County Mayo – The Heather County

Another Name for County Mayo

County Mayo is often called the Heather County. Ling heather can be found in abundance throughout Mayo's bogs especially in the bog of Céide Fields and in the Ballycroy National Park at the foot of the Nephin Mountain.

Pamela Norrington / Summit of Nephin https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Did you know that heather comes in colors other than purple?

In addition to purple, heather may be found in white and pink. My favorite is the purple heather that I see whenever I ride along the narrow, regional road 310 from Castlebar towards Pontoon Bridge. As you draw near to Pontoon, there is a turnoff to the right which will take you through Parke and then to Turlough. My maternal grandmother, Maria Nolan Hughes, was born in Turlough. And, according my mom, Maria loved the heather which grows wild across the stone and rocky, boggy ground in that area.

Courage, strength, and heather

The purple ling heather is thought to represent beauty and strength. Strength means so much to me in the last few years. Not physical strength but the spiritual and moral strength to care for those in my family who needs caring.

Two years ago, my mother took the Claddagh ring from her finger that her mother had given to her when my mom left County Mayo at the age of 17 and presented the ring to me. My mom said “when I left Ireland my mother told me to have courage and strength. And now I am giving this to you and always remember courage and strength.” That ring had been my grandmother's wedding ring (made one of her brothers).

I have always loved heather and purple. Funny, I loved that color and plant long before I knew it was a favorite of my grandmother's (whom I never met). I love the color but I also love heather's strength: its ability to survive in the wild surrounded by craggy rocks and boggy desolation. So, I take my grandmother's and mother's words to heart and try to remember each day, during the caring, that courage and strength is my legacy.

Photo by Martha Geaney – Bit of heather on the road between Parke and Turlough, County Mayo

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven't already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O'Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here's the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven't already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O'Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here's the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney

The Mysterious Cuckoo and Spring in Ireland

The Mysterious Cuckoo

The first time I heard the mysterious cuckoo it was May. I was exploring the scenic route between Finney, County Mayo and Clonbur, County Galway near Lough Mask. I was intrigued because my partner, Bill, loves cuckoo clocks and several hung in our home in New Jersey. But this was the first time I'd ever heard an actual cuckoo's call.

The Cuckoo Summers in Ireland

The cuckoo arrives in Ireland from its winter home in Africa during the late spring and typically departs the Emerald Isle in August. Although, I’ve been told by some of our neighbors in County Mayo that the best months to hear the cuckoo is between April and June.

Not Everyone Hears the Cuckoo

I have heard the cuckoo many times since that first discovery, many, many years ago, along Lough Mask. If I happened to be in Ireland during the spring season, I’d purposely listen for the bird's call whenever I walked along Barney Road in French Hill, Castlebar. If I were lucky enough to hear the call, I got a great sense of joy…not everyone hears the cuckoo.

Very Few Ever See the Cuckoo

And, very few, have ever seen the reclusive cuckoo. The cuckoo usually looks for open country side and stands of trees where the cuach (Gaelic for cuckoo), can remain secluded just below the tops of the trees until it is time to roam the globe again.

Early morning image of several sheep in a field on Barney Road, French Hill, Castlebar, County Mayo.
Sheep in a neighbor's field on Barney Road, County Mayo. (Consolation prize for not getting to see a cuckoo).

Mysterious, isn't it?

Have you heard the cuckoo? And, if so, where were you when you heard these first sounds of spring in Ireland?

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven't already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O'Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here's the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney

Turlough – The Schipperke Character

Turlough, my schipperke, is quite a character. And, he will feature as a series character in one of my upcoming County Mayo Mysteries. The schipperke breed can best be described as a small dog who believes he inhabits the body of a King German shepherd. As a result, schipperkes exhibit a guard dog personality: protective, devoted to family members, and courage.

My Little Schipperke's Character

In addition to the guard dog behavior, my little schipperke, Turlough, is also a noisy barker and a mischievous little character who like to grab towels from counters so you'll chase him to get them back. When Bill and I take Turlough to agility training each week the little guy runs, jumps, and weaves. We've been in a few agility trials and he has won a few ribbons. But not always! Sometimes he gets out on the field and just does the zoomies until the buzzer rings and the judge says “it's over”.

The Schipperkes Origin

Schipperkes originated in Belgium and the breed name means “little captain”. Turlough lives up to the name: he's independent and investigates everything and everyone. I named my little schipperke Turlough in a tip of my heart to my mother who was born in Turlough Village, County Mayo, Ireland. And, Turlough's breed line is of the Skydance and I Believe in Magic lines.

