Almost 100 years ago Irish rebels ambushed a British army column in a remote part of Cork called Kilmichael. The British soldiers were based on the nearby town of Macroom and were on patrol when 36 members of the IRA led by Commander Tom Barry ambushed them at a lonely, winding section of road. 17 of the 18 British were killed, while 3 IRA soldiers also died. The fighting was ferocious, with intense hand-to-hand combat reported from the scene. The incident was an enormous change of pace and escalation by the IRA and had serious consequences historically.
For almost a hundred years the site remained largely untouched by time.
The Kilmichael ambush site was a national treasure, and an oddity in many ways. Apart from a couple of sombre memorials, the site was essentially left ‘as was’. This meant a couple of things. First of all, the site was obviously untarnished and was therefore a suitable memorial in itself to the terrible fight that occurred there. It was a unique place historically in that you could stand at the corner of the ambush site, imagine the British transports coming into site, and imagine the terrified and excited Irish rebels in the bushes as the enemy approached.
The Kilmichael site was a contemplative, haunting historical treasure.
Fast forward to today and the site is a mess.
The evidence of construction is never far away, little groups of dirt, building materials, unfinished sections, and random poles standing to attention. Perhaps ugliest of all are the invasive, garish ‘WebWatch’ CCTV signs, of which there are approximately 6 or 7 dotted around the site. Perhaps there is some deep underlying reason why these are required, however it is hard to imagine what that is. The site is basically in the proverbial ‘middle of nowhere’ and anyone going to it would probably have planned to do so, random acts of vandalism would be very hard to envisage. The gaudy, tatty looking CCTV signs are a real eye-sore on such historical lands.
I visited the site again last weekend and as I took pictures and walked around the site, a woman sat in her car on her own, flicking through her phone, while fixing her makeup. Her car took up two of the ugly new parking spots. Perhaps when this development, or, as they are laughably calling it, enhancement, began, intentions were the best. However, what they have basically managed to create is a parking spot on a historical site, for people to stop and do their makeup while flicking through the social networks on their phones, all to the backdrop of decorations provided by gaudy CCTV signs.
A couple of years ago you could stand, pause, think and reflect as you stood on a historical site, with barely any signs of modernity in view. You could literally imagine the drama, heart ache and indeed violence of events as they unfolded a hundred years ago.
Now you can double park your car in a convenient road-side lay-by, toss a chocolate wrapper out the window (there are plenty around), do your makeup and enjoy the marvel at the sights, such as construction materials and CCTV warnings, there are plenty of those to enjoy.
Intentions may have been good with this so called enhancement, but they couldn’t have got it more wrong with the execution of same.
The Ghosts of Kilmichael would not approve.