The Old Bog Road

Every county in Ireland has its “Old Bog Road” and everyone who listens to the song will relate it to his own home place for it is a sentimental song, a song of nostalgia and homesickness written by Teresa Brayton(1868-1943), who was born in Co. Kildare, and emigrated, as many others, to America where she was active in various Irish associations. It was published in her first book of poetry, “Songs of the Dawn and Irish Ditties” in 1913. The words were later set to music by Madeline King O’Farrelly, a Westmeath woman.

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On the bog road.

My latest old bog road comes from Tony Kirby’s “The Burren and the Aran Islands: A Walking Guide.” “The Old Bog Road” is one of the walks described in the book and one I hadn’t taken previously – I have had a copy of Tony’s book since spending a weekend in his company over ten years ago. This old bog road is between Ballyvaughan and Lisdoonvarna, starting on a forestry road shortly after Corkscrew Hill.

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Coming over the hill the view begins to open

The walk is through an upland area, Poulacapple hilltop, where turf is still being cut on a very small scale and leads to wonderful views of the north Burren hills and valleys before going downhill into Rathborney Valley, woodland and river. It is a ten kilometre walk though we stopped short of the woodland and riverside section, preferring to turn about and retrace our steps to our car for, in my mind, the beauty of The Burren is in its upland, the limestone pavement and the wonderful flowers found there.

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Views to the hills and valleys of The Burren

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Two old hawthorn trees showing the effects of the strong winds prevalent here.
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The limestone pavement of The Burren which, though it may appear barren, is home to an amazing richness of flowers. 

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I wouldn’t consider the bog road the most interesting nor the most beautiful of Burren walks – the stretch along the bog road has plenty of fresh air and big skies which are enjoyable but not the flora I wish to see. The descent into the valley, where there are greater areas of limestone pavement, has a more interesting flora and, with such fabulous views, it all the more enjoyable.

A selection of the flowers seen on this walk:

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Devil’s bit scabious with a gathering of others. 
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A pretty pink form of Yarrow
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Herb Robert
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Devil’s Bit Scabious
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Goldenrod
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Carline Thistle with some Harebells
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Harebells, a very pretty flower
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Thyme growing on the side of a limestone rock
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Tormentil
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Devil’s Bit Scabious
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Harebell 
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Yarrow
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Devil’s Bit Scabious 
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Red Bartsia 
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Eyebright

And, if you haven’t read Teresa Brayton’s poem, here it is. You might even wish to sing along as you walk the old bog road:

Old Bog Road

My feet are here on Broadway

this blesses harvest morn

But Oh, the ache that’s in them

for the spot where I was born

My weary hands are blistered

from work in cold and heat

and Oh, to swing a scythe today

through fields of Irish wheat

Had I the chance the wander back

or own a king’s abode

’tis soon I’d see the hawthorn tree

by the Old Bog Road

 

My mother died last sprintime

when Ireland’s fields of green

The neighbours said her waking

was the finest ever seen

There were snowdrops and primroses

piled up beside her bed

And Ferran’s Church was crowded

when her funeral Mass was said

But here was I on Broadway

and bitter was my load

when they carried out her coffin

down the Old Bog Road

 

When I was young and innocent

And my mind was ill at ease

Through dreaming of America

and gold beyond the seas

Och, sorra take their money

’tis hard to get that same

And what’s the world to any man

when no one speaks his name?

I’ve had my day and here I am

and bitter is my load

A long 3000 miles away from the Old Bog Road

 

There was a decent girl at home

who used to walk with me

Her eyes were soft and sorrowful

like moonbeams on the sea

Her name was Mary Dwyer

but that was long ago

and the ways of God are wiser than

the things a man may know

She died the year I left her

and bitter was my load

I’d best forget the times we met

on the Old Bog Road

 

Och, Life’s a weary puzzle

past finding out by man

I take the day for what it’s worth

and do the best I can

Since no one cares a rush for me

what need a man to moan

I go my way and draw my pay

and smoke my pipe alone

Each human heart must know its grief

Though little be its load

So God be with old Ireland

and the Old Bog Road

6 thoughts on “The Old Bog Road

    1. May is probably better but there are interesting flowers at this time of year also – Harebells, Devil’s Bit Scabious and Grass of Parnassus especially.

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    1. We did a walk on Thursday which was planned to be for about 3 hours but Mary suggested we go on a little further and see how things go….it turned into a 7 hour walk which finished at Ballyvaughan where, thankfully, we managed to find a taxi to drive us back to our car! It’s a great area and we spend a week there every year, usually in May which is more interesting for flowers.

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  1. Glorious photos, and a very sad song. My husband and I drove through the area in 1990, stopping for lunch in Ballyvaughan at a little place which was like a conservatory . It had displays of the local flora and stuffed fauna. Sadly, we had little time so didn’t explore the Burren on foot.

    Liked by 1 person

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