Climb a mountain or jump in a lake…………..

by Mark Pinder

As the Irish folk singer Christy Moore sang in his song ‘Lisdoonvara‘:

‘Everybody needs a break,
Climb a mountain or jump in a lake.
Some head off to exotic places,
Others go to the Galway Races.
Mattie goes to the South of France,
Jim to the dogs, Peter to the dance.
A cousin of mine goes potholing,
A cousin of heres loves Joe Dolan.
Summer comes around each year,
We go there and they come here.’

In my instance, I climbed a mountain in Co’ Mayo last Sunday.

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I wanted to reconnect with my spiritual side by retracing the footsteps of Saint Martin of ParrArchbishop Koudelka, Cardinal Killip, and some chap called Patrick, who they tell me is big in Ireland, so I joined another 20,000 or so and climbed Croagh Patrick.

Every last Sunday in July, (Reek Sunday), around 20,000 Catholic pilgrims climb the 2500 ft mountain near Westport, in Homage to Saint Patrick, who supposedly climbed the mountain in the fifth century, where he spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting, and upon conclusion threw a silver bell down the side of the mountain, knocking the she-demon Corra from the sky and banishing all the snakes from Ireland.

I know that Snakes have a special place in the Judeo-Christaian tradition, but having never been menaced by a snake, ever, I wonder why saint Patrick couldn’t also have included the Midge in his list of proscribed creatures, of which Ireland has many?

Feck, another really bad hair day! I'm not actually as pissed off as I look, I just hate having my picture taken. It does take away the soul you know! Pic:Dermot Blackburn

The climb up the mountain was pretty tough, but I’m glad I did it. I have a set of pictures I’m pleased with, and whilst my Catholicism lapsed a long, long time ago, (and was never really there anyway), I was really struck by the generosity, warmth and great humour of my fellow climbers. I reached the summit about 10 minutes before the conclusion of the last mass of the day and almost lost an arm with the number of handshakes and “Peace be with you’s” being swapped between myself and those around me. Perhaps it was the awful weather, and a sense of shared achievement and privation, but the peak of that mountain felt a very intimate place to be.

My cameras and lenses took a hammering. After a while, i just gave up on trying to keep the lenses dry and just went with whatever came out. The idea that the photographer is a passive observer and the camera an objective tool is conceited bullshit anyway, and our presence is always going to impact the dynamic of any environment in any case. If that environment decides to impose it’s own aesthetic by giving my tools a hard time by screwing over decades of technical and optical development, then so be it, I can live with it.

Ireland, north and south, has always been a fascinating place, and has a tragic history that no-one deserves, (least of all the Irish), but things in the Republic are especially interesting at the moment. The collapse of the Ponzi scheme that was the Celtic Tiger and the sudden backlash against the Catholic Church that finally threatens to break the corrupting influence of the Church in Irish civil, legal and political life following the revelations as to the scale of sexual abuse within the Church, and realisation by the Irish state that they can no longer turn a blind eye to these issues in the face of public disgust, makes the Irish Republic ripe for radical social change. Hopefully for the better.

It is something I want to document, and a place I intend spending more time in over the next couple of years.