Writing the Fairy Fort


My first post of the new year. This one's about Irish fairy forts, a theme I've been drawn to since childhood. The image above shows the fort beside my parents' house. Now sadly diminished due to ruthless pruning, this was originally a large fort with trees, large rocks jutting out of the ground and a complex, interpenetrating set of passages under the furze bushes. We were obsessed with the Famous Five as children, especially with their ability to go off on random adventures without any adult supervision - with a packet of sandwiches and gingerbeer parcelled up by a dutiful cook, no less. So this fort became our Kirrin Island, our place of independence. We called it The Secret Place, not heeding the fact that it was perched on a hill overlooking our house a.k.a. the worst kept secret in the locality. I used to read up there, books scattered at my feet as I sprawled on a sun-warmed flat stone.

It was only many years later that I become interested in Irish superstitions and practices associated with the forts; their strange history as first settlements, the strong associations with the fairies, the conflation of forts with burial sites.

And now I'm working on a project I'll be announcing later in the year...and it centres on an Irish fairy fort. As I write, memories of those sunny, childhood days keep resurfacing. I remember the smell of the May-bushes, the sweet coconutty whiff of the yellow flowers as they opened in the sun. I remember the feel of the coarse grass parting like water as we ran through it. I remember the endlessness of those days, the hugeness of the sky hanging above. I remember the intensity of concentration possible then, hours spent watching tiny ladybirds and hairy caterpillars navigate the plants and pebbles of their terrain.

And so I type, surrounded by gentle nostalgia and sweet, half-forgotten memories...

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