Bilberry Sunday – a story

Etain grumbled and groaned. 

“Why do I have to go? There will be enough people, it’s not like there are any Bilberries anymore. Sure, most of them are gone by the time of the walk, we should have it earlier.”

Her mother sighed. 

“Look, it really isn’t about how many Bilberries we get, it’s to keep the tradition going. The last Sunday of July, before Lughnasa. This goes back to ancient times and..”

“I know, I know, the High King had the rights to the heath fruits of Brí Leith, people kept up the tradition of Bilberry Sunday, though they had it the 1st Sunday of August here for a time maybe because the party used to be a week long, maybe because the church interfered, they kept it up until the 1960s, coniferous trees blah, blah, blah.”

Her mother smiled, her child might find it boring now but she was going to remember and pass it on and that was all that mattered. That had been the whole point of the revival of Bilberry Sunday and the purpose of the walk, nothing more, nothing less, everything else that came of it was a bonus. 

A couple of people in the village had an idea ten years ago and it kept going, even during ‘The Covid’. The first year of that they all went separately and took pictures and this year they were having a small social distance walk, no frills or frolicks but nice all the same. People get used to anything really.

Bilberries were returning too, along with the people, every year there were more and more pockets of them. It could be because the trees were being cut but maybe it was the will of the people marking the day year by year. She certainly liked to think so.

Etain looked at her mother wondering what nonsense was going on in her head now, smiling away to herself like an idiot. She loved her really, she wasn’t even her mother, she just cared for her since she was a young teenager and they faced many trials together.

“Ok,ok, I’ll go.”

“Thanks love, much appreciated.” 

They headed off to the meeting point, 11am at the GAA pitch. Strange time to pick but someone did and it continued. There were only a few gathered, those that understood the importance of heritage and the old ways. Etain recognised most of them, some were unfamiliar, every year some ‘newcomers’ joined from near and afar. Even these seemed familiar. They had a friendly spirit about them.

“Look at all the old souls” said her mother as she looked around her.


“Sorry, did I say that out loud?”

Etain looked at her wearily. She smiled over at the group as one spoke telling everyone to “stay safe and keep your distance”. The leader, a gardener, who was at one with nature, then led them on the walk past his house and up the hill, stopping to give some knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area as he walked. She liked his way, there was an easiness about him and while he never really spoke to her and her mother she knew he knew they were there and was pleased they had come.

They walked up the hill and more gathered each side of them, quietly walking along, united in their purpose of remembrance. It was a fine sight to behold. The sun beat down on them, not as hot as it had been the weeks before but hot all the same. The weather had been strange this past while.

The tree cover shaded the walkers in places and the breeze helped with the heat. 

Etain saw her mother waving her hand from side to side ever so gently and singing to herself. She was happy. That was good to see, so much of her life had been filled with rage and anger at the injustices around her and set upon her.

They went off the trail a little and came to one of the stone cottages. They stopped for a while and chatted about the ancestors that lived on this hill when it was clustered with houses similar to this and they all went silent for a moment considering the lost. They were lost to famine and emigration, war and exploitation. A moment was the least they could give them.

“Did you see that!” a young girl broke the silence. 

“I had my eyes closed” said another 

“What did you see? Was it a deer? A hare? A Sparrowhawk?”

“No, no, I swear I saw some people dressed in costumes, from the 1800s or something, just standing beside the group with their caps in their hands and smiling at us.”

“Trick of the light”

“You imagined it.”

“I saw them too, I saw them too”

“The veil is thin here” the leader said and he smiled over at Etain who returned it with a cheeky grin.

“Do you think she saw ghosts?” one Walker asked their friend. 

“It was more like we were the ghosts in their reality.” 

the child replied as she skipped past, 

“like we slipped into their time because we were still.”

The group whispered and looked around them but no more visions did appear. They carried on, returning to the path, to the stories and the knowledge given as they sauntered up the trail.

“That was funny” said Etain.

“Was it though?” her mother replied getting slightly agitated. 

The breeze grew stronger, it was almost cold, a sharp winter feel to it though the walkers were relieved to feel it.

