Rosses Point a place forever held in Poetry

Sligo Weekender July 30th 1999

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light;
Far off by furthest Rosses,
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight.

Yeats captured the utter magic that is Rosses Point in these lines from The Stolen Child. The words are truly evocative of the magic that is what the locals fondly refer to as The Point. This unspoiled village is five miles from Sligo town. Starting from Hyde Bridge just follow directions. If you like an invigorating walk, stop at the beginning of the promenade. You can then walk at leisure or as briskly as you please towards the beaches. Turn left and take the scenic walk across the headland to the pier and Dead Man's Point. On the left you will see the ruin of Elsinore, the home of a cousin of Yeats, Henry Middleton. In this mystical setting you can just imagine Yeats and his cousin out walking. Yeats on the shore and Middleton on the headland - trying to communicate telepathically with each other.

To the right is the Metal Man. He dates back over a century and a half ago. He was intended to be one of a series of guides to ships entering what at that time was a very busy Sligo harbour. The figure itself is of a seaman in the garb of that time. Recently, a local wit tried to assure his son's prospective bride that the figure was, in fact, a real man who had to undergo a test to qualify for appointment to the Irish Navy. Dead Man's Point is supposedly the place at which a sailor's body was dumped when he departed his mortal body suddenly, so that the Captain could sail with the tide and not be delayed. Other local legend says that it may have been named after the coffin ships that sailed with unrelenting sadness out of Sligo. Often these ships sank taking their passengers to a watery grave. In any case, most of those who fled the famine were to all intents and purposes dead to Ireland as they would never return to their homeland. Of course, Rosses Point is renowned internationally for its championship golf course. Even if your skill at golf is minimal, the pleasures of walking the Golf Course is a reward in itself. To the right is Maeve's impressive mound brooding over the Atlantic. To the left is the panorama of Benbulben, also captured in evocative poetry by Sligo poet-in-exile Michael Dunbar:

Ben Bulben beaming,
High o'er the foam,
Knocknarea sleeping,
Sligo, my home.

When you experience the rich and rare unspoilt beauty of Rosses Point, you feel again outrage at the negative and ignorant comments about the Yeats Country featured recently in the Evening Herald and which evoked a strong rebuke from the Chamber of Commerce.