Monday, 3 June 2013

Poetic hints of summer at
Bettystown and Laytown

‘White Tintoretto clouds’ above the long stretch of beach at Bettystown and Laytown, Co Meath this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

Summer has arrived at last ... well, at least on the east coast of Ireland. While summer is meaningless in the Czech Republic and other parts of Central Europe, temperatures reached 20 in many parts around Dublin.

Summer weather has been such a rare experience in this area for the past year that It was an opportunity not to be missed. Today is what we call a ‘Bank Holiday’ in Ireland – although it appears the banks in Ireland have had one lengthy holiday at the the expense of the people ... and for far too long.

Today was a day not to let the bankers have the only holiday at our expense. By early afternoon, two of us were on our way to the expansive beaches of Bettystown and Laytown on the ‘Gold Coast’ of Co Meath.

We turned off the old Dublin-Drogheda road at Piltown, and briefly visited Reilig Mhuire, where there is an interesting arrangement of the graves in concentric circles. In the cool shade of the trees, bells and windchimes and small bells were chiming gently, and at the end of the cemetery stands a modern high cross carved in imitation of ancient Irish styles.

A poetic reminder of Kazantzakis on a grave in Reilig Mhuire in Piltown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

On my way out, I noticed in small letters at the bottom of one gravestone, almost invisible in the shade, an unusual inscription in small letters:

I hope for nothing,
I fear nothing,
I am free.


This is the epitaph of the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, inscribed on his grave in Crete on the wall of the bastion surrounding Iraklion, close to the Chania Gate. The original epitaph reads:

Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα.
Δε φοβάμαι τίποτα.
Είμαι λέφτερος.


The same are words are on one of my favourite T-shirts from Crete. But this afternoon I also recalled the prayer by Kazantzakis in Report to Greco:

Three kinds of souls, three prayers:
1) I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.
2) Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.
3) Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break.


We continued on past the Village Hotel, which I see is up for sale, and down to the beach at Bettystown. The tide was out giving extra measure to this lengthy expanse of sand, a slight south-easterly breeze was blowing up a little dusting of sand, families were revelling in the warm sunshine and two donkeys were offering donkey rides.

The Mountains of Mourne could be picked out in blue relief to the north of the beach at Laytown and Bettystown this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

To the north, we could just pick out the Mourne Mountains, appearing as blue as the sky above which was bedecked here and there with what the poet Louis MacNeice described in his poem The Strand as ‘White Tintoretto clouds.’

In Relish, we were given a table by a bay window where we had a late lunch that lingered a little longer than we expected. Small clusters of people on the terrace outside were enjoying the sunshine, while below the sandbank we could see the family gatherings below on the beach.

A white-washed, thatched cottage at the mouth of the River Inch in Laytown, Co Meath, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Some people were brave or foolish enough to roll up their trouser legs and try paddling in water that must still be cold – one or two were even brave enough to attempt going for a swim.

But why, oh why, does Meath Country Council persist in destroying this beautiful beach by allowing people to bring their cars on to beach, leaking oil, and with smart young men racing each other and doing fast turns?

Stepping down onto the beach at Laytown, Co Meath, late this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

A little further south, we stopped again briefly at Laytown for another beach walk. It was almost 5.30, but it was still sunny and warm, and the Mourne Mountains could still be picked out in the distance.

On the way back we stopped again at Portrane, and gazed down at Tower Bay Beach and out to Lambay Island. As they say, isn’t there a grand stretch in the evenings?

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