The Ten Best Irish Songs ‘As Gaeilge’ (for English Speakers)

Ireland is fortunate to have an exceptionally strong oral music tradition that stretches back to a time well before records began, and which has resiliently survived the worst that historical and contemporary life has thrown at it.  Steeped in Gaelic history, language and cultural heritage, Irish singers and songwriters are also fortunate in that they have access to a reliable and steadfast well of creativity, one that they can draw on or tap into as the need arises.

Because the cultural groundwork of Irish music is so well developed, it provides those emersed in it with a framework for further exploration or innovation with new styles and influences (something that’s been particularly visible in Irish music over the last few decades).

Although the songs presented here are in Irish, most of them aren’t in the sean-nós or other styles used by our ancestors (although some are heavily indebted) and they reflect (very roughly) the changing style from the early 20th century up to the present day.

Most of the songs in this list have also been chosen with respect to their accessibility by a non-Irish audience. Listeners without knowledge of the Gaelic language may struggle with the story but not with the fundamental emotions and feelings behind them.

It’s probably also worth noting here that although some people often describe Irish music as ‘spiritual’, that’s actually a misnomer. ‘Spiritual’ tends to be a term that pops up when a person is confronted by another culture and experiences something they like and get an emotive jolt from, – but which they don’t completely understand. To fill that void, the sensation is often summarised as ‘spiritual’.

If you take a step back however, you’ll realise that English-speaking people rarely describe English music as ‘spiritual’. In the same way, because it’s such an everyday part of our lives, few Irish people will ever describe Irish music as ‘spiritual’ and it’s sometimes hard not to roll your eyes when others try to impose such ethereal interpretations on something that’s so fundamentally practical.

While making this list, I was probably even more conscious of the singers and songwriters I was leaving out than the ones I’d chosen to include. That’s the problem with trying to list anything related to Irish music. There are simply too many songs, too many tunes, too many variations and too many writers/performers to give them all the credit they deserve. To make matter worse, because lists like this are based completely on personal perspective, you can also be sure that anyone else creating a similar list would end up with a completely different set of songs and performers. 

Finally, I’ll also note here that I’ve provided ‘You Tube’ links to all of the listed songs. This, obviously, isn’t the optimal way to be introduced to new music but it will give you a taster and if you find something you like, you can always drop deeper.

THE SONGS

An Poc ar Buile

This tune has been covered so many times and by so many people now, there’s really no definitive version. Despite this, my favourite remains the version performed by the Chieftains (& Friends) in a concert down in Dingle back in 1999. If you listen to the You Tube clip, you’ll hear how all four singers use to own particular singing style that makes the piece they’re singing, completely their own.

The title ‘An Puc ar Buile’ means ‘The Furious Goat’ and it tells the story of a workman who gets caught up in an encounter with a mad goat and somehow ends up riding him through the town of Dingle. Although originally based on a poem by Dónal Ó Mulláin (it was adapted into its current form by Seán Ó Sé in the sixties), it’s a hilarious song and a lot of fun to sing with other people. It’s no surprise to hear this one rolled out any time there’s a sing-song going on with Irish speakers.

Link: An Poc ar Buile

Mal Bhán Ní Chuilleanáin

Mal Bhán Ní Chuilleanáin’, by Lá Lugh, is a variation of the traditional Irish love song ‘Mollaí na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin’ (Curly-haired Molly Ní Chuilleanáin) but unlike most earlier, traditional versions, Lá Lugh slow the tune down dramatically (after an energetic intro) to give it a far more poignant and haunting feel

The group Lá Lugh (literally, ‘Day of Lugh’ [Lámhfhada – a mythological figure]) was established by singer/ songwriter, Eithne Ní Uallacháin and talented fiddler Gerry O’Conner (her husband) in the early 1990s. Throughout the 90s, they garnered an increasing reputation for stylistic innovation but sadly, the very talented Eithne died in 1999, just after completing their next album (‘Bilingua’). This may be one of the reasons, this version of the traditional song isn’t as well-known as it should be.

