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IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== Conan and the Great March of O'Sullivan Beare
=== Saint Kevin - The Saint Who Did Not Like People
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly Free Competition Result
Popular Articles from Recent Newsletters:
Katya Takes Confession - A Conan Story
'Conan Pays His Debts' - a story
Inventions You Never Knew Were Irish
Hel lo again from Ireland where this month we are pleased to bring you another in our series of Conan stories. Please do share them with your friends and family!
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
IRELAND AMONG WORLD'S MOST PEACEFUL COUNTRIES
A recent survey of 162 countries has placed Ireland in twelfth position in terms of peacefulness. The table was topped by Iceland, Denmark and Austria, with Britain in 39th place.
Read more about this Story at the Ireland News Blog
IRISH UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS AGAIN
The fall in unemployment continues with the release of the most recent Central Statistics Office numbers for June showing unemployment at 9.7%, down from a peak of over 15% in 2012. This is a pretty incredible and accelerated reduction that can only enhance the prospects of the current Fine Gael Government being reelected in the next General Election, due to be held by next year if not sooner.
Anecdotal evidence of an economic recovery has been sign-posted for a good while now. The reappearance of builders skips on the side of the roads alone is a sure sign that the construction industry is on the way back. An increase in traffic volumes on the Dublin M50 ring-road is also an indication of increased economic activity.
Of course these numbers have to be tempered with the acknowledgement that massive numbers of mostly younger Irish people have emigrated since the 2008 crash, most never to return.
SINN FEIN WILL HOLD OFFICE OF DUBLIN MAYOR DURING THE 1916 COMMEMORATIONS
Although the position of Mayor of Dublin is largely ceremonial with the office-holder yielding little if any real power, the position does have a number of distinct benefits, including being a representative for the city at major public events.
Perhaps there will be no larger public event in Dublin next year than the centenary celebrations to mark the 1916 Easter Rising. Councillor Criona Ni Dhalaigh is the Sinn Fein Councillor who was elected to the post and will officiate as the city's 'number one citizen' during the many events that are planned.
Not everyone is happy with this turn of events.
Read more about this Story at the Ireland News Bldg
OPINION POLLS MAKE BLEAK READING FOR LABOUR
The most recent MRBI opinion poll on the state of the Irish Political Parties provides relief for both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail while suggesting a fall-off in support for Sinn Fein.
Fine Gael: 29%
Fianna Fail: 23%
Sinn Fein: 21%
With a General Election due to be held by April of 2016 at the very latest it seems likely that the current Government will try to ride out the wave of economic improvement in the hopes that they are credited with the reduction in unemployment and the improvement in the economy.
MORE SUCCESS FOR IRISH BOXERS AT EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Katie Taylor was again the star of the show at the 2015 European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan. The living legend from Bray in County Wicklow claimed her eighteenth major title that reaffirms her status as the biggest draw in female boxing. Her victory in the lightweight classification in Baku added to her collection of medals that includes five World Championship titles and an Olympic gold medal.
Simply put, Katie Taylor is an Irish superstar and possibly the greatest sports-person the country has ever produced.
Michael O'Reilly made it a double gold celebration when he shocked the home crowds to take the middleweight title from local favorite Xaybula Musalov. The total medal haul from the games for Ireland was seven medals with Sean McComb and Brendan Irvine also claiming boxing medals. Joshua Magee, Sam Magee and Chloe Magee all claimed medals in the Badminton.
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CONAN AND THE GREAT MARCH OF O'SULLIVAN BEARE
Conan stared down at his shoes in disbelief.
The sole was punctured with several wide holes that had not quite broken through yet but were thin enough to allow water to soak in. The left binding of his right shoe was coming apart and looked like it might burst at any moment. He could not find a better pair in a hurry.
What was I thinking? A long trek up to see O'Brien and this is all I could find!
Hurried decisions are rarely good ones and Conan was already regretting the appointment he had made with Garvan O'Brien. It was hard to believe that anyone could survive on the bleak mountain-side that towered over Tirdevlin but O'Brien somehow managed to eke out a living on his small farm half-way up Sliabh Devlin. Sheep-rearing was his primary concern but it was said he could turn his hand to any kind of animal husbandry.
His skills were well known in the countryside surrounding Tirdevlin with a regular stream of farmers consulting with the well-regarded old man, and especially as he would charge a lot less than a qualified Vet, or perhaps not charge at all.
Conan had met him in the Hotel Bar the previous week and agreed to help him repair a fence and carry out some other jobs on his small-holding. The renown that O'Brien was held in for knowing about livestock was matched only by the disdain his practical knowledge of running a farm was held in. To put it bluntly, he was no great handyman.
That is where Conan came in. The ultimate handyman.
Katya had left earlier that day to visit her mother and would be away overnight. She had left a pot of fine stew simmering on the cooker.
Conan observed the scale of it bleakly that morning.
'Just how long are you going away for?'
Katya did not rise to the bait.
'I'll be back late tomorrow. Try not to get into any trouble if you can Conan.'
Conan grinned sideways at her as she fled the scene and before he knew it he was master of his own destiny once more. Well, for a day at least.
