Not such a long way to Tipperary…..

I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Ireland – my first ever visit to the ‘Emerald Isle’ and it certainly lived up to every expectation! The genuine warmth and friendliness of everyone we met, the fast moving expansive skyscapes, the dark dramatic scenery and majestic medieval monasteries, more than made up for relentless rain and fine mist seeping in from the nearby Atlantic ocean.

The ruins of Monaincha Monastery

The ruins of Monaincha Monastery

We had gone to visit my dear friend, Irish artist Mary Dillon, at her Almond Tree Gallery in Roscrea

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where last Friday night her latest exhibition of beautiful water colours, called ‘Nourish’,

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was officially opened by The Irish Minister, Maire Hoctor

Mary Dillon & Mairi Hoctor
Mary Dillon & Mairi Hoctor

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Mary who visited me not once, but twice, this year, on Skiathos. She’s a wonderfully talented artist, and so generous with her gift – she continually inspires and encourages me, Mary and I became instant friends. I was so thrilled to be able to attend her important event and see her vibrant, colourful work of flowers and fruit (including figs, olives and pomegranates from my garden) that she began in Greece, all completed, beautifully framed and hanging on her gallery walls.

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Mary & Yours Truly

Mary & Yours Truly

With typical Irish hospitality, the evening was a great success and soon turned into a party with spontaneous uninhibited singing and dancing from all who attended.

Then true to form everyone descended on the local pub where the music and free-flowing pints of ‘Guinness’ continued well into the small hours.

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The following morning (feeling more than a little worse for wear!) We visited Mary in her beautiful home and  had the wonderful opportunity of seeing her at work in her fabulous studio:

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Another Highlight of the trip was a day’s sightseeing in Kilkenny where we visited, in the impressive Design Centre, the atelier of Bridal Gown couturier, Mary MacGuinness, who had also visited me on Skiathos this summer.

Mary, Mary & Me

Mary, Mary & Me

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All in all we had a wonderful weekend. We stayed at the ‘Monaincha Guest House’, the elegant Georgian home of our gracious hosts Carmel & Tom Moore- a truly magical place!

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We also had the good fortune to meet the prominent Irish (well, Scottish actually) landscape painter

Jock Nichol, whose work with his exquisite use of colour, perfectly captures the haunting vast expanses of bogland and dramatic cloud formations so typical of this part of Ireland. Inspired also by the words from Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s ‘Bogland’:

“We have no prairies

To slice a big sun at evening –

Everywhere the eye concedes to

Encroaching horizon,


Is wooed into the cyclops’ eye

Of a Tarn. Our unfenced country

Is bog that keeps crusting

Between the sights of the sun……….”

I had hoped to visit the peatlands (the Lough Boora Parklands in particular, with their amazing outdoor sculpture park) but alas there simply wasn’t enough time – so I’m really look forward to returning to Ireland again someday soon.

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On a final note:

This evening the Irish TV channel ‘RTE’s ‘Nationwide’ programme featured Mary Dillon at her Almond Tree Gallery talking to Diarmuid Peavoy about another exhibition that she hosted a few weeks ago which showed the work of three prominent Irish ‘animal’ artists; Siobhan Bulfin’s beautiful bronze horse sculptures, Heidi Wickham’s  amazing charcoal ‘cows’ and Cassandra Darlington’s exquisite pastels of horses and hounds. – all of whom are also inteviewed and talk about their work. A definite ‘must see’, here’s the link: http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/1126/nationwide_av.html