed.

The problem though is that we personally, and the church also, often places obstacles to people coming to Christ. Do you remember in the Gospel, where the Lord Jesus says:

“ … Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

And you may remember also that there was a gate in the walls of Jerusalem that was called the needle gate. It is still there today, and it was used when the city’s main gates were closed at night. It was designed for security so that enemies could not simply ride into the city. The gate was so small, that a rich man would have to unload his camel and then with great effort, lead his camel through –a slow & difficult process. The Lord Jesus likened the process to entering heaven: we must come to God stripped of all our importance –a seemingly impossible task until we realise with God, all things are possible.(4)

Well, we have mountains of pride that need to be brought down and valleys of doubt and fear that need to be raised up – a task that might seem impossible, but thankfully is possible by surrendering our lives to Christ.

And how does all this tie in with Advent when we look forward to celebrating Christ’s first coming at Christmas, but with a joyful eye on His second coming also?

We are reminded in our reading from Isaiah that God is with us. He wants us to be encouraged and comforted by the fact that He has forgiven all our sins, the debt has been paid; the slate has been wiped clean. He wants us to know that He has opened up a highway for us to come into His presence – all brought about because He sent His Son to earth to be born and to live and to die and to rise again for us.

On several occasions, King Abdullah II of Jordan has disguised himself and mingled with his subjects. Taking the character of an ordinary old Arab man, he has appeared in public with a fake white beard, wearing the traditional Jordanian kufiah, and the Arabic white dress. While so disguised, the king walked around two government buildings without security and was not noticed. While waiting in a long line, he engaged people in conversation and listened to their point of view.

Such incognito appearances have marked the 42-year-old monarch’s reign since he assumed the throne in 1999. He disguised himself as an old man previously while visiting a hospital. Another time, he circulated around Amman behind the wheel of a taxicab. Still another time, he passed himself off as a television reporter trying to cover a story at a duty-free shop.

According to reporter Costa Tadros, “I think that being in disguise and going around as a normal civilian to listen to their problems and know more about their needs is a good thing. I think it would make a great movie.”

Jordanian government employees aren’t taking any chances. They have started to spend time looking at people’s faces, fearing they could meet the king in disguise.(5)

So in a much greater way, the Lord Jesus came to us. He therefore understands us perfectly and longs for us to seek and know His comfort, His encouragement, His forgiveness and His peace. He longs for and invites each of to live our lives in a relationship with Him, a relationship beginning now and lasting for eternity. The winter of our hearts is over…

1 C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p.14
2 The Shack, William, P. Young, Hodder & Stoughton 2008
3 Jacqui Hyde,, copyright © Roots for Churches Ltd 2005.
5 Greg Asimakoupoulos, preaching

December 5, 2008

Walking along the beach with the Lord

Panasonic LX1, 1/400 sec, f5.6, ISO 80, Ev-0.3, RAW, 28mm equivalent. (Click to enlarge)

One of the joys of winter is being able to find a beach and have the whole place to yourself. The blissful solitude of such a walk is the perfect antidote to the busyness and hurry of the workplace.

I suppose some might call it “connecting with nature”, but when for example walking on the above beach a couple of weeks ago, to me at least there was a strong sense of God’s presence. It was like being absorbed into a work of art, the stunning low winter light, the breathtaking wind like the ruach of God’s Spirit and the gentle, almost hypnotic sound of the waves all combining to bring peace and soothing to the soul. God’s Creation, God’s handiwork, I think He loves us to enjoy it, like a parent giving a gift to a child not because they have been good, but because they are loved…

I thought of the famous “Footprints poem” – having done a Google search for this, I was surprised to discover that there are three versions of it (though all pretty similar) and a rather poignant Leona Lewis song of the same name.

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.

This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.

The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Carolyn Carty, 1963