Sunday, November 15th, 2009

The weekend is sometimes a chance to wander through the shops, to window shop and tut at the Christmas lights and merchandise which has appeared desperately early.  When I wander around the shops I am drawn to certain magnetic beacons; the book shops.  So inevitably I pick up random things and I peruse all the interesting sections on the lookout for something new.  On one of these hunting exercises I spotted a new book by Banjo Bannon.

banjo bannon

Over coffee and a panini I began to get drawn in to the life of this local hero.  It’s a captivating read.  But today the lovely Sharon spotted it and got very cross.  Something to do with santa and returning something to amazon, she was vague but obviously cross.  I thought santa lived at the north pole?  Anyway, apparently I am not allowed to buy anything anymore and I am, quote; ‘impossible’ whatever that means.

A popular place to visit in the Mourne Mountains is the Hare’s gap.  It’s a nice point of entry into the high Mournes and a good place to visit Slieve Bernagh or the Brandy Pad from. WalkNI gives some good info about how to get to it here.

Hare's GapView from the Hare’s Gap. A lovely photo by the_gman

I don’t know if there are any hares here?   I did once see lots of little hopping eyes one night.  They looked like little rabbits in the darkness although the large cavities under boulders are more conducive to the habitat of hares than rabbits

Bernard Davey’s Mourne hints at the origin of the name, stating;

” known as the Hare’s Gap…………This particular col is the best example of a mountain pass to be found in the Mournes.  From here onwards, the smugglers would fan out towards their different destinations.  Some say the gap is named after one of the more notorious smugglers called O’Hare but the less romantic explanation, and this is the one that prevails, is that it is called after a farmer by the same name, who grazed his sheep here. Perhaps he was one and the same person.”

However, one thing that always struck me as a little strange about this origin was that it is called ‘Hare’s Gap’ and not ‘O’Hare’s Gap’.  It’s just a minor difference and names do change over time and are sometimes shortened so I didn’t really think about it until I read an even older book; ‘The Ring Of Mourne’ by W. Haughton Crowe.  It it, the Gap has another, older, story behind the name:


“You may wish to walk up to the Hare’s Gap along the wild mountain path through a gate just beyond the farm-house.  Why the place is called the Hare’s gap I don’t know.  In M.G. Crawford’s Legendary Stories it is described as the “Mare’s Gap,” the story being that a rider and his spirited young mare were killed by being whirled through the gap on the night of the Big Wind.  Anyhow the place is mad enough for hare, man or mare; and make sure there is no big wind for, as they would say locally,: “Ye’d foundher up there as aisy as wink.”

New Picture (1)This possible name leaves room for it being changed to Hare’s Gap at a later date, explaining why the O’ was maybe not necessary.  Notice how it says ‘the Big Wind’ and not ‘a Big Wind’.  The Big Wind that the extract refers to is an epic event in history and it may be hard to imagine a rider and horse being thrown through a mountain pass, but when you investigate the Big Wind further it ceases to be beyond the imagination.  On the night of January 6th, 1839 a storm like no other hit Ireland; ‘The Night of The Big wind‘.  People believed that the world was ending.  There is a eye-opening book on the event which is definitely worth getting:


It is not easy to get a copy online, but I think the publishers themselves still have a few that can be purchased directly from them.