Even after four centuries, Ross Errilly friary on the Galway Mayo border dominates the skyline. Imagine how impressive it looked when the only other dwellings nearby were the occasional [and decidedly non-impressive] mud huts. Photograph taken from Knockmaa hill, 5 miles away. The other houses are not really that close to the friary – it’s an optical illusion created by the extreme magnification of the camera lens. Behind the friary is the northern end of Lough Corrib, and further behind again is the foothills of the Maumturks mountain range.
A sure sign of prosperity is the propensity to build. And by jingo, is this country building. Until this year, Ireland was building half as many houses per year as the UK – to service a population twenty times smaller. In addition, there has been a huge amount of other construction work – infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, hospitals, etc as well as numerous commercial developments such as hotels and shopping centres.
It has been the same through all of Ireland’s history. Ironically, the first waves of construction in Ireland concentrated on housing the dead rather than the living. Maybe that was a good idea – the dead will be sitting tenants for eternity. The dolmens, cairns and other structures are still to be seen around the country, testament to ancient craftsmanship.
Later generations left other building to dominate the landscape – the various religious orders built monasteries and churches, and the waves of occupiers – the Normans and then the English – built first castles and later other buildings that still remain and are now admired for their design and beauty.
I’ve been trying to think of their modern equivalents. And nothing springs to mind. Despite all of the money spent in the last 15 years, is there a single building that is as imposing and grand as those built by previous generations. I live in Galway and the last really imposing building built there [that I can think of] is the cathedral – built on the site of the old jail back in the 1950s [back when the country was at its poorest]. There’s been plenty of buildings – even some very nice ones – but none that really symbolise the outlandish amounts of money sloshing about the place.
So, readers, what buildings do you think sum up this golden economic age ?
Camera = Canon 40D, lens = Canon 100 – 400mm@400, ISO=400, aperture = f10, speed = 1/1250 .