Ireland Newsletter: The Children of Lir Irish Legend
Online version here:
(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== The Children of Lir: An Irish Legend
=== Peculiarly Irish Words and Phrases #5: Banjaxed
=== A Letter From America by John B. McCabe
=== Isle Of Mist by Carole Kenney
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Economic matters continue to dominate Ireland
with the new government pressing ahead with
its policies hoping to reverse the terrible
setbacks of recent years.
The change of government has certainly brought
new hope and impetus to the Irish people,
boosted by the news that US President Obama
will be visiting soon.
Are we turning the corner?
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
NEW FINE GAEL AND LABOUR COALITION UP AND RUNNING
Fine Gael and the Labour Party have entered into
a coalition together that should seriously reduce
the undue influence that independents have had in
recent years, as well as providing a stable
platform for government.
It must have been tempting for Fine Gael to
consider forming an alliance with some of the 15
independents who were elected in the recent
general election. After all, the party won 76
seats and only needed a further 7 to reach the
magic number of 83 for a majority. Perhaps if
they were only relying on 3 or 4 independents they
might have jumped but to rely on 7 was just too
much. By joining forces with the Labour Party and
their 37 seats the new government has a huge
majority which should bring stability to
Irish politics in Leinster House for some years.
New Taoiseach Enda Kenny was quick off the mark
and met with European leaders to discuss the terms
of the Irish bailout deal. Events in Ireland
though were somewhat surpassed by talk of a bailout
for Portugal so it looks like this will be a long
game. Fine Gael have repeatedly stated that the
Irish rate of Corporation Tax will not be changed
as a result of these negotiations. This is proving
to be a bone of some contention for some European
leaders, particularly the French President Nicolas
Sarkozy who is more than a little irked at the
The Irish do have some cards to play though. While
some commentators have played up the fact that
this is a bailout for Ireland in her time of need
it is actually no such thing: it s a loan, and at
a high interest rate. The spectre of an EU country
defaulting on its sovereign debt is something that
the leaders of the EU do not really wish to
contemplate (hence the loan) but should the
financial situation worsen in Ireland even more
(which is still a possibility) then the prospect
of Ireland actually leaving the Euro and reviving
the Irish 'Punt' currency would have to be
discussed. This would be a disaster for the EU and
one which the Germans and French in particular do
not want to happen. Thus, it is likely that some
reduction in the interest rate charged to Ireland
will be accommodated.
On the home-front the new government came under
pressure when one of their former Party members
was accused of corruption. The Moriarty Tribunal
reported that former Fine Gael TD Michael Lowry
was corrupt in respect of his awarding of a
mobile telephone licence in the 1990s. While he
disputes these claims and has stated that he is
considering bringing a legal action against the
Tribunal, it is clear the issue has caused Fine
Gael some embarrassment.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his new government
allies in the Labour Party derided Fianna Fail
leader Michael Martin for his attempt to lecture
them about party ethics, especially given Fianna
Fail's recent history. While the new government
will certainly continue to blame Fianna Fail for
the economic mess there will also come a moment
when they must stand on the merits of their own
policies and face down whatever criticism comes
their way. That time has not arrived yet though
and the government will certainly be given a
chance to implement its policies. It is clear
though that playing the blame-game will wear thin
and that results are now expected by the Irish
electorate and fast.
END GAME FOR THE IRISH BANKING CRISIS?
The single greatest drag on the Irish economy
continues to be the banking crisis and the
reduction in credit facilities to businesses
that the crisis has caused. Fianna Fail attempted
to put the issue to rest over the last two years,
first with the government guarantee of all
deposits held by Irish banks, and then by the
creation of NAMA, the so-called bad bank which has
taken over most of the toxic assets of the banks
at a huge discount.
Despite these measure the Irish banks continue
to be starved of funding and have all been
nationalised or part-nationalised. Only
Permanent TSB has remained out of State
ownership (although Bank of Ireland is only
part-nationalised) but it too looks set to
be taken over by the State. The amount of
money needed to fund the Irish banks into the
future is massive and the chances of the
banks being able to borrow from the international
money-markets anytime soon seems very remote
indeed. Some way to go then.
