Swirls in a Memory Pool : A Topographical Reflection and a Bardic Tradition

 Swirls in a Memory Pool : A Topographical Reflection and a Bardic Tradition


(Some of the phrases in Gaelic italics below are song or tune titles, as are some other phrases in italics.

Search online to find performances of them

e.g. Mo Ghile Mear or Ar Bruach Na Carraige Báine)


A day spent in walking reflection,

 in mist and at stone promontories by the sea. 

Proud, brazen and bronzed headlands 

kneeling towards a dying sunlight, 

slipping into deep ultra marine blue. 

Iarla Ó Lionáird singing

 West Cork Sean Nós on the radio. 

Peadar O Riada speaks of his father’s inspiration and Coolea. 

The memory tunnel, and the relic tree at Gobnait’s Well – votive rags of hope. 

The saint of the honeycomb. An Ethiopian cave, a hand bell ringing and a bishop.

The echo of an ancient soul through the heart. 

Kitaro’s Caravanserai Bell…desert heat…the silk trade.

The vandal beside the desert camel. Rome’s soldier rejected the gladius.

Tur Abdin in the sea mist and the hymns of Ephraim…Antioch and Chalcis, the mud huts at Sighir beyond Aleppo,

Ciaráin upon the sea from the land of the Corcú Laoidhe.

Two philosophers argue at Alexandria, Constantine rings his hands, schism it will not be, imperial it must be.

The call of the Muzzein from the tower. 

A Stelite in a round tower with a handbell, Angelus.

Seraphic hymn to heaven.

Leather sail of the Venetii merchant tacking, 

proud prow breasting the peninsular waves of the South West,

strong ropes, strong hands leaning forward from cliffs in 

narrow, angry, spray tussled, waves jostling, battered and sheer-faced coves.

Damp and thorny desert, bog desert, island desert…bog mist and whisperings of Christ, orans, cross-fagel.

The starlight at Ballinskelligs and currachs huddled on an island beach.


What are these echoes? 

Memory embedded in the stoney land, thorny land, Drishane.

John of Mushera, Berihert of the Saxons from his sisters at Cullen,

Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire, foreshadowing the Ancrene Riwle,

in the aftermath of Whitby, great monastery by Tullylease by the Mullaghareirk foothills

in Tuatha Saxon by his burial cross a pilgrim still stands, lost echoes from

carved crosses smashed in great number by Berihert’s pool in an Aherlow glen.

 At Toormore on the Mizen Peninsula a watcher. 

Notium, a broken battle, not forgotten, sea spray in lined faces, 

Manannán rising, Clíona roaring, her wave surging.

A Hidden Ireland…the refuge of Sliabh Luachra.

Aogán Ó Rathaille in the kingdom of Luachar,

Ar Bruach Na Carraige Báine and the Ballydesmond polka,

the Earl of South Munster (Desmond) in revolt hidden among the hills.

Seekers in search of Munster’s Tara…the Harps of Cliu by Sliabh Reagh.

A Domhnach and a Cluain at the burial mounds of Cush, Cnoc Áine still beckons Lugh.

An Antiochene Maronite from Chalcis, the monastery of Moses at Farran,

in prayer beside the ditch of a cloister-garth, Cush.

Cush, a cluain with a garth in a rath-caves cluster,

a cemetery of ancients brought to Christ beneath.

Tuatha Dé Danaan, the Amir of the Geni, Amir of the craftsmen,

Amir of poetic voice, Amir of the genius of scholars,

and the Paps of Anu, copper into bronze by Cnoc Osta.

A Druid, a Persian, a Priest, Zarathustra’s fire,

the Red Claw sprawls to the ‘City’ at Shrone, 

three sisters, three goddesses, three daughters, 

the wings of a Persian griffon, an Aryan upon a throne. 

Tuatha land of the people of Anu, Dé Anu, 

cattle wealth displayed, sacrifice made, festival fires surround the caher at Shrone, 

foreshadowing a bell sounding its knell at a Baptism well.

The lorica of Patrick. An ogham stone embedded in a cave.

An ogham stone defiant with a Greek cross.

