In a Word . . . Midlands

I propose that the new brand for our Midlands should be ‘Tranquillity Ireland’

 

You may have seen last month how Fáilte Ireland wants to create a new brand for the Midlands, following on such successes as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.

This new brand will cover an area of central Ireland stretching from Cavan to Killaloe in Clare, and from Westmeath to east Galway. How they guffawed!

It reminded me of the song about Granny’s Old Armchair. “How they tittered, how they chaffed,/ How my brothers and my sisters laughed/ when they heard the lawyer declare/ “Granny has left you her old armchair”. But, as with the Midlands, there were hidden treasures in Granny’s armchair too.

Central Ireland is our Cinderella country. People don’t notice it as they pass through. My own county Roscommon is a perfect example. Up against four stunningly beautiful sisters in Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim, it hardly gets a look-in from rushing hordes passing between the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.

They do not see such gentle pastoral ease as inspired Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. Or experience that emotion recollected in tranquillity which gave rise to Wordsworth’s poetry.

In another millennium I challenged a harsh portrayal of my county in Hot Press magazine in a letter, pointing out that Roscommon was known as “the heart of Ireland”. It was published, but with the added knock-out line “ . . . this calls for a bypass”.

Nowadays in the Midlands we have more bypasses than we care to count, the better to rush would-be visitors through. They miss all our rivers and lakes, the canals, walks, woods, the gentle lowlands, big houses, and literary heritage from Maria Edgeworth, to Oliver Goldsmith, to John McGahern.

The vibrant traditional scene, not to mention country music. And an extraordinary history from Crannogs in Lough Gara, to Queen Maeve, to Clonmacnoise, through the Famine, to Douglas Hyde.

And through it all runs the river Shannon. It defines the area.

It is a world which appeals to a more mature sensibility, gentle, with no wild drama. Such as inspired John F Kennedy as he left Ireland in 1963. Then when he looked forward to returning “to see old Shannon’s face again”. He would not. We remember him this week, 54th anniversary of his assassination.

I propose the new brand for our Midlands should be “Tranquillity Ireland”.

Midlands, from Middle English mydlonde. First used as a noun in 1550s to describe the Midlands of England.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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