When they reached the top they stopped a while to admire the view. They could see The motte in Granard, Cairn Hill and Sliabh Bawn. Some thought they saw Loughcrew.

“} could see Brí Leith from Uisneach one day I was there” one said “I wonder if we could see Uisneach from here”

“Once, you could, when the landscape was different, fires were lit from hill to hill, it was a wondrous sight to behold” someone replied. No one looked to see who, they were too busy trying to figure out which way to look for Uisneach.

“Now that was funny!” her mother whispered in her ear. Etain smiled. The breeze got warmer.

They crossed over the road and to the other side, it was marshy on this side and full of life, frogs and newts, dragonflies and butterflies, the birdsong consumed the walkers. 

“This year seems different” one said, “otherworldly.”

“Doesn’t it just, you can almost feel the gods around us.”

“It is so beautiful up here, you’d nearly forget all the troubles of the world.”

“Good for the soul.”

The child who had disturbed the silence earlier at the ruined cottage did it again. 

“There’s more people up ahead, do you see? Is it a party? Why are they dressed in tunics and capes? Look how the gold on their shoulders and necks shine.”

Everyone looked, nobody saw. 

“She has a great imagination,” her mother said.

“Stop saying that. They’re there, can’t you see them?”

Etain stepped forward.

“I can” she waved her hands. At first nobody noticed and then they all looked at her and her mother. 

“Is that Etain? Is that Fuamnach?”

“Did you organise this? This is so cool! Is there going to be a reenactment? “

“Organise what? No, we had nothing to do with this. We’ve no idea who these are.”

“Yes you do and you’ve everything to do with it. Come let’s join the others.” Fuamnach replied as she invited the group to join the party that now was joined by the people from the cottages. 

More and more kept arriving yet it never seemed crowded. They weren’t sure how long it went on, it seemed to be days, then suddenly it was over and they were standing on the hill, no party, no costumes no Etain, no Fuamnach.

“Probably best we don’t speak of this” the gardener said.

No one replied.


Celebrate the Hawthorn, make it our national flowering tree!

Longford is wild and beautiful. Have you ever noticed?

Living in the middle of it sometimes we forget. I like to admire it in the quietness when letting my dinosaurs loose in the early morning. By dinosaurs I mean chickens but that is how wild and wonderful Longford is, she takes you right back if you’ll let her.

Back to when time began and the world was young and full of hope.
If you stay still enough you might even see through the veil of this time and into all that ages that went before us in the very spot we stand. People populated Longford very early on, the county is covered in raths, dolmens and ancient burial grounds.

Sometime I think “I see dead people”, or maybe otherworldly ones. Either way they’re not frightening, they just are. 

Often it takes someone from outside the county to show us how wonderful it is. Only at the weekend two young Galway men told us they never “saw so much nature”.

Yes, I did say from Galway! Galway, the place everyone thinks is the wild west, the place we all go to to be with nature yet two of her natives think we live in the “greenest” place they’ve ever seen, full of trees and birds and teeming with life. Who knew?

Well we knew. We always knew, that’s why despite all the leaving behind of successive governments and taking the piss of us by mostly exLongford people in Dublin and other “cosmopolitan” concrete cages we like to stay here among the trees, lakes and stories. The pisstakers doth protest too much me thinks.

Truly they just miss it, they just don’t realise it.

Not to worry, Fuamnach might brew up a storm to bring them home.
The Galway visitors admired our wild garden teeming with insects and birds and I smiled to myself thinking “Why thank you, that took years of not mowing”. Neglect some might say, perhaps that’s why Longford is so lovely, neglect.

Neglect has left our land wild and perhaps our people with it. Maybe, after all, that has been a good thing, though those who neglected us never intended a good result. In their plan to “leave us behind” they’ve left us in a little piece of heaven.

Neglect has left Longford with one of the lowest income per capita, that neglect has left us resilient and creative.

Neglect has left Longford with a mixing pot of nations all struggling together, that neglect has left us open to learning from and accepting of others. 

Neglect has left us as a community.

Neglect has left us resilient, proud and wild just like our land.

