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William Carleton: the Lough Derg Exile

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Abstract

Most tribes have holy ground, a sacred place that has come to stand for a presumed, numinous essence: the tribe transcendent. Lough Derg in County Donegal, a small lake with an island in it, Station Island, is such a symbol for the native Irish. An ancient site of pilgrimage associated with St Patrick, it evokes the central place of Catholicism in Irish culture, a position that in turn gives the people their spiritual purpose and distinction. Seamus Heaney has written a long poem about doing the pilgrimage, ‘Station Island’, and in a footnote he explains to non-Irish readers the historical and practical implications of the island:

The island is also known as St Patrick’s Purgatory because of a tradition that Patrick was the first to establish the penitential vigil of fasting and praying which still constitutes the basis of the three-day pilgrimage. Each unit of the contemporary pilgrim’s exercises is called a ‘station’, and a large part of each station involves walking barefoot and praying round the ‘beds’, stone circles which are said to be the remains of early monastic cells.1

Keywords

  • Sacred Place
  • Ancient Site
  • Irish Culture
  • Stone Circle
  • Spiritual Purpose

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Notes

  1. S. Heaney, Station Island (London: Faber and Faber, 1984; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985) p. 122. Quotations from the title poem of this collection are identified by part and page, given in parenthesis following the quotations.

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  2. W. Carleton, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (William Tegg, 1869) 1, xvi. Page references for further quotations from this work are given in parenthesis following the quotations. All relate to vol. 1.

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  3. P. Kavanagh, Lough Derg (The Curragh, Co. Kildare: Goldsmith Press, 1978) p. 14.

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  4. H. Melville, ‘Hawthorne and his Mosses’, in Herman Melville, ed. R. W. B. Lewis (New York: Dell, 1962) p. 42.

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© 1991 The Editorial Board, Lumiere (Co-operative) Press Ltd

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O’brien, M. (1991). William Carleton: the Lough Derg Exile. In: Hyland, P., Sammells, N. (eds) Irish Writing. Insights. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-21755-7_6

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