Old collections

Today we took the road up the east coast back north towards Dublin, calling in to see the beautiful gardens and amazing plants at Mount Usher near Wicklow. We walked the wonderful tree trail admiring old exotic specimens from around the world. What a collection of ancient unusual trees, with beautiful barks, strange leaves and flowers, lovingly planted and nurtured by generations of gardeners.

Then it was on to visit my father’s cousin Averil. We had met a few times in our lives before, but we had never visited her in Ireland. What wonderful warm hospitality! And we explored a collection of a different kind with her. Old photographs and letters from my great Auntie Birdie, showing the faces and families of my great grandparents and many others from past generations. What a treasure trove. We poured over it, trying to identify people and events from the past and talked till the small hours.

Whether it is trees, plants, photographs or letters, old collections can be such an amazing source of wonder and knowledge. Thank you to all those who have looked after them for us. Now we must continue the work…

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Waterford day

Today we explored more of Waterford. The Reginald tower and replica Viking ship on the Quay give clues to its ancient origins. Waterford has always been a very important port because of its position on the sea inlet, and a city since the times of the Vikings and Normans – it is regarded as the oldest city in Ireland. The medieval treasures in the museum offered a feast of embroidery, real gold thread on heavy red velvet, the episcopal capes which survived attack and seige.

Visiting the Bishops Palace gave us an insight into the life and industry of Waterford under the Georgian period. It was a time  of amazing exapansion, invention and industrialisation, and much beautiful architecture. Many of the entrepreneurs were Quakers. Two Penrose brothers started Waterford Crystal, the Malcomsons built the first ‘model’ village at Portlaw to house their mill workers, and they built ships too atvthe Neptune ironworks. There are Penroses and Malcomsons in my family tree.

My 3x great grandfather Thomas Jackson was born here in 1807 and grew up in the Quaker community. He grew up to be a prestigious architect in Belfast, and I would not be surprised if he was inspired by all the new beautiful buildings around him, and the spirit of enterprise amongst the Quakers.  In Waterford two cathedrals were newly built, both the catholic and the Protestant cathedrals built by the same architect, John Roberts, after whom a central square of the city is named.

We found the original Quaker Meeting house, now used as an arts centre, but still with a curving staircase and big windows. In 1798 the Quakers started a school which thrives to this day at Newtown, where their current Meeting house is.

We finished an interesting day with a drive to the coast south of Waterford, where we had tea at Dunmore East, overlooking  the oldest working lighthouse in the world at Hook Point, and then enjoyed the late afternoon light on the rocks of the Copper coast beyond Tramore.

People from the past, those who left, and those who stayed.

Today we drove further south from Kilkenny to the ancient Cistercian abbey at Jerpoint, founded in 1158.

Now ruined but with a wonderful array of ancient carvings, with some very quirky characters. I wondered who they all were, and whatever their lives were like.

Then we drove on, along almost deserted country roads, following the river Barrow down stream through a wide wooded valley, to the riverside port of New Ross. A reconstruction of one of the “famine” ships which took thousands of emigrants from a Ireland to America is docked there. We took a tour around it. I found it distressing to think of the extreme hardship so many suffered on the journey to a new life. Many never got there. Some of my ancestors emigrated to the New World in years before the famine. I can only hope the designated passenger ships they traveled on offered better conditions, but I guess not much better.

A famous family who went out to America was the Kennedy family. President JF Kennedy returned to the place of his ancestors and the memorial to his visit is on the quay at New Ross.IMG_5842

And three generations of my own family lived in New Ross, the Elly family, of which I shall write more on my family history blog at some point. In the meantime we finished our day near the ancient town of Waterford where we stayed in an old country house, and enjoyed supper in a very traditional Irish pub.

On the road in Ireland again…

Three years on from a previous trip to Ireland we are back on the trail of my ancestors. My grandmother was a Haughton, and although she grew up in Birkenhead her father Thomas Haughton was born in the small town of Athy, south of Dublin in County Kildare, on the banks of the river Barrow and on the Grand canal. His father and grandfather owned the corn mill at Ardreigh, just down river from the town.