Link: Mal Bhán Ní Chuilleanáin

Dúlamán

It would be grossly unfair not to include at least one track from Clannad given their influence on the Irish music scene over the last forty years. Discovered at an early stage in their career (in the 1970s) when they created the haunting music for the BBC production ‘Harry’s Game’, their subsequent (and very clever) merging of traditional Irish music elements with contemporary pop heralded the introduction of what became known as ‘the Celtic Music’ scene and made them one of Ireland’s first supergroups.

Dúlamán is the titular song from one of their earlier albums and concerns a poor man’s attempts to convince a wealthy man to allow him marry his daughter. If you’re familiar with the source material, you’ll see how cleverly the traditional version’s adapted and remixed. The use of pumping chorus vocals means this is a song much changed and re-covered over the years but Altan’s version remains by far my favourite.

Link: Dúlamán

Dónal Agus Mórag

It’s difficult to choose which song to include from the Altan’s various albums as they’re all so good. I’ve chosen Dónal Agus Mórag (from the album ‘Harvest Storm’) primarily as the joyful rhythm and chorus make it far more accessible to a non-Irish speaking audience. The song details the preparation for the wedding between the titular couple.

Altan are a group from Donegal and they’ve been playing the Irish trad circuit for thirty years or more. The group was originally set up by lead singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and her husband, flute player Frankie Kennedy (now, sadly deceased). One of the most beautiful slow reels I’ve ever come across (Sunset) was written and performed by this couple.

Link: Dónal Agus Mórag

Dá Bhfaigheann Mo Rogha de Thriúr Acu

This song from the album Dual features one of my favourite singers (Muireann nic Amhlaoibh) with fellow Danú member Éamonn Doorley and Scottish musicians Julie Fowlis and Ross Martin. The title means ‘If I had my choice of the three of them’ in English – an apt title given the flow into ‘Dhannsamaid Le Ailean’ and ‘Cairistíon’ Nigh’n Eoghainn’.

The word ‘Dual’ means both ‘native’ or ‘natural’ but it can also mean to ‘twist’ or ‘braid’ so it’s actually a very clever title given the merging of styles from Gaelic Ireland and Gaelic Scotland.  

Again, upbeat and cheerful, this is one you could listen to over and over again.

Link: Dá Bhfaigheann Mo Rogha de Thriúr Acu

Éist do Bhéal

I first heard this song in a 1999 album called Éist [songs in their native language] – a very decent collection of songs ‘as Gaeilge’. There are at least two other versions that I know of but Cork singer Sinéad Lohan’s is beautifully polished and probably the best.

Éist do Bhéal literally means “Listen to your mouth” in English – a way of saying ‘listen to the crap you’re spouting’ (i.e. ‘Shut up’). Various internet comment boards are full of people arguing over the meaning but it’s pretty simple.  Despite her popularity and career success, Sinéad Lohan retired from the music scene quite early – a real loss for the rest of us.

Link: Éist do Bhéal

Ceol Na Gaoithe

Ceol Na Gaoithe is a song by Inis Oírr sean nós singer Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola and it appeared in her first album ‘An Raicín Álainn’ (from 2002). Sadly, this song is one that’s not particularly well known and it’s been undeservedly overlooked. Possibly this was because it was one of Ní Chonaola’s own compositions and didn’t align so well with the other songs on the album which are far more traditional.

The title means ‘Song of the Gale’.  Ní Chonaola followed this album up with ‘Flame of Wine’ in 2005. Beautiful, emotive singing.

Link: Ceol Na Gaoithe

Leath ina dhiaidh a hocht

This song from Irish band Kila (written by Ronán O’Snódaigh) first turned up on O’Snódaigh’s album Tonnta Ró, then in Kila’s 2007 album Gambler’s Ballet (O’Snódaigh and his brothers are members of Kila).

