In 2007 the city of New Ross, Ireland, celebrated its 800th anniversary. One activity that occurred in conjunction with the anniversary was the creation of a series of 15 tapestry images that tell the very early history of the town. Actually begun in 1998, the project is nearing completion today. One hundred and fifty women have participated in stitching these panels which are six feet by four feet in size. Yesterday I visited the exhibition space for the Ros Tapestry and spoke with the two docents.
The image above is the first in the series and represents the Celtic world that was Ireland before the arrival of the Normans (Vikings from Normandy France) and the later arrival of the king of England. A link at the bottom of this post will lead you to the website for the Ros Tapestry project where you can see all the tapestries and read the full story of the meaning of each one.
Here are a few photos I took that will allow you to see the fine detail of this work. Click on the photos to enlarge them on your computer.
Panel 9: William Marshall crossing the stormy sea to Ireland, dreaming of his bride-to-be and of the kingdom her dowry will grant to him. He is said to have promised God that, if he survived the journey, he would build the abbey which is mostly still standing today and which we call Tintern Abbey (named after the older one in Wales.)
Panel 7: the marriage of Isabel de Clare, heir to the kingdom of Leinster, and William Marshall.
Panel 13. This image represents William Marshall planning the wealthy port town of New Ross.
Be sure to notice the borders which were inspired by the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Each one expands the account related in the large central image. On each tapestry the women who stitched it embroidered their names in the space below the bottom borders.
The project’s website provides detailed information about the panels and the historical events portrayed in the tapestries as well as better images. Find it here. Note: the website’s images of the panels includes the story portrayed on the right side of the image but you must page down to find it; the text is dropped to the bottom of the space on the right side. Sometimes clicking on the image of a tapestry leads to the description of another panel. Using the numbered list at the left works better than clicking on the images.
The women who created these works of art and those who led and supported them are to be congratulated for their fine act of civic pride. May their work last another 800 years!
In 2005 we spent a winter in Ireland. We stayed for four months on a farm in the “sunny southeast” section of the country. The farm was on a narrow lane about four kilometers long. My favorite spot along the road was a centuries-old Irish castle that had been converted into a barn. One old lonely horse lived there. I loved that scene and stopped many times to photograph it. In looking at my pictures of the road and the castle-barn just now I was transported to that narrow lane and reminded of the lovely winter and spring we spent in Ireland. I’m making plans to return soon.
We lived on the road that President Kennedy’s great-grandfather left when he immigrated to America. Distant cousins of the president still live on the family farm and they open it to tourists on occasion. Sometimes we encountered large motor coaches taking people to that farm on the single-lane road. When that happened we would need to get out of the way – the bus wasn’t budging! Backing up on that road wasn’t always without peril, as other farmers in the area often came careening around a curve in their trucks or — even worse! — on their big blue tractors. We laughed the day a speed limit sign was installed in front of our house that limited traffic to 80 kilometers an hour — 50 mph!
Our farm was midway between the Kennedy farm and the John F. Kennedy Arboretum. Fifty years ago the nation of Ireland honored our president by creating a sanctuary and inviting countries from all over the world to contribute their special trees. A circular path in the park leads through a grove of eucalyptus trees, a large collection of spectacular rhododenrons and many other glorious, now mature specimens.
All this was near the 700+ year old town of New Ross. Visitors to the town can board the Dunbrody, a replica of the ship that carried the Kennedy ancestors and many others from Ireland to America. Being on that ship, imagining the conditions endured during a month-long crossing of the Atlantic, caused this American to be in awe of her own ancestors who made that journey. What agonies they endured for a better life! How lucky we are that they did.
Here’s a good place to begin learning about the “sunny” southeast of Ireland: http://www.southeastireland.com/
New Ross is in County Wexford, Ireland. Here’s a link to the local tourism site: http://www.visitwexford.ie/
Read about the ship Dunbrody here: http://www.dunbrody.com/