Did you manage to guess whose shadow we previously posted on Facebook from our 6 day Sojourn of South West Ireland tour? It was the great luminary of the silent screen, Charlie Chaplin.
In this blog, we take a look at why this, and other statues on the Ring of Kerry, are sculpted and sited here along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.
In common with many other nations, we Irish tend to have a penchant for statues. Of course, the vast majority are local heroes of history and mythology – or native sons and daughters who ‘done good’ in far flung lands. But, apart from such historic figures, recognition also tends to be given to visitors who make an impression on local or national communities.
Chaplin first visited Waterville, County Kerry, in 1959 and for the next ten years he returned annually with wife Oona O’Neill and their eight children. She, of course, was the daughter of Nobel Laureate and multi-Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Eugene O’ Neill, whose father hailed from County Kilkenny. It is said that Chaplin was enamoured with the fishing and veritable anonymity that Waterville afforded. He also claimed to be the grandson of an Irish gypsy.
The Irishman who Discovered America before Columbus
This simple but evocative monument to St. Brendan the Navigator and his crew, is also located on the Ring of Kerry.
Brendan was a native of Kerry and (we in Ireland reckon), was the man who discovered America long before Columbus. Most (non-Irish) tend to debunk this as being typical Irish guff and blarney, i.e., never let the truth get in the way of a good story! However, in the mid-1970s English explorer, the late Tim Severin, proved it could have been done.
Using a boat built with materials and technology from ancient times, he and his small crew set sail from Brandon Creek, near Dingle in Co. Kerry. Having wintered in Iceland, they reached North America when they landed at Peckford Island, Newfoundland in Canada, some thirteen months later.
St. Brendan is the patron saint of navigators and a stained glass window dedicated to him is sited in St. Andrew’s Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. You too can capture this image on our Anam Croí Ireland Tours 6 Day Sojourn of South West Ireland tour. In the meantime, why not take the voyage by proxy and see just how tough it was on The Brendan Voyage .
American Golfing Royalty
Being afforded relative anonymity and that we Irish don’t seem to take celebrities too seriously is why another Waterville visitor finds himself immortalised by the Wild Atlantic Way.
Waterville is one of the top golf courses in Ireland, with similar qualities to many of the links courses on which The British Open is played. That most colourful of golfers, the late Payne Stewart, visited here in 1998 and ‘99 as part of his preparation for the Major tournament. The locals took him to their hearts and he fully reciprocated. He not only sang and played the harmonica in local hostelries, but even got behind the bar to pull pints! His statue stands overlooking the course, having been unveiled by his widow Tracey, at a ceremony attended by many of the world’s top golfers, including Tiger Woods.
“An Ordinary Man who did so many Extraordinary Things”
Staying in Kerry, we turn to one our own. Despite having been part of no less than three Antarctic expeditions, including the ill-fated race to the pole by Scott, Tom Crean was relatively unknown outside of his own village and county for decades.
Thankfully, that has now been rectified and the ‘ordinary man who did so many extraordinary things’ is now rightly honoured with this bronze statue that captures his qualities. On our 6 day Sojourn of the South West, we take lunch in the South Pole Inn, the pub he established. It’s a place where the walls are festooned with photographs of many of his Antarctic adventures – so jaw-dropping that it’s difficult to eat with one’s mouth closed!
A Presidential Wave from the Ancestral Homestead
Finally, on the main artery to the south and south west from Dublin, stands another son of Erin, waving cheerily with his First Lady wife to passers-by. Yes, you read it right, for President Barack Obama once briefly visited the parish of his great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney, who emigrated in 1850. The Obamas stayed just long enough to have a pint of Guinness in the local pub and meet relatives. Give him a wave on our 6 day Sojourn of the South West tour!