The title means “half past eight” and tells the story of someone waking up in the detritus of a party from the night-before, trying to make sense of it and the events that transpired.

The Irish lyrics are great but what makes the Kila version of the song superior (in my view) is the ingenious melding of the tune with a famous classical piece (the name of which currently eludes me). 

This one’s a lot of fun.

Link: Leath ina dhiaidh a hocht

Plait agus Domhnail

Plait agus Domhnail (Clontarf), from singer/songwriter/performer Lorcán MacMathúna is an epic song that describes the build-up and ferocious violence that occurs during the Battle of Clontarf between Scottish champion and Plait the son of the King of Norway. The song (from MacMathúna’s album ‘An Bhuatais & The Meaning of Life) draws directly on sean-nós (and almost bardic) tradition to create a composition that perfectly fits the stirring madness and blood intensity of battle. MacMathúna’s powerful performance, supported by some exceptional musicians, means it’s hard to listen to this rendition and not be moved.

Strangely enough, I first came across MacMathúna’s work in a great little video game called
‘Scéal’ where MacMathúna’s performance gave the game a level of cultural authenticity it couldn’t possibly have achieved on its own. He also pretty much blasted it out of the park in terms of ‘mood’ and ‘atmosphere development’ that made that game so effective.   

Link: Plait agus Domhnail 

Is Ainm Dom

Is Ainm Dom (from ‘The Dawn of Motion’ album) is the wild card in this list of ten songs but it also feels aptly placed given how perfectly it showcases the ongoing influences on Irish music and its inexorable evolution over time.

‘Moxie’ are an instrumental trad group that came together in 2011, mostly focussed on compositions that involved innovative stylistic takes on the usual Irish music tradition. Ever fresh and interesting, their most recent recruit – Tunisian vocalist Julia Spanu – has taken them off in very different direction, however.

Merging Spanu’s Tunisian/French roots with Moxie’s more traditional Irish sound (while also using both Arabic and Gaelic lyrics) produces something that’s genuinely unique and as this is a recent release, I’m perfectly intrigued to see where it goes.

This unusual mix of North African and Gaelic music will probably upset some people (but probably not Irish musicians).

Link: Is Ainm Dom

Oirish Gaming, Tourism Ireland and the Plastic Paddies

Look, I’ve got to confess I’m not the world’s greatest gamer. I have enjoyed games like ‘Skyrim’ or ‘Fallout’ in the past but, for me, the main enjoyment results from wandering aimlessly through dramatic landscapes (usually as I haven’t worked out the controls) or engaging in the occasional bout of senseless violence after a ‘bad day’ at the office.

Despite my limited gaming credentials however, I’ve played enough to appreciate the artistry of game design. As a writer, I also recognise good plotting and dialogue when I hear them. To be honest, some of the stuff I’ve played over the years, genuinely deserves to be recognised for the spectacular art forms they are.

Fortunately, my lack of expertise in gaming didn’t work against me when I received an approach from a game developer looking to make a video game that incorporated genuine elements of Irish culture in its narrative structure. That approach came a bit out of the blue (probably as a result of an announcement relating to the adaptation of one of my books) but, either way, it did lead to some interesting discussions.

When I first spoke to the producers, I was a bit intrigued and excited, impressed by their energy and creative drive. By the second meeting however, I was already starting to feel a tad uncomfortable, mostly with the way they wanted to portray Irish culture. It quickly became clear that we had very differing views on what ‘genuine’ meant and I ended up distancing myself from the project. Last I heard, it hadn’t progressed much further beyond those initial conversations and I believe the game now lingers in ‘development hell’.

Fast forward two years and I come across this – Wrath of the Druids – a game released in May by Ubisoft (a company far bigger than the one I’d been talking to) as part of its ‘Assassins Creed’ product line. Ubisoft do some of the better AAA games (the term used for the more complex games produced by the larger game publishing houses) and although ‘Wrath of the Druids’ has very little in common with the game I’d been approached about, some of the aspects on how Irish history/mythology were being portrayed were similar.