Then we drove on further south to Carlow, a town also on the banks of the river Barrow. The castle withstood several sieges but is now in ruins. However I was in search of more Haughtons and I found the house of Samuel Haughton, a several times over great uncle?? He was a prestigious academic.

The Greeves side of my family also had links with Carlow. My 4x great aunt Mary Greeves married Daniel O’Brien and lived here among the Quaker community. Her sister Anne Greeves married Daniel’s brother William. William and Anne O’Brien did not stay in Carlow, emigrating to America around 1818. But there are obviously descendants of the O’Briens still around this area judging by the shop fronts I saw.

We spent our first night in Ireland in the ancient town of Kilkenny. This is the castle, not our hotel! IMG_5821.JPG

Enough for now…

Sometimes in a process I need to know when to stop.

So this is an update on my trunk restoration, and I think I have done enough for now. The quilt panels are complete and I have glued them to the trunk lid. The fitting is not precise, but it is good enough.

I have painted the body of the trunk in a dull brown. I was trying to emulate the colour of old leather, but in a matt finish. After two coats it was still slightly streaky and I was intending to do a third. But as it dried it took on an almost wood grain effect so I decided to leave it like that.

At some point I need to make some handles to fit the metal fixings on each side, but that can wait. With the addition of two glass worktop protectors which fit exactly (well almost) I think it now serves its purpose – a repository for all my notebooks and sketches, and a reasonable coffee table!

Process moving again…

Nearly three years ago I started a process to restore an old trunk which had been in our attic for years.
https://weaversjournal.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/restoration-process/
Battered and dirty it was not good for much, so I set about painting it and re-lining it. I also managed to recreate a drop in drawer for the inside and finished the interior.

And then everything stopped, and it has been sitting in my conservatory, half painted ever since. This week I had tea with a friend who I hadn’t seen for months. She asked me how my trunk was going. Trunk? I realised it had been forgotten…

But I had been accumulating materials for possible solutions to the outside refurbishment. So spurred on by my friend’s enquiry I started work again. I had been collecting fabrics with a theme of writing and creativity for a while. After some long consideration I decided that collaged and quilted panels using some of my fabric stash would work best to cover the lid, as the trunk will hopefully be a repository for some of my written and textile creations. Selecting appropriate words was quite challenging, given the bitty nature of the fabric. And making the panels the right size and shape was tricky, but I am now creating the last piece.
Some days of torrential rain, followed by an unseasonable head cold has meant I have been largely confined to the house for a few days. I was feeling irritable and frustrated at myself as well as the weather. But frustration was eased by the activity – my head and sinuses may still be blocked, but I feel the process of trunk restoration is moving again…
Still a way to go, I’m determined it won’t be another three years before it’s finished!

Generalising July

Listening to “meet the author” on the Today programme radio four this morning, I was amused at the comment. “you can’t just write about real life, it would be too boring”. It’s true of course, the novels we read are shaped and edited, time is speeded and slowed, the focus is narrowed and widened, but repetitive routines of life are missed out to focus on action and plot.

Today in my real life the rain has fallen nearly all day, and the tomatoes I picked in the rain were muddy and wet. Not much action there.

An online course on reading novels I have been dipping into was suggesting how sometimes these routines and rhythms of life can still be described even in the best plot time line. A moment when the essence of a season, or regular event, can be captured. The description is not of a particular summer, but all summers, not just one family breakfast time, but all…

Generalising and condensing recurring moments into one description can provide the underlying rhythm of story.

So rather than try and invent some action I looked back on my July posts and photos since I started writing this online journal, to find the general themes

July skies, grey, heavy rain,

widening to cloudless blue,

July roads, stone walled in Yorkshire dales,

high mountain views in British Columbia.

July books for holiday reading,

pen meets paper healing through writing,

July fruits, red, ripe for jamming,

stirring creativity, stitching textiles.