Turlough the Schipperke as a Character in the County Mayo Mystery Series

So, the Skydance and Magic lines align nicely with the role Turlough the Schipperke will play in a new County Mayo Mystery Series I am developing. Right now, I'm world building. And, I'm having fun with it. I hope you will too. I'll be posting more as I continue to work on the series.

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven't already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O'Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here's the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney

Good Vibes

Good vibes are what I'm looking for in this beginning of spring. For instance, when I'm in Castlebar, County Mayo, I head to Café Rua for my morning good vibes. The café, on Spencer Street, is one of my favorite places to visit. You will find me there at about 10:00 a.m., savoring a large mug of filtered coffee and pouring cream. Hopefully, I'll see you there some time soon.

Below is a wonderful picture I snapped of the Cafe's front window a few years ago. The picture tells the story of an Irish spring season filled with the first daffodils, queen potatoes, mustard for the potatoes, and marmalade.

Shop window of Cafe Rua

Cafe Rua's Recipes on their Blog

By the way, if you want some great recipes for Irish delicacies, check out the cafe's web site. You will find recipes, like this one for marmalade: https://www.caferua.com/marmalade/.

Star O'Brien visits Café Rua

And, here's a quote from the second book in the Star O'Brien County Mayo series from the scene where Paul invites Star to have supper at the café. One of my aspirational goals is to have a book reading at the café the next time I visit family in County Mayo.

Flower pots filled with fragile, white Angelicas adorned Café Rua's windows. Inside on the ground floor, delicacies and pastries from homemade brown scones to wild Irish salmon kept the wait staff busy…”I've had the goat cheese salad with beet greens…” Paul said.

“I've never had beet greens. But I'm willing to try. Provided I can have some brown bread to go along with it,” I replied.

Paul laughed. “Oh, to be sure. There's homemade bread here…”

Death at Ashford Castle: A Star O'Brien County Mayo Mystery

Spring Wishes for You

Wishing you good vibes, good food, and good company this spring season.

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven't already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O'Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here's the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney

Irish Roots – Pulling Away From Home

For me, my Irish roots and pulling away from home have always been both a source of joy and sadness. When I've gone on work trips or vacations, there has been a certain sweet sadness as I sat in the back of an airport limo and looked back at my home, knowing that I was leaving my loved ones behind. But then, I'd turn forward in the anticipation of the journey ahead, safe in my conviction that I'd return to my cozy base camp (home) and would be reunited with my loved ones again.

I am a child of parents who immigrated to the United States from Ireland. My parents didn't know each other in Ireland. My mom is from County Mayo and my dad was from County Cork. After the second world war, when there weren't many job opportunities in Ireland, my parents pulled away from home and journeyed to New York. It was a time in history when Irish families already here in the States helped other family members come across the Atlantic Ocean.

When my dad left Carrignavar, County Cork he travelled to Ellis Island in NYC by boat. Then, he went to live with one of his cousins (who had sponsored him) in NYC until he was able to work and get his own apartment. He was about 25 years old at the time. Carrignavar, by the way, means “man of the rock”.

My dad was definitely a man of the rock: always kind, always gentle, always caring of his family. Family, the home base, meant a lot to him. If you've read the first book in my Star O'Brien series, Death on Clare Island, you may have noticed that I dedicated that first book to him. His mother, my grandmother (and namesake) died in childbirth when my dad was two years old. The year was 1926. What has always struck me a deeply sad was that my grandfather wasn't able to care for his children. So, he kept one, the oldest boy, and the other three children (including my father) were separated and taken in by various family members.

You might say my dad was a bit of an orphan until he met my mother. Together they made a home base here in the US – a base that we have never had to worry about being pulled away from. My parents were proud of their American citizenship. I've always been proud of my Irish roots and ancestry. Together the love of being American with an Irish heritage is something I celebrate each day without fear.

Unfortunately, this week the scenes of Ukrainian women and children leaving their homes with nothing but a knapsack and a family pet are heartbreaking. It is difficult not to cry when I see a man bending down to say goodbye to his child before the man turns to return to defend his family's base camp, his home in the Ukraine. Will these families ever be reunited? Will they ever feel the joy and anticipation of begin together again in their home base. I hope so with all my heart.

Thank you so much for reading my blog post today. Please use the buttons below to share with your friends. If you haven't already, sign up for my newsletter with stories and updates about the Star O'Brien County Mayo mysteries. Here's the link: https://www.subscribepage.com/marthageaney