Aaaah! Fresh morning air and a lovely bit of sport with the ‘Oirish Wherewolvzes’!

I guess the big problem with non-native game producers making games based on Irish culture is that they tend to cherry pick aspects that they like (and omit or change what they don’t) and repackage the altered remnants as the components of a distorted, anglicized (i.e. ‘Celtic’) fantasy that appeals to the masses. That would probably be fine if they didn’t keep passing it off as ‘Irish’ to give it an air of ‘authenticity’ but when it come sto game developers, they generally seem to want to have their cake and eat it. In some ways, it feels as though the whole colonization process has continued unabated except that, nowadays, rather than stealing our land, the feckers are after our cultural identity!!!

So Who Will Protect Us? Yay! Tourism Ireland.

What’s most interesting about the ‘Wrath of the Druids’ game, was the involvement of Tourism Ireland (who approached the developers when they heard it was being produced). To their credit, by engaging proactively with the game developers, Tourism Ireland managed to get some excellent leverage through the inclusion of current day tourist destinations (based on ancient sites) into the game. From a marketing perspective therefore, you’d have to admit the final product was a total ‘win-win’. Tourism Ireland gets a rare opportunity to market directly to an extensive gaming community and Ubisoft can utilise their involvement to lend the game an air of er … cultural authenticity (even if it seems limited to topographical or architectural features).

To be honest, I have plenty of respect for Tourism Ireland and its efforts to support the Irish tourism industry. Unfortunately, its narrow financial objectives and its desperation for marketing ‘airtime’ places it in a tenuous position when it comes to representing Ireland. Tourism Ireland isn’t particularly intersted in genuine aspects of our culture. They’re interested in bringing tourists to the country so that they spend money here and they’ll sell them any oul shitedream they want to get them over. With respect to gaming therefore, Tourism Ireland are more than happy for Ireland to be marketed as a land where druids hang out doing their magic schtick (while wearing antlers), where shaggy Oirish wherewolvzes threaten to gnaw your bones, where fiery, red-haired maidens are waiting to be rescued and where every gaming tourist can have their ultimate wet-dream ‘Oirish’ fantasy come true.

Oi’ve got a roight weird Oirish accent!

Perhaps we should rename them ‘Tourism Oireland’.

I’m being a bit cynical here, of course (no, really!) but it’s important to remember that the aim of products like ‘Wrath of the Druids’ is to entertain. It’s not to inform or to educate – although commercial companies will happily make such claims unless someone takes them to task on the matter.

And, trust me, Tourism Ireland aren’t the entity to take them to task.

Ultimately, allowing non-Irish creatives in the gaming industry to represent Irish culture without credible oversight can lead to some major narrative clangers. It can also have serious downsides that include the replacment of genuine elements of Irish culture by a Plastic Paddy charicatures (anyone remember Cait from Fallout 4!).

Longer term, unless we as native Irish creators regain control of our own stories and heritage, our culture risks continuing to serve as a cheap commodity for ‘Celtic’-style entertainment.   

And the ‘MacDonald’s’ version of Irish culture is not something, we really want to pass down to our children – no matter how good the game is.

 

An Khlondike

An Klondike was an 2014 Westeren television series (consisting of two seasons, each with four episodes) produced for Irish channel TG4 by Dathaí Keane. Set during the Klondike Gold Rush, it tells the story of three Irish brothers who arrive in the fictional town of Dominion Creek to work their own mining claim.

Originally broadcast on TG4 to much national acclaim, the series was also re-edited as feature film and had a decent showing in Ireland and England.  From an Irish perspective, it was quite an ambitious creative endavour in that it involved a budget of €1.8m and required the recreation of an American mining town in Galway as well as a substantial supporting cast.  

Things with the series got even more interesting several years later when it was picked up by streaming company Netflix. Although the series was originally in Irish, the name was changed to Dominion Creek and the entire soundtrack dubbed into English (and, unfortunately, you can tell).

