Tuesday 15.06.2021 Sidetracks and collisions

A day of small collisions. Coming downhill into the Glen I see a pair of deck chairs at the Snake and a large lifelong carrier bag which looked like it might contain a picnic. The chairs are odd because they aren’t properly opened, like dropped umbrellas, giving the impression that the picnic had been interrupted mid set-up and the party flown. As I approach I see a little cordoned off square with hazard tape at its edges and 2 council workers at the corners. A dig. A large shallow square is marked out on the grass. A place for a bunker. A bunker for a wheelie bin. No one has much faith, they say wheelie bin is supposed to be pulled out in order to drop the litter in. We each try to envision it in that space above the square. We shake our heads. We all shrug. We are all imagining a bubble of time before it bursts, and I wonder if each imagined bubble matches the other in that space above that neatly carved square on the ground, a venn diagram of hope and despair hovering within the hazard tape. The bubbles must hover for now.

abandoned picnic

I am meeting the film crew at the Zig zag for a 3 minute spot about The Glen. It’s for Heritage week. I have prepared a route and in preparation I have consulted with N who cannot be here, I’m on duty to mention the flight of The Volunteers, not my strong point by any stretch of willpower or rote learning. So over breakfast I have been looking up the Ambush at Dillon’s Cross, an act which led to the burning of Cork a hundred and one years ago. This is N’s territory and I want to do it justice. I find an article about the story, one of the volunteers wears Mufti in order to appear like an off duty British soldier – what is Mufti? I wonder – I find that the Arabic word Mufti (مفتي) means scholar, the word was appropriated by the British Army in 1816, and denotes the Eastern-style dressing gowns and tasselled caps worn by off-duty officers in the early 19th century. Mufti. A soft sounding word bubbling a stern kernal of meaning, appropriated and now used as a subterfuge. What a vision it must have been on that night in Dillon’s Cross, to see a man in tasselled hat and robes, it’s no wonder the wagon stopped and the ambush was allowed to happen so close to the Barracks. The skirmish and then the escape through the Glen.

Here I am walking that path into the Glen when I get a text from GO’B, he’s in town, can I meet for a walk. I’m beyond thrilled, perfect timing, he can be in the heritage film I suggest, and he is on his way. Delighted to have a Glen native, a writer and historian speak for the Glen.

After my chat with the council workers I proceed Eastwards along “Rope Walk” named for the produce of the flax mill for the shipbuilding trade. I near the bottom of the zigzag and I bump into A the poet with her dog, Fudge. We are due to meet the Parks Executive this afternoon for a walkabout, but I have opted out, knowing my leg won’t manage a whole day of walking and standing around. I walk up the hill with A and Fudge and escort them nearly all the way home before I turn back to look for the film crew.

I get a call from the film crew, are they at the right entrance? From what they say I place them at the entrance on the North link, as E the projectionist tells me he’s facing a barrier. I direct them to the derelict Keatings’ Furniture building. I wait, looking Northwards for a white Peugeot van, and I am surprised when the van pulls in from the South. It turns out they were in Sun View East, must have been just behind me, we are all about the houses in our rendez-vous. This is the way E used to come in for his runs he tells me. This is the place GO’B drew out on his map for me, this is the place where Ted Cramer (whose book I’ve been reading) used to live, and the place I always enter the Glen, it’s the course of the old Stream, where maybe those Republican Volunteers ran 101 years ago. An ancient watercourse that finds us all, even as it has moved on. Rivers have their memories and draw us to them. GO’B believes The Stream – of Stream Hill, was redirected by the council to accommodate the sewage works in the housing developments of 1960s and now runs below ground, exiting at the white S wall and contributing to the under ground echoes of the park today.

I watch the crew unload from the van and we head on down to the Fleischmann place. It’s overcast and the midges are prickling our skins even at midday. There is setting up, I have a mic pinned to my chest, dropped down my dress and hooked into my shoe, I show the view from the kitchen window, the flax mill that became the home of the musical Fleischmanns for half a century, a family growing up here, now a tangle of green covering old grey patches, buried footprints of dwellings and stone walls pushed apart and held together by living roots. As I am talking to camera GO’B arrives tall and willowy, moving lightly in pale colours, a cloud of white hair, like a shaft of light in the glimmer of the trees. He mentions we are standing on the old boundary line where the Glen river parted city from county. There are several stone arches, hoops that the river runs through still as it did beneath the kitchen of the family. I have seen a photo of the view from that window, a grey heron stands bent legged and one footed at the arch under the bridge. I find an echo of this decades later, an abandoned white tricycle upright in the same position, water flowing beneath its wheels.

I say my story in different versions three times, the crew are patient as machinery whines close-by and children wander around looking for orienteering markers. Gerard speaks his piece in two long takes, his story ranges across the knowledge he has amassed and is accompanied by the emotion he carries for his formative years in the Glen. I have the feeling we have both missed the punchy points that film making requires. It has been a collision, a many fractured and faceted moment, apart from the filming there’s a lot happening in this first ‘in person meeting’ with an electronic correspondent. A robin circles and sits close by in the branch of a willow evading the camera.

GO’B tells me he misses the vistas across the Glen, saying that the West used to be the wooded area and the east was always pastureland, our new Glen meadow was known as Shepherd’s Hill. He would dearly like to see more preserved remnants of floor plans or other evidence of the Glen’s industrial history, as industry is what brought the people into the place. Prior to being named for the miller, Dodge and then the fertiliser giant, Goulding, Gleann na Phúca had been a mysterious wooded valley, shunned as haunted – I have overheard Glen walkers speak about this eerie presence in the thin space of gloaming hours still today.

The Engineer’s House and the old Flax mill/Fleischmann place had originally been ear marked by the council for museums but the vandalism overtook this intention, and fires and flooding led to quick fix demolition. His family had a coterie of animals including a peacock, pigs and exotic ducks as big as geese, they used to supply the local shop with eggs from their hens.

The Engineers House


Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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