A New Year trip to Kinvara County Galway gave me the opportunity to explore some of the beautiful scenery around the Burren in County Clare. Our host brought us for a walk along the Flaggy Shore at New Quay. The final section of the loop gave us a good view of the limestone flag stones along the shoreline. Across the bay in the distance we could see Galway, Salthill and the Barna Road leading towards Spiddal. In the distance you could spot the martello tower at Finnevarra. But on this occasion we did not have time to visit the tower. After parking the car at the beach, walking westwards, we took a left hand turn and started a gently uphill ascent past Mount Vernon.
Checking the origin of the property on my return home I discovered the building was once the summer home of Lady Gregory of Coole Park and it has a place in Irish literary history. Among those entertained there were WB Yeats, AE (George Russell), Synge, O’Casey and George Bernard Shaw. It is now part of Hidden Ireland’s Historic Houses, offering upmarket accommodation and dining. There is a more recent literary connection. This stretch of shoreline was mentioned by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney in his poem Postscript (1996). He refers to a flock of swans at “a slate-grey lake” and sure enough when you walk over the hill and along the other side you come to Lough Murree. There as the path continues along the lough shore, a group of swans was busy ducking and diving at one end of the lake.
This is certainly a scenic spot but underneath the beauty there is also a story of a tragedy over 40 years ago that claimed the lives of nine schooldchildren. Looking at the short distance across the water from the harbour at New Quay to Aughinish Island it is hard to imagine so many casualties occurred here. But a more close look at the tide will reveal just how dangerous a spot this is, with currents from different directions meeting in the middle and clashing with each other. Here on June 29th 1969 nine schoolchildren lost their lives when a boat on its maiden voyage overturned in the choppy waters. The disaster was covered by Kerry photojournalist Padraig Kennelly and pictures of the search operation can be found in his archive.