Is there a pot of gold there, outside my window? Maybe not in coin of the realm but there is a constantly changing panorama of sea and cloud, sand and rock exposed and concealed by the tide. That spit of sand and gravel reaching out to the mainland, is The Dorn, possibly a Viking word or the Irish word for a fist. It always brings to mind thoughts of Steinbeck’s Doc, wading in the tidal pools of Monterey.
He would have enjoyed The Dorn.
The Vikings came here twelve hundred or so years ago, making their first landfall on Lambay a few miles to the south. Some of them stayed and left a legacy of words,names and fair haired children.
One of their words was woar, seaweed, for centuries a source of fertilizer for farmers. Woar mongers perhaps? Woar is now a delicacy in some quarters, a source of cosmetic miracles and potential bio fuel. It lies inert, green, black or brown when the tide is out but resurrects to a wondrous forest when the rising flood lifts it. This forest teems with life. Crabs clamber about, their ungainly method of locomotion possibly explaining their perpetually exasperated expression. Dabs and other flatfish, masters of camouflage, betray their presence by the merest puff of sand.
I met an enthusiastic Frenchman, equipped with a gaff for catching crabs, a rake for cockles and a basket for mussles. He had an impressive collection of clams, cockles, winkles, (He recommends winkles in chocolate!) a couple of red crabs and “Les moules.” He gestured expansively. “Les moules partout! Partout!”
Nowadays the winkles are gleaned by fair-haired eastern Europeans, working in all weathers and even at night with miners’ lamps on their heads. It is not easy money. I am impressed by how accurately they gauge the tides, arriving just as it becomes possible to wade across to the island and coming ashore as the two fingers of water, reaching from north and south, meet again to form a tide-race. Stay wary and keep your eye on the rising tide.
“Mullen set the horse at the shallows at a fast trot, driving him headlong through a curtain of spray until the deeper water began to slow him down. Pompey beasted the waves, thrusting forwards with all his massive strength and driven relentlessly on by the urging of his driver. All John could see was the black outline of the island and the jagged white breakers on the Dorn. He had no plan but to force his way onward till he reached the soldier. His fingers tightened on the gevell.
The waves began to break into Pompey’s face and the spray whipped back from his tossing mane. They were still a long way from the Dorn. John could feel the cart beginning to lift and swing in the tide-race and at times, the horse lost contact with the gravelly bottom. He began to realise his danger as the waves came stronger and higher from both sides, lifting and rocking the cart and threatening to turn it right over. The horse whinnied in terror as the water broke over its head……”
(THE KYBE> Hugh FitzGerald Ryan. Wolfhound Press 1983)