Here’s how my grandson will grow up - the joy and pride of a half-cracked elder clansman
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, Offbeat Irish
Ach, let me tell ye about our youngest MacConnell clansman Ultan that I held in my grandfatherly grasp for the first time last week, and let me please go beyond that to show how "cracked" the clan are that the morsel is joining, God love him, and beyond that again to deal with the strange realities of me being a small bit fey -- the Scottish word for psychic -- and even beyond that again into the zone occupied by the genetic cargo in this modern Ireland.
First, and factually, permit me to remark that Ultan MacConnell, first child of my son Dara and his wife Aine, is an exceptionally beautiful baby by any standards. He is only about nine weeks old and already is one of those rare babies who doesn’t wear the universal baby face.
His is countenance is already tracked with the best features of his lovely mother and handsome father, and he has avoided the Roman nose of his paternal grandfather. And he's as healthy and hungry as a spring trout. I could go on but I won't.
But anyway, I'm sitting in a warm corner of Maisie's 150-year-old cottage in Clare with Ultan in my lap, and it is 2013 and there is a recession outside and a sharp wind too, and dammit if the "fey" thing which I inherited from my mother Mary doesn’t suddenly strike me powerfully, and I see things and know things about the little clansman on my knee that one does not normally see or know.
And I know from life experience there is more than a sliver of truth involved.
And I'm writing it down so that there will be hard printed proof in the future that Ultan's grandfather, though a bit cracked in the head all his life, did indeed sometimes glimpse the future.
Ultan is the Gaelic for "Ulsterman" (like myself) and his mother is from the Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area). Gaelic is her mother tongue and Gaelic is the language of their home near Cois Fharraige (Beside the Sea) on the Connemara coast.
So this little clansman will grow up bilingually in the teens and twenties of this century with Gaelic as his mother tongue. He will be as black in the hair as a crow and will have a pale complexion and will be taller than either of his parents.
But I see much more than that. He has very long fingers on long hands. He will be, I know somehow, a very good musician, almost certainly a traditional fiddler of note from a very early age.
He will also be a very good Irish dancer, will be able to paint and sculpt, probably work in copper art as well, and will be generally creative across the scale.
Somewhere in his middle teens he will hit the headlines nationally for some achievement which (and this baffles me) will have something to do with a scientific project. I see a strange contraption of glass and bogwood.
It does not make sense to me now, but time will tell. I hope to live long enough to see the thing, whatever it may turn out to be. Ultan will live and work in the Orient for a time, I see, and (I did not tell his parents) is likely to return home to Connemara at some stage with TWO Chinese wives! All of them can sort that one out when the time comes and his grandfather will not be involved.
I did not tell his parents either that there will be a sister in a year or two and the pair of them will be very close and eventually involved in an intriguing community project in West Cork involving mariculture.
That is about as much as I saw and experienced during the few minutes I was in possession of the Ultan before he exercised his (strong) lungs to demand another dinner. A good sign of any baby. And there we will leave him for the moment with joy and pride.
It is a fact that there are still quite a few "fey" folk like myself in the Hidden Ireland. They are fewer now than when I was a child, but they are still there and, remarkably, still listened to with some respect when they tell their stories.
Mary told me when I was a grown man that a lady beside her in the maternity unit told her solemnly, if a little sadly, that I would never have the makings of a priest (much desired by mothers then!) but that I would survive childhood and never give her much trouble later either.
And sure that was the truth.