PRESIDENT OBAMA, QUEEN ELIZABETH TO VISIT IRELAND
US President Barack Obama intends to visit
Ireland in May and will travel to the tiny town
of Moneygall in County Offaly, the home of his
great, great, great, great, great, grandfather.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the visit is a
'vote of confidence' in the Irish people at this
time of difficulty.
A further announcement revealed that Queen
Elizabeth has accepted an invitation from the
Irish President to visit Ireland later this year.
The visit by the British monarch will be the first
since independence and since King Geroge V
visited in 1911.
IRISH SOCCER TEAM BACK ON COURSE
A welcome 2-1 victory over Macedonia in Dublin was
preceded by the news that Russia had drawn 0-0
with Armenia to get Ireland's qualifying campaign
for the EURO 2012 finals back on track. The finals
will be held in Poland and the Ukraine. Aiden
McGeady and Robbie Keane got the goals with the
assistance of some poor play from the Macedonia
goalkeeper. Next up is Macedonia away from home
with Russia, Slovakia and Ireland all tied on 11
points in the group standings.
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NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY
The following 5 coats of arms images and family
history details have been added to the Gallery:
D: Donaghty, Doody
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Anne MacDonald of Massachusetts, USA ordered
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Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
in good order. It is splendid! I am
thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose
81st birthday this was ordered, will love
it. I would like to order another one!
Everyone who has seen the plaque has been
really impressed, even those who, as my
daughter says are 'not into ancestor
worship!'Again, my hearty thanks for this
Sincerely, Anne MacDonald
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THE CHILDREN OF LIR: AN IRISH LEGEND
There was a time in ancient Ireland when the
people believed in magic and in druids and spells.
These were the days of the Tuatha De Danann tribe,
the Goddess Danu and of Lir, the lord of the sea.
Lir's wife, Eva, had given him four beautiful
children. The two eldest, Fionnuala and Aodh, went
swimming in a small lake. But these were no
ordinary swimmers! They possessed gills for
breathing and webbed feet as they were, after all,
the offspring of 'the ruler of the land beneath
They met a messenger who told them that they were
wanted by their father. They went home immediately
only to find their father disturbed.
'What is wrong father?' they enquired
'Your mother has given birth to twins' he replied
'....and has gone off to rest'
'What do you mean father?' they asked
Lir explained that this was what humans called
'death' but that since they were immortal that
their mother had gone to recover, possibly for a
thousand years or more. The children were to look
after the new brothers, Fiachra and Conn.
The children kissed their mother for the last
time and then left.
As the children grew Lir's spirits declined until
one day he met Aoife, the sister of his wife.
Aoife was possessed of magical powers and soon
enough it was known that she and Lir would marry.
The new family thrived under the influence of
their new mother but not for long as guilt and
jealousy about the children's real mother took
its toll on Aoifes health. She fell into sickness
for a year but recovered only to start to become
old before here time.
Aoife was a changed woman now and one day
suggested that she and the children should visit
their grandfather. On the journey they stopped by
a lake and she encouraged the children to go for
a swim. The four children played happily in the
water, not noticing that their stepmother was now
standing at the waters edge wearing her fathers
'For too long you children have stood between
your father and I, but not for much longer!'
'We cannot be killed by you...' Aodh replied,
'.....we are the Children of Lir and if you harm
us our ghosts will haunt you!'
'Iím not going to kill you.....' she shouted
'......but I am going to change you!'
At this she bowed her head and started an
incantation. The children looked at each other in
fear as they saw a red and gold circle envelope
them on the water. They saw Aoife open up her
cloak from which the great light of a fireball
emerged and hurtled towards them, burning all in
The fireball hit the water and caused masses of
steam to rise about the children and they soon
lost all feeling in their legs, arms, shoulders
and head. They soon regained their sight only to
see Aoife laughing at them. Aodh tried to attack
her and flailed his arms about furiously but
nothing happened except the splashing of water.
He turned to look at his brothers and sister only
to see that they had all been turned into the
most beautiful swans ever seen.