That said, the series is a very impressive production with plenty of action and intense set apieces and well worth a watch. If you can get your hands on a version with the original Irish soundtrack (and subtitles in English) you’ll enjoy it all the more. It continues to stream on Netflix but you can find the trailer HERE:     

Irish Reflections and ‘Dragons’ over Montreal

I’ve always had a lot of time for Irish film stalwart, Gabriel Byrne, but his latest movie ‘Death of a Ladies Man’ really seems to be his most interesting to date. An Irish-Canadian co- production, the movie concerns an Irish actor struggles with a crisis of conscience once he finds out that he doesn’t have long to live – to the tunes of Leonard Cohen.

Written (and directed) by Matt Bissonnette, one would think the film would sink under the heavy nature of its subject matter but the snappy script and Byrne’s performance lift it above the over-oppressive elements of your typical morality tale …

That and the hilarious hallucinations.

Byrne experiences some intriguing phantasms as he re-examines his life; giant geese reigning fire down on Montreal (akin to ‘Game of Thrones’), women with tiger heads, conversations with his dead father (who looks younger than he does!).

Genius!

You can find the trailer HERE

The Thinking Woman’s Warrior

I’m delighted to announce that the third book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series is now out and available at all the ususal ebookstores. The paperback version is still available only through Amazon but that will change).

Definitely the most popular of all my book series, this is a brief description of what its all about:

———-

The Irish Woman Warrior Series is based on the adventures of the woman warrior Liath Luachra and her mercenary fian (war party), Na Cinéaltaí (The Friendly Ones).

Set against a backdrop of encroaching forest, mythic ruins and treacherous tribal politics, Liath Luachra tells the story of a damaged young woman who can count on nothing but her wits and fighting skills to see her through. Rising above the constraints of her status and overcoming her personal tragedies, she emerges Ireland’s greatest warrior and a protector whose influence lives on one thousand years later.

You can find the full background and details on the new book here: THE SEEKING

Shake

These images from the Cork Midsummer Festival caught my eye recently. They relate to a performance called ‘Shake’ by Laura Murphy (an independent dance artist choreographer) which was part of the festival. I thought the images were an ingenious merging of humour and epic backdrop.

You can find out more about the performance itself (note it doesn’t actually take place on the Ringiskiddy mudflats!) HERE

Fionn, Fenians and Wild Irish Pigs

Wild pigs, especially boars, were exceptionally important in ancient Ireland due to their abundance throughout the wilderness and their usefulness as a food source. Wild pigs therefore form an important part in ancient stories and tend to pepper the established mythological associations.

Pigs were particularly associated with the Fenian Cycle tales and, indeed, wild pigs form an important narrative element across the range of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s life. The Macgnímartha Finn, for example, reports how, in his early years, the young Fionn defeated his first wild boar in Cuilleann in a kind of coming of age ‘warrior event’ (often used in ancient stories to give characters a certain kudos).  That goes as follows:    


Then he (Fionn) went forth to Cullen of the Uí Cuanach, to the house of the master smith Lóchán, who had a very beautiful daughter, Cruithne by name. She fell in love with the youth.

Apparently, Lóchán was very impressed with the young Fionn (although, amusingly, the Macgnímartha Finn never actually says why) and reacts – ahem – as most fathers would.

‘I shall give thee my daughter, though I know not who thou art.” Thereupon the girl slept with the youth.

“Make spears for me,” said the youth to the smith. So Lóchán made two spears for him. He then bade farewell to Lóchán and prepared to make his away.

“My boy,” said Lóchán. “Do not go upon the road on which is the sow called the Beo. She it was that devastated the mid­lands of Munster.”

But what happened was that youth travelled upon the very road on which the sow was to be found. There the sow charged him but be thrust his spear at her, so that it went through her, and left her without life. Then he took the head of the sow with him to the smith as a bridal gift for his daughter.

