If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here

Posted on: 6th July, 2015

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

Living in rural West Cork, you get pretty good at directions. Learning to give precise directions is important otherwise my visitors end up driving around and around for hours, passing Ballineen once every few goes until they are rescued by an understanding native. West Cork roads are sneaky. A road can wind along a full 360 degrees without you noticing. When you first move here, you’re continually lost — not to mention confused. In my first year in the village, no matter which point of the compass I was headed, if I got lost I would eventually end up in Lyre. That’s the way the roads go around here. In fact I might end up several times in Lyre even though each time I’d headed off in the opposite direction. The magical thing about West Cork roads is the way they can bring you back to exactly where you started from. In a spirit of adventure worthy of the great 19th century explorers, I once drove off from Timoleague in an attempt to navigate the ultimate back road home. After driving for 15 minutes I arrived right smack back in front of Charlie Madden’s pub where I’d been parked. Thankfully you do get better at it after a while. West Cork will turn you into a homing pigeon in a couple of years. It’s a survival skill. If you don’t acquire that boreen sixth sense, you could disappear altogether:

“Where’d Tina go? I haven’t seen her in ages.”

“I don’t know, last time I saw her she said she was taking the back road to Macroom!”

I’ve heard that if you’re very lost it’s the fault of the fairies. It seems that they love tricking people. You must get out of the car, turn your jacket inside out and put it back on again. Apparently the faeries find this so hilarious that they let you off. Of course, if you don’t believe in that sort of thing you could always just ask for directions. Mind you, in West Cork that can almost be as fanciful as asking the faeries.

The funny thing about asking for directions is that people in West Cork love to oblige, but they’ll always first answer with a shake of the head that indicates that they haven’t a clue where you want to go. After a few shakes, your guide will scratch the back of his neck with a look of intense concentration. Then he’ll bend down into the window and whisper in a conspiratory tone: “Well now, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.” This is actually a highly philosophical statement. A conundrum such as determining how many angels can dance on a pin head is as easy as counting how many cows there are in a field compared to a statement like: “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.” I’m sure that many of us would like not to be where we are when we set off to go somewhere – but we’d never envisioned the possibility of it being otherwise. What it actually means is that you are, indeed, very lost. You are so lost, in fact, that you need directions to get to a place where you can start to go to where-ever you wanted to go to. However, the prospect of not starting where you are can be somewhat daunting for someone used to: “Take the first left and turn right at the traffic lights.”

The actual giving of directions can become a saga of biblical proportions. This is mainly because it is important for people to tell you which way you shouldn’t go and there are a lot more ways not to go somewhere than there are ways to get there. People giving directions in West Cork take great pains to tell you in minute detail all the roads you shouldn’t take. They carefully describe landmarks you must totally ignore. “You’ll come up to a road that goes over a bridge and turns to the right before passing the church- you know the one? Take no notice!”

When calling on the telephone for directions the motto is: be prepared. You’ll need at least two sheets of A4 paper and a good pencil as you’ll have to write down a journey worthy of Ulysees with details including interesting geological features, well placed pubs, and treacherous bends in the road. I have often found myself driving slowly up a boreen trying to make sense of cryptic scribbles: “Take left at the rusty gate (red cloth). Windey bit about a mile,  Turn left at daffodils.”

I remember one of the first times I took directions on the phone. I was going to visit someone down past Skibbereen. The directions included looking out for a milk churn. They led me away from the main road down a tiny boreen that wound itself towards the sea. I read; “Turn left at the Ginger Cat.” I had written down the directions without a second thought, imagining that the Ginger Cat was a pub. The road climbed through a bleak landscape offset by the slate sea and lead sky. Up ahead I could see a tiny blue and white cottage that stuck out like a Christmas cake on the grey scenery. That must be it, I thought, scanning the building for a Murphy’s sign. Then as I came alongside the cottage, I saw a huge ginger cat sitting on the wall. Sure enough, after the cat was a little boreen to the left. I swear that cat winked as I drove by.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.

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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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