Tír na nÓg
I first saw her standing by the band stand of the Chrystal Ballroom, in South Anne’s Street, and I was immediately captivated by her beauty.
She was dressed in a blue floral summer dress and her hair, as black as a raven’s wing, hung down to her shoulders.
She was so beautiful and mysterious that I wondered why she was alone, with neither boyfriend nor girlfriend at her side.
She seemed to be engrossed in the band that was thumping out the musical hits of the day.
They were a popular Dublin band with the unlikely name of “ The Rainbow Showband” the front man was a hot saxophone player called Frank Tyler………….
I watched her in stupefied admiration, untill something caught my attention on the dance floor.
A small altercation had broken out between a couple of lads, nothing serious, but enough to distract me.
When I returned my attention to the lovely girl, I found her watching me, and for a fleeting moment I had the strange feeling we had met before, but for the life of me I could not remember where or when.
I knew I had to meet this strange and attractive girl.
I was quite a shy sort of guy and felt a bit hesitant about approaching her, but eventually I plucked up the courage and crossed the floor to introduce myself.
As I drew nearer, I could see I had underestimated her full beauty as she greeted me with an enigmatic smile, that would have pleased Leonardo.
I was so nervous, in our suddenly close presence, that I introduced myself in a voice that I did not recognise as my own.
She told me her name was Niamh, and when I asked if she would like to dance with me, she said she would love too, and I nearly died.
We danced to the songs of Buddy Holly and Elvis,
But because of the volume of the music and the noise of the dancers we found it difficult to talk so later, I suggested we take a break for a refreshing drink in the mineral bar.
We made our way through the crowd and entered the bar. Lucky to find a vacant table Niamh sat down as I made my way to the bar.
Feeling a manic moment of over confidence, which was completely out of character for me, I said to the matronly lady behind the counter “Good evening Madam, I would like a bottle of 1957 Dom Perignon for the lady and myself.
She never batted an eyelid as with a look that would blister the paint off a door, and through her oversized false teeth, too large for her mouth, said “ Ger oura here, ya scamp, it’s a long way from Dom Perignon you was raised”
“We’ll in that case, Madam, I’ll have two bottles of Club Orange” with that I made my way back to the table.
As we drank our minerals we started to talk, she said she was from Carraroe, in County Galway, and studying Irish mythology in Trinity College and was now living in Dublin with her parents.
She said she would like to travel to some faraway place when she finished her studies.
She talked about history, and the great legends of ancient Ireland, of Fionn mac Cumhaill,
Cu Chulainn, and Maeve, the warrior Queen of Connacht, and the legendary heroes, who lived in Ireland aeons ago.
And how sad it was that they were mostly forgotten now.
She was so interesting, I just sat back and listened, enthralled by every golden word that came from her lips.
When she smiled that mystifying smile of hers, I felt I would love this girl forever.
But I still could not get over the unsettling feeling that we had met before.
All too soon the band started to strike up the national anthem, and as we stood, I asked her if I could accompany her home.
Arm in arm we walked up Grafton Street, breathing in the soft, warm summer air, and enjoying the closing of a magical evening.
But at the back of my mind, something bothered my emotions, and I wondered how I had fallen in love, so swiftly, with this wonderfull, bewitching girl.
I would gladly give my life for her, and yet I knew not why.
She lived on Bird Avenue, in Clonskeagh, so we took the number eleven bus and headed for the suburbs, holding hands on the front seat of the empty, upper deck.
We travelled in comfortable silence to our destination, simply happy in each other’s company, and at peace with the world.
At least that is what I thought.
On reaching our stop, we alighted the bus and started walking down the lamplit road, towards where she lived.
On passing the church of the Immaculate Conception, I boasted that I had been an altar boy there when I was young.
She smiled at that, but I could she was not impressed.
On reaching her house on the corner of Bird Avenue and the Dundrum road, I realised I had been there before as a boy, and I thought this was a strange coincidence.
It was a small mock Tudor house, standing separate from the other, more modern houses.
It stood silent and dark, as if dead, and did not seem to be the sort of place Niamh would live in.
But I made no remark on this.
We stood silently at the gate of the house for a few short moments, and then she came close to me and we kissed and embraced, and I felt the earth move beneath me, but when she looked at me, there was a forlorn look in her eyes, and tears ran down her cheeks.
I wondered what had provoked this sudden change in her, as I said, “I would love to see you again, Niamh”
She gently broke our embrace and said, “Sadly, I have to go away on a journey, and may be gone for a long time.”
I said” Are you going back to Galway”?
“ No,” she said, sadly, “Far further than that”
Then she turned and walked to her front door,
As she fumbled for her keys, she turned and said,
“Slan Go Foil Mo Gra”
Then she was gone.
Had I done or said something wrong, that had upset her in some way.
And as I resigned myself to this sad parting, from this strange and lovely girl, and the fact that I may never see her again, I turned and started walking home, with a heavy heart.
As I slept that night, I dreamed of her, standing by a mountain stream, in a field of luscious green, her black hair inlaid with flowers, falling softly on her shoulders, and she was beckoning me to join her.
When I awoke in the morning, disturbed by my dream, I decided I had to see her one last time before she leaves.
I retraced my steps of the night before, and soon found myself standing outside her door.
The house seemed different in the morning light. It was now bright and cheery as opposed to its oppressive darkness, of the night before.
With some anticipation I rang the doorbell.
Eventually, an elderly lady opened the door.
“Excuse me” I said. “ I don’t wish to disturb you,
I just want a few words with Niamh before she leaves.”
“I’m sorry” she said, “ But you must be mistaken, there is no one of that name living here”
“But I left her home from the dance last night, I watched her go into this house.”
“ As I said” replied the lady, “ There is no one of that name, living here” and as she began to close the door, she stopped and spoke.
“ But I am told, there was a family living here, many years ago, and I believe they had a daughter called Niamh. But the story goes, she mysteriously disappeared one night, and although a search went on for her for many years, she was never seen again.
Just vanished in the night.”
“ But I was with her last night” I said incredulously.
“ You are mistaken, it is, very strange” she said.
With that I turned around and with a stone in my heart, headed home.
As I walked up the road, it started to rain, and heavy dark clouds began to crowd the sky, I tried to think back on the events of the night before and the wistful girl, I had kissed and held in my arms.
I remembered how she looked at me with her dark enigmatic eyes, as we talked about our interests in music and poetry, and her passion for the mythical tales of ancient Ireland.
Was it all a dream?
Did I imagine the whole thing.?
Am I losing my mind?
Then a thought came into my addled mind.
Was this happy meeting meant to happen?
Were we ordained to be drawn together for so short a time?
Then it suddenly became clear to me.
Her parting words came into my mind…..
“ Slan Go Fuill,Mo Gra” (“ Goodbye for Now, My Love”)
And at these words, I knew, we had met before, an immeasurably long time ago.
Long before the Black and Tans.
Long before Brian Boru.
Long before the Tuatha De Danann.
Long before the Druids.
She was my Princess, and I was her Prince and soon we will be together again, in a forever timeless land, beyond the stars, where the young never grow old, and peace reigns eternal throughout that realm.
I sent my words to her across the void of space,
“Go Dti Go Mbuailfimid Aris Le Mo Gra”
( “Untill, We Meet Again My Love”)
And with a joy in my heart, I had never felt before I stepped from the pavement, onto the road, and never saw the oncoming car.
#Niamh was an otherworldly woman, who fell in love with OisÍn, the son of Fionn Mac Cumhail, and brings him to Tír na nÓg,the Land of Youth