The Spirit of the Place

For the ancient pagans, they say, every sacred place was haunted by a familiar spirit – the genius loci – something less than a god but equally uncanny: some dryad, naiad, elf or goblin. Dinnseanachas or placelore was one of the earliest forms of Irish vernacular writing. Every hill, river and road, sacred or not,  once had its story. They still do. So this issue of Corncrake is all about Place, or rather particular places, and what they mean to people. (more…)


A Townland Journey – Derrylea

Landscape – Memory – History

Becomes a landscape heard and felt and seen
Sunshine and shade one harmonizing green

John Clare

The legend of the land endures, in men and clay,
In heart and marrowbone, in acre, perch and rood,
Offering and accepting always
A passion never spent,
A song of sacrifice, the hot testament
Of blood.

Brendan Kennelly (more…)


Cheney’s Hill

You’ve come to find the hill from where your ancestors were driven.

You’ll come in off the Dublin road to rest under the shadow of Wicklow’s old hills. Posters of last Autumn’s Music Under the Mountains will intrigue….a small place like this to host such artistes.. If you are inclined to play some notes or sing with the Hollywood robins and thrushes, your music too will be under the mountains. (more…)


Leave the Calling-Card

There is a map in my head, and I pick the four elements of my childhood compass. Roads were meaningful back then; 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. (more…)


The Edge of Strangeness

What makes a place familiar? What causes that feeling that you have left your home ground?  I can feel the change near the Ulster border more than on the political one, yet parts of Leitrim seem like home to me, and parts of Cavan do not. Rivers and loughs do not divide but rather unite – and therein lies a clue. The Erne basin holds me in the hollow of its hand. Wherever rain may fall is home to me, so long as that rain will eventually end up at Assaroe. Elsewhere it runs to stranger seas – to the Liffey or Limerick or Londonderry. That strangeness begins a bare seven miles to the North, on the Omagh road, somewhere between The Harp and Togherdoo, and if I travel up the Erne and round the corner of Cuilcagh, it is waiting for me somewhere on the road to Ballinamore. (more…)


Smiles to Go Before I Weep

The sun always rises after a storm writes Rodney Edwards of the Impartial Reporter on the back cover of this anthology. Nobody knows this better than Mary McElroy. This brilliant book is a testament to that.

Yet, as the title suggests, the truth that Mary knows is more complex. Wishing for the sun will not make the storm go away sooner, and the thunder may come again long after the sky has cleared. (more…)