I came across these two similarly themed images promoting tourism in Leitrim which appealed to me in relation to the nature of this project. The first one was an advertising image I found and scanned from about mid 2000 I would guess (the image is Glencar waterfall) and the second is from the Leitrim Tourism ‘Explore Experience Enjoy’ campaign from 2010 (the image is of the Glenade valley). (Stephen Rennicks)
The light brought to signal to the German gun running ship the Aud, in 1916, is said to have come from the coal mines of Arigna, Co. Roscommon. It had to be a large and powerful lamp (such as the one pictured) for this purpose and a rebel who was a Leitrim native knew where such a thing could be got. The lamp in question would have been found hanging at intervals along a mines main tunnel system. After being stolen from the company its journey of destiny would start; from here, very close to the county border with Leitrim, and was then carried on foot from Drumshanbo to Carrick-on-Shannon. Here it was loaded onto a ship of volunteers and sailed the length of the Shannon to Limerick where they joined forces with others and made their way to the coastal rendezvous point by truck. Rodger Casement had organized the shipment and he travelled separately by German U-boat to meet with the other volunteers, to help unload the Aud on its landing. This never happened and Casement was captured by the British as he set foot again on Irish soil. The Aud successfully evaded a number of British Navy patrols and anchored off the Magharee Islands in Tralee Bay on 20th April and for whatever reason never saw the signal light it looked for. It had to leave the bay and was captured by a British flotilla and escorted to Cobh. At the entrance to Cork Harbour, the crew donned their German uniforms and ran up their colours before scuttling the Aud. They were subsequently interned for the rest of the war. Casement was later hanged for treason and what became the blood sacrifice of the 1916 Rising was on. Two men would later be tried and jailed in Carrick-on-Shannon for their involvement in the gun plot. Since then what have become important national relics from the Aud, including two of its anchors, have been retrieved from the wreck but others like the poignant and deeply symbolic mine light still remain missing to this day. (Stephen Rennicks)
Co. Leitrim has by far the highest percentage of ghost estates and empty commercial buildings of any county in the country and there are many sound economic reasons for this. It might also be worth reflecting on the tradition of bad luck to anyone who builds on fairy roads or coffin routes. Fairy roads are generally in straight lines between hills and coffin routes are said to also have been on a generally straight path towards graveyards and were established during the famine. Bad luck would be constantly visited upon anyone who blocked either of these routes consciously or otherwise until they were unblocked somehow. Even opening a front and back door at night was said to accomplish this in some cases. It’s very hard to know how many of these traditional routes could have become blocked during the building boom but one route said to have been is dominated now by this unfinished 7000 feet palatial mansion somewhere in South Leitrim. This area, just on the edge of town, is said to have lain undeveloped for centuries for this reason. Today the house and what would have been its gardens are prey to vandals and lie in ruins since the property collapse. (Stephen Rennicks)
33 minus 8+ is a style of DJing and music which was born in and has become synonymous with Co. Leitrim. It is said to have emerged from outdoor rave parties held there in the mid 90’s when fresh DJ’s came on for the dawn hours and found that people wanted to wind down and they decided to sensitively respond to this by pitching their records lower to suit this changed mood. There was something unique about the bass heavy and minimal sets which resulted and a demand grew for it alone. It was found that all styles of electronic music could potentially make this transition (the instrumental mixes working the best) and another discovery was that tracks which a DJ had previously filed in their reject pile could become positively transformed through this process. DJ’s of the scene were even known to put a sticker across record labels to stop others from identifying a hard won selection. At first they were content to cannibalize their collections but in time some began making new productions and remixes of what was becoming known as the ‘Leitrim Sound’. Many practitioners at the time spoke of there being a point when they were pitching down a record; that was already lower than they thought it could possibly work at, when a strange woozy feeling would come over them as the track began working again in a whole other way which was now almost unrecognizable from the original tune. The highpoint of the sound in Leitrim was marked at the final Sliabh an Iarainn music festival in 2007 when many of the original DJ’s were featured in a tent (pictured) dedicated to the sound they had evolved. (Stepen Rennicks)
There is a pirate internet service provider covering a small section of south county Leitrim since 2004. It’s called Pirate SignalNet and is a free service once you get the receiver box and mount it as high as possible. I was told about it not long after I moved here and 2 years later when I moved into my own house in 2007 I called a number for them and was given an old receiver box (which has a sticker of the logo as shown). The amount of people using the service is limited to the amount of programmed receiver boxes available. Since then I have been getting more or less uninterrupted (it does go down from time to time) and unlimited broadband. It’s not always the quickest service either, as it depends on how many people are using it at one time, and you never quite know if it will still be there the next day but after 7 years it is still going strong for me. I was always curious to know more about how it worked and who set it up so asked around and learnt a few facts. In 2003 there was already a legitimate line of sight internet service provider, SignalNet, which was set up by a local businessman. At the time this was the only alternative to a broadband line from Eircom which was more expensive and unavailable to many rural areas such as this. About a