The Shannon Cows by Mari Fitzpatrick

Leonard Cohen played two concerts at Lissadell House, in Co. Sligo, in 2010.

During his visit he stayed with his crew at 'The Pier House Hotel,’ in Mullaghmore. Shortly afterwards I booked an overnight break, there, I suppose it was to find out what I was missing. Before his visit I knew Mullaghmore only from news programs of a sad and sensational variety and a name on a signpost on the main Sligo road.

That Friday morning I drove up from Co. Leitrim. Within a hour or so I pulled into a peaceful village that had a small fishing harbour with a few skiffs bobbing on a unusually placid Atlantic. Pulling into the carpark, I locked up the car and
went into reception and checked in while admiring the Cohen photos that hung on the walls. Dropping my overnight up to my room I popped into the bar/restaurant for coffee. Sitting at the window, I realized I had discovered a perfect spot to take in the view, though smaller it held a similar charm and colour to the harbour, in Roundstone in Co. Galway--small and welcoming. I was struck by Cohen’s style in his choice of accommodation and glad that I had followed in his footsteps. Opening my laptop, I googled the lyrics for 'Suzanne’ and as I relaxed into the ambiance I settled into chill mode for the duration. It was an easy day, I shopped in Sligo, visited the Yeats’ grave, and enjoyed an early dinner and an early night, being lulled to sleep by the waves and harbour noise.

On Saturday morning, after breakfast, I walked down to the beach, on the dunes, the marram grass shushed and swayed in a light breeze. From my viewing point, the beach was long and white, and as it was outside the tourist season the morning was empty of traffic. In my head, I was planning the rest of my day, the weekend papers, morning coffee and of course I had a Leonard C. CD which I had bought, in Sligo, to play in the car: Suzanne would take me back down to the Shannon--my bit of fancy.

It was then that I was drawn in by the sound of hooves whistling through the air. Searching out the highest sandy peak I climbed up and there in front of me, under a wild Atlantic sky, was a herd of red cattle beating their way down along the tideline, their heavy girth filled my sight, one big bull-like fella led the entourage, the rest followed on its heels. in threes and twos, eyes wild, shoulder to shoulder; the line was about 10 deep as the herd charged, running fast, pounding the ground, shaking up the air; those on the inside sinking into the wet sand, their shoulders falling and lifting as their feet popped in and out making a noise like a group of school children playing gum-pops with their fingers. Something had spooked them. I was glad to be out of the way, safe on the dunes, listening as the sound of
the hoof mingled with the wash that was threaded through the wind. The scene reminiscent of a Sorolla painting stroked with an Aaron Copeland orchestration stayed with me. I snapped a mind photo that morning as my camera was tucked-up safely in the hotel room--Murphy’s Law.

In those years I was working in Dromod, in Co. Leitrim, renting a house that overlooked Lough Boderg, one of the two Shannon lakes: Boderg and Bofin --its sister lake -- are both situated on the river and similar to Mullaghamore nature was good to the area when it was divvying out the wonder that is found in the beautiful.

The Legend of the Cows

The story goes that one moon-lit April night when Orion was busy measuring out the sky over the 'Back of the Wood’ townland, a fisherman working in the 'Derrycarne Narrows’ noticed a large dark stain on a section of the water that was known for its clarity. Intrigued he threw his nets and was trawling the lake from the dark towards the light when suddenly a head lifted onto the surface. He purportedly saw an angelic face--with long golden hair flowing on the wave--lying on the surface of the dark waters. Then the voice of a young woman called out to him. The fisherman pulled her towards his boat and when he lifted her in, he saw that she was bleeding from a cut on her arm. Laying her on the bottom he rowed to shore and
brought her to a nearby farmhouse that had lake frontage.

There, the family were kind to her, they cleaned and bandaged her arm and invited her to share their meal and they continued to extend their hospitality until she was well enough to leave. To repay their kindness the young mermaid told their fortunes.

She predicted that if the family put her back in the water on the eve of May Day that one year later, they would be generously repaid. The good people did as she asked, on the eve of May Day at sunrise, they placed her back in the water and waved adieu as she spun through the early morning dawn..

A year to the day, they returned to the spot on the water’s edge and were astonished to see two cows coming out of the lake, a red one and a white one: animals that were to guarantee their security for the next few generations.

And so it was that the lakes Boderg and Bofin were named after two cows and were fashioned by an act of kindness.

I photographed the lakes during 2008 and I uploaded them to the magazine this quarter. Maybe it’s the thought of the COVID years that have sent me back to find a footing. 2010 was my last year living and working in the area. An area of great beauty.

Spell: Ignite the Light


A small candle (color of your choice)/ Matches or a

Find a quiet and safe space where you can focus without
distractions. Take a few moments to ground yourself
and clear your mind. Take deep breaths and release any
tension or worries. Place the candle in front of you. Hold
your hands over the candle, palms facing down, and
visualize bright and radiant light filling the space between
your hands. Chant the following incantation:
"By the power within me, I ignite the light,
Illuminate the darkness, shining so bright.
From this candle's flame, let radiance flow,
Let it guide and warm, where I want it to go."
Light the candle using matches or a lighter, taking care
to do so safely. As the flame grows, imagine the light
expanding and filling the area around you, bringing
warmth and brightness. Keep your focus on the flame,
allowing its energy to resonate with your intention.
When you feel ready, extinguish the flame safely with
a candle snuffer or by gently blowing it out.Express
gratitude for the light and the energy you have invoked.

Note: Always exercise caution when working with fire.
Ensure you are in a safe environment, and never leave a
burning candle unattended.

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