Kurku-tongued bowman on horseback draws the arrow, 

Uí Eachach (Horse Tribe) warrior a sentinel at Shrone-na- Binne, 

in the Black Valley, in the lands of the Corcú Laoidhe; 

a pony on a Connemara wasteland 

and a Scythian from the nib of Fr. Keating’s pen.

O’Connor and the Gaal Sciot Iber, 

Fénius Farsaid, Scythian king, beaches spearheads upon the land, 

Ogham tally-stick in hand, a Gozo boat fleet, tiller-men at helms. 

Mariner adventurers, miners, prospectors, coastal traders, 

peninsular mountain peaks become nature’s pyramids, 

sighted from the prow, enticing, along the estuary.

The Argo of Orpheus, Greek and Persian coins found lost to the coastline of the South West,

Cnoc Osta of the miners and the Oestymnides enticing prospectors, metal makers and merchants into the western seas.

The Argo’s keel bends the wave thrust to round the Mizen, Greek coins of Macedon dropped beyond Carmun’s (Carmen’s) great market by the Barrow, their merchant ships wharf-sided at a cove somewhere, their gold and fine raiments to sell there, armlets for a nomad king’s woman to wear; sometimes, linear, shadow figures roaming westward on ridge-crests somewhere, overlook the dense canopies of great woodlands somewhere, journeying towards the festival lands of Áine from the mountains of the Black Stairs, resting sometimes in memoriam at Duntryleague beside the panorama at Eoghan Mór’s (or Oilill Ollum’s) tomb, a bride of Castille and Leon in mourning. Iberia of the Iverni and lobster boats at Sheep’s Head out of Biscay Bay.

Armies of Macedon, Alexander defeats Darius and Persia to India’s shores.

Purple cloaked Phoenicians navigating out of Carthage, coastal trading, open sea voyaging,

sea-lore of Tartessus, Galician and Venetii traders, seekers out of Biscay Bay, 

copper barge at Inbhear Scéine, the bride of Amergin, Ivernis settled, woodland clearing, 

old oaks whispering of woodkerns, wood-smoke and flame-stones crackling at a fullacht fia. 

Lapis Lazuli wisdom and spirit, faience beaded, Inisfallen to Taprobane.

A plethora of tongues in the Delta rain,

a  dying flame in a Ciarraige glen, Gleann Scoithín.

Gaytholos, a king, dead, a tholos in a mound, Giodel Glas mercenary brings a new tongue out of Egypt.

Silver wooded glen, puck goat a king beside white rapids coiling through

mossy greens on purple stone,

Scotia mounded beneath the rainbow’s arc over Tralee Bay.

Scotia beyond the Lily Lake to the Field of Reeds. Amen.

Beam of Aten – Ra through a roofbox in a Midhe mound,

Southwest, towards the Pass, beyond the jewelled lake-lands, into Iveragh, into the highlands, nature’s fortress of the mountain kings rising, encircling. Ballinskelligs on a frosty morning, shaggy pony grazing a haggard.

Bloodlines. Sometimes pyre smoke coils into the passing seasons, 

stilled void of sacred memory en-spaced, encircled by monoliths, dark skies starlight, celestial motions suspended.

Pharoah’s princess, spirit windblown, ethereal above the waters of a stream.…until then, 

in time’s round, from the desert beyond the Delta,

Sand soaked linen a hooded Tau, beneath an arc of silvering moonlight, ridge cresting above her grave now.

A Greek cross, an oratory from the dromos of a tholos.

Greek cross, a caher protected in the south west.

Flames finally quenched at Boa Island where Janus relinquished command,

horse drawn between future and past. Amen.


The breakwaters of Caesaria, cool and sonorous lapping of waves, 

a golden panoply of ships of many shores, 

a cacophony of accentuated voices, creeking timber of threadwheel cranes, 

barrels bumping and rolling off the wharf side bollards, 

shore lore of the west lands from ancient mariners fingering kompoloi.

Out of Byblos, Out of Alexandria, out of Carthage the Jewel and Britannia’s shores, 

back-spray off rough wave-crests against a Mizen cliff-face, 

thunder-shock of sea-burst roaring, masts bending, sails tacking towards Oileân Sabrainn, 

Headland of the Romans, waves of a great inland river in flow, Manannán meets them

gouging grip of fingers tip into the shore-sand of the land, 

roll of wave smash crash, spray splay into breeze force, jetted arcs collapsing, 

spiralling crush, gurgled shingling of gravel rush…broken mast of Cessair’s triereme,

pale faces woven into thong-weed…shingling, rumbles in a gurgling swirl, 

roaring splash of misted spray smashed on rock face… 

foam bearded Manannán rising triumphant he roars against Iveragh, 

Anu prostrate back broken into rock scree,  cairns on the Paps, 

Danu beneath the cowl of a Munster cloak. 

