Lanesborough, Co. Longford
On 24 August 1664, the second King Charles granted a castle and the lands on the northern end of Lough Ree (a 22 by 2 kilometres widening of River Shannon) to Lord Lane, as a reward for supporting him during his exile. Whether Lord Lane or any of his subjects enjoyed angling is not known (to this author), but given today's still rich opportunities to make a grand catch, it's hard to believe they should have let a single chance pass.
I visited the town of Lanesborough in 2001 merely by chance, travelling back from Roscommon to Dublin with a bit of extra time sitting in the backseat. I had no idea this lovely place existed, but once I crossed the border, entering county Longford, it was there, waiting for my astonished eyes to behold. I was used to bustling Dublin, and picturesque Galway, and the tranquility of the Arans, but about the midlands I knew little.
I certainly had crossed the River Shannon several times before, down in Athlone (Co. Westmeath), Ireland's geographical centre, but never had I ventured that far North, off the main routes, before. Like many an Irish and practically all of the tourists, I kept using the well-trodden paths to and from Erin's hot spots.
Clonmacnoise (about 20 kilometres south of Athlone) I had been looking for; it's not as easily found as its famous name would have you expect. Yet Lanesborough, it had been waiting for me, hiding out in this lovely scenery, in a county most tourists wouldn't easily recognise by name or place on a map, aiming at the heart of the unsuspecting passer-by.
Unexpected as this encounter was, I had not prepared myself properly. I should have arrived long before the night drew nigh to capture a lot more of the environs to show you. I should have rented a boat to visit the islands located in Lough Ree and pay due attention to the churches and ruins there. I should have strolled through the woods, or sat at the shore and enjoyed the Shannon's easy flow.
Alas, what extra time I had merely sufficed for a few moments of contemplation and some quickly taken photos before the darkness enclosed the scene entirely. So far away from Ireland's main lines it is easy at times to feel like the last of a kind, to enjoy a solitude that is not draining the heart but feeding the mind.
It becomes so easy to give up one's stubbornly held position and blend into the greater picture. Rich as these moments are, they tend to be rather short-lived, sometimes lasting for hours, but often enough gone after a few seconds already. I hadn't met a living soul in hours, but as I took to photograph the bridge connecting Longford and Roscommon, I instantly spotted them: the man and his dog standing beneath it, silently watching the river flow, just as I had done, only minutes ago. How could I not have taken their picture?
They say this section of the Shannon, the Lough Ree area, is a fisherman's paradise. Being no angler myself, I don't care much for that kind of interaction with mother nature. Nevertheless, I have to give them that they definitely know how to keep their mouths shut for a lot more than just a couple of seconds at a time. Even if they arrive in groups, flying in from all directions to take on innocent creatures, they at least keep silent and their environment tidy as best they can. That's a lot more than can be said of many other tourists today.
A lot of water has run underneath this bridge since the 24th day of August in the year 1664, but every time I behold this picture, I find it easy to imagine Lord Lane himself standing there, his favourite dog by his side, watching the river, enjoying a moment of solitude that feeds the mind.