He cadged a lift from Joxer Mack who deposited him at the base of the mountain.
'This is as far as any four-wheeled vehicle can go Conan unless you take the tourist route on the other side. You will have to walk the rest of the way.'
As the two men observed the dark brooding scene above with the mist already starting to roll down the mountain towards them Conan considered how he would get home.
'Will you be around later at all Joxer?'
Joxer driver shook his head gravely.
'Sorry Conan. I have some business out of town. Am off to Belturbet for a few days.'
'Cavan is it! Going fishing are you?'
'You have got it in one although calling what I do fishing is a bit of a stretch. More like a hopeful exercise in practising your patience.'
'A beer or two will help proceedings along Joxer.'
'That. They will. For sure.'
He took his leave with Conan staring after him as the car winded its way down the roadways disappearing into a fine misty haze.
Right then. Up we go. Better find O'Brien.
Conan started up the mile or so through the forest in front of him that would lead onto bleaker landscape where Garvan O'Brien had his cottage. He cursed his choice of footwear again as the gravel and grit prodded his feet.
Peggy Devlin was in full flow now. She was perfectly matched to her part-time job as a Tirdevlin Tour Guide and was regularly to be seen wandering the streets of the town with a gang of tourists and students in her wake. Mostly American and British, but often from Australia, Canada and beyond.
The greatest treasure in Tirdevlin was of course the famous Chalice held within the walls of St. Michael's Church but the town had another claim to fame. It was situated right smack along one of the paths taken by the O'Sullivan Beare marchers of four centuries earlier.
'It was January of 1603 when the great march of O'Sullivan Beare of Kerry began. Having been drive from his Castle at Dunboy the Irish Prince had set off with a thousand followers, determined to arrive at O'Rourke's Castle in Leitrim. Men, women, children and animals alike were ushered along the dirt tracks and paths that served as roads in medieval Ireland. Among them were McGuires, Fitzpatricks, McCarthys and O'Driscolls, dozens of old Irish families were represented in what was to become one of the great escape stories of Irish history.'
Conan turned the corner and walked right into the group who were admiring a commemorative stone plaque that had been erected on a rusting park railings.
Peggy read from it gravely.
'A thousand set off from Kerry but only thirty-five arrived. Fleeing from the enemy who harassed their every step, it is in the mountains above that the O'Sullivan Beares sheltered on their way to Leitrim, arriving on the fourth of January in 1603.'
Peggy caught Conan's eye as he observed her with a smile. She broke off from the main group for a moment who were busy taking photos to show their families back home.
'I never knew you were a history buff Conan?'
'Ah now Peggy, you know I can never resist hearing you lecture us.'
She smiled at his impudence.
'Do some reading up Conan and I will see if I can get you a few Tours during the Summer. It would be a handy few bob for you and I know you love to tell tall tales anyway.'
He contemplated briefly. 'Except this is no tall-tale is it Peggy?'
'No. Of course it is not. Glad to hear you clearly know that!'
'For sure Peggy. Didn't the Christian Brothers teach us all about it at school. Another of the great and heroic epic failures that so characterize the Irish condition!'
'I am not sure if I agree with that characterization Conan but maybe you have a point. We had intended retracing the steps of the marchers today but had to call it off as there is bad weather forecast. Cant take any chances on the mountain you know.'
They both looked up at the brooding mass of limestone and sandstone that towered over them.
'Plenty have died in those hills Conan.'
Conan recalled Peggy Devlin's words as he made his way up towards O'Brien's farm. It was cold now and bleak within the enveloping canopy of the forest. Eventually the darkness gave way to brightness as the brilliant sunlight of the afternoon forced its way into the gloom, leading Conan to his destination.
Conan checked his watch again. Quarter to One. Hope this does not take too long. Katya's stew is still on the cooker!
Garvan O'Brien had been quick to put Conan to work. A long fence had collapsed at the side of the tiny cottage and Conan had to contend with an inquisitive Donkey that kept muzzling him as he cut and nailed. Then out to the back to dig a huge long trench where the owner had planned to install some drainage with Conan required to shift the disturbed earth across the back yard to a small cottage garden where there were yet more plans for a new vegetable garden.
'What gives Garvan? Are you planning on becoming totally self-sufficient then!'
The older man laughed. He had known Conan for many years and well knew his cheekiness.
'Not quite Conan'. Every word carefully chosen.
'...If I was to become any more isolated then it might impact on my sociable nature.'
Conan smiled again.
'Fair enough then. But it certainly looks like you are getting organized here at last.'
'I have too Conan. You see that sliver of smoke yonder at the quarry.'
Conan gazed to the east where what he had originally thought was mist was in fact smoke, disguising some kind of human activity.
'Is that the Quarry then Garvan?'
It is and there are plans afoot to re-open it. Lots of testing and blasting going on up there. There is no end of trucks heaving their way up the quarry road, laden with bags and bags of supplies. I regularly have to clear up my own farm with the waste that is sometimes blown down here.'
O'Brien took on an indignant pose as he pressed his walking stick into the ground.
'There's no stopping progress Garvan. I guess it must be worthwhile to re-open the quarry?'
