It was my pleasure to welcome the Dutch Ambassador Adriaan Palm to my constituency of East Galway yesterday as part of the European Union’s celebration of EU50, meeting in the world class Coole Park Nature Reserve where wetland and woodland meet,
Coole is at the centre of a rare and complex wetland system that is considered to be of global importance and includes underground rivers, seasonal lakes (turloughs), springs and swallow holes.
Coole Park never fails to deliver, each visit unveiling even more surprises.
I think Lady Gregory describes it best:
“The beauty, the romance of our Seven Woods,
the mysteries of the ebbing and flowing lake are dear to me,
have been well loved, and are now in hands
that will care and tend them it is likely for ever
– Lady Gregory, 26th May 1929
Coole Park, in the early 20th century, was the centre of the Irish Literary Revival William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O’ Casey all came to experience its magic and many others carved their initials on the Autograph Tree, an old Copper beech still standing in the walled garden today.
The Irish literary renaissance, the flowering of Irish literary talent at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century was closely allied with a strong political nationalism and a revival of interest in Ireland’s Gaelic literary heritage
At that time it was home to Lady Gregory, dramatist and folklorist who is perhaps best known as a co-founder of the Abbey Theatre with Edward Martyn of nearby Tullira Castle and Nobel prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats.
The seven woods celebrated by W.B. Yeats are part of the many kilometres of nature trails taking in woods, river, turlough, bare limestone and Coole lake.
After a light lunch in the wonderful Coole Park Tearooms, we were ready to meet some local school children at Gort Community School.
Gort Community School
Principal Brian Crossan and Music Teacher Ms Edel Quinn greeted us warmly at the school and our first port of call was the music room, where students entertained us with their distinguished musical talents.
A lively conversation followed on diverse topics including Climate Action, Cycling to School, and the topical Eurovision Song Contest!
Ambassador Palm commended the students on their interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th, Ode to Joy, and the European National Anthem.
The melody used to symbolise the EU comes from the Ninth Symphony composed in 1823 by Ludwig Van Beethoven, when he set music to the “Ode to Joy”, Friedrich von Schiller’s lyrical verse from 1785.
The anthem symbolises not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense.
The poem “Ode to Joy” expresses Schiller’s idealistic vision of the human race becoming brothers – a vision Beethoven shared.
In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” theme as its anthem and in 1985, it was adopted by EU leaders as the official anthem of the European Union.
There are no words to the anthem; it consists of music only. In the universal language of music, this anthem expresses the European ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity.