A NEW book, which is both historical and spiritual, Kilfenora, Killinaboy, Scattery Island: A Guide for Pilgrims in County Clare by Rosemary Power, is an interesting read.
The book was launched by Dr Janet Harbison, director of the Irish Harp Centre in Castleconnell, at the Burren Centre and Kilfenora Céili Band Parlour.
Rosemary’s book gives details of three ancient pilgrim sites in Clare and traces a walking route between them, including lesser-known sites on the way. It also provides a guide to the cathedral at Kilfenora, the monastic ruins at Killinaboy and the famous churches on Scattery Island in the Shannon estuary.
The route follows, in part, the ancient pilgrim routes and the stopping places on the way indicate that a journey should give time to enjoy the landscape, as well as the places where people have prayed down through the centuries. Prayers and poetry from early Ireland are included, in translations that are often poems in their own right. This is a guide to the sites both for visitors and for those who walk pilgrim ways.
Rosemary Power, who lives in Clare, is an historian who has worked in ecumenical ministry in England and Ireland. She writes on contemporary spirituality and also, as an academic, on medieval studies and popular tradition.
“My latest book is based on some of the pilgrim walks which I was asked to organise over five years, which were ecumenical Christian on behalf of the Methodist Church,” she explains.
“This particular series involving Kilfenora, Killinaboy and then Scattery Island, though not usually on the same route, were very popular and I was asked to write them up for a publisher. The book has plenty of pictures and photographs of each of the sites and a practical walking route but it is also a historical guide of the sites.
“I was a there as a professional historian so it’s a professional guide to the sites but also I tried to develop some of the spirituality of earlier times through use of translations of early Irish stories, music, poetry and other materials that would have been used in those earlier times.
“It’s a guide to the sites in a popular rather than an academic way. It’s light, 150 pages, with a rain-proof cover which is just what you need if you’re walking the sites.
“It’s the first recent guide to Kilfenora and the only current guide to Scattery Island and Killinaboy. Saint Innawee, in a way, is the linking saint of the three sites. She’s Killinaboy’s saint and is the linking factor between the three,” Rosemary said.
“I was asked to see if in some way we could serve the modern interest in all things early and celtic. I already had a book out on it and how it developed as an interest in contemporary times, so I was looking at it partly from a historical perspective but mainly on what it can tell us about the spiritual needs today and the interest in walking. Spiritual walking and pilgrimages has come back so strongly, especially in the recession.
“It’s something which we can still do, more or less, for free, Rosemary said.
“It’s something that anyone of any church, or of no church, can do and is just about finding new ways to express this spiritual desire. It would be a spiritual book but would have historical and practical content,” she said.
Rosemary has also written a number of other books on Celtic spirituality as a response to the modern move away from traditional spiritualities, as well as a book on the spiritual influence of the Hebridean island, Iona over 15 centuries, and a number of academic papers on spirituality.
By Ron Kirwan