'They can do that if they like but I am going to have my own work done here first and if they try to interfere with my small piece of heaven then I will be well stocked up and equipped to outlast the Winter without leaving this mountainside if necessary!'
'Oh now I get it.' The penny had finally dropped.
'Getting ready in case there is a siege are we?'
The older man regained his good humor.
'I doubt it will come to that but we all have to protect our homeland dont we?
Anyway, these are improvements I should have made years ago. Thank you Conan for your help. Most grateful.'
He paused again and stared up the mountain.
'....and anyway, sure doesn't it give me something to do.'
The work nearly done Conan wiped the sweat from his brow. His employer had lent him an oversize pair of Wellington boots that he was glad to have as he moved the earth from one place to another. As he shifted barrow after barrow of the claggy soil he thought of Sisyphus the Greek King, pushing that giant stone up the hill only for it to fall back down again and the process repeated forever. He had been sentenced to this eternal toil for his deceitfulness.
Conan stopped a moment. He often thought of Sisyphus when faced with a repetitive laborious task. He had learned that in the Christian Brother's school too!
He turned his face back towards Tirdevlin and thought of Peggy Devlin giving her lecture to the assembled crowd. Holding court and in control. What a sort she was!
He finished his labors just as the sun was about to begin its final descent behind Sliabh Devlin.
Garvan O'Brien approached carefully.
'I wonder Conan, if it is no too late if you would accompany me up to the north field to check on a few sheep I keep there. Wont take too long. I am a bit worried about them. I have heard that there are some wild dogs around.'
'I heard that there was talk of dogs across the valley Garvan, but it is doubtful then would make it over here isn't it?'
'That's true for sure..... but it would ease my mind to put my eye on those sheep, if you have the time.'
Twenty past six. Conan rubbed his arms as he pulled down this sleeves and donned his coat.
'Right so, lets go for a little evening stroll shall we Garvan. Just you and me.'
'I'll be right with you my dear, just let me get my cap.'
Conan chuckled quietly as the older man made his way back to his cottage. Older for sure, but young at heart. No doubt.
They set off together up a dirt track that quickly disintegrated into a slippy boggy trail and then narrowed as they made their way up the mountain-side, bouncing from rock to rock with Conan doing his best to keep up. Years of navigating these hills had given the old farmer a sure sense of his footing, of knowing where to place every step. Over the years that knowledge had served him well.
Conan was getting worried now. The light was fading fast and the coldness had surrounded them more and more with every step up the steep mountain.
'It is just beyond those trees yonder Conan'.
Garvan was near shouting now as the wind had picked up suddenly.
It was by instinct that Conan managed to flap away some plastic bags and some brush sticks that had been blown down from the quarry.
'See! That is what I am taking about. Ever since the quarry was reopened - rubbish everywhere!'
Conan beckoned his partner forward. Lets get this over with. A couple of sheep in a nearby field bleated at them before retreating hastily into a makeshift shelter.
They walked along the edge of a small outcrop that formed a sheer face and a miniature valley below.
Every footstep was different. Now rock, Now boggy turf, Now gorse and now hard rock again.
The wind above howled as if laughing maniacally at them.
More debris pitched at them from the direction of the quarry.
'GARVAN! We should turn back!'
'It'll be all rIght, Nearly there.'
Conan could barely hear as the wind pummeled his ears, making him wince. He covered his ears with his hands momentarily, causing him to lop sideways for a moment. His right foot collapsed into a long boggy hole, up to his knees, soaked to the skin, his Wellington boot filling up instantly.
He hauled himself out just in time to see Garvan wave back at him.
An almighty gust from above boomed like thunder.
The farmer pointed with his stick at just the moment he caught Conan's eye.
'THERE CONAN. THERE THEY ARE!'
And with that he was over the edge.
A fantastic gust of air had picked him up like a twig and tossed him over the side of the outcrop. Debris, sticks, gorse and some remnants of rubbish followed in his wake.
Conan looked on aghast.
Quickly he calculated.
If that old man had hit a rock with his head when he landed then he was done for. Dead for sure. And there were lumps of limestone everywhere.
Conan battled against the wind. He crawled forward on all four limbs. A solitary sheep in the nearby field looked at the picture obliquely.
Conan's face was being hammered with bits of gravel and sand, caught up by the gale force wind and despatched in every direction like bullets.
He calculated again as he crawled.
Not a sound from below. O'Brien was surely dead. Or at best had his limbs smashed. Maybe paralyzed.
He reached the edge of the outcrop as the wind mercifully quit its torture. It was still treacherous but at least he could stand to try to survey the situation.
He shouted down into the abyss below.
'GARVAN! GARVAN! ARE YOU ALIVE?'
Not a sound.
There was nothing else for it. He would have to climb down.
Reversing his position he started to climb backwards down the sheer face. Wet rock and boggy turf were everywhere. In fact there was lots of turf here. He wondered.
Every footstep was a challenge. He carefully planted his foot and incrementally released his weight. The first three steps were perfect. The fourth caused him to slip a moment but he readjusted and felt the bracken underfoot take his weight,
All right so far.
He placed his left foot on a bendy piece of branch that seemed ok. It took his weight initially only for its treachery to be revealed.
