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16 Jan 2022

Tipperary student Abbie Burke discusses the lure of our fabled island

Clonmel teenager places Irish myth and mythology under the spotlight

Abbie Burke

Clonmel secondary school student Abbie Burke

16-year-old Abbie Burke, a student at the Presentation Secondary school in Clonmel, has written The Lure of Our Fabled Island, a thought-provoking article about this country - 

Ireland is a very convoluted country. Balancing on a fine line of poverty, miscommunication and tyrannous efforts to keep a culture alive, healed over an aching wound of generational trauma and colonialist influence. And yet within these misgivings, there is a certain shorthand of livelihood that drags people from all ends of the earth to come and watch. It’s a spirit that cannot be explained so easily as someone could write in words. Something I don’t think we truly notice even as we are enveloped in it.

I really only began to notice it during the second lockdown. I had sat down beneath a tree and picked up a book with some plot to do with magic, and found myself wondering how people believed so steadily in the tales of fairies and banshees and the like when they are written between the pages of books like fiction. Even I believe in most of the stories, or at least find myself stepping away from fairy rings and ignoring combs left in the grass.

It led me down a loophole of Irish history, Irish myth, a strange intertwining of reality and false beliefs. I found a map, pinpointed anywhere in this small isle of historical significance. Skellig Michael, the Giant’s Causeway, the Hill of Tara.

Even smaller places like a pooka pool, hiding out in the grey of Clonmel. I read books about fairy tales, pirates, islands with abandoned churches and treasure hidden beneath the shadows of old lighthouses. It was only when I stepped away from the research and fell back into my school work that I realised what was so enrapturing about the country around me.

It was like a storybook. Years and years of tales and stories carried on by word of mouth. Our lack of communication, something ingrained and made a fool of, unable to dispel the passion of the common Irishman as he talked about the evil that lurked under moonlight in his field. I saw the draw of it, like the lure of a siren to people far away. A sea of rolling green fields and ruined castles. A haunted land of nearby ghosts and rich history.

I don’t know for certain if that is what draws the eye to our land of green. Perhaps it's the familial comfort, the kindness of the people, or the bubbling culture we’ve created.

But I know that just asking those around you, or learning a thing or two about the history of where you stand, you find a homely purchase, a new spiel of communication that people from other areas of the world may not understand. It is a convoluted thing, just like Ireland, and may not be true at all. But the not knowing is what makes it all the better to share and entice, and that may be one of the better things about this country and its people.

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