Thursday, February 28, 2013

An extract from Rab's new book (which I illustrated)

And now for some shameless advertising...

Saint Patrick: How Croagh Patrick got its name

Below is an extract from Galway Bay Folk Tales, the new book written by Rab Swannock Fulton and illustrated by Marina Wild. The book retells the dark and strange myths, folklore and urban legends of Galway and the west of Ireland. The following is an account of Saint Patrick’s fight against pagans on Cruachán Aigli, the hill that would be later known as Croagh Patrick.

           When finally Patrick stepped a foot on the ground before Cruachán Aigli, pagan resistance erupted all around him, before, after, below and above him, with a savage and desperate ferocity. Druids and Immortals cast abominable spells, giants hurled rocks and witches used the subtlest of deceits. Satan and the Sea throw in their lot shrouding the landscape in terrible poisonous vapours. Patrick walked through it all, his love and grief blazing like a fire. 

            In the higher ramparts of Cruachán Aigli pagan scholars and students trembled behind the walls, whilst young guards gripped their weaponry and vowed to fall in the sacred hills defence.  Through fire and mist the figure of Patrick was glimpsed drawing hourly closer.  The terror that assailed him was reflected back a thousand fold on his enemies and spread out north, south, east and west.  

The pagans in the upper reaches now trembled and wept with fear as terrible reports and rumour fell amongst them cold and sharp as winter hail: every assault on the enemy only made him stronger; beyond Galway Bay the beautiful magical horse children of the original defeated Tuatha Dé Danann hurled themselves screaming off the cliffs above the spitting roaring Atlantic; the worlds beyond this were in chaos as Divinities struggled to agree stratagems, some vowing eternal war, others vanishing into dreams, a handful advocated switching sides to Christ, if only to avoid warfare without end. 

Patrick reached the final ramparts, but met no resistance there.  His triumphs had subdued the few pagans that remained behind the stone walls.  Soon Patrick was on the peak of the hill, the connecting point between this world and the realms beyond. Determined to cleanse the site of all traces of foul paganism, he vowed to fast there for forty days.  The enemies of Christ attempted a final assault, but the great black birds that attacked the praying Patrick were pushed back by a glittering host consisting of angels and souls of the Saved. 

Over the days and weeks of his fasting, peace came to Cruachán Aigli and the witnesses who witnessed the old man fasting on the hill top gladly converted to Christ.  The site of the evangelist’s triumph was soon referred to by the new devote name of Croagh Patrick. On the fortieth day Patrick, weak from hunger and thirst, stood up. Leaning on his crook he raised his right arm and began to slowly turn in a circle. His gaze and blessing reached across the entire island and soon nearly all the Irish willing embraced God’s light.

But Patrick’s triumph was not quite complete. As he turned around on the top of Cruachán Aigli he stumbled and so it was that his holy favour did not quite reach all the island’s inhabitants. The unblessed remained resolutely pagan - a malign cancerous presence in the pure Christian body of the Irish.  Was it simply age and battle weariness that caused Patrick to stumble, or had some pagan demon tripped him as a final jest? 

Another possibility is that Patrick himself was to blame. That when he fasted he was not humble enough before God’s power and grace. When the glittery host had saved him from the shrieking birds it was observed that one of the lights had momentarily alighted beside Patrick, placed a hand on his shoulder and whispered. ‘Enough.’ But the triumphant Patrick was determined to finish his fast and in this endeavour become the equal of Moses, Elijah and Christ.   

         The places remaining in the snare of Satan and paganism were said to include Erris in Mayo and Dunquin in Kerry. Of graver consequence was the failure to convert to Christ the three islands separating Galway Bay from the Atlantic.


Galway Bay Folk Tales is published by The History Press

For more about Rab, go to his blog

with Rab Swannock Fulton

Monday, February 25, 2013



I feel a bit like the elephant in the last picture. I don't know whether my tiredness is the post-counselling kind, a sign that spring is coming or that I cannot tolerate more than one glass of wine in 24 hours.

The weather is telling me I should be at the beach or on a mountain, but my body can only decide between bed and couch. I have been dressing in combinations of winter knits and summer linens (I have had that linen dress for at least twelve years - it is indestructible), and most of my plants are happy and active. Underneath this lethargy I am enthusiastic about new beginnings.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eat and sleep


Two things I hadn't been doing right for a while. Returning to proper food and proper sleep (I tried surviving on six hours - I am not one of those people) feels so good. Eating real food* at home without looking at the time (and yes, I do read while eating, at least with breakfast - my mother would always read the paper over breakfast and tell us we were not supposed to do that with other people present) and napping in the afternoon with the window open and the sun on my face are my two favourite things this week.

* Chocolate is real food. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Black and white

It's not mine, unfortunately, but it is living with me for a while. I don't feel it as a burning hole, that I desperately need something that is missing, but a cat and a piano would make my home complete, and I have been close to getting both before chickening out when it came to making a decision due to financial and logistic reasons, respectively. This is one step in the direction of piano-ownership, and I might try fostering kittens before committing fully. 

The Piano is one of my favourite films, and the soundtrack has taken up residency in my brain and heart. 

Yesterday I submitted the last few images of a series of black-and-white illustrations and I am now looking forward to revisiting some unfinished projects that need to go out into the world soon.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Harry Clarke's fairy tale illustrations



Classic Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault; Illustrated by Harry Clarke
Gill & Macmillan, Dublin  2012

A friend of mine told me about this beautiful edition of Charles Perrault's fairy tales illustrated by Harry Clarke and picked up a copy for me. Harry Clarke (1889-1931) is a well-known name in Ireland and beyond, and his stained-glass windows adorn many churches and other buildings around the country. He was also a prolific illustrator.

This book contains colour plates as well as black-and-white illustrations. I get very excited about details such as endpaper (second picture) - the book equivalent of a coat's lining. This edition is an artwork in itself.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Temporarily sedentary

One more week, and then one of the busiest times of the year will be over. I love working in the arts, but I am looking forward to having actual food in my fridge again and not just eye cream and a plate with acrylic paint (storing leftover acrylics in the fridge makes them last for days when usually they would dry straight away). 

This year I am exhibiting as part of the festival we are organising. It has made me go back to painting and colour after working on black-and-white illustrations, and while I will always love drawing and don't think of it as inferior to painting, I am enjoying the tactile quality and creaminess of working with paints so much I want to go out and paint murals. (I won't. I do tend to work in rather small formats.)

Today was the first time in weeks that I walked for the sake of walking, under a blue sky after days of apocalyptic weather. I want to run a half marathon in May or July, on Inishbofin or Achill - I am still undecided -, but I haven't been for a run since I got back from Germany. At least it is good to know that I crave exercise. 

One early morning this week I had a decadent bath with rosemary oil instead of a shower before going to work, because my muscles ached from doing nothing. I am usually an evening bath person, but I have a feeling there will be more morning baths from now on.