Readers that have completed The Red Gate and The Gatekeepers are familiar with Finn O’Deirg, and the ancient secret his family is charged to protect. A few years ago, an old wood box containing the tattered remnants of some small notebooks in Finn’s hand turned up in a barn sale.
The writing was faded and many of the pages were water damaged or torn, but there were several that could be translated and saved. As they are preserved, I’ll post them here, for your enjoyment. He was very old, well into his nineties when these were written and so are rambling, cantankerous musings with little gems of wisdom sprinkled in.
Finn Finds His Voice…
This was taken from a scrap of a notebook page, written by Finn O’Deirg while in his last months, at the Co. Mayo farm. As we translate and re-create his writing, we’ll add to his page, here on SailleTales.
By now, I suppose you think the secret’s out. I guess my tongue has been a bit too loose and there are so many children about these days, but we have kept things close that need to be close. Only the stories I’ve shared with the writer have told some of the tale. I hope some lessons were found in those bits I let slip.
The rest? Ask our sheep. They know a lot more than they let on. Claire’s busy with the great-grand daughters, so I’ve got just a few moments of peace before they all come rushing in. One thing I can tell you is that far below the feet of the Teacher, lie all manner of chronicles the ancient Children found a way to hide within solid metal — we think it is bronze, but the polish shines so much even now that it is hard to say what color it is. Also, Paddy and I once tried to nick the edge with my knife to see the inside color but the blade broke right off. Serves us right. I was never very sharp, anyway. Lucky, sometimes…
There is a whole room of these, each in its own carved stone shelf, from floor to ceiling. They are the thickness of my thumb, but much too heavy to move in any way at all. Claire tells me she can see fast-moving images, like the television, I suppose, in her mind, but no words, no sounds.
She will touch them, and the sight will come to her; but I try to keep her above ground these days. It just takes so much of her strength. She says these heavy metal plates are the heart of our legacy — stories and things that tell all of the Creator’s children about the mistakes we’ve all made and what we can do to make it better for all our own children, but there’s also great danger. Some kind of terror she talks about in her sleep. She also tells me that they must remained sealed, where they are, until the sign is given to her, or to me, or to Maeve. She won’t say which, but I’m beginning to worry. We’re all so old now and the world is in such terrible shape. I never thought I’d see so many sunrises…
Oh, here they come! I’d better put this away until next time I get a chance… Oh! She’s got a lamb with them…
Finn (Dated 3 August, 1972)
My Father used to tell me he thought it was better to be born lucky than smart. I was barely old enough to watch the sheep without his gentle hand on my shoulder, but I thought I knew what he meant. At least I knew what luck was.
Like when you find a shiny penny in the grass after everybody else has stepped right on it. Like when both lambs live, even the little, sickly one that you had to nurse by hand because his mother wouldn’t let him take her teat. She didn’t think he was lucky, but I did.
He was lucky he got to be a ram and father his own lambs, before the fall killed him. Off the cliff, right into the waves. Of course, that was not lucky, but living on a farm, you learn that death is a regular companion anyway. Luck has little to do with it.
One time I asked my Father, “Da? Why is it better to be lucky than smart?”
He corrected me, saying,”Born lucky than born smart. It’s different than just getting lucky. Everyone gets lucky sometimes, but it’s only a few who have it come their way from birth.”
“But why, ” I asked him, puzzled, “not be born smart? Smart people do alright, don’t they?”
It took him a moment or two to answer, and I thought he was going to change the subject, then he said, “Finn, imagine that every time something goes wrong, you puzzle over it. You fret and fuss, thinking on it until you fill your whole brain, trying to make it work right, trying to change the way things are. That’s the way lots of really smart folks handle trouble. From the time they just toddle around their Mam’s skirts, they try to change what happened and figure everything out, but we know better, don’t we?”
I had to think that over a while. On one hand, I was thinking what a lot of worry it would be if I had to figure it all out every time things went awry. On the other, I knew that sometimes, things just do. They go wrong, whether you did something to make it happen that way or not. Sometimes you can’t fix things, but sometimes, you can get lucky, like I did with that lamb. I could have worried about him all the time, but it wasn’t my worries that made him strong, it was the time I gave him, the good milk in that bottle he sucked from. It just was. A little piece of all that’s good about Creation.
I told my Da I understood. I really did. I still do, but now that I’m so old, I still wonder sometimes. Is it better to know, or to see? Do we really have any choice at all? Oh… enough of this old foolishness.
Finn (Dated 12 November, 1973)
What My Da Knew…
Over the years, I’ve thought back to that terrible day when we lost my father. There, in the dark, on that cold stone floor, he gasped out our inheritance, our legacy of secrets. It was shocking news, I can tell you. But when I think of it, I also find my mind still wondering how much and how long he knew and why he waited to tell us.
It still seems strange that we may have been the first generation of O’Deirgs — at least in the last 500 years or so — that have shared the secret with our children; now to their children as well. And what of the O’Deirgs that left during the famine years? Did they carry the burden with them?
Da taught me so many lessons over the course of his life, especially the years we were alone with the sheep, it still amazes me that he might have kept a secret that huge hidden inside. Yet, the voices of Aard and the other spirits of the ancients guide us, on the farm, almost daily, and Claire still finds her sleep interrupted every night. He was made of the same clay as I was, so he must have known something.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever really know. At the very least, for my father, there was a connection to the land that he felt physically. A tug pulling him towards home. If we strayed too many days during market times, he’d begin to grow short with me and I’d know that it was time to go home.
Soon, my time here will be ending. I know that my son Paddy and the girls — women now, of course, their children and their children’s children will protect what they must. But they’ll also be ready, should the time come to reveal the lessons we’ve all held for so long.
I remember my father’s face in those last few moments. He seemed to be sad and afraid. Maybe afraid for us, not himself. When I’m called to leave, I’ll leave in peace. The burden’s been passed. And accepted, willingly enough.
Finn (Dated 4 January, 1972)