Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Ahoghill and Beyond

So, we caught the ferry the next afternoon. I felt like an old hand at this given the number of trips we'd made over to the Continent, but this was different.

For one, the journey was only a couple of hours and for two, loads of Irish accents on board! Thirdly the engine died at one point, which was slightly worrying, but it all worked out. What I hadn't planned was lunch. Big mistake. 

We had one of the worst lunches I can remember: lasagna, cabbage, carrots, garlic dough balls and chips. I don't know why I let Bill lead me into these things. He walks and runs for miles and miles and I do not. Men burn more calories than women. I'm mostly sedentary with bursts of enthusiasm followed by long periods of recovery. In preparing for our return journey he did ask me to 'save' him from the lasagna so, thankfully, we didn't repeat that experience. 

Not the church we were looking for.

Anyhow, we landed at Larne and drove to Ahoghill, just the other side of Ballymena. (We have Ballymena to thank for actor Liam Neeson; and apparently for John Wayne too, as his great-great grandfather emigrated from there in 1801). 

I noticed there are loads of Irish place names that start with 'Bally' names. I was wondering about the old fashioned slang 'bally', a euphymism for the British swear word 'bloody'. Bill wondered about it being form of 'bailey' which is the outer wall of a castle. However, according to this website, bally is Irish for 'place of'... and Ballymena is the 'middle town' or something. Anyhow, it was Ahogill I was interested to see, it being the place where some of my great-great grandparents married, there in County Antrim. They also emigrated to Dalry in Scotland. 

Ahoghill is not pronounced 'a hog hill' but aaHOGle, like this. I will probably always fondly mis-pronounce it, but I thought it only polite to know better in front of the natives.  Apparently this word has something to do with Yew Trees and the town itself has decided it was the "Ford of the Yew Trees" - or a shallow place in a river near some yews. And I'm guessing it would be the River Maine. 

We looked all over for the Catholic church, but it was nowhere to be found, not even on Church Road. I should have written down the address more carefully, but I was focusing on a different branch of the family over in Donegal for this trip. My main impression of Ahoghill was how prosperous it looked and how many new-looking houses there were. Clearly the English town planning system (rows of identical houses all facing the same way) doesn't take precedence in Northern Ireland and it was much more attractive for it.

They paint the sheep to keep track of the mating programme.

I was generally pleased with what I was seeing, but it didn't feel right: the sun was shining and that makes everything different. I'm used to seeing Ireland greener than green under grey skies. That blue seemed a bit off, but the temperature was a very pleasing 80-something and I wasn't going to complain about not being wet and cold!

I merrily snapped photos to prove that the sun does shine in Ireland and to document our trip. I took several of road signs highlighting 'Ahoghill' but I'll spare you those. We were across County Antrim and the next one (Derry or Londonderry, depending upon your politics; I'll just call it the middle county).

I recognized this church from the book I read earlier this year An Historical, Environmental and Cultural Atlas of County Donegal. (Yes, I did read it and thoroughly enjoyed it). Not to my taste but folks around there seem to like it, which is what matters.

Then we found ourselves in a different kind of terrain and I began to understand how the west part of Donegal is so different to the east. 

I noticed the difference on Google Earth when I linked to the ferry crossing yesterday. West Donegal isn't that green; it is more brown and grey, but with the bluest lakes I've ever seen. 

I'd read a whole Atlas about the place, but I was still astonished when I saw it for myself.

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