It is recorded in the MacConnell folklore that a raiding party of O'Briens from Connacht traveled by night all the way up to the banks of the Erne in Ulster over three centuries ago and savagely attacked and robbed our ancestors there.
Clans never forget foul deeds like that, and pass on the detail from one generation to the next. I learned from the cradle for example that our clan chief at that time, known as Sandy the Twister, was drowned by three blackguardly O'Briens in the Arney River at the start of a skirmish which we comprehensively lost.
It was not the death of Sandy, who was already past his fighting prime at the time, nor the slaughter of 17 other MacConnells before the dawn which hurt us most, however.
Neither was it the theft of about every cow and horse which the clan owned at the time though that was a sore stroke too.
No, the mortal loss was caused by the fact that the bloody O'Briens kidnapped our most precious possession at the time, the beautiful Muireann, the only daughter of Sandy, just 17 years old, raven-haired and already famed as being the most lovely princess in Ulster. She had been promised in marriage to a major chief of the powerful O'Neill clan in Tyrone and that marriage, had it happened as arranged, would have created a powerful and valuable linkage between us and the O'Neills down the centuries afterwards.
Being only a small clan we had a lot to gain from that at every level. The O'Brien raid destroyed that dream and the O'Neills never forgave us afterwards.
We never saw or heard from the lovely Muireann again, and that was the beginning of our decline. We never recovered and we have never fully forgiven the O'Briens for that obvious reason.
Still, life goes on in this complex world and one has to sometimes swallow the hurts. It is for this reason I did not strongly object, despite raised hackles, when my eldest son Cuan told me a decade ago that he wished to marry an O'Brien from the Connacht clan.
Niamh was and is a beautiful woman, and I reasoned that in a way we were getting our own back from the raiders.
So I said nothing about history and gave them my blessing and have been delighted, until the beginning of this month, to attend and celebrate the baptism (as MacConnells!)of their three lovely daughters, Orla, Lucy and Annie. I convinced myself that we were getting our own back in triplicate.
But dammit, history repeated itself savagely in the hours just after the little Annie's christening in Connemara when the other grandfather, an accursed O'Brien to his Kerry backbone, brazenly struck and stole my thunder just as his ancestors stole our Muireann.
His name is Kevin O'Brien, he is a recently retired principal teacher of the prestigious Templeogue College in Dublin, but that was not enough for him of course because, just when I was relaxed and with my guard down after the baptism didn't he launch his memoir entitled The Kerryman Van! Not a word of apology to me who is allegedly the writer member of the family connection.
Worse still is the reality that the cover illustration is by our mutual grandchild, 9-year-old Orla, who will now always know which of her grandfathers is the real writer.
And even worse is the reality I cannot in all fairness criticize his blasted memoir because I stole a copy later, brought it home to Clare, mad to find fault with it and found myself captured by a hundred yarns ranging from his account of how his father Dan O'Brien, an agent of the Land Commission, was the civil servant who supervised the evacuation of the fabled Blasket Islanders back in 1953 to fascinating inside information about the Tralee murder of Maurice Moore upon which John B. Keane based his mighty play The Field.
A lot more yarns too of rural realities of Kerry, Cork, Mayo, Galway, the wide world beyond and, though it cuts me to the bone to confess, I had to read it through to the end.
Still the fact is that he stole my thunder. I would very much appreciate it if a few of you loyal readers -- especially wronged grandfathers like me -- got in touch with Mr. O'Brien to reflect my hurt directly to him. Do it in honor also of our kidnapped Muireann.
And be warned in advance that since he is an O'Brien of the marauding clan he is quite likely to try and deflect your criticism and support for me directed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org by trying to sell you a copy of the memoir at an enormous price.
Be ye warned about that possibility. Remember our poor Muireann.
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