Wild and wonderful Longford, has an opportunity to lead the rest of the country in how to let the wilderness live side by side with us in harmony and so protect nature and the future of our children.

Will we do it? or will we let the monster that is industrial farming and poisoning of our waters and land encroach more and more as it has throughout the rest of this artificially green land of Ireland?

Will we lead by example by continuing to protecting through neglect? That is how we protect nature, we neglect to develop her land and then she flourishes.

Only this week we’ve been admiring our Hawthorn whose blooms are quite spectacular this year. Longford people have been whispering to each other how wonderfully pretty she is.
Why don’t we celebrate her as a nation like Japan celebrated the cherry blossom? I asked. A local legend, Michael Masterson replied that maybe Longford could lead in that. 

Wouldn’t that be a nice little step in celebrating our wildness? Let’s start celebrating Longford by celebrating the Fairy Tree, that is the Hawthorn. It would make Midir Proud. Sign the petition here:


Our lone hawthorns and hedgerows are disappearing at a fierce rate along with a lot of our Heritage and Biodiversity. If we turn a light on the beauty of the Hawthorn we might help turn this around.

The Fairy Tree :
Centre of the Universe (Another word for Longford, in case you didn’t know!) :

Admiring Midir (A fairytale retold)

(Image – statue of Midir and Etain by Éamon O’Doherty at Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre)

(Story written for Midir and Etain Anthology, digital copy available here:

Here and now and there and then, there lived a man who never lived, under the mountain that is just a hill but a mountain none the less to those who have none.

This man was and is and will be, a magical man, a mystical creature of fabulous beauty with flashing bright eyes that transform from deep dark pools of murky brown to clear shining lakes of crystal blue. 

He was and is and will be, of magnificent stature, not quite a man and not quite a God. He stands tall amongst mortals, small amongst Deities, yet holds his own with them all.

His hair is a mane of glossy gold silk, his skin glows brightly with light from within. A fine man, was, is and will be he or so he thought and thinks and will think. And perhaps so do we.

When he loved and was loved, this God of a man and man of a God, life was young, new, strange and unknown. The rules that we know were not written, nor spoken and nothing surprised, yet everything did. He ruled over many with a kind heart, cared for his people as father to child.

He loved and was loved and was married in bliss, then he spied a young beauty that send him adrift.

What a vision she was this young girl that he spied. She had long golden hair and snow white skin, ruby lips and green emerald eyes. Her limbs were those of a dancer.

Long and elegant she flowed as she moved o’er the hills and down to the stream where she washed her glistening threads of gold with porcelain hands.

What more could you want?

She sang as she washed, an enchanting tune, not seeing this man nor noticing how he was falling for her. As she sang her light shone and he drifted towards her as a moth in the night to a flame that will burn.

When he came to her side she was startled and shy but his beauty is hard to resist. He stared in her eyes and in no time at all she agreed to be wed to a man she just met!

They came back to his palace upon his white horse. His wife was not pleased but what could she do, this was time with no rules of her man who just ruled. Her husband was powerful, much loved by all. She could do nothing a while, only stall, but she soon had enough and jealousy struck.She transformed the young sprite to a puddle of muck.

The girl changed yet again in front of her eyes and became a beautiful butterfly. She fluttered around for a time……. Quite a while.

She was reborn again as a mortal child and grew, happy and unaware of her past. He found her but lost her again and again and many were lost because of his deeds. An interesting road appeared in a bog leading nowhere and everywhere, all just for love. Our times came fast and his kind hid below, under the mountain, or hill, what you will. Perhaps we smell.

That’s a short version of a tale, of love and romance with foolishness playing its part. A story with twists and turns and intrigue, many of which I have left for you to explore, be inspired and create many more. Google Midir, Étain, Celtic love, Brí Leith, Sidhe. It is there as everything is and each version changes much like the wind.

And they all lived happily ever after……..


AGS 2015

Shes of the Sidhe

(Image is a still from animation by Mary Smyth commissioned by Longford Tourism

I had been warned not to look into his eyes, that his magic clouds your mind. He makes you think you want to do what he wants you to do. Thousands of hungry, tired men willingly cut down a forest to build a futile road in a bog for a forfeit. Many died. His magic is strong. He mithered them for his pride as he mithered me.

