By Patrick O’Sullivan


The air was heavy and close, but the sky was a great sweep of summer blue: a wild mesmeric kind of blue that would not have looked out of place in the vintage postcards of yesteryear.
I thought of the postcards I sent as a child to Aunty Nora in America, my message invariably containing references to the hens and the turkeys that were such a familiar sight around the yard in those days: the long-established cypress trees brushing the sky, the pinking hydrangeas in full flower.

Nor did I forget to mention my brown and white sheepdog, Rover, my constant companion of summer. When the weather was fine, there was nothing I liked better than running with Rover in the margins of the meadow, the silken swish of the grasses like the touch of summer itself.

Sometimes we went running down to the strand that was overlooked by the old ringed fort on the cliff top, the blue wash of the waves caressing my legs when I went for a paddle in the brine, the mountains looking hazier and hazier against the skyline beyond.

Rover was not very keen on swimming, though he sometimes indulged in a bit of boisterous barking as the waves came rolling towards the shore: this no more than a game, a whim, a fancy of his own.
My postcards to America made mention of the fishing too, draft net fishing for salmon on the river Main, something that had gone on for generations and that was still very much a way of life for many households.

The stamp I put on each postcard cost all of four pence and featured iconic designs such as the map of Ireland or the crests of the four provinces. Some of the postcard scenes were local: wonderful views of the Laune, near Killorglin, not a few with great swathes of purple loosestrife growing in the margins.

One of my favourites was one called Collecting Turf, Connemara, which showed two children flanking a donkey with baskets of turf on its back, the explanatory note at the back reminding everyone that ‘cart wheels would sink in the soft bog, but the donkey’s dainty feet pick their way daintily and efficiently.’

The images may have been very romanticized, but it struck a chord, I suppose because we knew all about going to the bog, our little brown donkey the colour of dark chocolate.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own