A Profile of Ireland’s Uplands: essential reading for mountaineers # 1

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The Irish Uplands Forum (Fórum Cnoch na hÉireann) commissioned Dr Brendan O’Keeffe and Dr Caroline Crowley to write this study of the Irish uplands. The Heritage Council published it in October 2019. Michael Viney had an interesting review of the study in The  Irish Times over the weekend, under a headline that says it all: These hills are made for walking. Viney, however, highlights access as a key issue for the 13,000 plus mountaineers and hillwalkers who make up the membership of 186 clubs in Ireland.

He identifies two factors that will have influence on access in the future. The first is a shift from sheep farming to off-farm employment and a parallel rise in (a) the number of “large sheep ranches” and (b) hillside houses occupied by “commuters, retirees and holiday homeowners.” We have seen the problems this has created in places like Glanteenassig in County Kerry.

 

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Off limits: access to this hill in Gelanteenassig was blocked after the land was inherited from the original owner. Before that it was a popular walking/mountaineering route located next to a recreational area developed by Coillte. Photo: Walking Routes Ireland.

 

The second is that government action on the roll out of access programmes stalled since 2009, when voluntary agreement between mountaineering interests and landowners created pilot projects in two areas, Mount Gable near Clonbur, Co Galway and Carrauntoohil in the MacGillycuddy Reeks, Co Kerry; just two of the 57 mountain ranges identified in the report. However, O’Keeffe and Crowley note that “key stakeholder groups remain committed to its vision.”

 

Sheep Farmers
©Valerie O’Sullivan, The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.

 

As Viney points out, most of Ireland’s uplands are farmlands but adds that “sheep, significantly, get a mention on only four of the study’s 140-odd pages.” That is worrying, given the traditional partnership between mountaineers and sheep farmers, people like Martin (RIP) and Nóirín Griffin in Derrymore Glen (Slieve Mish), Mick Murphy in Knocknagantee (Iveragh) and, of course, John and Esther Cronin of Cronin’s Yard in the Reeks. That partnership is captured by mountaineer and photographer Valerie O’Sullivan in The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks: People and Places of Ireland’s Highest Mountain Range , which Frank Miller, former Picture Editor of The Irish Times, described as ‘An intimate and beautiful portrait of the people and landscape of Ireland’s loftiest place.’

 

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Mick Murphy and Elizabeth Lynch. Photo: Mike Slattery.

 

This aspect of the Irish uplands deserved more attention in the study. Nevertheless, A Profile of Ireland’s Uplands is essential reading for mountaineers and hillwalkers. To obtain an Executive Summary click HERE. To obtain the full report click HERE.

 

Links / Resources

 

Mountain Log

For more information, have a look at the current edition of the Mountain Log

 

 

The Mountaineering Collective | December 2019

 

 

Una Finn (1924-2018)

Una

 

Una (Agnes) Finn was an honorary life member of Tralee Mountaineering Club. Una Sullivan was born in Dublin. She grew up there and worked in the Central Bank. She met Tom Finn on a cycling trip in Achill and she  moved to Tralee after they got married in 1958.

 

L-R: Marie Ahern, Rose Switzer, and Una Finn. Photo: Tom Finn collection

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L-R: Marie Ahern, Rose Switzer, and Una Finn. Photo: Tom Finn collection.

 

Una was an active member of the club, one of a generation of women who blazed a trail in mountaineering in Ireland, She entered a sport that hardly catered for women, gear was hard to come by for everyone, but women especially. They improvised–wore men’s gear– and ensured that women were represented on a equal level in club activities.

 

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Rose and Denis Switzer, Honorary Life Members of Tralee Mountaineering Club, with Marie Ward. Rose and Una were climbing buddies. They were among the large number of people who gathered in Una’s home to pay their respects..

 

The house became  a hub of mountaineering in Kerry and a large number of club members gathered in the house to pay their final respects.

 

In later years Una went for a walk every day, cutting a striking figure as she made he  the trip to the local shop. She kept going until a few months before death.

 

Ar dheis dé go rabid a hanam.