As I sit here today, I’m thinking of places where I might go if things were different. Uisneach at the very centre of Ireland is one place, for sure.
At its centre is Aill na Míreann (the stone of the divisions) and this is where the borders of the five ancient provinces of Ireland met. Once upon a time there was a fifth province known as Cúige na Mí – although this province could also have referred to the world of the imagination or the ‘otherworld’, where the Tuatha Dé Danann now dwell.
In Celtic Mythology, Uisneach is also the place where the sun god Lugh was drowned. Lugh was the one who defeated Balor of the evil eye with his Claidheamh Soluis (his sword of light) but unfortunately, he was drowned afterwards in the small lake here and laid to rest in a nearby passage grave. (There was a fine satirical play about this, written by Jack Harte and entitled “Killing Grandad”, but unfortunately its run was cut short because of the COVID 19 situation. Look out for it again when all this has passed.)
And there’s lots of history connected to Uisneach. There are over 20 ancient monuments – ring forts, tumuli and various earthworks – spread over 2 square kilometres of gently sloping fields. It is said that the site was visited by St. Patrick – and that St. Bridget was made a bishop here. (yes, a female Bishop!)
In more recent times, it became a site of political rallies. Daniel O’Connell, Patrick Pearse and De Valera all addressed huge rallies here. Our poet President Michael D. Higgins lit a fire here for Bealtaine, a couple of years ago. (read about it here in the Irish Examiner )
So yes, it would definitely be worth visiting on one of those beautiful, frosty-clear mornings. The hill of Uisneach is only 600 ft above sea level but there are stunning views in all directions from the summit. It is said that from there, you can see hills in twenty of Ireland’s 32 counties. You stand there where the druids once stood, where Bridget stood, where countless generations of Irish people gathered… it’s a wonderful experience but a humbling one. We are quite insignificant after all, aren’t we? Ah well, it’s never too late to begin again.
I created the painting above some years ago, inspired by the Claidheamh Soluis. Isn’t there something about colour that just lifts the spirits. I thought I had it once but… I’m still looking.
The painting at the top of the page was created this week. It’s a watercolour, trying somehow to portray the razor-sharp, the ancient and the noble in the one painting. A strange endeavour, I suppose – but what a strange time it is.
I hope you’re doing ok in these troubled times.