Mug Ruith, Arch-Druid of Munster, of Inis DAIRbhre and the Fir Maige plains,

his chariot a flame burst upon the lands of Palestine, his daughter Tlachtga a druidess spell weaving.

Brandan lumpen fisted splintered the Maherees… majestic fury at

‘the Wild Atlantic Way’.

Sea into a billowing flow the Erinyes blow,

Cessair, Nemid, Parthalon, Fir Bolg, Dé Danaan at Tara Luchair, of Greece some would say. 

Túr Brigantium and Iberia in mourning, a daughter of Castille, Míl Espaigne, 

Eoghan Mór, Beara of Castllle – a gallery of phantoms at a stone circle on Brow Head,

symbols in monoliths sheared away to the sea, others half fallen, 

stooping toward forgetful memory.

Nature’s pyramid on a calm evening, sunset, in the distance, 

from Altar’s tomb. Black storm clouds stilled, paused, momentarily suspended, 

hold released to thunder-shock of waves, Roaring Water battles Oceanus at the Hundred Isles.

Galician sunlight, Túr Brigantium, a gathering of ships, 

Brigantes gather remnants of tribes, Oilioll Olum, the ollamh, the wise and Br-Eoghan of the sword hand,

of the fiteccs,

shorelines in the drizzled fog of a sea mirage wafting north to a promised land, 

a druid spell weaving, conjuring a new homeland, broken clans seeking new territories,

then headlands to be defended, last stand… Alesia unforgotten…wooden jetty, 

three horns from a horse head lost in the slob land, chariot wheels rumble across the tóchar, 

oak beams across a bog, sodden, water-heavy.

Ibar remembers Mona, sacred bread between finger-tips raised,

in Martin’s cell.

Flame beacon beckoning at Dún Cearmna, delight of returning, 

Ceann tSáile a headland awaiting merchant navigators homeward

O do bhíosa lá thar sáile…a place of those from thar sáile, 

a place of foreigners from thar sáile…sea-wolves’ lore at the quays of Gaul, Cornwall,

of Alexandria and Caesaria…cantor to a domhnach…Rome’s forlorn chariot in a ditch.

Kinsale defeated, clans escaping to the remoteness of Sliabh Luachra, magic of music,

old kingdom of Luchair, anonymity, drifting clouds, shafts of tall shadows across the Paps.

Cleary, Power and Keating reaching for a legacy in a handful of ancient identities crumbling to dust.

Cambrensis declared,  Ussher and Ware an ethnographer’s stare beneath a trinity bell,

MacFirbis somewhere, four masters somewhere, Regensburg from Cashel somewhere,  poet O Heerin wandering – 

a topographer somewhere,  a traveller in the lands of the Fir Máige somewhere, churchmen, Downe men, Ordnance men line laying, plane-table and chain men, placenames rationalised anglicised, map men grid laying upon the baron’s clan fabric, grand jury on the circuit, bishops and visitations, the ancient weave of the land, old monastery lands, chapels to sheds, ‘no longer of use to the land owner’, big house, cabin house, castle estate from monastic estate, city of God to city of men, hammer smashed upon the gavel…a twisting torrent swirls, ancient consciousness dissolving, crumbling to dust…folly ruins with tea-cakes in a Capability landscape, a destitute monk in a hovel among derelict architectures beside a rock altar, fine wines from an icehouse, pedestrian artist sketchpad in hand, a puff of steam heralded from a Blackrock railway line, a paddle steamer on Cork Harbour heading for East Ferry, Mochuda’s chapels beneath the waves, 1000 of the Corcú Bascoin drowned in a forgotten flood spectres now beneath a daily ebb and flow.

Cobh’s Ronayne, magician, mathematician of the cubes, raises the waves beyond Marloag’s shore,

East Ferry boatman ferries spirits of the dead Garranekinnefeake to Templerobin then

where a Templar turns them around again.

