The naming of Cora

The man drank at his pint slowly and allowed the black liquid to float around his mouth before swallowing.

‘It’s a bad afternoon’ he said to me ‘You are here for your two weeks what do you do when its wet like this.’

I thought back to the walk we had done the previous afternoon children in waterproofs


‘What was it you called your young girl there? Was it Cora? You said you saw the name where? There is a stone in the old graveyard in Kilcrohane with it on. But you know the name is stuck to the bottom and there’s been people come in here and asked on it puzzled. There’s no date and they think that maybe it was a dog or some poor child that never got born. Its such a pretty name there and I think that they’re sorry there’s not enough attached to it. But feck it its only the name of a lump of ground now!’

‘You know where the Black Gate is and the hills behind that. Well there’s a lake there stuck down in the middle of the hills and its a peaceful place in the summer with its lillies and green grass and from there you can see the full sweep of the bay and the sea. You step back from there into the hills and there’s another old road that follows and folds down from the top ridge. You walk far enough along those old roads there will be a rough pile of old stone where a house used to stand and somewhere up there one of those old piles of stones is Cora.’

“We call it a townland but all it is really is the scratching together of some land to farm on and two or three buildings to lie down in. There’s not much of it left now apart from that pile of stones and a different shade to the grass but there were a few people who lived there a hundred years back.’

‘You’ll remember the man I told you about last week, the Welsh man who got swept across the bay from the shipwreck by the Mizen he lived there for a while and he gave the place its name. Being Welsh he had a repuatation for singing and there were times he’d make a bit of money stood in the corner of a pub singing Welsh hymns. The music of it was different to what they were used to and he was quite an attraction and if people knew he would be singing they would travel some distance to see him.’

‘Some ten years or so after he came there was a group of American tourists who took a house here in Ahakista for a while. They were smart writers from New York and they had spent some time in London and one of then knew one of the big families in Bantry and they had the house down there opposite the pier and they let them stay for the summer.’

‘One of the writers, he was a big man back at home, Stephen Crane, he wrote The Red Badge of Courage and he came with his wfie Cora. There was talk that she was not really his wife and that she kept a brothel at home and that to leave her first husband she allowed herself to be swept off to sea from his boat. Well they saw the Welshman sing a few times and Cora and the Welshman had something in common, that time in the water under a black sky and thinking they’ll never be home again and the fish and the crabs waiting underneath. They would talk after he’d finish his singing and there be days they went walking together in the hills.’

‘The writer, Stephen Crane, he worried for her after a while and they went away after a few weeks and the Welshman he went to brooding back in the hills and they said there was a different cut to his voice after she’d gone and after a while he took to calling the house that he lived in Cora and so the name stuck to the place. There were never more than three houses there so over the years there’d only be twelve or so people who could say they lived in Cora but when they died they were buried by Kilcrohane and Cora was the name that went on their grave to mark where they came from.’

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