It looks like good weather for the holiday weekend in Ireland. Time for breaks and trips. I like to link text and place when travelling. As I’m heading off to County Mayo, I thought I would pull together – in a fairly random way – some of my favourite texts linked to some wonderful Mayo places. So here they are – the texts and the places:
Heinrich Boll’s Irish Journal: Head to Achill Island’s Deserted Village and read Boll’s account of how he came upon this ‘skeleton of a human habitation’ that nobody had mentioned to him and where ‘the elements have eaten away everything not made of stone’. There’s a new edition of Irish Journal out with a fine Introduction by Hugo Hamilton.
J. M. Synge Travelling Ireland: Take this book to Erris and read the essays Synge wrote when he visited there in 1905 with Jack Yeats – travelling by long car from Ballina to Belmullet. This edition of the essays – edited by Nicholas Greene, with fine illustrations – was published in 2009.
Paul Henry’s An Irish Portrait: Take a boat from Blacksod to the deserted Inishkea Islands off the Mullet Peninsula where Henry travelled while a visitor to Achill in the early nineteenth century and wrote a graphic account of the whaling station. Paul Henry’s book is out of print but is available in many libraries and can be purchased on-line.
Michael Viney, Wild Mayo: Take a journey through Mayo’s landscape and wildlife with this wonderful account packed with great illustrations from the writer/naturalist who lives in Thallabawn.
Michael Longley, A Hundred Doors: In his latest collection the Northern Ireland poet brings a fresh perspective to the place he has long frequented – the Mayo townland of Carrigskeewaun: ‘Where sand from the white strand and the burial ground / Blows in.’
Graham Greene, The End Of The Affair: It is sixty years since this book was first published. Inspired by the affair Greene had with Catherine Walston, the cottage they occasionally shared still stands in Dooagh, Achill at the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
I would love to hear stories of other texts linked to favourite Mayo places.
‘A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.’ This is how Graham Greene started his novel The End of the Affair – a book that was published sixty years ago, in 1951.
The event was marked in Achill this weekend at the Heinrich Boll Memorial Weekend where visitors could view the house in Dooagh, at the Atlantic’s edge, where Graham Greene and Catherine Walston carried on the affair that inspired the novel.
William Cash, author of The Third Woman: The Secret Passion that Inspired The End of The Affair was a guest speaker and fascinated the audience with excerpts from a taped interview with Vivien Greene, the author’s former wife, as she popped open a bottle of champagne. William Cash spoke on the evening of the day that Prince William married Kate Middleton in Westminster Cathedral. Intriguingly, he said, it was on the day of Elizabeth’s wedding to Philip in 1947 that Graham Greene told Vivien that he was leaving her for Catherine Walston.
The moment Greene choose to start his story was ‘that black wet January night on the Common,’ when he met Henry Miles, his lover’s husband. It is also the moment that Neil Jordan choose as the starting point for his film adaptation of The End of the Affair. We were treated to the movie in the Cyril Gray Memorial Hall, Dugort, at the foot of Slievemore – Achill’s Black Mountain.