At Ballycroneen Manannán’s palm a wave unfurled, three cows, white cow a milk-speckled cow beneath the milky way – as in heaven so on earth, 

the way of the black cow veering towards the cemetery of the mounds by Cliadh Dubh. 

Bó Thar, cow-way across.

The way of the brown cow forgotten. 

The way of Patrick’s cow, Ardmore to Cashel of the Kings, beside the Aultagh (Ubhail Teach),

Mochuda of the apple of the ford and his charioteer, Flanait’s withered hand. Cranat’s blinded eyes.

Crozier slashed through the Autumn cow ceremony.

Berserker in a blood fury, Fionn Chú, White Hound, at war, the Abbot of Bangor,

‘true vine of Egypt’ said the antiphony.

 At Bri Gobhann of the blacksmiths by Mitchelstown, seven sickle blades for a penance, 

at night sleep you, Fionn Chú, beneath the graveyard, Cré na Cille, 

souls of the ancestors brought to heaven, a retro-conversion. 

Adomnán speaks to the dapper of his bell beside Litir.

Colmán leaps from his round tower at Cluain knees smashed upon the monolith of Lugh,

Lugh of the Harvest,

Lugh of the Long Arms and gold found by a menhir at Lurrig  (Lugh an rí)  by Lugh Slí by Baile an Bhóthar from the sea,

Carrig-a-Crump closeby Crum’s back bent from hauling grain – the harvest store,

Áine at Knockane (Cnoc Áine) his consort sits garlanded upon the brow of Barrykilla ridge looking westward,

Spring evening as multicolour tapestry of cloud forms heralds the splendour of a dying sunset in the west,

the lake by Rostellan creek where the Bibe she howls in the wake of  battle, twilight settling by a portal dolmen…land of the Uí Mochaille.

Traumatised Sweeney, a dendrite. 

Sarabaites in fox dens beneath the forest clearing.

A gyrovague wandering brings news to a sylvan cell at a limestone outcrop…Carraig an tSeomra.

A handbell ringing in a hermitage,

‘Pueri Aipyptae’ reported to Charlemagne.

 A ‘King who shall come out of the desert mountains of Patrick’

…on a hill slope as paenulae huddled they wait.

Gobnait’s white horse in search of deer, Abbán waits, Ciara in chains,

Flanait and Cranat nesting in their wildernesses, Cnoc an Ceó.

Corcú Laoidhe’s Gascon, viticulture, abroad from home, tending vines

near the estuary of the Gironde, Aquitania falls to Caesar in 50 BC.

Columbanus in the kingdom of the Franks.

A Cluny from a Cluain.

Goliard students to a Donoughmore schola, Greek to Latin,

macaronic notations of Gaelic to Latin,  ‘the mess of tongues’.

Carmina Burana at a Benedictine cluain, a bóthairín of students chanting,

O Fortuna, Culdees in battle against the Romans at Macloneigh,

manach and manaig in a fury for Christ upon the plain of the cluain of Aodh,

as many ‘weigh in’ for the slaughter.

Saxon Church, Rómhánach, Sassanach; reilig at the chapel,

burial of the unbaptised at Cillíní.


Uí Eadhairsceol (O Drisceoil) ship merchants, 

most powerful of the Corcú Laoidhe upon the peninsulas, 

beyond Rosscarbery, to Roaring Water, 

wine trade of Biscay, reciprocations. Fear a Bháta.

A  tonsure from Auxerre as fifty board a merchant ship, 

wine cargo to Inis Luinge of the Lee , to Senán, to the Muscraighe.

A handbell ringing in a hermitage,

‘out of the deserts of Patrick they will come on a Sunday night’.

Interlacing of the Word, druidic inter-weavings,

Snake spirals calligraphic and metaphorical,

no land haven for them, no safe shore, 

just carpeting a painted preface on dried vellum,

 psalms and flabellum,

 soaked in amber bogland.

A reliquary mounted on a wheel cross. 

A plastic statue of the Virgin beside a tin cup,

Pilgrim drinks from the dome capped well on a ‘Pattern’ day, a rag to a bush,

the hands of prayer, the muffled voice of the cowl headed widow, 

rosary beads and worry beads festooned.