His entire left leg up to his waist fell into a turf hole, dank and black with peat. As he hauled it out he leaned back too much just as the wind toyed with him some more.
Conan fell back again, flailing with his arms in the vain hope of grabbing a piece of gorse, anything, to prevent him from falling.
But he could not.
He fell through space while time seemed to slow down. He felt his ears hurt by the wind again as he yelled.
Conan had crashed to earth, hit his head, felt a coldness on his forehead before losing consciousness.
Conan, Conan, CONAN! Are you alive?
It was Garvan O'Brien staring down at him.
'Garvan.... is that you?'
'It is. Are you well or cursed?'
Conan took a moment to digest this thought.
'Well I wouldn't go that far but I think I'm alive.'
He sat up carefully as the rain pummeled his face again and became aware of the blood oozing from his head. He held his hand to his forehead.
'It's not too bad. You caught the edge of that rock there.'
Conan turned to see a piece of his skin still attached to the huge boulder. A few inches to the left and he would have hit it square on and smashed his skull. As it was he had just glanced the edge.
'What about you Garvan? I though you were dead for sure.'
'Well I am not dead Conan but it is not a pretty sight.'
Conan stood up before haunching down again under the pressure of the unstoppable wind.
He saw the old mans walking stick shattered with one half stuck deep in the turf. The other half had gashed the side of its owner's right leg. There was blood everywhere.
Conan instantly ripped his shirt and tied a makeshift tourniquet around the leg. It was a bad enough gash for a younger man, never mind an aging farmer.
He grabbed a piece of turf and stuck it to his head. The sterile peat within would at least clog the bleeding. He did the same with his companion, who yelped in agony before cursing at showing such a weakness.
Conan formed a bandage from more of his shirt, quickly sealing up his coat again away from the bitter coldness. He tied the bandage on top of some more mossy peat. Good. The bleeding had stopped.
'Can you walk Garvan?'
They tried to stand but the wind was too great. The wind and the pain.
The older man made it less than a single step before having to collapse onto the ground again. Conan grabbed him to ease his fall. He positioned him carefully so that his bandage work would not be undone.
Conan lay back for a moment and considered the perfect storm he was caught within.
Night falling. Bitter cold. Gale force winds. Both men injured. And not a soul knows where they are.
The hellish winds were now compounded by bits of grit and icy hail that had begun to form in the coldness. The last of the sunlight would soon be gone and there was no way this old man could walk back down the mountain. Even if it was possible given the wind.
Conan stood up to get his bearings. They were within a bog. Turf and peat and little black pools were everywhere. Above them was the more solid ground of the outcrop but below it there was turf everywhere. It had probably saved their lives. Had they hit limestone they both would surely be dead.
A savior one moment but a captor the next. Conan realized that any misstep could plunge him deep into a black pool of icy freezing water.
But he had to get out to get help.
What should he do? Try to walk out, walk into the near darkness or try to huddle down here somehow and see out the night?
The wind quickly gave him his answer. A severe gust all but knocked him off his feet. He staggered a few moments and fell a couple of yards away from his injured companion. In the distance he saw what looked like a sail being tossed up and down in the sky. He stared in amazement.
It was a giant plastic bag. A big one. Straight out of the quarry and now being consigned to the heavens.
Conan tried to estimate its path. The small valley there were in had the effect of slowing down any debris that happened by. Could he that be that lucky?
Lucky! Being stuck in a bog half-dead is lucky!
Conan banished that thought. He knew that negativity and self-pity were two characteristics that would quickly usher him to his demise in this kind of environment.
He took a chance. He grabbed a large branch and started waving it above him.
More debris flew by.
Suddenly the plastic that had seemed a hundred yards away was careening towards him at high speed. He knew the direction could change at any moment.
It veered to his right.
Damnation! More rocks over there.
Conan summoned his courage. He leapt through the gale onto one rock, was blown sideways onto another before lunging through the air onto the plastic sheet that was about to fly by at high speed. He grabbed at it with both hands, gratefully accepting the pain he felt as he hit the rocks below, partly cushioned by the huge plastic sheet that was his reward.
The wind threatened to rip it from him. Quickly he crumpled the sheet into as small a size as he could. Dirty water splashed from it into his face that was also being pelted with hail and grit.
He fell to the ground again before crawling over to the farmer who had observed the scene in amazement.
Conan looked at his watch again. 7:05 pm.
'Time to dig in Garvan!'
'O'Sullivan Beare and his followers were harassed all along their trek by the much larger enemy forces. To their shame, many of the native Irish also fought against their former allies. The Irish countryside had been decimated by 'The Nine Years War' that had eventually been settled at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 with the Irish and Spanish forces being routed by the superior Anglo invaders. This battle marked the summit of Gaelic resistance to the English colonization. It was the beginning of the end for the ancient Gaelic way of life.'
Peggy Devlin notice some of the tourists shaking their heads and murmuring in disapproval.
'It has to be remembered that the people were literally starving and in constant fear for their lives. It is no surprise that the MacEgans of Tipperary fought off the O'Sullivan marchers. At Aughrim they met further local resistance and were again repelled. Day by day the marchers numbers were reduced. By war. By hunger. By exposure. With many of the thousand who had started deciding to settle along the route. Forever after they would be known as 'the Bearas'.
