A medieval wooden stature of St Molua at St Molua’s Church, Killaloe, Ballycallan, Kilkenny

St Molua’s Church, Killaloe, Ballycallan Parish, Kilkenny, is not to be confused with St Molua’s Church in the other Killaloe in Country Clare. And indeed one must not confuse Molua with Mo Lua of Killaloe – of whom an unsourced statement on Wikipedia claims: “Local Historians note of stories that tarnished the Saint’s reputation in his time, those being that he had fathered many children to the daughter of a local Eóganachta Chieftain in County Clare. These children were named locally as Ó Maoldomhnaigh which in turn birthed the family name of Moloney.”

Catriona MacLeod, in a 1946 paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaires of Irelanddescribes the statue as among only five extant medieval wooden statues of Irish saints. What is extraordinary is that, unless I am in some way mistaken (is this a replica?), the statue of St Molua is simply there at the back of the church, without any indicative plaque or such I could find:

Here is MacLeod, from the paper cited, above, on St Molua and this statue:

At Killaloe, Co Kilkenny, there is preserved the figure of St Lughaigh, affectionately called Molua, another renowned saint of the 6th century, Molua was sent all the way to the celebrated Comhgall at Bangor for his education. Later he became the soul-friend of such Welsh spiritual leaders as David, Colmoc and Madoc. Today he is especially remembered as follower of Gildas, in upholding the principle of personal asceticism and the Monastic Rule as the greatest means to a deep religious life. In this latter respect his reputation stood so high that St Bernard attributed to him the foundation of a hundred monasteries. Amongst these the most famous were Drumsnatt in Monahan, founded on his way home from Bangor College, and Ross Buailigh in Ossory. There he buit the monastery and pilgrim hostel later to become, through the fame of his sanctity, the “celebrated city”, Clonfertmulloe. There, after a long life of prayer, labour and study, distinguished be extraordinary asceticism, he died at a great age, on August 4, 607 A.D.

At Killaloe a field is still pointed out as the site of another monastery Molua founded and used to visit on his way to and from Limerick. Beside it a holy well and chapel are dedicated to him. In the sacristry of this chapel a wooden statue of the saint is now kept. It is of oak, measures about 5 ft in height and the back is hollowed out so deeply as to l eave only a thin wooden shell. Both arms are unfortunately missing and the base is worn away. The crown of the head, which was much decayed, has been repaired with plaster; and modern paint conceals the original expression of the eyes. Despite these defects this statue remains of very great interest. To me it seems a clear example of what we have already described as the Celtic expression in art. The rigid form, elongated neck, the formalised and decorative treatment of the chasuble folds separate this statue from Continental, English or Anglo-Irish work. These characteristics on the other hand appear to relate it to the stylised figures of native workmanship familiar to us in manuscripts, metal work and stone sculpture of the pre-Invasion period. There is, moreover, stamped upon the features of the St Molua statue that asceticism already noticed on the face of St Molaise [previously in this paper MacLeod considered this statue found at Inishmurray, Co. Sligo] which seems to be a characteristic of native sculpture.

Rev. Mr James Graves pronounced this carving to be “fully as old as the 13th Century” The archaic shape of the eyes, the very highly placed brows and the long narrow chasuble ending in an oval point all offer corroborative evidence of Graves’s opinion. Good example of the 13th century chasuble as represented in Norman sculpture are still preserved on the façade of Wells Cathedral.

The statue of St Molua was according to custom in the guardianship of hereditary custodians or Erennachs – the Haydens at Killaloe. They brought the figure on the saint’s pattern day, to the Holy Well, the centre for assembling pilgrims.

During road repairs about 1760 the well was destroyed and the Hayden’s calling, as guardians of the statue there, fell away. After some years they gave it to the safe keeping of the Butlers whose cottage is close to the present chapel. The Butlers preserved it for more than a hundred years, some alleging that they kept it buried under the floor for safety. Eventually they gave it to the local clergy. Since the destruction of the well St Molua’s pattern has ceased and the old statue is no longer shown to the faithful. But in the chapel a modern figure of the saint holding a little moss-edged well in the right hand shows that the age-old devhttps://www.libraryireland.com/topog/E/Emly-Grenan-Costlea-Limerick.phpotion to Molua, “the Royal Holy, champion”, still persists. St Molua is also venerated at Kilmallock and Emly Grenan in Limerick, his father’s county, whence he first came to evangelise Upper Ossory.

Here are some more views:

In the narthex we find the modern statue of St Molua clutching the moss-edged well as mentioned by MacLeod above:

Above the choir balcony there is a stained glass window based on the wooden sculpture. This was a little hard to photograph from inside as the choir balcony was closed. Here is a magnified detail of what I could manage:

And here is a view from outside:


Want long life? Be Bond, sing about Bond, star with Julie Andrews, be Julie Andrews, appear with Ray Harryhausen

Roger Moore’s death was the first of a cinematic James Bond (well, excluding David Niven in the first Casino Royale) – Sean Connery, born 1930, is still with us, as is Lazenby (1939), Dalton and the rest. As far as I can  make out, Chris Cornell’s death in 2017 was only the second of a Bond theme singer after Matt Monro’s in 1985.