Hence is Sliabh Muice (Pig Mountain) in Munster situated.


That hill (no Sliabh na Muc) is located between Tipperary and the glen of Aherlow. In ancient times, the glen was an important travel route between the districts of Tipperary and Limerick so it’s no real surprise to find such stories associated with it.  

Towards the end of his life, another boar plays an important role in Fionn’s story. That occurs in An Tóraíocht when Fionn has supposedly made peace with the warrior Diarmuid Ui Duibhne (who earlier betrayed Fionn by eloping with his future bride, Grainne).

Visiting Diarmuid in his home in Sligo, Fionn joins the warrior in a boar hunt around Benbulbin. During the hunt, the creature gores Diarmuid badly and although Fionn has the power to heal him by letting him drink water from his palms, he refuses to do so.

Pressed by his grandson – the warrior Oscar – a friend of Diarmuid’s – Fionn relents but still overcome by bitterness, he twice lets the water flow through his fingers before he can raise them to Diarmuid’s lips. Finally, when threated by Oscar, Fionn does the right thing but by then it’s too late and Diarmuid has succumbed to his wounds.

Although wild boar may have once been native in Ireland, it became extinct in prehistoric times.  Since then, the environment has changed substantially, and if reintroduced, they would now be considered an invasive/pest species as they’re likely to have a huge impact on local habitats and wildlife. Despite this, there were some interesting happenings in Kerry recently when people were asked by the Parks and Wildlife Service to report any sightings of a large male boar running wild in the Cordal and Mount Eagle area.

I guess there’s always going to be some ‘eegit’ with a wild pig agenda!


I currently have a new series in development based around the adventures of an Irish sportswoman living in the west of Ireland. Set just a few years in the future, I’ll probably be using a lot of Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) content for inspiration.

Attached is one of the better ads for Irish women’s football which is close to what I’m looking for in terms of style (although a pity about the whole Lidl branding).

Expect a kind of Liath Luachra in sports shorts and boots.

THE AD

Note this probably won’t be available for a year (or more) at least.

The Bird with the Cat’s Head

An Ceann Cait’ – ‘The Cat Head’ owl – is an intriguing part of the Irish landscape, particularly as its ‘working hours’ and natural camouflage make it extremely hard to see. That visual rarity give the bird a bit of a ‘mysterious’ reputation and, hence, there’s been a lot of mythology or folklore ascribed to it. Unfortunately, like much ‘Irish mythology’ out there on the internet, it tends to be more recently invented or the result of contemporary interpretations on topics that aren’t fully understood. To be honest, in its natural environment, the bird’s behaviour is fascinating enough and it doesn’t really need a whole bunch of fantasy background or meaning (or worse, the term ‘Celtic’) applied to make it more interesting.

I was lucky enough to see An Ceann Cait once a few years back, and although the feline ears, facial disc and broad eyes gives the animal a ‘stunned’ expression that looks quite comical, it’s actually a ruthless little predator (mostly preying on mice and other rodents but they take down small birds as well).    

I ended up using the animal in the first chapter of ‘Liath Luachra: The Seeking’ (which is also the short story ‘The Winter Cave’) as it served to present the protagonist with an effective foil for self-reflection. I intentionally kept away from any supernatural or mythological leanings, though.  As mentioned earlier, the animal’s already interesting enough in its own right and like most of the ‘magic’ or ‘meaning’ modern-day spiritualists seem so desperate to find, its often sitting directly in front of you.

Potentially on a branch.    

Ar Ais Arís

Brú Theatre are presenting an interesting virtual reality project around the Gaeltacht communities in Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry and Cork from the 11th  to the 20th of June. As part of the proposed approach, small audiences will be presented with scenic views and soundscapes of Ireland’s west coast, then virtual reality headsets will be distributed to show three individual 180° short films.

The films – shot in Connermara – will present an immersive mix of Irish language, music and poetry will be based on texts from Irish witers such as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máirtín Ó Cadhain.

