Wednesday 24 February 2021

Leave the Calling Card - Creative Non-Fiction by Margaret Kiernan


Leave the Calling Card by Margaret Kiernan - Creative Non-Fiction

Finding myself in lockdown at home, without leave to travel. I decide to do that internal walkabout. No handshakes, but nods to all I meet along the way. It is a map in my head, looking out through my skull and I pick the four elements of my childhood compass. Roads were meaningful back then, Roman roads of stone and Kings highways in green grass, tramped over to daydreams. The asphalt road had its own scent. After rainfall in Summertime, it was intoxicating. Mooched through nostrils, as dust rose. Broad leaves of the chestnut trees, buds of amber bursting out, contrive to make me a child again. I stand still.

The road behind me goes West and brings me to a lake that is sunk in glacial sheetrock, created by the receding ice-age. This place was out of bounds to children, except in summertime. Then it was only allowed for the ritual sheep washing event. It was a destination where sheep were dipped for fly diseases, in the month of June. Children always helped with the muster. A sort of noisy sweaty heat filled time. The scabby fly was being eradicated. The wheel of the year, sheep and wool, fishing and gillies, dogs retrieving Woodcock and Pheasants.

A large herd of feral goats stood on a high escarpment and watched from a distance; their silhouettes outlined against the sky. Bearded wild animals that seemed to live in some no-man’s paradise. They instilled fear in me. Far across the panorama is a series of mountain ranges. Tourmakeady, Partry, Croagh Patrick, that holy mountain, and away northwards, the Ox Mountain peaks are visible. All pale pastel colours. A bird can get there quicker than by road travel.

I face East and head to the village that once housed many Monks. It was declared the seat of European learning in the middle-ages. Now in ruins, the Royal Abbey has a singular surviving cloister. Echoes of evensong lingers on the breeze. Augustinian monks resided there for centuries. Now the doorways with Roman stonework, by French stonemasons, allow the rooks to fly through. The lonesome lulling sound from a sawmill can be heard, the rise and fall of saws humming in the morning, melancholy by the afternoon. There is work being done. The forest is pruned, and logs made from trees. Timber is a commodity to be sold.

The monks maintained large numbers of beehives as a food source. They kept their bees on the shores of Lough Corrib, near the spot where now a castle stands, at Ashford, where the Cong river empties itself into the lake. It is still a place of beauty and many visitors arrive annually. The castle has global standards for excellence, in hotels.

I exit out the Tower gates and meander through fields full of dents and hollows. It is the place where the Tuatha De Danann, descended from the great Goddess Danu,  fought the Fir Bolgs,  descended from Muintir Nemid, at Moytura, Cong. A perfect circle of tall standing stones appears to connive with themselves. They are a mystery, locked into the narrative of ancient ages. It is utterly quiet here, only a moving car eases the silence. My eye catches the beauty of forests and blue mountains. Is this paradise? Did all those warriors see it too? Perhaps it was their Eden, they choose to stay and lie in the sweet clay.

Going North, the road takes me to the town of Ballinrobe, two miles away from Lough Mask lake. The river Robe flows through the town. It is a town with many fine tall grey stone buildings, one of those, was a Library, where my mother went on Saturday evenings. She enrolled me there when I was eight years of age. It is situated in the grounds of a church, St. Marys, Church of Ireland. I loved everything about that library, the broad wooden floorboards that creaked and sagged when stepped upon. The high ceiling. Rows of books, and that quiet atmosphere only found in places of contemplation. After the visit to pick out the reading books, we would head to Miss Maye’s shop, for ginger ale and cheesecakes, freshly baked in their own bakery. The town is a place of second-level schools. Religious and lay schools. It was the birthplace of Doctor Noel Browne, a politician that spearheaded the treatment to eradicate Tuberculosis in Ireland. He had met with resistance. His sanatorium still stands there, it is empty. It is situated at the centre of the horse-racing track. Each race meeting, swift horses go racing past. Surrounded by rolling green fields. I head South.

The road south goes through the Woods or forest. Past the crossroads that houses the Gate to a Prince, in the high stone wall. Along the road and past the neat house of the three old women. They looked like Russian dolls, impeccably dressed in black clothing, winter or summer. Arriving at the village of Clonbur, a place that held a monthly fair-day, for the sale of livestock and goods and chattels. It is situated in the parish of which my maternal grandmother lived. Her height was tall, her heart was equally as big, and her neighbours called her Mom. To me, she was Grandma.

I loved going to her. I knew she loved me, but she never said so. She was also my Godmother. I may have believed I had a bigger claim to her. Her long hair was worn rolled into a bun on top of her head. I always associate her with crumbly biscuits. She often hid them in a large leather satchel. Cream crackers and Ginger nut. She was willing to share, sometimes she and I colluded to share furtively. Her tone of voice like a soothing mantra of re-assurance. All is well or will be, soon.

I lie in a feather bed at her house and can hear the radio playing in the kitchen. I listen to it, to the sounds and words Mizen Head, Luxembourg, Berlin, Petersburg. The loud tick of the grandfather clock interrupted sometimes, with a bell alarm sound. It ticked on again, slow, real slow, there is time, all the time in the world.

At breakfast, she will warm the milk. While I wait, I look out front at the broad expanse of the Corrib Lake. Many islands lie like green emeralds upon the blue water. I now know that there are many roads home.

Margaret Kiernan writes fiction, non-fiction essay, memoir, and poetry. She has had poetry and prose published. In e-book, in anthology collections, and literary journals and magazines. Including, Black-lion Press, journal-C19 collection , archived at University College Dublin.

The Blue Nib Lit-Journal , The Write Life Magazine, Unity Global Festival, Vox Galvia at the Galway Advertiser, A New Ulster Literary Press, The Burrow Lit. Journal, and Lothlorien Poetry Journal.

She writes with Over the Edge, Thursday writing/reading group at Galway Arts Centre, and, Ox Mountain Poets, Sligo.

She is listed in the Index of Contemporary Women Poets in Ireland, 2020.


She holds several Educational qualifications, Including a Degree in Arts in Humanities, from Sligo IT.

Her background is in Advocacy in Human and Social Rights.

Margaret has completed numerous courses and workshops in writing, for prose and poetry.

Tutors in poetry includes, Annemarie Ni Churainn, Martin Dyer, Colm Keegan, Monica Corish, Moyra Donaldson, Noel Monahan, Kevin Higgins.

Tutors in prose includes, Claire Allan, Anne McMaster, Conor Kostick, Carlo Gebler, Malacai O’Doherty, Jan Carson, Ciara Doorley. END. 

Margaret has four grown-up children. She lives in Westmeath with her dog Molly. She is a landscape painter. Is into Nature, walking, gardening, music, and heritage. She is working towards a First collection in Poetry.


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