year later, an American guy in his thirties called Andy moved to Leitrim. He was a computer expert who needed an internet connection for his job. He was a (somewhat) reformed hacker who was now working for internet security companies by trying to hack into systems of their clients and then telling them how he did it. He was probably doing a lot more than this but that was what he told the people he lived with. He was definitely being paid huge sums of money from someone or somewhere and was ultra paranoid and you could say was almost hiding out in Leitrim at that time. Where he lived was very rural and didn’t even have a phone connection at the time. He didn’t want to register his name with anyone so spoke with the owner of SignalNet to see what he could do for him. Basically it turned out the company needed some technical help and he did it for them and they gave him a box to go online for free in return. Within a year however they went out of business and rather than change provider (and to stop his friends losing their connection) he bought some of their equipment for a knockdown price and managed to keep a limited service going (he did not buy any of the booster transmitters they had dotted around the county but did pick up every receiver box they had). He must have also figured out a way to get free bandwidth from whomever they had been buying it from as no one lost their connection and the people who stuck with the system (that lived close to where the remaining transmitter was) have never had to pay again. It’s not known how many for sure are still using it today, maybe just over 100 (some use it as a back-up as regular broadband is now faster and it won’t support 3 or 4G), as many would have changed provider once the company folded or if the box broke or they needed other technical assistance. When Andy left a year later he explained the system to the people he was living with, which was basically don’t plug out this box. The transmitter was powered by a gel battery which was hooked up to a solar panel for recharging and this does need some attention from time to time. He left them a server as well with similar instructions and a password. Not many people know where the transmitter is (it’s had to be moved a number of times) but the server (said to be at the back of a wardrobe) now hosts many, mostly Leitrim based, websites for free and is more than likely doing other things for Andy to operate online wherever he is now based. (Stephen Rennicks)
One of the most widely used Abandonware software programs in use today was developed by a Leitrim based company called AlphaWave Systems in 1995. The company is said to have gone into a very messy liquidation (due to an allegedly incompetent receiver) in 1998 which subsequently left a question mark surrounding the ownership and copyright of their published work. The program in question, MoneyGuard 2000, was quickly bootlegged once this was known and is today considered to be the unofficial glue of internet shopping. As it was free and worked so well it quickly became popular with many small, often one person, companies as a security fence and backdoor link between their website and all the major credit card company websites. Its encryption code has yet to be broken and is said to be based on a unique algorithm they developed from an audio recording (made in collaboration with students of a local VEC Media Engineering course) of the construction of the apartments directly across the street from their offices, which would have been at the very start of the Irish property boom. Interestingly these apartments were abandoned for some reason (long before the property crash) and are unfinished to this day. I happen to know their accountant, who told me the company grew out of a short-lived State sponsored VEC Computer Programming course and a small grant from what was then called LEADER. He said they had 3 programmers, which barely fitted into two small rented rooms on the top floor of a now abandoned house (pictured) in Dowra (a town which only got broadband in 2009). All of the original staff are thought to be still living in the region and are currently unemployed. It’s said that if the intellectual copyright of the software could ever be established by the State (who effectively launched the company and trained its employees), the past money accurred plus royalties would go a long way to covering the national debt but only by bankrupting countless small international companies, possibly even destroying the internet as we know it today. (Stephen Rennicks)
A brand of absinthe, McDonnells Absinthe Tonic, was commercially distilled in the townland of Rossinver in north Leitrim between 1847 and 1914 by a family who were also the local landlords of the area. It was started at the height of the famine to employ at least a few more local people.
The herbs needed for its ingredients, such as anise, fennel and wormwood are all easily grown there in addition to some secret local herbs which were said to be added as well. Reportedly it was an extremely potent and hallucination inducing version of the drink. It was recommended that the Bohemian Method be used for its preparation. This entailed the use of fire instead of water to dilute the absinth soaked sugar cube with a shot of water being added only to douse the flames. One of its advertising slogans was The Original Green Fairy and I even found a picture of their red haired fairy online.
Irish absinthe would turn out to be largely for the export market although it is said to have had a dedicated local following in Co. Leitrim. It also found lasting favour with WB Yeats and some of the leading figures of the Irish literary revival and could even have been the main fuel behind it! It is said to have been introduced to that circle by Susan L. Mitchell, a poet from Carrick-on-Shannon and close friend of George ‘AE’ Russell. A few Dublin pubs and wine merchants did stock it or would order it for a customer. Surprisingly it was a hit in the Irish Parliament as it was known to be served in what would become known as the Dail bar after independence. A rare unopened bottle was reportedly found in the 1980’s, which is thought to be the last one in existence and is said to be held in a storeroom of the National Museum. The market for the product dried up at the outbreak of the Great War and sadly production of it then ceased for good. (Stephen Rennicks)