Out with the Galloping Major
On one of my more recent trips to Ireland, I took a detour through County Waterford to visit Lismore Castle. Towering over the steep, wooded banks of the Blackwater, it was built nearly 900 years ago by an English prince, was once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh and has been the Irish seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since the eighteenth century. The castle is a fairytale sight but what caught my eye, given pride of place on one distinctly ancient and sturdy-looking wall, was a plaque. Said wall, it explained, replaced one that had collapsed ‘for no apparent reason’. No more, no less. I was, briefly, bemused; on reflection, quite the opposite. That precise phrase recurs, to pointed and poignant effect, in Troubles, J. G. Farrell’s sublime tragicomedy about the dying days of Ireland’s Protestant Ascendancy. As I sheltered from the rain, by now rather less soft than it’s fabled to be, in the lee of that notable wall, it struck me as the perfect summation of the entire Anglo-Irish predicament.