Peggy Devlin paused a moment as she glanced back up the mountainside. A massive great cloud filled with hail and rain rushed around its peak, rolling downwards, covering everything within.
'The remaining band of weary travellers camped at Sliabh Coimealta in the bitter cold with a separate branch camping in the mountains above us before heading on to the River Shannon.'
Peggy raised her voice for effect.
'Look up at the mountains above us. Think of the coldness, the bitter, bitter coldness these people must have endured, and all the while being pursued with potential death waiting for them around every corner. They fought their way across the Shannon, killing their horses for food, using the horse-skins to make a rough Currach for the crossing, losing many to the freezing water. After camping on Sliabh Mhuire, between Ballygar and Creggs, they awoke to find that they were covered in a thick blanket of snow. More died due to exposure and exhaustion.'
'Those that survived made their way ever northwards, passing by Knockvicar in Roscommon, one of the most beautiful and little known places in Ireland. From there they made their was to Leitrim with a mere thirty-five of the original thousand reaching O'Rourke's stronghold.'
Some of the audience were now beginning to shuffle and stamp their feet.
Coldness. Maybe it was all this talk of hunger and deprivation. Some of her charges looked like they had had enough.
'Right then folks, that concludes todays tour. As you can see from the clouds gathering above us there is just no way we could retrace the steps taken by the marchers today. Let's make our way down Main Street and retire a bit earlier than planned to the warmth of the Hotel Bar where we have soup and sandwiches waiting for us. We will try again tomorrow to get up the mountain ....weather permitting.'
Peggy began to shepherd the tourists down the street before wrapping her own coat tightly around her.
It would have been sheer madness to go up that mountain today.
Conan shivered violently but he took this as a good sign. He knew that if he stopped shivering then it was a sign that exposure was getting the better of him. He tried to stretch his arms and legs regularly. If the muscles stiffened up due to the numbness then he could be done for.
When he had made his decision he had acted quickly.
He dragged Garvan back to the side of the bog they were in. An overhanging piece of turf was closed in on three sides with the cavity within just big enough for the pair to squeeze into. Conan packed the back of the small cavern with bracken and moss and positioned his companion as best as he could. Now came the tricky part.
He slowly unfurled the plastic sheeting and inched it around his own body. He then wrapped it behind the old farmer who has begun to show signs of real suffering.
At one stage it looked like the wind might rip the sheeting away from them but Conan held on fiercely as the greater part of the plastic was drawn out of the bog-hole they were in. It was drawn upwards like a massive kite that nearly dragged the men from their shelter. Conan found his reserve of strength. He knew that if they lost this precious plastic then the game would be up.
Somehow he hauled the sheet back from the clutches of the wind that seemed to growl in disapproval at being denied before giving up the bounty to the humans below who gratefully dragged in back into the earth.
Conan grabbed a rock and placed it on his knees holding the plastic that was now wrapped around both of the men, firmly in place. He huddled close to his partner, grabbing him around the shoulders, rubbing his limbs repeatedly. The rain increased in intensity. The noise was deafening.
Inside the shelter the older man stirred.
'Yes Garvan, take it easy there now'.
Conan again rubbed the farmers limbs.
'Conan.... I never knew you felt this way about me....'
'Conan laughed and slapped the old farmer gently on the face.
'Good Man. There is some life in you yet Garvan O'Brien!'
For hours the rain and wind had pounded them but at last started to relent. Conan had eventully drifted off but was awoken by a rustling sound. The wind had died down sufficiently but the mountain was still being pelleted with rain. Thick icy drops. Conan was glad to have shelter from it and the plastic had done its job. Keeping them dry while retaining what little body heat they were generating.
The two men huddled closely together. Any inhibitions had long since evaporated. Conan was gravely concerned for the old farmer who had stopped talking. He maneuvered his coat and shirt and did the same for his companion and pressed his bare chest against the older mans, wrapping his arms around his back, rubbing his skin as best he could.
The farmer gave a moan but seemed to draw closer to Conan which he took as a good sign.
Conan tried to picture the scene. Huddled in a bog-hole wrapped in plastic with his shirt half-off. What would Katya say if she could see this!
Her soup was still simmering on the cooker.
He could imagine her warmth as she draped her arms around him.
WHAT WAS THAT?
Conan had drifted off again but was brought back to life suddenly. It was quieter now with the rain subsiding to a drizzle and the wind having abated.
THERE IT WAS AGAIN.
A rustle outside and above them. A rustling sound...like an animal.
Conan remembered the earlier talk of wild dogs.
Oh Hell, that was all they needed.
Fear and Adrenaline surged through his body. He reacted with instinct
'YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH, YAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, YAAAAAAAAAAAAH'
He let out as fierce a scream as he could muster.
More rustling and then a scampering sound.
Conan leaned forward a little to peer outside. He did not want to lose the position he had and was constantly afraid that the bog-hole around them would collapse. The darkness was pitch. Pitch black and freezing. The backs of his thighs were shaking with the cold. And the fear.
His toes and legs were colder than his other limbs. Getting numb.
