I am a very lucky man. I live on a hill in Galway surrounded by a landscape and seascape filled with myths and legends, and make a living doing what I love - telling stories and writing books, mostly about (or influenced by) the older tales of Ireland and Scotland. Yet, I would be the first to admit that I am perhaps not the best person to talk to about the myths, legends, history and culture of those two querulous nations. As someone with monsters and tricksters and beguiling lovers living inside my skull and heart I lack detachment from it all, lack the ability to hold them at a distant and look them over forensically and give an objective account of them. Strange characters play and fight and love inside me: Cúchulainn is caught like Christ in the barbs of my synapses; Queen Med bellows like an enraged bull in the caverns of my heart.
Sometimes these weird inhabitants of my body trick their way onto my tongue and escape from me as the stories I tell to an audience or my children. Other times they squeeze down through the cartilage and bone of my hands and make my fingers write or type strange tales. Where ever you look inside me, you’ll find the stories of Scotland and Ireland, the myths, folktales, urban legends and stories of family, friends and strangers, all tangled up somewhere. But perhaps there is nothing too surprising about this: humans by their nature, all end up being a collection of strange and often magical bits and pieces; a rag and bone shop of the heart as Yeats put it ( though I would like to think my little corporeal shop is more joyful than that of the old poet).
I have been asked to talk about the Myths and Legends of Ireland, but let me begin by talking about my background. In my long serialised blog essay, "Social Justice and Scottish Independence," I make a passing reference to my family being a mixture of those who left Ireland in the wake of the famine and those Scots who tried, by all means available, to stop them finding a haven in Glasgow. What I did not say in that essay was that my family continued to go back and forth between the two nations throughout the first half of the twentieth century, as both the Scots and Irish (and those of Irish decent) found themselves caught up in the great events of those years. In the slaughter grounds of Italy they played their part in defeating fascism; through labour agitation and the creation of the trade union movement in Scotland they struggled to bring about a more just world. More recently, members of my family have passionately campaigned to create an independent Scotland founded on the principles of anti-fascism and social justice.
However, even as I write I am in danger of creating myths of my own. The narrative of my family history is, like the history of every other family on this planet, far more tangled and contradictory. As a child I was very aware of the ugly and debilitating green and orange divisions in my family. With the greens in ascendancy, I did the Irish Scottish childhood thing: Holy Communion, catholic school, putting a coin in the box for the black babies in Africa. When the orange side put its foot down, all that was taken away from me: a whole childhood of friends, rituals, references and landscapes was banished, never to return. Perhaps it is as a result of my convoluted heritage, that the magical stories of Scotland and Ireland have left such a deep impression on me.
Stay tuned for Rab’s next blog: Cúchulainn
For more on Rab’s work as a writer, storyteller and tutor see: http://rabfultonstories.weebly.com/
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