Aoife scowled at them again and told them that
they were to spend nine hundred years as swans,
three hundred on Lough Derravaragh, three hundred
on the Straits of Moyle and three hundred on the
Isle of Inish Glora. To end the spell they would
have to hear the bell of the new God.
'I leave you with your voice however, and the
most beautiful singing ever heard' she said.
Lir searched for his children that day, but Aoife
told him that they had been attacked and killed
by wild boars. Fionnuala, now in swan form,
approached her father and told him what Aoife had
done. Lir was furious and banished Aoife into
exile as an evil demon of the air.
Lir faithfully visited his children and the power
of his love ensured that their time on the lake
was one of bliss. He knew though that the 300
years of the first phase had passed and that the
next phase of the spell was about to begin. The
swans left for the Straits of Moyle, never to see
their father again.
Their time on the Northern Straits of Moyle were
not so joyous, with frequent storms separating
them, only for they to join up again. Another 300
years passed but they had survived together.
They departed the cold straits and made their way
towards Lough Derravaragh. They flew over the
land, hoping to find their father's fort, but it
was now nothing more than ruins. They wept
because they knew the time of the Tuatha De Danann
They travelled West to the waters of Inish Glora
and found refuge on a small saltwater lake where
time passed slowly. One day an old man named Mochua
visited the lake and the children enquired of him
if he was a follower of the new God. The startled
man asked if they were the children of Lir and
they told him that they were.
'Are you a holy man?' asked Fiacra.
'I am...' came the reply.
The children knew that to break the spell that
they would have to hear the bell of a new God
toll in their own land.
Mochua told them all about his new God and all
about Saint Patrick who had brought his faith to
The children became excited as they knew that
this was the new God their stepmother had told
them of. They stayed with Mochua for many years
who gave them sanctuary in a small chapel which
he had built. He intended to make a bell and
collected old swords, shields and other metal
to make it. The bell was now completed and was
about to be rung when another disaster occurred.
A Warrior dressed in armour entered the chapel.
He had come for the children who were famed for
their wonderful singing.
'I am Liargren, King of Connaught' he shouted,
'My wife desires those swans and I will have them.
Give them here or I will tear this building down.'
Fionnuala looked at Mochua and then said that
they would agree to go away with this King.
Liargen was amazed to hear her speak but soon
composed himself and ordered his men to take the
children away. They were being loaded onto a
carriage when suddenly, the church bell tolled
Time seemed to stand still, but in another instant
a great white mist had been blown off the nearby
lake and enveloped the children as it had done
900 years before. The mist changed into all of
the colours of the rainbow before a great wind
gusted it away.
The children had at last been transformed back
into human form.
Liagren fled immediately, never to return. Mochua
baptized the beautiful children who had begun to
age rapidly and so it was that the children of Lir,
the last of the Tuatha De Danann died soon
afterwards, their legend to live on forever.
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PECULIARLY IRISH WORDS AND PHRASES #5: BANJAXED
An oft-heard and seldom questioned word that is
uttered throughout Ireland is banjaxed. It not
only sounds great but can be applied to a number
of situations! It essentially means broken,
beyond repair, in a bad way. It is speculated that
the word originated in Victorian Ireland and
England although it now seems to be almost
exclusively used in Ireland. The word can apply
to people, places, things and situations.
I'm banjaxed after last night! (after a few pints)
This country is banjaxed
My car is comepletely banjaxed
This party is banjaxed now!
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A LETTER FROM AMERICA by John B. McCabe
One day the postman brought a letter from America.
This was not an unusual event since my uncle Pat
lived there, twice married and had two families
with whom we ritually corresponded at Christmas
and Patrick's day. This day the letter was
different as it announced that one of our cousins,
Mary Jane and her husband John would call to visit
us for a day in August of that year. It was 1959
and my parents were struggling with bad health,
bills and the crushing bondage of small farming
life, not counting the liability of two children
aged seven and nine.