Winds through the desert sands, still whispering.

Close nearby, subterranean earth-cell, monk psalm murmuring orans, 

whispers for forgiveness to a blank wall, hinted apse curved gently, 

in the coolness, in darkness, in silence, mediations pass through, 

heavenward directed, spiral of smoke in the evening blue,

…to the ritual of the bell within the cell…the psalm whispered across the palms,

Deus Meus Adiuva Me…Ciaráin of Sighir, Antioch of the Empire’s sea,

and ‘the first’ Christian king among the Corcú Laoidhe.

Deus Meus Adiuva Me…neophytes in white linen to the baptism well,

black shawl caoineadh at the reilig above the saint’s cell.

Upright sword quivers in an evening breeze,

Constantine kneels in the silence of the battle field.

Justinian fails re-unification, Corpus Iuris replaces the shield,

abbreviate and cipher no more he commands…memorial stones banished to obscurity. 

The curlew calls from a reed bed at Rostellan,

a dordán resonates along the Castlemary slopes, Ui Mochaille‘s aonach at Barrykilla,

mound-men rest soil-bags, earth-scrapers, monolith placers,

palimpsests from an earlier age at Castlemary’s tomb.

Lir’s children wing-spun on a lake wave rising at Loch Allua,

by Inchigeelagh, by the river meadow to be held in bondage,

swan necks in a reedbed drift, serpentine, 

in tandem beneath an azure sky,

lost to the draíocht of a cailleach.

Fionn Barra, nascent in Christ, at Gougane,

fresh from Muscraige Mittine,

fresh from Domhnach Mór of Lachteen of the relic arm, of the silver arm

and Olan his well beside an ogham stone- stone cap upon a gravestone…

ogham carved echoes… graveslab of the Egyptian priest, perhaps!

Meditations murmured in a rock-cave,

murmurations of starlings in flight, then alight upon lake’s shores;

O Riada divines the resonances.

In the wind leather sails from Venetii to Viking, an insect in an amber bead…

Cluain Maol maoile and derelict, Laura Buailte beaten and smashed…cow herds roaming,  

rain waifs drizzle the afternoon fields…plough-sock stationary and silent… time vortex, 

the burnt earth of Desmond in rebellion…a burial at Ballyanly perhaps. 

Time’s shadow blankets the snow land,

A Christmas candle flickering on a window sill in Bantry Bay stands. 

Bishops of the Schottenkloster in cave cells, Kiev of Hilarion’s  ‘four yard cave’ beckoning, Russian monastery its ‘earth caves’ infilled in the 18th century, pilgrims to Ros Ailithir’s wooded promontory tell of scholars at Fachtna’s bishoprick at Burgatia by his cell.

A Clonakilty Bay landstrip, a bóthar way to Kinneigh of Mocomoge where earth-cells with guardian stones keep the brethren well.

A pilgrim of Ros Ailithir returns in a fisherman’s boat, ransomed by a warrior king, brother avenged at Aghabulloge, a conflagration at Peake.

At Bantry from Kilnaruane a currach afloat, currach of the crosses for a skrealing, keeled by a Papyr. 

Baptism for Ari, a Viking, at Greater Ireland. Brendan might come to call. Munster slave captives remembered in the Landnámabók of  Icelanders, Bárid‘s great fleet out of Dubh Linn cave raiding in Carriage Luachra, in 866.

Abbán on a wheel cross, Ailbe the abbot of white linen robes,

Abbán on a Greek cross.

Cashel still monumental, still proclaimed, a ship for the Prince of the Déise and a frieze at Declán‘s monastery.

A night hawk flies, sky vistas at sunset, Kilmichael to Ballyvourney to Leacanabuile.

Cell in a caher at Cahergal lector for alumni silent and chain bound.

Caher from Qasr, the desert a city, like Kevin out of Leinster’s Kilnamanagh his ‘bed’ at Gleann dá Loch of the two lakes, 

Cluain dá Lann the sacred meadow of two oratories at the Cúile of the nunnery.

Oratory in a caher at Knockdrum, Greek cross homeward watching, 

sea breeze cooling the afternoon Hours.

Michael’s lios and the ‘lios of the night lodgings’.

Journeys into mind, into past, into spirit.

