McCarthy's Bar | Pete McCarthy

A collection of interesting thoughts, quotes, and facts from the book McCarthy's Bar (reviewed here):
  • "I can't see that a pint or two during the day is a sign of moral turpitude, especially far from home." (pg 61)
  • (Quoted from Wibberley) "Parliament in London voted £100,000 to famine relief, in the same year that it gave £200,000 to the beautification of Battersea Park. 'Anyone who knows Battersea Park' he observes, 'will quickly admit that such a sum was totally inadequate for the purpose'." McCarthy finds solace in Wibberley's bleak humour re: the potato famine, in which 1 million starved to death and a further 1 million became refugees to America and other colonies, whilst standing in the famine pit near Skibbereen with an estimated 9,000 bodies were found.
  • Bantry Bay, in Glengariff, is meant to have the best climate in Ireland and appears to be generally exceedingly beautiful. Probably worth a visit someday. (pg 112)
  • "One of the most distinctive qualities of the English landscape is that over the centuries virtually every acre has been designed. The hand of man is everywhere, and you either like it or you don't. But here, in the elemental west of Ireland, a manicured and cultivated oil painting is the last thing I want to be walking around in." McCarthy's thoughts on Muckross and an excellent quote on how I feel RE: the English landscape. (pg 166)
  • "Clearly corruption on a massive scale must be involved if someone is flying bottles of water from Canada to the wettest country in the world and still making a profit." Thoughts on bottled water, yet another thing we agree on. (pg 195)
  • The journey from Dingle to Slea Hea (via Ventry Harbour) is renowned for its beauty and is frequently described as "mythological". Another for the bucket list. (pg 196)
  • McCarthy has a discussion with a landlord on Galway that involves the details of the mayor in 1493: James Lynch FitzStephen. He hosted a Spanish lad as thanks for his own accommodation on a business trip to Spain, whom his own son murdered over a woman. James then tried his son, found him guilty and, when he couldn't find an executioner to do the deed due to the boy's popularity, hung him himself from the upper window of their house. McCarthy's landlady was uncertain if this is where lynching comes from; Wikipedia feels that it's very unlikely and classes the event as near myth, though the term does appear to come from an American family name... (pg 234)
  • "Inishmore has no native soil to speak of; what you see is a vintage blend of sand and seaweed, created by the Islanders themselves over countless generations. Inches, or feet, below the topsoil, depending on the age of the garden, lie virgin sand and stone." (pg 242)
  • "I pass a pub... with dozens of hyperactive chickens and cockerels swarming outside, like bewitched drinkers who are paying the price for offending the local sorcerer last night." 😂 (pg 243)
  • "On either side of the road, tiny postage stamp fields stretch off into the distance, divided up by more dry stone walls than I've ever seen in my life. At some point in the past, these stones were picked from the ground to create the fields. The plots are so small, and the walls so numerous, because of the poverty, and also because you didn't want to be carrying them far. If you'd made big fields, the walls would have been about forty feet high." On Inishmore. (pg 244)
  • "Long before the Celts came to Ireland in the fourth century BC the country was occupied by tribes of obscure origin, who have now taken on near-mythical status. Until about 1000 BC, a small dark race called the Fir Bolg held sway; but then they were swept aside by the Tuatha de Danaan, a fair-skinned people who were also reputed to be powerful magicians. The decisive battle – the first ever recorded in the history of the country – was fought at Moytura, on the edge of the present-day village of Cong." Of course, there are standing stones and stone circles here, which McCarthy visits. He goes on: "The archaeologists and mystics who are still arguing over what stone circles are for could perhaps take heed of the explanation given by the ancient bards. The Fir Bolg's star warrior was Balor of the Evil Eye, a three-eyed giant who used his extra one to turn opponents to dust. This is the kind of thing you'd want to take into account when you were working out your game plan the night before the battle. According to the bards, the de Danaan's tactic was to erect these stones and paint warriors on them; so when Balor gave them the evil eye, and they didn't disintegrate but, rock-like, stood their ground, he presumed he'd lost his power, and left the battlefield in disgrace. The Fir Bolg then found themselves on the wrong end of a fearful drubbing." (pg 267-268)
  • Nearby to the battle of the Fir Bolg is an enormous stone cairn. The legend behind it is that it was made on the first day of the battle. Every Fir Bolg had to bring their king the head of an enemy and a stone, which were piled into the cairn. "If true, it makes you wonder how they lost". Apparently there are five such cairns across the ancient battlefield, purported to mark entrances to underground passage and a cremation pit. Further down the road sits the Long Stone, the supposed grave of Lu of the Long Hand, son of the de Danaan king, who was killed in the battle (again, how did the Fir Bolg lose?). (pg 269)
  • "The Tuatha de Danaan may have won the day at Moytura, but they in turn were defeated by the invading Celts. When they knew the game was up, it's said that they used their magical powers to turn themselves into the little people of Irish legend, and flee underground. The area around Cong is honeycombed with the caves and underground passages into which they disappeared." There's even a field nearby where the fae-folk are supposed to still feast the victory over the Fir Bolg. (pg 270)
  • "I think everyone has an inner voice, and we can all learn to listen to it. You don't need to analyse where it comes from, but you can attune yourself to it. If you can learn to follow it, it will lead to fulfilment." (pg 371)
  • Celtic monks would wander around Europe once they'd completed their training, searching for a place that spoke to them. They never knew precisely what they were looking for, but roamed until they found it, then settled and made their community where they did. They called this practice "seeking their place of resurrection" as they felt this sense of belonging proved that this was the "spot in the firmament that would one day lead them to heaven". (pg 371)

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  • A collection of interesting thoughts, quotes, and facts from the book <em>McCarthy's Bar</em> (reviewed here):"I can't see that a pint or two during the day is a sign of moral […]
  • Murray Adcock.
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