All posts by richard

  • Beach

    A Sunday morning walk in Myrtleville, Co. Cork.

    Although my knowledge of physical geography is rather basic, I was taken in by the features of my coastal walk, which were shaped by the forces of the sea and weather meeting the rock and land. The toll of the numerous winter storms were evident even on this calm, bring Spring morning. The patterns of the deposited worn rocks, in successive shelves, crafted by the waves were especially impressive, as I walked along one such shelf about 1.5m above the waves breaking with a further shelf rising c.1m further up again.

    A beautiful example of a sea cliff

    A beautiful example of a sea cliff

    Different layers of deposition and erosion

    Different layers of deposition and erosion

    The pleasant waves appear a little off shore before coming in to meet the exposed rock, with slight splashes made. It is at this place, in these actions, that the sea and land meet. The back and forth of the waves creating a liminal layer between these two worlds.

    (Re)Sounding Emergence
    Recorded using my phone and the Soundcloud App, I capture some of the ambient waves followed by my own treading across two of the beach surfaces. The audio of my walking captures the interactions of my feet on the stones, with my prescence being felt in the very action of each impact. With only the sound as the evidence of this process, the beach and I have equal roles in creating these moments. When the feet are mid-stride, in air, they are absent, it is only when the surface and I come into to contact that we are made present, made be.

    For a superb exploration of coastal areas and experiences, see Anna Ryan’s Where Land Meets Sea: Coastal Explorations of Landscape, Representation and Spatial Experience

  • Recreating Leaba Phádraig

    ‘St Patrick’s Bed’ (Leaba Phádraig) stands on top of Croagh Patrick as a focal point of ritual activity as pilgrims round the feature repeated sets of prayers. Small votive offerings and donations are also left there. In developing, my attempts to materialise or ‘Lego’ my research, I’ve tried to recreate a scene of pilgrims circling and praying at the bed.

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  • Fog

    Tangible vapours of sky on earth which modulates perceptions with all made uncertain, close and distant.

    Light through moisture, glowing and fading. The approaching car, more approaching, stretch beyond itself.

    Blanketed, I am among it, making the familiar mysterious.


  • Lego Holy Well (1)

    Inspired the the great work of the good people at Follow the Things, I’ve attempted to use Lego to convey aspects of my research. It is a type of materialisation of research, which will complement more standard visualisations in photos and video. These are the photos of my first attempt at this process, it is an imagined holy well been visited by two pilgrims. The well has a bee-hive structure and a rag tree beside it. As an imagine place, although with specific features, it can be several holy wells or no holy well. It is a sort of creative non-fiction.

    Two Pilgrims visiting a holy well.

    Two Pilgrims visiting a holy well.

    The well has a beehive structure over it.

    The well has a beehive structure over it.

    There is also a rag tree next to the well

    There is also a rag tree next to the well

    Check out the Follow the Things blog for more about their good work.

  • The Postbox: History, Nationalism and novelty

    Postboxes, once essential pieces of communications infrastructure which connected villages, crossroads and neighbourhoods to the rest of the world, are still noticeable features of landscapes and roadsides. Public postboxes in the Republic of Ireland, administered by the semi-state organisation An Post, are green. While more recent boxes tend to be more functional, older ones had distinct designs such as the hexagonal-sided Penfold or the familiar small box attached to a telegraph pole.

    VR for Victoria Regina 1837 - 1901

    VR for Victoria Regina 1837 – 1901 Greenmount Cork

    ER for Edward Rex 1901 - 1910

    ER for Edward Rex
    1901 – 1910 Douglas Cork

    Postboxes also have symbols, representative of the time of their production. Previous to the current An Post there was P&T (Dept. of Post and Telegraphs) and  Saorstát Eireann (Irish Freestate). However, there are even older boxes, still in use, which feature the royal insignia from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when all of the island of Ireland was part of the UK.  You can still find boxes with ER (Edwardus Rex) or VR  (Victoria Regina) which date from the period 1901 – 1910 and c.1850s-1901 (although Queen Victoria’s reign was 1837 – 1901, postboxes didn’t come to Ireland until at least the c.1850s) respectively. Although rather solid and simple devices, it still is marvelous, if not surprising, that they have survived so long. It is nice to consider the thousands of letters (with the intentions, news, connections and emotions they contained)  that would have passed through them.