Brú Theatre are a small theatre group based in Galway who present bilingual works in Irish and English (they’re the one who created and produced the visually captivating ‘Fisherwives’). Ar Ais Arís was commissioned by the Galway 2020 / Áistriú project.

Needless to say, I’m very jealous I’ll miss it.

Reading Material ‘as Gailege’ for Kids

One of the big problems I experienced raising my kids ‘as Gailege’ in New Zealand back in the early 2000s, was trying to get decent reading material to teach them with. Back then, there was relatively few ‘modern’ books for children (particularly in somewhere as isolated as New Zealand) and the cost of ordering them from the likes of ‘Siopa Leabhar’ and other outlets (who insisted on charging VAT even for overseas sales) was prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, I was able to return to Ireland on a relatively regular basis and, on each occasion, I’d scour the shops for suitable books in Irish. One series of books which my kids absolutely loved was the ‘Cití Cailleach’ series (the Cití the Witch series) translated to Irish from the original ‘Winnie the Witch’ written by Valerie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul.

Yesterday, my daughter (now grown up) discovered a batch of the books we’d kept and was desperately looking for the Cití Cailleach series. Sadly, I’d passed them onto other Irish parents who were trying to raise their kids ‘as Gaeilge’.

As I was looking online however, I found this excellent video resource at Glór na nGael where one of the book is very ably read by Donach. I wish I’d had this kind of resource all those years ago!

You can find the you tube video HERE

LIATH LUACHRA: The Seeking – “THE BEST BOOK YET”

After the release of Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha, I took a break for a few weeks, however this weekend I intend to recommence work on the next Liath Luachra (The Metal Men).

I also caught up with up a few reviews on Goodreads for Liath Luachra: The Seeking and was particularly gratified to find these two from Andrea and Peter – two people who’ve been incredibly supportive since the series’s inception. I value both of their opinions highly so this was a big thing for me.

Liath Luachra: The Seeking is currently available on Amazon in paperback but in digital form only at the Irish Imbas Books website. The digital book will be available everywhere from 30 June.

I’m hoping to release the next book in 3-4 months time but I’ll revela more on that in the next newsletter.

Sinéad

An interesting segment from Sinéad O’Connor’s biography in the Irish Times today.

To be honest, I’ve always been in two minds with respect to Sinéad. One part of me thinks of her as a somewhat obnoxious and needy individual who’s desperation for attention outweighs anybody else’s opinion.

Another part of me has a bit more compassion and sees both the anguish of the extreme mental health issues she’s dealing with and the creative work she’s produced as a result of that.

Both impressions, of course, are built on nothing more than half-glimpsed newspapers headings – rarely a source of credible detail.

I may get her book (if I find the time/opportunity) but I do wonder whether she’d be a ‘reliable narrator’.

Meanwhile, judge for yourself. You can find the article HERE

Scéal

‘Scéal’ is an interesting little story-based game I came across last month (although it was actually released way back in 2016!). Originally created by Sandro Magliocco, the Slovakian-based developer drew on childhood holidays in Carlingford to set the overall look and design of the project.

‘Scéal’ tells the story of the ghost of a young girl who’s trying to work out where she came from and how she died. To do this, she has to travel through the watercolour world of a magical storybook, using paint strokes to reveal elements of her backstory.

Some of the marketing and advertising for the game suggests strong links to Irish folklore and mythology but in fact, there’s no real connection to established native folklore (or if there is, it’s fanciful and paper thin). This game is essentially a fantasy ghost story that takes place in an Irish setting with moody Irish background music but, that said, it’s a lot better than a lot of the ‘Oirish’ themed stuff coming out of the States at present.

Overall, the game is absolutely gorgeous to look at and the music (by Sean-Nós singer Lorcán MacMathúna) is particularly outstanding. You can get a sense of what it looks like HERE.

Apparently, the game can still be downloaded via Steam and other sites.