He settled back again. Wary. Listening intently. Then feeling sleepy. He drifted off again.
'Eyeeeeeeee, Aieeeeeeeeem, EYEEEEEE'
Conan lurched forward.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?
'Garvan, was that you?'
The old man's voice was low and gravelly but strong enough.
'It was, Conan. I though I heard something outside but I must have been mistaken.'
He paused a moment while he acknowledged his current situation.
'Conan. Can I ask you something?'
'Sure thing Garvan. Ask away.'
'Why have you got your hands around my bare chest?
The older man closed his eyes again before starting to drift off.
Conan laughed again. He wondered how much of a bonus he might get for this handy-mans job.
Might be best not to mention it if the matter arose again.
Smiling has a great and immediate effect on the human spirit and so does light.
Conan peered outside for what seemed like an hour, maybe more. Perhaps it was his imagination but he was sure he could discern the very beginnings of the blackness turning to that deep, deep blue and then to deep blue and finally to the unmistakable blue that is present as if to usher in the dawn.
He thought of the men and women of the O'Sullivan Beare march that Peggy had been lecturing on the previous day. Perhaps they had been stuck in a bog like this on a night as cold as this.
As he looked around his makeshift shelter he recalled that the Bearas had for a time settled at Glengarriff in an area known as Doire Na Fulla - the Oak Tree of the Blood. Conan had visited there years ago. Local lore has it that many of the primitive shelters still in existence there date from the time of the O'Sullivan march.
Conan did not witness the transition of the blueness to lightness. When he awoke again it was clearly dawn and he was grateful for the dim light that had penetrated the valley.
He carefully peeled the plastic away from his body before reassembling his filthy and ripped clothing.
Packing the sheeting around his companion he managed to rip off a large chunk of it. He clambered outside and weighed down one end of it with some heavy rocks before letting it go, flapping in the still strong breeze like an enormous elongated kite. It would make a good marker.
He examined the rough shelter they had spent the night in and decided to edge his companion towards the front, still fearing a cave-in. A few grunts and groans demonstrated life in the older man.
It took him an age but he made his way to the end of the bog, carefully avoiding the bog-holes filed with murky black peat water and as the sun suddenly blazed from beyond the mountain-top he felt the pain rush through his forehead where he had hit the rock.
The sunlight broke forward in individual rays, distorted by the mountain above that they tried to penetrate. Conan stood up tall and instinctively raised his arms to the sun.
It was a visceral response to the meagre warmth. He closed his eyes and wondered just how long it had taken the solar electrons to travel through space and time to finally warm his cold skin.
Pain in his limbs again and pain in his forehead.
He was glad of it.
Pain meant he was still alive and although his lower clothing was still very wet his upper chest and arms were relatively dry.
He kicked his legs out in front of him, stamping his feet hard onto a flat piece of limestone.
It seemed to take hours but Conan carefully made his way out of the bog, crawling back up to the top of the outcrop before retracing his steps back down the mountain. The sheep in the fields he passed looked briefly at him, uninterested.
He was half-way down the trail when he encountered none other than Peggy Devlin and her tour group in a small bus, about to traverse across to the other side of the mountain as the roads above were unpassable.
Peggy was astonished to see Conan in such a condition.
'Good God Conan, what ails you?'
Conan hurried towards her.
'Peggy can you call an Ambulance immediately. Garvan O'Brien is in the field up the mountain above, near a small bog. He is in a bad way. Will you call them now!'
Peggy waited until the Ambulance crew arrived. Being well used to taking people off the mountains they had their climbing gear with them. Peggy went with them as far as she could, following Conan's directions. Conan had gone immediately back up the mountain to be with Garvan once Peggy had called for help.
She wished he had stayed put! He really should have stayed to show them exactly where they were.
Peadar Bawn was the Chief Ambulance Officer who led the search crew up to the outcrop. No sign of any life anywhere.
Suddenly, and to his relief, a wild scream could be heard from below.
'Eyeeeeeeee, Aieeeeeeeeem, YAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH,'
Encased within a stretcher that was being carried down the hill by the three Ambulance men and Conan, Garvan began to regain his wits.
When they reached the Ambulance the assembled tour-group let out a spontaneous cheer and round of applause for the old man and for the crew who had saved him.
Peader Bawn turned to Conan.
'That applause is for you mate! You saved this man.'
'Not me Peadar, it was that sheet of plastic I found.'
Peadar knew Conan for many years and grinned at his modesty.
'Ok Conan, whatever you say.'
Garvan was about to be raised into the back of the Ambulance but first extended his hand which Conan grasped gently. They locked eyes for a moment, before the old farmer was escorted away.
Peader spoke to Conan again before they left.
'His Blood pressure is good. He is suffering from exposure but I think he will be ok. A few days in a hospital bed will sort him out. What about you Conan? You should come back to the hospital too, let me check you out.'
Conan shook his head slowly.
'Nothing to worry about with me Peader. I am as right as rain and anyway, my misuss has some soup brewing!'
'Let me give you a lift down the town then, jump in.'
Conan looked back towards the forest and bog.
'Thanks mate. I'm going to walk it.'