    It is noteworthy that these very clear, albeit ordinary, symbols of the British Monarchy survived in places through times when such things were readily destroyed. While statues, flags and buildings were attacked for nationalistic reasons, these objects survived, possibly being saved because of their very ordinariness or usefulness. Also, when the majority of Ireland transitioned to becoming a Free State, these boxes did pose an issue; however, a rather straightforward, yet clever, and utterly Irish, solution was to paint the red British boxes green. This transformation has lasted for over ninety years. The symbol of British Monarchy, covered over by green paint can be a metaphor for so many features in the Irish state, from Primary Schools to Common Law.

    On your travels throughout Ireland, and even in your own neighbourhood, check the postbox, you may find an interesting piece of heritage, geography, symbolism and materiality. However, make sure you get there before 4.30pm .

    For more:

    Irish Postal History site

    An Post: History and Heritage: The Post Box

  • Excursion to ‘The City’ and Tubrid

    Last week Vickie Langan (artist, soundy person and all round lady) and I visited two holy wells, The City, near Rathmore, Kerry and Tubrid, Millstreet, Cork. Below are a number of photos, videos and audio recordings, punctuated with text, that came out of the excursion. I also have a post on Researching with your Smartphone, based on our previous excursion.

    This photo of the well, which was posted while we were on site, shows the cement structure along with a cup and glass. Unlike many other wells, the one at the City is not adorned with many votive offerings or extra materials. Like the site itself, it has a certain rawness. On a wind swept Tuesday in February, with the threat of serious rain, we had the places to ourselves.

    Using the Soundcloud App on my phone, I took several recordings of the cup in the water, you can hear me lifting it, submerging it, pouring out some water and replacing it. This simple activity is central to these wells.

    Vicky with her hydrophone, a superb piece of equipment for working with wells.

    The altar at Tubrid holy well, on the Rathmore side of Millstreet. The altar is sheltered by a structure with offerings, signs and memorial cards throughout.


    This short video of the candles on the altar indicate the recent visits by numerous people that day. Each one serving as an elemental remnant of a believer’s intentions and memories.

    The site is very well maintained, as is demonstrated by this rack made especially to hold the cups used to drink the water and the other structures. It is at this point, where the water bubbling up in the well flows out, that people collect and drink the water.


    Another recording using the SoundCloud App, of the water flowing.

  • St Brigid’s Crosses

    St Brigid’s Crosses are small hand-crafted crosses made from reeds or rushes (or sometimes straw) which are put up in houses on 1st February to mark the beginning of Spring. They have a distinct design with a woven square centre and four radials. Similar to many Irish religious-cultural traditions, they are a mix of Christian and Pagan, with St Brigid’s feast day coinciding with the Celtic feast of Imbolc and the design seeming to blend the Christian cross with Celtic themes. The cross is put over the door or in a place of significance in a house or farm shed. It is supposed to bring protection and is particularly associated with preventing fires.

    A St Brigid's Cross placed in the shrine at St Brigid's Well, Liscannor, Clare

    A St Brigid’s Cross placed in the shrine at St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Clare

    These crosses are very simple, yet beautiful objects. They are handmade every year – part of the tradition requires that the cross is replace annually, with the old ones being burned – in a continuing tradition, the result of centuries of belief and lore. They bring together the natural world, spiritual-religious beliefs, vernacular culture and the importance of the homestead.

    For more:

    Further reading of St Birgid’s Cross: St

    How to make your own: iCatholic (video) or Irish Peatland Conservation Council

    My own posts on St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Co. Clare

  • Social Geography: Street Harassment and Everyday Sexism

    Social geography considers how individuals and groups experience and use spaces. In particular, the everyday lives of people – how they move through the world, what they do where, who controls behaviours – are of interest.

