Dancing at Luguasa

Published in Issue 1 (Spring 1999), Letters, Letters, Volume 7

Sir,—I read Frank Foley’s article ‘Controversy and the Cult of Collins’(HI Winter 1998) with great interest. Various points of view concerningthe future of the Collins memorial at Béal na mBláth are expressed,except that of the actual visitor. I am what Fr. Twohig would call anoutsider and a foreigner but also a frequent visitor to Ireland andWest Cork in particular. I was surprised to see the photograph of thereligious paraphernalia at the memorial as I had seen nothing of thekind when I was there in early July and again in October so apparentlythe people of the cult have not been back! And please do not turn thememorial into a shrine! On the other hand, the spontaneous admirationof some people seems less abominable than the idea of turning the siteinto a public park or a garden of remembrance. The ‘ice cream van’mentioned in the article is almost like sacrilege—if you will excusethe expression. Please do not turn the site into an amusement parkeither.
I have never been present at the annual commemoration ceremony atBéal na mBláth but I would find it wrong if that occasion was used forpolitical propaganda. I am sure Collins would have felt a lot ofsympathy with Fine Gael but it has also been claimed that, had helived, he would never have been a member of the party. This is, ofcourse, pure speculation but using the memorial to a great man as thesite of political propaganda seems somehow out of place.
One man was killed at Béal na mBláth, the memorial was erected forone man, so why on earth change the site into a memorial park to allCivil War victims. This was meant to be a memorial to Collins and thisis what visitors want to see. Build a memorial park to Civil Warvictims anywhere else if the wounds still need to be healed!
What visitors would like to see is some information on the sitewhere Collins was killed. This could be done discreetly like atWoodfield where one can feel the atmosphere, alone in peace and quietwithout being disturbed by commercial paraphernalia. Also, put up roadsigns so that visitors can find the site in the first place. As far asI know the only road sign is outside Enniskeane and from there visitorsare left to themselves. Without the help of Timothy Crowley ofClonakilty and his Michael Collins Tour, I would have spent a long timesearching for the site and every time I have been back there, I havewondered why there are so few signs.
I must say I find Fr. Twohig’s initiative involving the US militaryin a potential restoration most amusing. Let me quote a few lines fromhis book The Dark Secret of Béalnabláth: ‘Leave the problem of MichaelCollins to the native-born Republicans and Free Staters’ (p.306) and:‘Ah, yes, the lady from New Zealand [Margery Forester]! How did she getinvolved in Irishmen’s killings?’ (p.299). So, no matter what you WestCork people and committees decide to do, please do not spoil Béal namBláth (or, to please Fr. Twohig, Béalnabláth!).
Finally, about the inscription on the cross: Frank Foley writes,‘it seems that Fr. Twohig has another controversy to spring on theworld. He claims that the date of Collins’ death as inscribed on theBéal na mBláth monument contains a spelling error!’. Well thiscertainly has been noticed before—and by a foreigner with very littleknowledge of the Irish language. ‘Luguasa’ instead of ‘Lugnasa’, aspelling error or an ‘n’ put upside down? Anybody who has taken part inTimothy Crowley’s ‘Michael Collins Tour’ has had that error pointed outto them too. Unfortunately, this is not the only error on a crosserected to the memory of Collins. On his grave at Glasnevin cemetery inDublin the inscription on the cross puts the date of his birth as 12October. He was born on 16 October 1890! Poor Collins, who was alwaysso precise about everything! If anything is to be done about thememorial at Béal na mBláth, please get the error changed. We will haveno dancing at Luguasa!—Yours etc.,



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