Béal na Bláth, Co. Cork, Ireland

Small stone with the writing: Thank you Michael written in blue between a red heart and a green, white, and yellow flag. In the top left of the photo is a gold coin

One of the many joys of road trips (that way offset the possibility of a breakdown, because, let’s face it, that’s just a possibility) is the freedom to follow the signpost that jumps off the road and screams, FOLLOW ME! Such was the case on the road from Kenmare to Cork.

When I spotted the sign for the village of Béal na Bláth, images of Liam Neeson and Michael Collins came to mind. (Liam Neeson played Michael Collins in Neil Jordan’s 1996 biopic.)

When my aunt died, many years ago, I asked if I could have the photo she had hanging in her sitting room. It was of a man in uniform. I was sure it was my grandfather.

Years later, having decorated the living room in my flat around it, a visiting friend burst my bubble.

“I never figured you for a ‘RA head”, he said, pointing to the photo.

“What?” I asked, somewhat aghast.

“Michael Collins”, he said. “That’s Michael Collins.”

“No, it’s not”, I replied. “That’s my grandfather.”

Embarrassment and disappointment tinged with a tincture of betrayal followed when I realised he was right.

Politics aside, the photo remains, perhaps misleading those familiar with Irish history about my political persuasions.

I’ve recited this story a lot.

Anyway, back to the road trip.

I saw the sign and had to visit the place of the ambush, where, on 22 August 1922, Michael Collins met his untimely death.

Roadside cross - a monument - candles at the base as well as a small flag - green, white, and gold. Written on the base of the path - Béal na Bláth - 1922-2022

The night before, he had stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Cork, in room 115, now the Michael Collins Suite, a must for history buffs and Collins fans.

Cork County Council has developed a Michael Collins Trail, something I’ve a notion to follow one August evening, as the sun sets.

Stone with the word SKIBEREEN inscribed... more visible on the path leading up to a roadside monument...

Stone showing a road map - barely visible. the words BEAL NA BLATH run up the left side. The text is in both Irish and English. The English text reads: Béal na Bláth 1922-2022 Béal na Bláth is one of the most significant sites in Irish history. General Michael Collins, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish National Army was ambushed, shot, and died here on 22 August 1922. this memorial landscape opened to the public for the centenary commeration. The memorial landscape stretches beyond the immediate assassination site while conserving the authenticity of the monument. The design is concerned to reveal the wide historic setting as the theatre of events that occurred on that tragic day. A curved wall made of Irish stone stands as a permanent tribute to Michael Collins's life. Inscribed in the paving are the towns of his childhood and those he visited on his final fateful journey. AS the August sun sets, shafts of light shine through the notches in the stones evoking what was Collins's route through this valley in 1922.

The memorial landscape stretches beyond the immediate assassination site while conserving the authenticity of the monument. The design is concerned to reveal the wide historic setting as the theatre of events that occurred on that tragic day. A curved wall made of Irish stone stands as a permanent tribute to Michael Collins’s life. Inscribed in the paving are the towns of his childhood and those he visited on his final fateful journey. As the August sun sets, shafts of light shine through the notches in the stones evoking what was Collins’s route through this valley in 1922.

Stone cross with a crucifix set against a bank of green hedging inscribed on the base in Irish - Miceal O'Coilean - d'eag 22 ad Lunasa 1922

 

A detour well made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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