Skip to main content

228. IRISH ROADS

I had heard of Irish roads way back in the 1960s in Australia when someone with Irish background told me once in earnest that: "Irish roads were designed and made only by people coming out of a pub". This phrase used to make other people laugh but as a newcomer to Australia I did not see the joke.

In Ireland since January 2013 and driving around for four months now I start seeing the joke!

The latest motorways are fine, wide and with a flat tarmac, fairly straight, with spacious shoulders on the sides, and financed by the EU kitty for roads across Europe. The Irish country roads, however, have definitely been designed and made by people coming out of a pub, mainly... if not all. They are as sinuous as can be whether on hills or on the flat. They are as narrow as can be stuck between hedges of prickly bushes such as gorse, without any space for shoulders so that you just can't pull up on the side in emergency. I found I could not stop to take a photo. Very often as I was driving slower than the busy other drivers I wanted to pull up and let the faster traffic overtake. It took miles before I could vaguely pull up in front of a gate with a dangerous swerve.

Anyway at the public library recently I found the answer to this state of affairs. Apparently it has a very very old origin. A million years ago the island called Ireland now was totally covered with ice, much like Antarctica is now. Ice Age lasted for donkeys years until one day when it started melting away. It took a few thousand years to uncover this bit of territory and then, what did you find under the ice... sinuous roads. My word!

Quoted from: A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes, by Jonathan Bardon, Gill and Macmillan, 2008

p.1 "The ice sheets began to dissolve about 15,000 BC, and two thousand years later they had all but disappeared. (...) Meltwater flowing under the ice left behind sinuous ridges of gravels, known as eskers; often several miles long and up to twenty metres in height, these provided invaluable routeways later on across the boggy midlands."

Invaluable routeways across the boggy midlands. The inhabitants of Ireland have always traveled on sinuous, gravelous routeways across their country. Straight roads with broad shoulders is a stupid idea of the Romans.

And yes, there is another explanation. I found, reading the History of Plantagenet England by Michael Prestwich, that inhabitants of islands in general use the sea to go from one place to another on the coast of their island.

This is a very strange idea to a continental reader. From Normandy to Aquitaine, for instance, an islander's first thought is to sail around. For the French or any other continental thinking person you build a road and a good road too. I guess Irish people, like English people, have relied on sailing around rather than driving through.

It could also be the reason why, to this day, the roads are so badly maintained and cared for. When driving in the countryside or even in town you get the impression that towns and county councils administrations have no budget for road maintenance. The suspensions and the tyres of cars in this country must not last for very long.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

250. MY ESSAY IN ETHNOLOGY

When I say that I studied social ethnology, most people don't know what I'm talking about. So to illustrate what a post-graduate student did at the University of Michigan in this science within the department of Anthropology, here is the copy of my essay written in November 1980 for my professor of course 501 of that year.

 The title is THE POWER GAME AT THE MICRO-LEVEL OF TALE SOCIETY.

The study was based on ethnographic data published by Meyer Fortes who was an ethnologist in the 1940s in Ghana. The exercise was to use his data from his observation in the field to analyse what it meant in terms of "power game". It was to show us that a good ethnographer's job consisted of taking down every detail of his observations, even if it did not make sense to him at the time. The ethnologist can then trust the ethnographer's findings in order to analyse them and make sense with them. The ethnographer and the ethnologist are most of the time the one and same person. …

249. A car, a bicycle and a dog

The year 2014 is a landmark in my very ordinary life. 
I had a car, a Ford Mondeo Ghia, running on diesel. I had driven it very happily to Germany, to Scotland and to various places in France. It had reached past 200 K km mileage and needed some fixing. I forgot what it was, nothing too bad, it could still pass the mandatory regular registration. My mechanic told me he would not do it. In any case I didn't have the money to have it done. So, I left it parked on the village square for a long time hoping to find the money and another mechanic for it. After a year I was asked to move it out as there was going to be a village fair on the square. Fair enough. Some friendly neighbor helped me start it and I drove it 5 km away to the other village where I have my garden and a barn. My idea was to store it inside the barn pending better days when I would get it fixed. I judged that the engine, if not the rusty body, could still be useful for something. However, as I couldn't open the b…

251. Stalking Jules Verne

I recently came across photos of a google-plus user from the country of Georgia in the Caucasian mountains, somewhere between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, somewhere between the south of Russia and Turkey. A difficult position for a small country really, being tossed from one to the other in ruling and/or heavy cultural influences. From the dawn of History, however, the Georgians have managed to retain their own personality, cultural heritage, language and… yes, spelling and writing. Georgia in the Georgian language is spelt საქართველო.  This small country remained hidden away from main stream History by bigger bears until, well yes, the advent of internet. And since cables have now been laid in the bottom of the Black Sea by Americans to reach the port of Poti, any Georgian can now tune into internet at will and post photos on FaceBook or Google+ and be seen and contacted by the rest of the world. Nice story!
When I recently saw those photos of Georgia posted on my own google+ …