And with that he turned on his heels and set off down the track, back towards Tirdevlin.
Peggy and the tour-group stared after him in amazement, but their leader quickly regained her composure.
'All right folks, Lets get on. Lets see if we can follow in the steps of the O'Sullivan marchers.'
Conan trudged his way down the mountain, his feet squelching with dampness and his clothing covered in peat, now drying out. He was quite a sight.
Should have taken the lift home. Ridiculous.
But no. I'll get myself home.
He passed through a glade, thick with aging Oak, Hazel and Ash trees. Conan stopped dead in his tracks when he heard a rustling sound to his left. At the far corner of the clearing five dogs had spotted him. He stood perfectly still while also eyeing the nearest tree to climb if it became necessary.
The dogs circled each other for a moment, sizing up Conan, before the lead dog adopted an attack pose and started crawling towards its prey. Conan ran. He belted through the forest heading towards Moriarty's farm.
He calculated that there was no way he could make it there in time, stopped his retreat and grabbed at a large branch to use as weapon while he backed up against a huge Ash tree.
The wild animals were in full flight towards him now.
He steadied himself, ready for more blood,
His heart was pounding, adrenaline surging through his veins.
Suddenly and without warning a thunderous gunshot echoed throughout the glade. Conan turned sharply to see Moriarty with his shotgun again taking aim. A second shot pealed out and the lead dog was felled in an instant. The pack dogs retreated, and rapidly disappeared into the forest before Moriarty had a chance to reload.
Conan observed the scene before approaching the cattle farmer who knew him well.
'By God you know how to use that shotgun Shamus.'
'Years of practice Conan.'
He looked Conan up and down.
'Have ye had trouble?'
Conan explained the situation and asked if the cattle farmer would check on Garvan's livestock while he was in the hospital. Moriarty readily agreed, as is the custom of farmers everywhere.
Conan looked again at the dead dog.
'That was the Alpha you killed.'
'Aye, but they will soon reform and establish a new leader. They must have crossed over the valley during the night.'
Conan nodded in affirmation. He thanked Moriarty, declined his offer of recuperation at his farmhouse and bounded down out of the glade continuing on down the mountain. More outcrops to be scaled and another bog to be navigated.
As he made his way down over a series of huge limestone boulders he was sure he could hear running and rustling behind him in the adjacent forest.
Fear took hold of him again.
He picked up his speed.
Now he was practically running downhill, constantly glancing over his shoulder, constantly harassed by the fear that he was being stalked.
He stopped a moment to assess.
A few hundred yards away a flock of crows took sudden flight and pealed away into the sky with a flourish, breaking the silence.
Conan moved and moved fast. He crossed through an open patch of ground. He realized he was exposed.
He summoned his depleted energy and ran as fast as he could.
At last he reached the road at very base of the mountain. The road back to Tirdevlin. The sun was beating down on him now, drying his clothes as rapidly as the profuse sweat generated by his exertions was dampening them. Hours earlier he had been a frozen block hidden within a soaked bog. Ridiculous.
He momentarily acknowledged the piece of folded plastic that he had earlier jammed into his belt before clambering over a rough stone wall to continue his trek back to Tirdevlin.
He found new strength in his legs. The drivers of the cars approaching him stared out of their vehicles in astonishment at the wild-looking mountain man before them. Conan looked around as he approached the local Gaelic Athletic Football grounds. There was a large water tap adjacent to the clubhouse and on seeing it he was overcome with an all-pervasive and instant thirst. His body shook again and his brow sweated profusely. He felt dizzy as the toils of the night before caught up on him.
He stumbled to the water tap, turning it on full and immersing his head completely under the cool life-giving water. After he drank his fill he began to instantly feel better and washed his face, hands and clothes as much as he could. He considered lying there for a few moments but thought better of it. If he lay down now he would likely be out for the count within a minute. He was enough of a disgrace without being found lying asleep at the side of a roadway.
He breathed deep and stood upright, his muscles releasing painfully from the stiffness they had gathered.
He finally reached Tirdevlin Main Street with a sense of relief, short-lived as an immense hunger overcame him. He grabbed a ready-made sandwich from Davitt's Grocery Shop, greedily tearing apart the cellophane and taking a large bite.
He retched and spat out the food that felt like poison in his mouth.
He was too hungry. TOO HUNGRY. He binned the sandwich. Katya's soup would be the answer. If the house has not burned down.
As he made it to the top of the Main Street the sun disappeared behind a massive cloud and coldness embraced the town again. He looked back up at the mountain with the mist still swirling about its summit before finally reaching his own home and safety.
It was with great relief that he closed the front door behind him. The smell of soup hung heavy in the house. He examined the pot in the kitchen. The stew was still simmering away, reduced in proportion but still looking very appealing at that precise moment.
But first one last thing to do.
Conan had saved the plastic that had been so instrumental in the affairs of the previous night and brought it into his workshop at the back of his garden. Some insulation had fallen away from the roof and he intended to use the plastic to tack it back into place. There was some branding logo on one side but he placed the plastic backwards with the logo facing inwards and carefully tacked the insulation back into the rafters, held in place by the plastic. He cut away the excess.
