Thursday, 8 February 2018
Anois teacht an Earraigh …
Spring arrives in Askeaton
There is a snap of bitter cold weather across the country, with snow in many places and low temperatures that have dropped below zero at night time.
But weather like this also has its beauties and its benefits. Some nights this week, the sky has been clear with few clouds. Over the past year I have rediscovered the joys of living in area where low light pollution opens up a night sky full of stars, and again I am reminding myself of the pleasures that could come from learning the names of the stars and the constellations.
Despite the cold weather and occasional rain, during my walks through Askeaton this week, by the banks of the River Deel and out into the countryside, I have realised that Spring has already arrived. I am still wrapping up warmly against the biting cold and the occasional rain showers, but the flowers are beginning to burst through the soil, and daffodils are bursting through on the roadsides.
Irish people traditionally date Spring from Saint Brigid’s Day, which fell a week ago [1 February].
This tradition has been handed on in Ireland to everyone who learned at school how the blind Gaelic poet and bard from Galway, Antoine Ó Raifteirí (1784-1835), wrote in his poem Cill Aodáin:
Anois teacht an Earraigh
beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh,
Is tar eis na féil Bríde
ardóigh mé mo sheol.
Go Coillte Mach rachad
ní stopfaidh me choíche
Go seasfaidh mé síos
i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo.
Now with the springtime
the days will grow longer
and after Saint Brigid’s day
my sail I’ll let go.
I put my mind to it,
and I never will linger
’til I find myself back
in mid County Mayo.
Once February begins in Ireland, people enjoy saying things like, ‘There’s a grand stretch in the evenings.’
But, despite the poetry, despite the longer evenings, and despite the daffodils, it is still cold on these daily country walks in Askeaton, and occasionally rainy. Has Spring truly arrived?
Conor Farrell, who studied physics with astronomy at Dublin City University, works with Astronomy Ireland. He wrote for the Journal some years ago:
‘If you’re a meteorologist, Spring begins on 1 March. If you’re an astronomer, it’s 1 February (or a week-ish later if you’re particularly pedantic). I’m an astronomer, so I have no doubt that spring has well and truly sprung and the lambs are frolicking in the fields as we speak. Ahem.’
So, if I am going to be particularly pedantic astronomically, although I still have to learn the names of those stars and constellations, then a week after 1 February and Saint Brigid’s Day, Spring has arrived in Askeaton.