    Social concepts, such as gender, class and ethnicity influence our everyday lives. Social geographers, therefore, pay attention to how these elements affect people and spaces. For example, think about how different people move through the city. Can everyone roam freely (as is the ideal in a modern free-society)? Or, are there barriers, both real and perceived? The redirecting of a traffic flow makes a road unsafe for children to play, an elderly person walks the long way around avoid a group of teenagers, a busker is moved along, a deaf person doesn’t go to the cinema because of a lack of subtitles.  All these show how space is used, misused and controlled by people, groups, ideas and institutions.

    The Everyday Sexism Project and Stop Street Harassment are two examples of social projects that demonstrate how gender continues to define how people use and experience the world. These projects catalogue and comment on the daily harassment that women, of all ages, but especially young women (very young in some cases), and LGBQTIA people experience in their everyday lives.

    A search through Twitter for #EverydaySexism or #StreetHarrassment will get a barrage of results that indicate the unpleasantness, aggravation and abuse that women suffer on a daily basis.

    • “”Hey baby, you need a ride? I’ll treat you nice” and then, “bitch, I asked you nicely” Why do I leave my house?”
    • “Being told you have to take precautions against men creeping in parking lot. How about security is provided instead?”
    • “Hate it when middle aged blokes in a van think it’s ok to beep at you as you’re crossing the road with your shopping”
    • “Bloke on the train just said ‘I’d love to have sex with you, love’”

    These are real examples of what people have to experience.  It is in all out interests to counteract and challenge these behaviours and circumstances when they arise. Projects and organisations such as these are doing amazing work at highlighting very real and troubling issues, which are very obviously of concern to us all, not just social geographers.

    #SHOUTINGBACK (Extended Version)

    Everyday Sexism: Laura Bates at TEDxCoventGardenWomen

  • Places, without people

    This photo was taken while all of the pilgrims were attending evening mass on Lough Derg. At this time, the Penitential Beds are devoid of people (except in this case myself). I began thinking about the nature of place without people. The Beds are usually a hive of activity, with people walking around, kneeling and praying; but, here they are still, quiet, deserted. This place now feels completely different, like walking city streets early in the morning or being in an empty sports stadium. While the structures and constructed elements remain, the character that living, moving humans give a place is absent. This changes the place, not necessarily making it less or more, just different.

    The Beds, Lough Derg

  • Cork Christmas: SHARE

    One of the most distinct aspects of Christmas in Cork is the presence of SHARE collectors throughout the city centre in the week leading up to Christmas Day (which, obviously from my point of view, creates unique geographies). SHARE (Students Harness Aid for the Relief of the Elderly) is a Cork-based charity which supports older people through housing, socialising and activities. It is a most excellent organisation that does a massive amount of work throughout the year. Also, it involves a special connection between older people and students in the city.

    The annual Christmas collection is one of the charity’s main fundraising initiatives. It is run by young volunteers, mainly 16 and 17 year olds from secondary schools across Cork city, with a core group organising the project since September and hundreds of volunteers who give up their time to collect during the hectic days of Christmas shopping.

    The SHARE Crib acts as a focal point for the week's activities.

    The SHARE Crib acts as a focal point for the week’s activities.

    The presence of collectors across the city centre, with their distinctive yellow jackets and vests, gives the city a unique feel in the lead up to Christmas. Although, other worthy organisations and causes may be collected for, during this week Cork is SHARE territory. Collectors can be found on every street corner, while some go on fasts and collect throughout the night. The sheer volume of volunteers, along with their enthusiasm, means it is in your own interest to support them and get a yellow sticker, which provides you with an ‘immunity’ from other collectors. In an age of chuggers, the earnestness of the collectors and transparency of the organistion ensure the support of the shoppers.

    The SHARE sticker, found on every coat for Cork people, leading up to Christmas.

    The SHARE sticker, found on every coat for Cork people, leading up to Christmas.

    The devotion and passion of the students, the local cause and the festive tradition combine to give SHARE a special status in the life of the city. The patterns of giving, the spread of volunteers, the shaking of the collection boxes, the meaning of the stickers, the Crib and the sentiments behind students helping the elderly, produce some of the geographies I feel compelled to mention!