I was very excited. I thought it was wonderful to
have 'Yankees' come to see us. There was a sense
of romance in those far off places where people
acquired fancy accents, drove big cars and seemed
to have no end of money to spend when they came
For my parents the letter brought a mixture of
excitement and panic. Panic was the dominant
feeling and it rose, slowly at first, until it
became a huge wave that engulfed the whole
household. It washed away the every-day disguises
of living and revealed the family, the house and
the farm in their most tattered rags of inadequacy.
My mother looked at her pale face in the mirror,
at daddy's patched corduroys, at the bare cement
floor, the blackened range, the shortage of proper
cups and saucers. She felt the shame of the
enamelled chamber pot and the lack of running
In desperation she sighed and said: 'What are we
going to do?' My father muttered to himself and
began mixing paint.
Our house was not a bad home. It was just never
The kitchen walls were layered with great coats
of whitewash - frantically applied by my mother
for the annual visit of the priest for the
The room off the kitchen was very damp and
remained unused except as a dumping ground for
unwanted items, a safe place for bicycles and
the storage of animal medicines. It was furnished
with two large chests - the forlorn trousseaus
of departed bridal ancestors.
To this day I do not know where daddy purchased
the paint with which he intended to adorn our
home. Wherever he found it, it was cheap and the
colours of such a mad variety as to be more
suited to the enhancement of a circus than to the
decoration of a dwelling house. Maybe, perhaps,
he was affected by the popular perception that
Yankees have a penchant for flamboyant and garish
colours but whatever the reason mammy was not
The front door wore a new coat of screeching
yellow that I have only since seen on the
glorious apparel of tropical parakeets. It looked
awful. It had to be changed.
'Waste not, want not', he said, and proceeded to
mix the remaining yellow with signal red to
produce a colour that found no echo in the normal
range of the spectrum - an off-chocolate pink
which was less offensive on the eye and adorned
the door for most of a generation.
When the painting was finished, my mother surveyed
the cutlery. She went to town and arrived home
with a new set of cups and saucers and a matching
milk jug. These were very pretty, made of white
china with blue and gold bands on the rims of both
cups and saucers. We were not allowed to touch
them in case they got damaged and she placed them
lovingly on the dresser with as many admonitions
as would befit the protection of a Pharaoh's tomb.
A new oilcloth for the table was also purchased
along with some smaller items of necessity.
Finally, when all the preparations were made our
cousins were invited so that both my mother's and
my father's families were met together to welcome
and fete the arrival of the Yanks.
They arrived. They talked. They took pictures.
It was a terrible let down. My mother was so
crestfallen, when, at the end of the day, the
Yanks called for us, the children and said they
would like to give us 'a coin'! They placed a
two-shilling piece in each of our hands. Not even
the scent of a single dollar!
I still look at the strained faces of my parents
in the fading photographs and feel the awful pain
of a vanishing dream.
The Yanks were, of course, very nice and plain and
friendly. They were on a package tour and made the
effort to come and see us and we were glad. I
suppose deep down, we all expected some reward,
some gift of money or presents from these, to us,
exotic and wealthy people. We did not imagine in
all our poverty and penury that they too were but
young struggling people with little or no means
either, who made an effort to say hello from
across the world - reflecting the homesick eyes
of a father looking at the home he had left half
a century before.
The visit of these American cousins became a
reference point in the inner circle of our world
and from then on time was reckoned by that event
as before and after the Yankees arrived.
John B. McCabe
ISLE OF MIST by Carole Kenney
I'm enclosing a poem I wrote about Ireland upon
return from a trip there to visit my cousins near
Bunratty Castle. Hope you like it!
ISLE OF MIST
All the shades of lavender and gray
Drift in water color - run
Down purple slopes, and offer up to day
Young maidens formed from mist,
Their veils afloat, their hair undone,
Rising ghostly and by heather kissed.
These virgins who have never seen the sun
Gather tufts of purple, sprigs of gold
Within their gauzy robes; do not delay
To gather so much more than they can hold,
They stumble, roll down hills and on the way,
Let fall some dabs of gold and purple flame,
And who could blame these wood nymphs
for their zeal
In hiding from the eye, that we might feel.
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: O m'anam
PRONOUNCED: oh muh anim
MEANING: From my heart
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