The Ring Of Summer

The Ring Of Summer, a story of The Ring of Kerry by Patrick O`Sullivan

AUNTY NORA wasn’t long home from America when

she proposed a trip around the Ring of Kerry. It was the mid-sixties then and Aunty Nora, just about sixty herself hadn’t been home on holidays for years.

A woman of great vitality and zest, she hit upon the idea of bringing not just the family around the Ring, but friends and neighbours too. 

After some discussion, a mini bus was decided upon, a mini bus to be hired from Flynn’s of Castlemaine and driven by none other than Jackie Flynn himself.

I can still remember the sense of delight, the sense of anticipation, that took hold of us then. We could hardly wait for the big day. It was like waiting for Christmas and birthdays and summer holidays all rolled into one, the longing so real, so palpable, we could almost taste it on our tongues.

I remember the twin coloured Volkswagen bus, cream below and green above, the very epitome of the sixties: the hens and the ducks in the yard as we left, my mother’s geraniums in full bloom. The sky as blue as we could have wished for, the candyfloss clouds like wishes too.

Jack’s grey mare was grazing in ‘the field at the bottom of the hill, the apples ripening in the orchard nearby, Jack himself at the gate to give us a friendly wave.

One of those who came with us was one of our older neighbours, Mary She had been in America in her youth and there was nothing she liked better than talking with Aunty Nora about people and places she had seen.

Mary was in her finery that day her little brooch set with crystals pinned to her dress at the neckline, her familiar dark straw hat on her head. Mary liked chiffon scarves, one of these draped about her neck for effect.

There were always swans on the Laune when we passed through Killorglin: everything about them strange, mysterious, beautiful, for though I was scarcely aware of it they fascinated me even then.

Killorgin, the gateway to the Ring, was, of course, well known to us, long-established shops such as Foleys and O’Reagans still thriving in Lower Bridge Street.

Beyond the town, everywhere around us the colours of summer, horses and donkeys grazing at their leisure in the rushy fields, every single one of them of a kind that might have graced many a postcard then.

Soon we came to the river Caragh, glittering and shining in the sun, the Reeks beyond like sentinels keeping watch. Aunty Nora never went anywhere without her camera, a simple little Kodak camera, that would surely seem so old-fashioned now but that was, in fact, the height of modernity then.

I remember we stopped to take pictures at Wynne s Castle beyond the village of Glenbeigh, the sheep on the incline all around Another stop at a vantage point overlooking the magnificent sweep far and away to the edge of the far horizon.

I remember all of the wayside flowers, the likes of meadowsweet and montbretia, the latter rippling in orange waves when the breeze went running through it. Nor would summer have been summer without the splendour of purple loosestrife in the damp and rushy places, the haycocks in the fields gathering the sun around them.

I don’t know if I knew the name of the loosestrife then. I think I didn’t, but what I did know was that it was gloriously wild and summery, part of the innocence and freedom of summer, part of the joy of being home.

We went into an old-fashioned shop somewhere and bought blackcurrant sweets and macaroon bars while the grownups bought things for themselves. I remember Aunty Nora buying postcards of scenes around the Ring. She would just have to send them to the kids in America: she knew that the kids would love them.

If it was a day of excitement and adventure for us then it was a day of reminiscence too for Aunty Nora and her friends. They talked of the cross road dances, the dancers keeping time with music under the spreading green of birch and more. 

They talked of the summer dances beside my grandfather’s house at the edge of the river, an old cement floor providing the perfect platform.

When we passed old railway bridge and arches, such as the viaduct at Gleesk, there was sure to be talk of the railway the comings and goings of the train, the emigrants with their cases sometimes tied up with string.

Aunty Nora though was not one to dwell on sadness. Rather, she believed in living life to the full. It was no great wonder then that our trip around the ring was the highlight of summer, keeping alive as it did the sense of community that was still so much part of life and living then.

Mary talked of it long after, recalling with pleasure some little detail, some little nuance that occurred to her again. Looking back it wasn’t just the Ring of Kerry we went around, it was the ring of friendship too, the ring of summer itself.

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