He would remember his night on the mountain ever time he looked at it.
Conan returned to the kitchen, washed his hands again and sat down to a large bowl of Katya's stew.
The very smell of it gave him nourishment.
As he lifted the first spoonful to his mouth he stopped dead still and dropped the contents back into the bowl.
Just a minute! What the hell? What did that logo say? What was it?
He ran out to the workshop and pulled down the plastic from the roof. The same piece of plastic that he had pinned there only a few moments earlier and that had probably saved two lives the night before.
As he peeled it back from the roof he stumbled back and fell onto the floor where he sat in amazement.
He lifted his hands to his head and then to cover his mouth again with the shock of it.
I dont believe it. Conan was amazed and emotional as he read the branding.
'Made in Kerry by O'Sullivan Packaging Materials Limited.'
Conan sat barely able to move. An inexplicable shiver in his spine despite the heat he felt, and a welling at the back of his eyes.
He rose again after a few moments, gathering his exhausted frame once more back into the kitchen.
He devoured the bowl of soup before him and then resolved to call his wife.
He made it as far as the living room before collapsing onto the couch and falling into a deep, deep sleep.
Peggy Devlin and her tour party had continued up the mountain path crossing sideways to meet better ground for their small tour bus. This was as far as they could go along the O'Sullivan Beare march. They exited onto a small viewing spot that gave lovely views of the mountainside to the west and Tirdevlin to the south.
Peggy continued her oration.
'And so after battling all of the foreign and native forces that were ranged against him Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare, the Prince of Beare and first Count of Berehaven, led the remaining thirty-five of his band of a thousand followers to O'Rourke's Castle in Leitrim. He was the last ever O'Sullivan Beare which was a genuine Gaelic Princely Title that is now, no more.'
The small group were distracted by a commotion in the distance.
About a mile away some dogs were barking wildly as a large kite-like object flapped furiously in the wind that had suddenly picked up. The plastic that Conan had earlier weighed down with rocks was now flapping furiously, startling the dogs who did not know its nature. They snapped at it again and again, eventually ripping it from its anchor.
The wind then took claim of it, tossing it about like a feather. Twenty feet or more of the plastic material was thrown about in the air, swirling and being thrust about the valley.
It rose to a great height, fell back gently for some of the way before the great wind of Sliabh Devlin swept it up over the mountain top, away and out of sight, onwards to continue its journey towards Slieve Felim perhaps, or Sliabh Mhuire, or Aughrim.
Out away from this cold mountain to meet its fate elsewhere.
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SAINT KEVIN - THE SAINT WHO DID NOT LIKE PEOPLE
by J.I. McGovern
Saint Kevin was the founder of the Abbey of
Glendalough in County Wicklow. There are all sorts
of attractive stories about his relationship with
animals that represent an aspect of that real
closeness to nature which was such an appealing
feature of 'Celtic Christianity'. He died on 3rd
June in the year 618.
Saint Kevin and the Cow
Saint Kevin did not like people, but he was very
kind to animals! He lived in a tree in Glendalough
in County Wicklow. The tree was near a farm. One
day, the farmer saw that one of his cows gave as
much milk as fifty cows. He was amazed and followed the
cow to the tree near the farm. He found the cow
licking the feet of Saint Kevin. The farmer asked
Saint Kevin if he would live in his house. Saint
Kevin did not like the idea but he said to the farmer
that he could send his cows to him daily. After this
the farmer had the best farm in all of Ireland.
Saint Kevin and the Blackbird
One day Saint Kevin was standing in a lake where
the water was deep and very cold. He was praying
with his arms outstretched and his palms upwards
when a blackbird flew down and put a twig in his hand.
The bird repeated the process until she
had built a nest. Saint Kevin loved animals so
much he stood there until the eggs were hatched
and the young birds grew and flew away.
Saint Kevin and the Monster
One time in Glendalough people from all over
Ireland came to see Saint Kevin. There was a
monster living in the Upper Lake that ate people.
The people wanted to kill the monster but Saint
Kevin loved all animals and asked the monster to
move to the Lower Lake. The Lower Lake is now
named 'Lake Peist', the Lake of the Monster.
Saint Kevin and the Woman
Saint Kevin especially disliked women. While in Glendalough he was living
in a cave high above the lake. There was a woman
in Glendalough who was madly in love with him. One day
Saint Kevin came home and the woman was cleaning
his cave and cooking dinner. He became very angry
and threw the woman out from the cave. She fell into the
lake and drowned. But thereafter, Saint Kevin remained kind to animals.
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
||ta se fuar/gaofar/ag cur baisti
||taw shay foor/gayfur/egg curr bah-stee
||It is cold/windy/raining|
||La brea ata ann
||lah brah ahtaw ow-inn
||It's a lovely day
|| an tEarrach, an Samhradh, an Fhomhair, an Geimhreadh
||on tarrack, on sow-rah, on o-wirr, on geh-rahh
||Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter
View the archive of phrases here:
The winner was: firstname.lastname@example.org
who will receive the following:
A Single Family Crest Print
Send us an email to claim your print, and well done!
Remember that all subscribers to this
newsletter are automatically entered into the
competition every time.
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
by Michael Green,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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