Thursday Poem

Tully Lake

The cry of the grey heron on the wind
the scream of the wild goose
over the crannog in the lake

the summer rain falling slowly
on Taoiseach Mc Kenna
mourning his brídeach sí and children
gone forever beneath the foam
into the lake of broken promises

All he has left now
is the whistle of the moor plover
the bleat of the jacksnipe
the scream of the wild goose
and the blubbing of the moorhen
a cormorant wheeling above him
as he empties his head of tears
in his lonely castle on the edge of the lake

by Caitríona Ní Chléirchín
translation by author

Poet's Note: crannog = an ancient Scottish or Irish fortified dwelling constructed in a lake or marsh; brídeach sí = fairy bride

This poem is based on the folklore story about the fairy bride in my native area Emyvale in County Monaghan. The Mc Kenna and Mac Mahon taoiseachs (chieftans) were in power in the local area under the leadership of the O’Neills in Tyrone, but they lost their lands and were slaughtered at the end of the sixteenth century.

The Mc Kenna Taoiseach met his fairy bride at the edge of Tully Lake according to the legend but when he broke his promises to her (never to make love to another woman, not to come home without firewood, and not to call the children out of their names), she went back into the lake with his children and was never seen again. After this he lost all his lands and eventually his life.