Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Faceted Jewel

We now do our weekly shopping in a different town, a place that we had often passed through on our way to the counties of Clare and Galway. Early in January on the recommendation of a friend we visited Birr in Co. Offaly to use a different insurance broker, it was a good advice, for it saved us well over €200 on the annual car insurance.

On our walk along the main street we noticed that the townspeople were friendly and convivial by giving us, who were strangers to them, a nod and a "hello" as we passed them by. Mrs H remarked to me about there being a good variety of interesting shops which were well stocked including a small art shop; what we did find amusing and unusual for the size of the place was the number of large, privately run, pharmacies, all of them on the main street and in some cases next door to each other.
Birr is like a faceted jewel whose intricacies belong solely to this town, the like of which cannot be found anywhere else in Ireland or even in the world. These I will be sharing with you in several future blogs.

St. John's Mall

Signs of the times

St. John's Hall

An unusual building to be seen here is Saint John's Hall. This building was erected in memory of John Clere Parsons, son of the 2nd Earl of Rosse, who died in 1828. It was built as a miniature Greek ionic temple and provides a focal point along the axis of two flanking rows of terraced houses.

'Umbillicus Hibernia'

Referred to by Geraldus Cambrensis in the 12th Century as 'Umbilicus Hibernia' (The Navel of Ireland) and probably part of a megalithic monument at Seffin, the exact site of which is now unknown.
Reputed by oral tradition to have marked a meeting place of the Fianna. It was removed from Birr in 1828 by Thomas Steale and taken to his residence Cullan House, Co. Clare to honour Daniel O'Connell and used as a Mass rock at that site.
The monument stone was returned to Birr Urban District Council in June 1974 by the Department of Lands. The stone is a block of limestone from the Lower Carboniferous Age, 250 million years old and is of local origin.

 The Little Brosna River ( the home of a rare fish)

The Croneen Trout

The Croneen is a fresh water, migratory, silver, torpedo-shaped trout that can weigh over 4lb, it spawns in the Little Brosna and Camcor rivers and migrates to Lough Derg, in the river Shannon, to feed. 
Advances in genetics and DNA techniques show that trout such as the Croneen trout are distinct species. Additionally it has been shown that many of our lake trout populations in particular belong to races or “conservation units” that must be protected as they have evolved and adapted to suit the conditions to the lake and river sometime after (and in some cases before) the last Ice Age, 13,000 years ago. The fact that they return ‘home’ to their place of birth on the river ensures that they do not mix.

A gift from a neighbour

When we returned home we had a pleasant surprise! For standing on the window cill was this bowl of eggs, which from the colour of the eggs and design of the dish we recognised
as being a gift from our nearest neighbour.


  1. Such a glorious post, Mr Heron. I love the images and the thoughts you express about this amazing town. It's easy to travel further afield when we have such wonderful places to visit via the blogosphere. And the size of those eggs - wow. What a wonderful neighbour.

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! I agree with what you say about blogosphere in addition to which Google Earth allows us to generally see the lay of the land as well.

  2. It all sums up Ireland for me!

  3. Beautiful pictures; hope to see more when you next go back. Shop fronts are always interesting.

    1. Funny that you should say that Joanne :)

  4. What a lovely blog and delightful photos and descriptions...all so inviting.

  5. Thank you for a very pleasant wander around your part of the world, Mel. Highly enjoyable, and yes, very welcoming :-)

  6. I find it facinating that there is a place in the world (or places) that are so near to each other but, given population, the lay of the land and such, they remain so separate.
    Where I live, we can travel well over two hundred miles to the nearest city and still run into neighbours and acquaintances on the street.
    However, your towns and villages have a certain flavour and history that ours lack.
    Through your words and pictures, I am able to enjoy the beauty of Ireland vicariously.
    I thank you for that!

  7. Many thanks for all of your comments, the wonders of Ireland is it's individuality in that every county is different and every city and town or village has no twin plus the view around each bend of a road has a vista all of it's own.


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