I knew that he wanted me. I met my love when he was buying me for him. We loved each other on first sight but it was not to be. My love is loyal to him. My love helped another pair who followed in our footsteps many moons on from when we met. Their deeds were recorded though ours were missed. Our secret remained a secret until now.

I was taking a chance, being out there, washing my hair. I foolishly thought I was safe. My maidens were with me.  I knew it was him. I felt his dark presence. He frightened yet excited me. I closed my eyes and bowed my head, determined to remain safe from his stare. He lifted me gently, yet forcefully. “Open your eyes and look at me” he commanded. I resisted as much as I was able, for as long as I could but on hearing my maidens scurrying away like rabbits, I lost control of my thoughts,”Don’t leave me” I cried as I opened my eyes and looked deep into the pools of enchantment before me.

I found myself going with him, mounting his horse, wrapping my arms around his broad chest, leaning my head on his back, my love a dream in my mind, fading.

When we arrived at his palace she cried out.”What have you done? She is just a child!” She grabbed me and held me, whispering in my ear. I held her tight and wept for my mother. “You have to stop, you can’t just take what you want, own it all, possess everything.” She shouted at him. Her power amazed me. The strength in her arms, in her voice. He looked at her sadly and left us a while. “You’ll bring death to us all yet.” she whispered.

History has not been kind to her. It very rarely is to strong powerful women that frighten men. Men who write history for men. That is why you don’t know the truth, my truth and hers. You know men’s truth. Her truth is that she was a loving mother and a strong clever woman. Her truth is that she mothered me and set me free. I wanted to go and she knew this.

I grew to love her. She showed me her magic. She commanded the wind. She transformed life. She told me how she never had a choice and was his from birth. She bore a child and another and loved them so dearly she never could leave. She was strong for her children and wise beyond years. Her knowledge was deep. She learned to love and understand her Proud King in time. “He does not mean to harm” she said. ” He sees love and joy and wants to possess it. He is kind, he loves his children, he loves me, he loves his people, he loves his fosterson as his own. Pride is the cross he carries that will hurt us all”

I jumped at her mentioning his fosterson. Should I reveal it? Does she already know? I told her all. She cried out when she heard. “Oh no this cannot be, he will kill him, he will kill you. No!”. But I cried and I wept in my pain so she vowed to help me. She selflessly made him think she got rid of me and not that I ran away. She warned me to never let the truth be known. “He will not let it be seen that your heart is with another.” She transformed me and sent me on the winds to my love who knew me at once for our connection is strong. That time in heaven was blissful. Our love was deep and we entwined our bodies, our souls and our minds. My Aenghus cared for me by day and I loved him by night. My life, My God of Love. 

He never stopped searching for me. He never let anything leave him. He very nearly had me again when he bewitched me with his ways, drawing me away from my love, compromising my truth, playing to my caring nature and my fascination with his power. She came and saved me again. We knew we couldn’t reveal the truth of my love and I, that it was not to be for now or maybe ever more. She sent me off on the wind again to get away. My turmoil from within kept me afloat longer than intended. I must have absorbed some of her magic in the spell. When finally I rested I found myself fall. The darkness came, the end arrived, or so I thought. 

I’m really not sure how long I slept. I woke because the Proud King came. I found myself sitting beside a mortal man. I was confused. I dreamt of my past life, I saw my love, my fear and her in my dreams by night. By day I walked with this mortal king, a handsome man. He seemed to love me in  the way the Proud King did, as his possession and not the way my God of Love had loved. I played my part, not recognising these mortals who spoke as if they knew me all my life. The woman I called Mother, the man Father, this King to whom I was married. I recognised none of them. I only recognised him, the Proud King who wanted to possess me again. I went with him because I knew him. We were of a kind. My training from his wife stayed with me and I transformed us into swans. We flew away and back to the only home I remembered. 

