Along The Shore  

By: Patrick O`Sullivan

Search County Kerry

SOMETIMES I think of those who have never seen the sea, imagining their delight when they see it for the very first time.

Such thoughts came to me again when we went for a walk by the sea on a bright autumnal day, the sweep of the sky overhead the wildest of blues imaginable.

The sea was gleaming and shining and dazzling with light its greens and blues shimmering in every part. It had a kind of gentleness about it then, a kind of serenity too, the waves linear, shimmering still breaking softly on the shore. 

We stood and listened a while, the low breath of ocean sonorous still in its way.    The huge tides of recent days had thrown up great masses of oarweed and thongweed, the latter strewn along the shore for a little part of the way. 

Then the sand was swept smooth and compact, and patterned with wavy lines, vivid reminders of the constant ebb and flow of the tide. These wavy lines on the sand were very much the artwork of the sea, emblematic as they were of its power and beauty and restless motion too.

There were shells glistening here and there, the dark blue of mussel shells, the rounded shells of the cockle a line of gulls hugging the glistening wave.

Our two dogs, two black Labradors, loved the freedom of the sands, the long deserted shore stretching endlessly before them. It was the kind of day that summer might have imagined, or wished for, or longed for, or even envied: the sun in hiding so long resplendent again in the sky. 

We came to an old old fishing boat buried in the sand, its outlines barely visible still, its wave washed timbers sinking deeper and deeper into the shore. It had a strange kind of poignancy about it, the fishing boat locked in the sand never to ride the waves again, never to feel its restless swell beneath it in the long, long days of summer. 

And still the waves came gently towards the shore. glistening in lines as they rolled from the far horizon, the mountains etched in graphic detail against the backdrop of the sky so that it seemed possible to pick out every nook and cranny and crevice then. 

Here and there is a spit. An elongated hooked strip of sand projecting from the shore. It was on this coast that so many elegant sailing ships of the eighteenth century met their fate, driven as they were by the power of the wind and wrecked on the waiting sands.

They were merchant or trading ships, plying their trade with the West Indies, their handsome masts and sails giving them an elegance all of their own.

At the end of the spit stands an old stone tower, the remnants of a beacon, another vivid reminder of the heads days of the sailing ships and their crews. 

There is a wonderful sense of history about the beacon, it is as if the stones, the very stones Themselves, are imbued with something of the drama and romance of the past, so that it would he easy to imagine the sailing ships go by in all their beauty and splendour. 

It is here too that the sound of Tonn Toime, one of the three great waves of Ireland is heard. Its booming roar echoing far and wide. We came across the ripples, the movement of fish in the pools and lagoons along the back strand, though what kind of fish they were we could not say. 

The gulls soared overhead sometimes catching the updrafts of air and making the most of them. There was something majestic about them then something wild elemental too, as if they were meant for the sea and it was meant for them. 

There were treasures too in the sand dunes when we went to explore them a while: a variety of centaury— a delicate plant with slender stems

pink flowers and narrow glossy leaves — generous clumps of spurge and sprays of yellow toadflax. It was like an adventure being in the sand dunes,

looking at the flowers and the larks, the latter sometimes rising skywards here and there It was lovely to see them, set as they were against the blue of the sky.


On our way back along the shore, I could not resist the impulse to gather a few shells and put them in my pockets mementoes of a wonderful day, a day by the sea in autumn.

Books By Patrick O`Sullivan:

The Magic of Irish Nature

Irish Women and Irish Migration (Irish World Wide)
Have You Found What You Are Looking For?