‘The Meeting of the Waters’

John Barrell

In the course of a year beginning in late 2013, I found myself at five separate places called the Meeting of the Waters. The first was the confluence of the Greta and the Tees on the Rokeby estate in Teesdale, thought to have been named by Walter Scott after the song of that title by the Irish Romantic poet Thomas Moore. This was then the only place I knew of so named. Next came a beautiful lake at Killarney which turned out to be called the Meeting of the Waters; again, it’s believed, at Scott’s suggestion. I decided to start collecting these ‘meetings’, so drove across to what I now think of as the real Meeting of the Waters, near Avoca, County Wicklow, where by tradition Moore wrote his song, though in fact he didn’t. Then, in the next few months, I found myself at another Meeting of the Waters, on the Outer Banks, off North Carolina, and near yet another, at Springbrook, in a temperate Queensland rainforest, seven miles from where I was staying, along a leech-infested path. I gave that one a miss. I had already collected more than a hundred places which were known, or had once been known, as the Meeting of the Waters, or which bore a name in one of the indigenous languages of Australasia or North America of which ‘the meeting of the waters’ had become the accepted translation. I’ve now collected two or three hundred such ‘meetings’. Every month I turn up several more.

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