When you look at an OS(Ordnance Survey)* map of any area of Ireland the place is littered with standing stones, megalithic tombs and various archaeological sites. The Waterford coast is no exception. During the time when the cliffs between Garrarus and Kilfarrasy were at risk of being dug up by developers I counted at least seven monuments in that immediate area including three promontory forts, a standing stone (two if you count the one in Islandikane North) and an old church. Many of these sites are these days mere dips in the ground or bramble covered mounds and ditches but even at that they evoke the magic of a dim and distant past.
A stone poking up out of the ground, lichen splattered and alone in the middle of a field is an evocation of the culture of the past. It is a landlocked and fossilized whale mirroring its watery counterparts, breaching the gap between land and sea, space and time, a reminder of the ancient stream of life. It sets the imagination free to run through the ages to gatherings on cliff tops, chants and masses, a market on a solstice day, tracks and trails and ancient sign posts to who knows where. I think of the little people, the leprechauns and fairies, who are said by some to be the remnants of the Tuatha De Danann who had beaten the previous Irish incumbents of ancient Ireland the Fir Bolg only to be beaten in turn and forced underground by the Milesians.
There they lurk in our subconscious only coming out in the moonlight to prance on their fairy mounds and to plot revenge, dancing shadows only barely seen by maybe a passing fox who stops and sniffs in momentary puzzlement and then continues on his prosaic hunt for food. And seen by ourselves not at all. So when a friend of mine who lives near Garrarus and tends the ditches and the hedges along his patch of road mentioned the story behind the stone that breaks the very centre of a patch of grass to tilt its ancient spotted head at the sun beside the grey road that leads down to the beach I was all ears…
“Tell me,” I said.
“Well…”, he said, and he told me.
After the road was flooded some years back. It was decided to build up the banks of the stream that the road follows down to the sea. The Council sent Binky, the eccentrically named digger man. He began to shift the damp earth sitting high on his yellow machine. When this tiny field was finished Binky sat back in the bucket seat of the JCB to look at his work. My friend stood alongside too, as men do, to pay homage to a job well done. After a while the Binky turned to my friend…
“You know what?” says Binky.
“What’s that now?”says my friend.
“I know of a rock that would look very well there,” says Binky.
And so Binky went with his digger and got the rock and planted it there. That was years ago, maybe as much as ten years though no-one is sure. Ages ago anyway…
And that is the story of the Garrarus rock.Since then my friend, with some help, has planted some flowers at its base and he carefully mows the grass around it. In some ways you could say it is a sacred spot, a place of homage. Homage to jobs well done, to attention to detail, to doing that little bit extra. Who knows maybe it’s how Stonehenge started or Newgrange…
“Hey Daithi I have an old stone in the garden that the kids have finished scratching on that would look good there…”
It’s a summer’s night down at the Garrarus rock. The click of the badgers claws fade on the dusty tarmac, the hedges rustle and shadows move and congregate around the stone that had been so rudely uprooted from some other place. The grass whispers in the ditches, rumours of long ago spirits on the night breeze. Could they be plotting revenge for the upheaval of their meeting place?But no. Surely its more likely that are celebrating their new home, a home carefully tended and cared for and it within a stones throw of the silvery whoosh of the sea.