The FREE literary game is live!

Dia Dhaoibh a Chairde/ Hallo Friends!

Welcome to the launch post for Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha.

Through the image link below you’ll be transferred to an experimental format literary game relating to the ancient Irish Fianaigeacht – Fenian Cycle – tales (and to some of my own Fionn mac Cumhaill Series books). 

At heart, it’s the story of a sick warrior who’s convinced – against his better judgement – to try and save a tiny settlement. During the story, that warrior must make decisions – influenced by events in his own life – that can change the outcome.

It’s a very simple story. A very human story.

The game can be experienced through Irish or through English (or both). Naturally, because they’re different languages/cultures, those experiences will differ slightly. When it comes to different cultures, there’s no such thing as a ‘direct translation’.

This project is one I started three years ago as part of Irish Imbas’ ongoing mission to make Gaelic/Irish culture more visible and more understood (and to counter the reams of misinformation relating to Gaelic Irish mythology that pervade the internet). Developed on a shoestring budget, it required a whole new set of skills that I was obliged to learn as I progressed. In that regard, it’s also been something of a labour of love. To be honest, although I’m happy with the final product, I’m also a bit relieved I can finally move onto the next creative project.

Please feel free to share the post with whoever you think might be interested. In fact I’d encourage you to do so as there are still plenty of people out there under the illusiton that Irish/Gaelic is a ‘fantasy’ language. If you’re feeling particularly generous, I’d really appreciate an honest summary of your thoughts/feedback, either through the usual Goodreads review mechanism (here or at the end of the game) or directly by email.

But that’s enough of the intro.  It’s time to jump on in. Just click the link through the image below.

Bain sult as! / Enjoy!

SAMHLÚ

An ingenious 2020 Irish production by Meangadh Fíbín (for TG4 – the Irish langauge content creator and broadcaster) just recently picked up the ‘Most Original and Innovative’ award at the Prix Circom Awards ceremony.

‘Samhlú’ (which means ‘fancy’ or ‘imagination’) was a cultural showcase celebrating artistic endeavour and creativity in Ireland thorugh that very challenging period of artists.

Funded by The Creative Ireland Programme, it had some big names like Tommy Tiernan and Bill Whelan etc. Beautifully produced by incorporating script, music, dance and more, it was gorgeous to watch and, honestly, deserved the award.


If you haven’t heard of ‘Samhlú’ before, here’s a little taster: SAMHLÚ 

Dark Dawn/An Camhaoir Fuilsmeartha coming 11 May 2021

Introduction:

It’s raining butcher knives and my chest aches but Fiacail has a plan. That’s the way of it!  Little more than two days’ comfort here at Ráth Bládhma and already we’re caught up in its people’s problems.

But … it’s a nice place, I’ll give them that. A secluded, V-shaped valley, deep in the folds of the Great Wild’s crinkled arse. Two forested ridges stretch north-west and south-east, a tight-curving cliff at one end to tuck it in all nice.

The expanse of pasture starts at the western woods – the single access to the valley. It stretches wide and green to a slight rise at the valley centre. That’s where the settlement of Ráth Bládhma’s located. In truth, it’s a secure position. The inhabitants have a clear view on every side. With the gateway bolted, any enemies who did manage to find the valley would not only have to cross that open ground but the barrier of the circular ditch. Then they’d have to climb the earth embankment and palisades to get at the people inside.

Yes, the people of Ráth Bládhma have strong defences.

But that’s not going to save them.

Fiacail says there’s a fian coming, a war-party more than fifty strong. The way he has it, their scouts are already in the valley for he’s seen their sign and suspects they have eyes on us. Within the ráth, we number three fighting men; myself, Fiacail and my cousin Tóla. But we’re visitors passing through. The population of Ráth Bládhma proper sits at seven inhabitants and only two of those – the woman warrior Liath Luachra and the youth Aodhán – are blooded warriors.

And I do not reckon their chances.