By Mattie Lennon
Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told, and it depends chiefly on the story-teller . . . whether that is interesting or not. (Thoreau.)
It has been said that a storyteller can’t afford the luxury of an ordinary life but what about a group of storytellers? By the way, what is the collective noun for storytellers? A more erudite and digitally included person than me took to Twitter and the Net with that very question. Here are some of the answers; An Eloquence. A gaggle. A book. A murder. An imagination. A novel. A troupe. A yearning. Babble. A Narrative. An Anthology. A Folio. A Convention. Angst. A Quill. An Exposition. A Flight. An Inkwell. A Dream. A Fireside. A Chapter. A Quest. A Treasure. A Cadre. A Coven. A Circle. A Cabal. Confusion. A Whimsy. A Conflagration. A Vulnerability. An Honesty. A Library. A Catalog. A Trope. An Illusion. A Parable. A Cult. A Skein. A Parliament. A Susurration. A League. A Volume. A Yarn. A Tour.
For the purpose of this piece I’ll stick with “a tour”. The traditional setting for Irish storytelling was the thatched cottage and Dublin is now unique in having a Rambling House on wheels. That’s right a “cottage bus.” A double-deck bus was transformed, over an 8 month period, into a virtual thatched cottage and now has its own bar, fireplace, piano, and specialist custom built fittings throughout, mostly hand carved from wood.
It is a joint venture between Hidden Dublin Walks Ltd (Aidan Murphy’s company) which specialises in Evening tours – www.hiddendublinwalks.com) and Extreme Ireland (www.irishdaytours.ie – which does day tours such as Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s causeway etc) The official site for the tour is http://www.traditionalirishstorytelling.com/
Lord Chesterfield wrote , “Let them show me a cottage where there are not the same vices of which they accuse courts.” I think I have found a vice free cottage(bus). The Storytelling Bus will take you on a magical journey through Ireland’s past; a rich history that is so inextricably linked with its mythology. As you travel through the areas of historic and myth-laden Dublin you can listen as storytellers Aidan Crowe and Shane Whisker transport you back to a time gone by when Pookas, fairies and giants roamed this land. Hear tales of how the Vikings were outsmarted by three Leprechauns, of epic battles and dangerous quests, of magic spells and true love. Visit the spot where Irish mermen are said to appear and who knows what you might see! Travel to the site of Ireland’s greatest battle and hear, first hand, how one of our greatest kings was killed in these beautiful surroundings.
Listen to the origins of the Tuatha De Danaan – how they were forced to move underground and became known as Ireland’s “Sidhe”, “Little People” or “faeries”. Due to their magical nature the Tuatha could still visit the land by using magic cloaks which made them invisible. Over the years the Tuatha De Danaan have appeared in many forms to the overworld most commonly as Sidhe, Pookas, Banshees, Fairies and the most famous of them all….the leprechaun! The trickiness of Leprechauns is perfectly demonstrated by a story which comes to us from a time when the city of Dublin was on the verge of being founded!
Visit the peninsula of Beann Eadair (Howth). As you look out to the beautiful east on this magical setting, you can see the small lighthouse on what is known as Howth Head. There have been many sightings over the years along this coastline, of Irish mermen. These mermen known as Merrows are not known like their female counterparts as beautiful creatures. They are in fact very disgusting looking. They have the tail of a fish, the torso of a man, small fins instead of arms, the snout of a pig and tiny ears. They wear small red caps on their heads and are very fond of a drink. Hear about Jack O’ Mahoney’s friendship with one, but please, do be careful where you sit!
It was on this peninsula that many centuries ago the High King of Ireland, Conn of the Hundred Battles, used to spend many an evening strolling along its beaches, and in later times Gay Byrne lived there. You see despite his wealth, (Conn not Gay Byrne) power, his prowess in Battle, and the great prosperity and peace he had brought to Ireland, he had been unable to defeat the greatest enemy of all though – death! Learn about the spell of Becúma as you re-board the bus, and let the storytellers take you back to the land of Morgan the Giant as you enjoy an on-board drink supplied free.
It also visits Clontarf – the site of one of Ireland’s biggest, (and arguably the most important) battle. The Battle Of Clontarf signaled the end of Viking rule in Ireland but was also where one of Ireland’s most famous kings, Brian Boru, was killed. This park is well known for its flora and fauna which is said to be very popular with the people of the Sidhe. The trees, shrubs and flowers provide perfect hideaways for these mystical creatures. So please do mind your step as they don’t take to kindly to being trod upon! For if you’ll remember from the tale of the Viking king, the people of the Sidhe can be a vengeful spiteful lot! Wait, Can you hear that scream behind you! Get ready here for some drama!
And don’t forget about Fionn MacCumahail – the leader of the Fianna, a band of warriors who served the High King of Ireland. They were famed for their prowess in battle which was only matched by their good deeds. They lived by their motto, “Gláine ár croi, Neart ár ngéag, Beart de réir ár mbriathar” or in English “Purity of our hearts, Strength of our limbs, Action to match our speech”. Learn about the infamous trick played on Benandonner and the mystical memory of a giant running away in fear of an oversized baby forever!
The next time you are in Dublin don’t miss this evening of stories, poems and songs. (The rendition of She Moved Through the Fair would make the author, Padraic Colum proud and The Fairies by Ballyshannon man William Allingham captures the atmosphere of the evening.) The “mobile cottage” departs from College Green Tourist Office at 7.15pm and sets off in the direction of Beann Eadair peninsula. Two hours later after an evening of history, myth and music you will arrive back in city centre at The Church Bar on Mary St. and in the words of Aidan Murphy “the only thing you need to bring is a spirit of adventure.”
The bus tour finishes at The Church Bar, on Mary Street – the site where Arthur Guinness was married, and where the composer Handel practiced his famous ‘Messiah’ before its first performance in Fishamble Street, which is just across the river!
Mattie Lennon email@example.com