Marie Celeste in the Midlands

Dot writes: on the way back from Connemara we again planned to break the journey so as to allow Hugh to escape his car seat for a bit. This time I suggested Clonfert, a very small cathedral on a site associated with St Brendan, quite near Clonmacnoise but the other (western) side of the Shannon. It turned out Clonfert was rather harder to get to than Clonmacnoise.

After we’d been lurching around obscure Irish roads for 30 minutes or so since leaving the N6, we decided that before we reached Clonfert we really would need our lunch. We stopped in a town called Eyrecourt to see what we could find.

The square we parked in had large imposing houses, maybe warehouses once, along one side, but the windows were blank holes and the lintels cracked. Dad and I got out to walk back along the street and investigate, but our hearts were already sinking. There were a fair number of cars parked, but we were the only visible people. We’d spotted two pubs. One was shut. The other was open, but when I went in it was completely empty; there wasn’t even anyone behind the bar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a town so deserted.

We contemplated going to the Mace shop and buying sandwiches (possibly through an honesty box, given the way things seemed to work in Eyreourt), but we were all rather more hungry than that so we drove on to Banagher, which is a larger town and on a bridge over the Shannon. The sight of a smart marina full of expensive-looking white motorboats greeted us as we crossed the river, and there was also a big obvious inn called the Royal something-or-other, with a bright yellow bayed wall projecting towards the road and a beer garden behind a trellis. However, the ruined barracks on the other side of the bridge should have warned us. When we got closer to the pub we saw that the windows were thick with dirt, and under the front door there was a pile of unopened post several months deep.

In fact we did find somewhere to eat in Banagher: on the recommendation of some old men drinking in a pub that was (amazingly) open and inhabited, though not serving food, we went to a cheery sausage-and-beans cafe called Heidi’s. And then we went back to Clonfert, where the cathedral has a service every fifth Sunday and is full of bat droppings.

Carved doorway at Clonfert
Carved doorway at Clonfert

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