At 83 Julie Andrews is still with us, as are her co-stars from The Sound of Music (Christopher Plummer, born 1929) and Mary Poppins (Dick van Dyke, 1925)

Meanwhile, half of Badfinger died by suicide before their mid-40s, and another member died of a brain aneurysm in his mid-50s. Being a Beatle has had a fifty percent mortality rate, so far. None of the original the original Magnificent Seven  survive, though some at least had a good innings

Usually women live longer than men, but the male stars of the 1961 Ray Harryhausen monster movie Mysterious Island are still with us – Michael Craig aged 91 and Michael Callan aged 84 – while the female stars Joan Greenwood and Beth Rogan, the youthful sex interest of the movie, are dead, Beth Rogan dying in 2015 with home grown cannabis drying in the airing cupboard after a life of more off screen drama than on.

Sadly Todd Armstrong,  Jason in the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts , another Harryhausen feature,  also died by suicide, but the other stars have exhibited a reasonable degree of longevity – Honor Blackman (1925) (and also a Bond girl), Nancy Kovack (1935),  John Cairney (1930)Gary Raymond (1935)

What to make of all this? It is, I guess, statistically unremarkable. It would be tempting, but too much, to suggest that if you want a long life, play James Bond (or sing about him), or star with (or be) Julie Andrews, or play opposite a Ray Harryhausen beast (he himself died at 92)

And I haven’t even touched on Angela Lansbury’s survival of the astonishing murder rate of Cabot Cove.

The best, definitive version of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” – from Scott Walker (beating off Sinatra, Streisand and even Shirley Bassey)

“You’re Gonna Hear From Me” is a song by the late André Previn  written with his then wife Dory,  from the movie Inside Daisy Clover .  Natalie Wood’s original vocals were dubbed for the movie, but YouTube features the rather touchingly strained Wood vocalisations:

Mark Steyn writes that for many Great American Songbook pieces (and those of that ilk) “there’s a definitive ballad treatment and a definitive up-tempo version and they’re both by Frank.” (this is in the course of  an article on Sinatra’s hilariously bad up-tempo version of Some Enchanted Evening) For me, the definitive treatment of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” is Scott Walker’s.

Usually, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” is done as a rather narcissistic, boastful song (of course, with a dramatic irony in the context of “Inside Daisy Clover”) – witness the versions of Frank:

And La Streisand:


And Shirley Bassey (though this is my favourite so far):

Scott Walker, however, brings a vulnerability, delicacy and yearning to the song. His version is entirely without narcissism or boastfulness, more of a sadly, gently defiant expression.


Scott;s obituaries focused on his transformation from teen pop idol to avant-garde experimentalist. Just how good he was as an interpreter of “mainstream” popular song  was obscured by this narrative. I like a good auld avant garde workout along the lines of Bish Bosch or Soused as much as the  next guy, but part of me suspects that these works may have less of a shelf life than some of the more conventional outings for Scott:



#MarianMay – the playlist

After the enormous success of #ChoralMarch and #AprilCountry#MarianMay did not perhaps set the Internet on fire, but I did enjoy exploring the wide range of Marian-inspired music, with a good representation from contemporary, living composers. Aside from some sean nos and  Frank Patterson I stuck pretty much to the choral tradition.

Sharks: from demonization to glorification

Recently I came across Ocearch, a shark tracking project which has produced some amazing videos of Great Whites and other sharks being tagged:

One of the interesting shifts in my lifetime has been from seeing sharks as fearsome, psychopathic killers to creatures worth preserving and studying. A few years back, after a fatal shark incident on a beach in Australia, protest marches followed … to protest the potential killing of the shark.

When I was a child in the 1980s sharks were one of my big fears – a little unreasonably in Irish waters! Of course, this was because of Jaws, which I don’t think I actually saw (or its various sequels, which were up to IV I think around this time) but had absorbed the scarier bits by osmosis. Obviously a human-killing creature with big teeth naturally taps into very primal fears. I remember vivid dreams of Great Whites turning up in the surf of Magheragallon – and waking just before being devoured. Or a recurring thought of my bedroom floor turning into a shark-filled ocean floor.

As a bit of a sceptic / wet blanket on the moral worthiness the media sometimes likes to self-indulge in, it is interesting to recall my view of sharks was changed pretty much overnight by a magazine story; a BBC Wildlife cover story in about 1988/89 which featured hammerheads and various other sharks in their own environment. It focused on their actual natural lives, as opposed to scary projections. This cured my shark fear straight away, and I recall vividly a gratitude for this.

I am not too sure about sentimentality about sharks either, but it is good to see that sharks are now seen in a more balanced way, and as species crucial to the ocean ecosystem. Ocearch seems to have an #OceanOptimism philosophy, which I think is a necessary corrective to some of the more indulgently apocalyptic strands of conservation (see Dylan Evans’ “The Utopia Experiment” for an illustration of where this can lead) and while their videos may be a wee bit too slick at times, the footage of humans calmly interacting with Great Whites (in a certain context and environment of course) is something a child raised in the shadow of Jaws still has to get his head round..

“My Life by Water” – a found poem by M. Stone

I greatly enjoyed M Stone’s found poem “My Life By Water”, constructed using… well, you can follow the link to find out – and does it matter? It stands on its own merits as an evocative piece of writing with some interesting juxtapositions.

I rose from marsh mud.
I knew a clean man
I married
in the great snowfall.
Consider at the outset—
I am sick with the Time’s
Keen and lovely man,
alcoholic dream.
I lost you to water, summer.
Now in one year
my life is hung up.
July, waxwings
something in the water.
Along the river,
the graves—
traces of living things.

Writer M. Stone

I’m thrilled that my found poem “My Life by Water” is included in the new issue of Unlost Journal! Many thanks to the Editors.

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