Several years ago as a Belfast medical student I spent an Erasmus term in Galway. Such a vivacious
& welcoming place with many new friends made.
Now I’m working as a junior doctor in the middle of the Covid pandemic. Such a difference from my
carefree student days, this bewildering and angst laden time, everyone struggling to deal with the
change. Lockdown has minimised face to face interactions with friends so social media interactions
and conversations have gained a greater importance, distance makes no difference to these “new
normal” “virtual” relationships.
Everyone’s experiences are interwoven as a result of the current world crisis. Many of my friends
have come home early from lifelong ambitions of work experience in USA and Australia. Everyone is
In the midst of this I’ve been chatting online to someone I briefly met in Galway. It’s been a diversion
from this strange new normal, rekindling an acquaintance into a friendship. We would like to meet
up but with this currently not feasible we are creating a virtual experience which we hope we can re-enact some day for real!
I live near the Callan river which has been described as the little known rival to the river Boyne for a
battle of historical significance. Unlike the Battle of the Boyne which was fought in County Meath in
1690 and is re-enacted annually on the County Armagh border, The Battle of The Yellow Ford fought
in 1598 on the Callan banks in County Armagh is barely known about locally. As a escape from the
current Covid crisis I am delving into this 400 year old Irish crisis that resulted in thousands of deaths on my “doorstep”
I am privileged to have a horse so while off medical duty I can wander by horseback along the
boreens around my home. All my routes roughly follow the Callan river. One particular route along
the Lisdonwilly Road, when approached from Armagh, has an easily missed grubby plaque declaring
it to be The Yellow Ford Way. From here the road meanders alongside the river as it flows towards
the bridge at Allistragh, the reputed yellow ford, before joining the more impressive Blackwater river
about a mile away. Along this section the neglected Callan is almost denuded of any of native trees
that must have adorned its banks 400 years ago.
Further along this road is an area of native woodland, being encroached upon by a sprawling quarry,
and between here and my home the fiercest fighting took place with more than 2000 deaths on 14th
August 1598. The lane to my house is still known as the “bloody loanin” with the bloody oak tree
still standing at one end.
This battle was part of what is known as the nine years war between 1593 to 1603 in Ireland. It was
one of the few victories for the Irish who were subsequently beaten in Kinsale, leading to the flight
of the earls in 1607 and the end of Gaelic Ireland.
Today 31/5/20 the BBC news carries an article about an archaeological dig in Spain which may have
found the bones of Red Hugh O’Neill. He died in Spain in 1602 after leaving Ireland to seek Spanish
assistance for the nine years war. Red Hugh was one of the victorious Irish Earls in the Battle of The
My “virtual” friend and I are sharing this historical self discovery, exploring it by horseback and
planning for when we can we can do this “for real” together!