The dapper seeks a bell, the bell seeks a dapper at Oldcourt by Skibbereen.

Adomnán beneath the soil, orans to psalm and bell, by the Litir. 

The mountain of the singing where Michael returned from Rome. 

A follower of Martin, then Rome ordained, at a teampall in the Baile.

Amphora wine from a Saxon house on the Bandon,

taxed at Dún Cearmna, cart-hauled to Kilmore by the great lios.

Frameworks of time passing dissolving into opaque forgotten-ness.

Abide the Rule, penitentials in the Pit. 

A prophet presbyther ascending a mountain with his flock, tau stick in hand…a pilgrimage from a Dair.

End of week gatherings desert to domhnach mòr at the Sunday well, Dé Domhnaigh, Kyrakon, 

the mass ritual and a refectory meal close distant to a caher.


Ploughman’s horse at the Garrane of the Lord’s Farran, manaig at the gort and the garraí,

rath and lios now monastic territory, allocations some secular, some holy.

Rammed earth ‘rath‘ house for a Hansa council in Germania, Ar Bard.

Some things change, some remain the same, generations pass by.


Leprosarium at the cubbies along the cliff, Mount Carmel made the prophets.

Bosch paints Jerome at the penitential Pit,

A pilgrim at Lough Derg enters the Pit, Pol Faoi Talmhain.

Dante…and the Purgatory mosaic at Todi.

The Dormition of Ephraim, a life in caves.

Two Elder Saints seated, in conversation, Carraig an tSeomra.

A hermit in a lissu, holy housed within memorial stones,

Tig Faoi Talaimh, a dome speaks of heaven, a cell corbelling to heaven, a meditation,

Cassian and a Borias mason, Italian and Egyptian churches in the round.

A snake of many figures spreads across a mosaic floor in Otranto.

Byzantine and Jew seek refuge amongst the Romans, 

Greek and Hebrew amongst the Latins cross-influencing.

spiritualities in harmony against a crescent banner. 

 Peregrini via Rome to Puglia of the corbel masters,

to Otranto… ships to Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem…Paul at Ephesus…

Abbán walks upon the wheel of a compass…Saint Marcian the anchorite in a Syrian wilderness.

‘Sailing to Byzantium’, an icon from Mount Athos, peninsula of the monasteries,

by the Holy Mountain a solitary manach prays in his cell.

Straw floor of Whiddy oratory, Knockdrum caher with a Greek cross,

six cubicles beneath Garnish, six cubicles at Sherkin shore, 

a prophet in a rock cell rings his bell, 

contemplates his guidance Rule at Kilcrohane to its knell, 

dapper falls silent charmed in the chime of its spell…Mocomoge wandering beyond the mountain pass

as a hermit in the wild, a poor Lobbus journeying to Fán…foreshadowing a Spalpín in a labour for God.

A pilgrim church migratory…peregrini, and on to Church Island off Valencia, 

Lerin’s tree a flabellum in a palimpsest… 

and on to distant lands of the west and the baptism of an Icelander…

carved heads in a triangle above a romanesque door where Brendan rests.

Helmsmen of the currachs of the crosses,

patrimony to erenagh and coarb forever more.

Deus Meus Adiuva Me.

The tuneful ‘march of Brian Ború‘ , the march of O Suilleabháin Bear, a child of Beara, resonate across a drumlin somewhere.

Piaras MacGearilt musician of Ballymacoda composes a tune, the Battle Cry of Munster (Rosc Catha Na Mumhan), after 1709 at a farmstead there and Jacobites, Ye Jacobites by Name Lend an Ear Lend an Ear, marching into a vanishing point lament for Mo Ghile Mear, from the words of Chief Poet of Munster Sean Clárach at Ollum‘s lios – Oillil Ollum of the tomb – the lios by Brú Rí of Brian Bóramha ‘Emperor of the Irish’, MacGearilt‘s bardic court assembled.

Is aigne eile é!

Táimse i mo chodhladh is ná duisigh mé!

Oh, to tame a little piece of the wild dragon of memory

from Akaschic consciousness.

‘Ní scartha duit le caidreach na saoithe sean’.

[You must not separate from the society of those learned in antiquities.

Seanfhochail from Fr. Dinneen’s Irish Dictionary]