Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Detours: Fort Hill Cemetery

I took my friend Arne Peters to Galway Bay Seafood's factory shop down on the docks for something fresh and stinky for dinner. I mean this fish is FRESH! As far as I can tell the boats pull up to the back of the factory, some gets smoked and/or packaged nicely then sent to the shops, some heads out to the restaurants, and some comes straight through the factory still wriggling and is plonked on a bed of ice and sold then and there. We got two beautiful hake fillets and plan to eat them with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Oh, and seaweed. Arne insisted on the seaweed. I think he has glamourised seaweed insofar as seaweed can be glamourised. Arne currently thinks seaweed is posh. Even the dulisk, which my father used to eat by the bag when quitting smoking, did not deter Arne the Seaweed Glamour Puss. Dulisk tastes like the sea weed... on your tongue. Salty. Bad.

On the way back from Galway Bay Seafood I indicated towards a tall pile of industrial crap and asked Arne if he's ever been to the old graveyard. He had not, and frankly at this point Arne probably thought it was a special imaginary graveyard. Hand on my heart, behind that big pile of industrial crap at the beginning of Lough Atalia Road opposite the Harbour hotel is a very old cemetery named Fort Hill. We spent a little time looking around the old gravestones, most from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, trying - as one does in an old graveyard - to find the earliest. Eventually I approached what I thought was the care-taker and asked. The care-taker turned out to be Mr McDonagh, whose family has taken care of Fort Hill cemetery for generations. We received a full history lesson, exaggerated slightly for effect. It is named Forthill because there was a fort there, and it is on a hill. It was not Oliver Cromwell's Fort, as we were told, but (according to Hardiman's History of Galway) St Augustian's Fort - though St. Augie himself never lived there. 300 beheaded (not crucified) Spanish soldiers from the doomed Armada of 1588 are interred in the cemetery which was completed in 1603 as part of a fortification plan against  possible Spanish Invasion - in case they hadn't learned their lesson the first time.

The new fashion of greeting Spanish tourists to Galway city (taking them for a pint and setting them up with a nice jewelry stall on Shop Street as opposed to the good old fashioned beheading and disposal in a mass grave cum military fortification) may account for their rising numbers.

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