Wednesday 16 May 2012

'12th July 1691' by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

The fog made water drip like tears from the trees; a high-summer fog, it blanketed the cabins where we’d worked all night. By tallow light our French sisters showed us how to make gabions from willow. We worked silently, wrapping weft around warp, weaving love and protection into each wicker wall.
The sound of musket fire was worse than a thunderstorm. For four hours I knelt and prayed. The swoop of the bar-shot must have sounded like a high wind as it closed around Saint Ruth’s ears. Saint Ruth the wife-beater. His game-plan lay on the grass, safe inside his lopped-off head. His cavalry ran. Good enough for him; he brought this slaughter to our doors.
By the end of the battle, I was crying, ‘Ó mo chroí. Tá mo chroí briste.’ All the women walked, arm in arm, through the fields. ‘Ó mo chroí,’ we keened, beating our breasts. Oh my heart, my poor broken heart.
The scavengers were out, stripping our men of their pitchforks; the soldiers of gun-money and weapons. We ran them and they scattered like birds. My feet slid on the grass of Kilcommadan, slippy with blood.
Pikes, muskets, cannon, horses, and men, men, men. Piled around the fields of Aughrim. Where before there was ragwort and bog pimpernel, there was gore. The Tristaun River ran red and foxes skittered over the lost.
Cogadh an Dá Rí they called it, a war of two kings. Two kings and one daughter. Two kings and one wife. Mary, your husband’s cold, orange heart would not permit him to be a consort. You wept for two days when you learned you were to marry him. Mary, my husband’s blood is on your hands. Do you feel its sticky heat? Do my tears matter to the likes of you?


  1. Thank you, Nuala, for focussing my attention on an area of history of which my knowledge was sadly lacking (I shall do further research now on this key episode). Aughrim must truly have been the bloodiest of battles, as faithfully reflected in your moving flash.

  2. Thanks. It was the worst of them, Oscar. My collective Group 8 did an entire exhibition about it. The battle site is 5 miles from where we live.


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