Two horses' ears for blarney, , and another Ireland comes forth
THAT'S a lot of blarney, well maybe there's a little embroidery here and there, but then in Co Cork you have to make allowances, for it is where Blarney Castle stands and where the tourists kiss the Blarney Stone; the natives have no need for it! Driving north from Blarney, which is just outside Cork City, towards Limerick you come to Mallow. Mallow Castle was the first Deer Park in Munster to which it is said that in 1597 Queen Elizabeth I sent two fallow bucks. It was these deer parks which provided venison for the table and gave sport to the landlord and his guests.
If you fancy staying in the area, exploring the history, enjoying the scenery and listening to a little blarney you couldn't do better than to stay at Springfort Hall.
The dog brings me to my favourite subject. Tourism today is a very competitive business. Every country tries to offer something more, or better or cheaper — the sun, sea, fishing, mountains and quite a bit of blarney is attached to all that! However, dog owners, and how many millions are there in Britain, have either to find a willing relative or friends to look after their four-legged friend or put him or her in the kennels if they want to go "abroad". Ireland, as far as British visitors are concerned, is unique and very few seem to know that you can take your "friend" to Ireland and back without quarantine. There are no restrictions. When you arrive at the port of entry you are simply asked for details.
Ireland, like Britain, is free from rabies.
You can leave your dog in the car on the ferry (remember to leave the windows open sufficiently to let fresh air circulate) and in the familiar surrounding the dogs happily sleep during the crossing. There are kennels available on the ships, but they leave a lot to be desired if your dog is used to more luxurious quarters. Both B + I and Sealink have the same arrangement as far as dogs are concerned and the charge for the extra "passenger" is fairly nominal.
To return to the home of our kindly St Bernard, Springfort Hall, where Mrs Eileen Walsh will be your hostess. You continue from Mallow, north on the Limerick road for two or three miles and you will see a sign for Springfort Hall at Two Pot House (that is not blarney but I don't know how it got its name) you turn right and a mile or so up the road on your right is Springfort Hall; the address reads — Springfort Hall, Mallow, Co Cork.
A few miles north of Mallow and Two Pot House lies Buttevant, which was once an ancient walled city, where legend abounds. Kilclousha is "the Wood of Ears". It is said that the local Chief Labhrai Laoinseach had horses ears, but no one knew of them because he had all his barbers killed once they had cut his hair and had seen his horses ears.
But the Chief had compassion on one such barber and swore him to secrecy. However, the strain was too much and he-told the secret to a tree in the nearby woods. Years later the tree was cut down and a musical instrument made from it. When it was played out came the words: "Two horse ears for Labhrai Laoinseach." Buttevant is a Norman town. The De Barras who came to it in the 13th century brought with them the Franciscans and Augustinians. They were followed in the 14th century by the Pope's tax gatherers, the Lombards.
On July 12 each year Buttevant is the scene of the great Cahirmee Horse Fair. There you can see as many as 300 horses for sale in the main street of the town. It totally immobilises traffic between the City of Cork and Limerick on that day. It is also not an occasion to walk a dog through Buttevant, but it is a most colourful spectacle.
About six miles east of Buttevant lies Doneraile Park, a most beautiful estate open to the public. If you go there on a week day, when it is quiet, you have it almost to yourself and you can take your four-legged friend! The river and the ponds are the habitat of swans, ducks, moorhens and herons. The St Ledger family (another local link with horses and the famous race of that name) were granted The Black Letter Patent of Doneraile Estate in 1639 and they enjoyed possession of the house and grounds until 1969 when the Department of Lands took over.
In 1712, Elizabeth St Ledger, the first Viscount's daughter, is said to have eaves-dropped on a meeting of her father's masonic lodge in the library. To preserve the secrecy she was made to take the --masonic vows and she became one of only three women freemasons in history. I wonder how many members at the Church of England Synod who are to discuss freemasonry know that . . . or is it just another bit of blarney?!