He had changed while I was gone and so had I. I wept to find she had passed to the other side in a most horrific way. I wept because my Aenghus, my God of Love had loved another after I had gone, but so had I though I didn’t recall a moment. The Proud King knew, he said he always knew. He loved them all but his want for me was greater so he sacrificed them all. He was tormented by this need and his guilt. He quickly found I was with child and vowed to treat her as his own. He was a good father I grant him that. I grew to love him. We lived in peace for a while.

It seems that all men have this fault, be they mortal or immortal. My mortal husband Eochaidh’s pride was hurt and so he came to bring devastation to us all. He reduced our mighty mountain to a little hill and took his daughter and mine as his own. Men have injured for their pride amd deep hunger from the dawn of time and will be the destruction of Mother Earth in the end unless we rise again oh Shes of Sidhe!

AGS 2015

Story written for Midir and Etain Anthology, 2015. Digital versions still available here:

Mad Men of the Mountain

Have you ever been to The Mountain,

Of Midir, Maine and Mel?

It’s well worth a visit, a saunter,

Albeit the Gateway to Hell.

No doubt you’ll be Mithered a little.

The magic is still very strong.

Though it’s long since its use by the many,

Since Mel announced it was wrong.

Our Midir was first on the Mountain,

He comes from when time began

His home was a fine Sidhe palace

‘Til Eochaidh destroyed it and ran.

Proud Midir had trouble with women,

As did both King Maine and St. Mel.

Perhaps if they respected their power

A different story I’d tell.

Now Midir had a wonderful woman,

A match to his power and way.

Yet he let youth and beauty bewitch him,

Consume him and lead him astray.

Not thinking of either girl’s wishes,

He brought chaos into their lives.

Puddle, butterfly, anger and sorrow,

He trod on the souls of his wives.

His passion destroyed all around him,

His people, their ways and himself.

Self-obsession, a dangerous torture,

The ruination of King of the Elves.

King Maine. Little is known about him.

Our King at The Back of the Hill.

Known best for allowing St. Patrick

Bring Mel to the site that’s there still.

More tales tell how Caibre, his brother,

Refused the new ways, turned his back.

Sat atop his great fort in North Longford,

Where drama is never in lack.

Sons of Niall of nine hostages fame,

Both had riches, power and wives.

Caibre’s son fathered a child with Maine’s woman,

So inter entwined were their lives.

Now Maine is in boxes and numbered,

his home an archaeological site.

His riches are scattered and broken,

Little evidence of his great might.

St. Mel is the third of our heroes.

He was brought here by uncle Pat,

to plant the seed of the new religion

which rooted here just like that.

An aunt of his, St. Lupita,

resided with him quite a while.

When local tongues started a wagging

she departed in magical style.

St. Brigid arrived to start a convent,

she even left us a well.

Mel decided to ordain her a Bishop,

now that’s a story to tell!

So that’s our Mad Men of the Mountain,

three different men of their age.

They all were leaders of people,

but quite possibly made for the stage.

AGS 2016

Rocks of the Sea

Rocks of the Sea sit on the hill,

quietly reminding me to be still,

to ponder the trickster, lover and judge.

The wanderer again giving a nudge.

You are nearer to Manannán

than someone he slayed.

Are you he, is he you?

Is this all a charade?

When the mounds were destroyed

did they send you away?

o’er the land, ‘cross the void

were you filled with dismay?

Rocks of the Sea sit on the hill,

quietly reminding me to be still,

to ponder the trickster, lover and judge.

The wanderer again giving a nudge.

Did you murder your cranes?

Did you murder your wife?

Did they naturally die?

Did it cut like a knife?

Fair judgement returned

as your magic grew

when you left for the Sea

to the waters you knew.

Rocks of the Sea sit on the hill,

quietly reminding me to be still,

to ponder the trickster, lover and judge.

The wanderer again giving a nudge.

For it all had begun,

under water for you.

So to water you went

to refresh and renew.

Is it time to come back

to reside on your hill?

The path is restored.

Come back, if you will.

Rocks of the Sea sit on the hill,

quietly reminding me to be still,

to ponder the trickster, lover and judge.

The wanderer again giving a nudge.