What’s the point of an eye that doesn’t see?


My left eye

You can call me Goll from now on. No, I didn’t lose an eye in a sword fight, it was much more boring than that. I got an infection in my left eye, which considering that I’ve been wearing contact lenses for the last thirty years, is pretty good going. It means that I have to revert to my glasses for three weeks while I treat the infection, which isn’t great, because I can’t see a thing with them! So when the optician suggested I try wearing just one contact lense, I thought I’d give it a go.

You have to bear in mind that I am quite severely myopic; -10 in my right, -7 in the left with an astigmatism, and that’s my good eye! But hey-ho, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What a disaster! I had no depth perception at all. I thought I was putting the spoon in Carys’s mouth at dinner time, but instead I was actually trying to stick it in her cheek! Poor child. And as for driving…no way, Jose! It would be carnage on the roads! Glasses it is then. Or maybe an eye-patch and a contact lense, but then my family wouldn’t want to be seen out with me. A-har, me shipmates…now that’s got legs!

One thing’s for sure, I’ve since developed a grudging respect for old Goll mac Morna. As the killer of Fionn mac Cumhall’s father, and later betraying Fionn himself, he wasn’t exactly top of my christmas card list anyway. To have led the Fianna as Rífhéinni, and to have successfully fought his way through many battles with only one eye is skill and strength and determination I can only admire.

Goll’s birth name was Áedh, (pronounced Ay) meaning ‘fire’, and in combat he was known by the title Flame of Battle… I can just imagine him whirling about the battleground with his long red hair streaming out behind him like flames! His family, the Clan Morna of Connaught, were always feuding with Fionn’s, the Clan Baiscne.

When Fionn’s father, Cumhall (pronounced Koo-all), who was head of the Fianna, abducted Muirna (pronounced Meer-na), the love of his life, High King Cormac mac Airt was not at all pleased and sent Áedh after him. Clan Morna attacked Clan Baiscne at the Battle of Cnucha (Castleknock, Dublin). Despite recieving the grievious wound which robbed him of his eye, he still managed to kill Cumhall and take his place as the leader of the Fianna, known as the Fian-King, or Rífhéinni. He was known thereafter as  Goll, meaning ‘one-eyed’, not quite so distinguished a title as the first one!

Fionn grew up in hiding to keep him safe from the Clan Morna, but when he came of age, he presented himself to Cormac and promised to kill the Fire-Fairy Aillen mac Midhna in return for his birth-right as Fian-King. Cormac agreed, not expecting him to succeed. When he did, Cormac had no choice but to appoint Fionn leader of the Fianna, and Goll reluctantly stepped down.

As time passed, Goll came to respect Fionn, although their relationship was an uneasy one. This did not please the Morna Clan, who still harboured a grudge against the Baiscne. There are many tales of the Fianna in which Goll features. Interestingly, his fate seems to have been inextricably tied with Fionn’s; after rescuing Fionn from danger, Fionn rewards him with his daughter, Cainche, in marriage, although Goll was already married to Scandlach.

Eventually, though, the two men fell out when Goll killed Fionn’s son, Cairell, as the result of an argument which got out of hand. Fearing Fionn’s wrath, Goll hid in a cave with the Baiscne laying siege at its entrance. He refused to come out, and there he died twelve days later from the combined effects of hunger and thirst. Not exactly a hero’s death for poor old Goll!

Swearing revenge for the death of their kinsman, the Morna Clan defected and joined the new High King, Cairpre, who disliked Fionn and the power he had amassed at the head of the Fianna. Battle was joined at Gabhra, which saw the demise of the Fianna and the mysterious disappearance of Fionn mac Cumhall.


11 Comments on “What’s the point of an eye that doesn’t see?

  1. Great post, Ali!
    I hope your gets better, soon! I cannot understand why an optician even suggested wearing just one contact lens. Opticians should know better. I’ve got about -12, therefore, it is either contacts or glasses. Especially now, with all the pollen in the air, I regularly have to revert to my glasses. They are pretty fine. Not as good as the contacts – but fine.


    • Karen to be fair it wasnt the actual optician but the consultant. He was probably only concerned with treating the infection and hadnt even checked the prescription to see how shortsighted I actually am! Its weird…my eye feels fine, looks normal and yet if the optician hadnt spotted it, it could have gone on to have a severe impact on my sight in that eye. Btw, in all my life Ive never actually met someone with a stronger prescription than me so hail! And well ‘met’…even if it is in cyberspace rather than real lol!


      • Ali, even if it was ‘only’ a consultant – this is dangerous! It is hard if the difference is only two dioptres; more is unbearable. It is a blessing that the infection was detected so early.
        Better to meet in cyberspace than never. Who knows – we might meet in Ireland some day. 🙂
        So far I only met one cyberfriend – in March: author David Coles (in York at the National Railway Museum)


        • Well thats so cool that you actually met in real! I have yet to do that but hopefully in the future…

          For the moment I am enjoying meeting so many fab bloggers here. We are so lucky to live in the digital age that enables this! But does it make us lazy, discovering the world through our computer screens instead of going out there into the real world and finding it? Or is it an added bonus that brings us something additional we may otherwise never have had? And does making ‘cyber friends’ damage our social and interpersonal skills or add new dimensions to them I wonder?


          • My husband regularly reminds me that the world is outside. 😉
            Some of us might never meet in the real world. Blogging can forge friendships, so does writing. Every short story makes me and also some readers happy. As I plan to publish next year, my time in front of the computer is perhaps not welcome, but tolerated. 😉
            Writers and bloggers need to meet in cyberspace, they need the exchange. It is awesome to ‘meet’ so many different bloggers and writers – I wouldn’t want to miss that.
            Despite all that, I still have a social real life. I’d agree with the adding of new dimensions…


  2. Ali I hope your eye gets better! If you do want to go on a quest with only one eye, though, I can help navigate in the dark. I’m pretty used to not having any eyes… but for that reason I think I’d make a pretty ineffective fian. 🙂 I thought Gol killed Oscar, Oisin’s son. Thanks for setting me straight on that. You know, since he was going to die either way I think it would have been much better had Gol not died in a cave, but faced what he had done. Great post. I haven’t forgotten about writing you…I’ve been working on a philosophical argument that has been demanding my attention like an impatient toddler. 🙂


    • Hi Eilish. You would be a banfhéinni, which is a female hunter/warrior of the Fianna. My eyesight would exclude me too, but at least wed be good company for each other lol!

      Goll killed Fionn’s father Cumhall before Fionn was born. He later killed Fionn’s son after a disagreement which ultimately led to his death in the cave where he took refuge from Fionn’s fury.

      Oscar, Oisin’s son was killed in the Battle of Gabhra, and it is said to have been only the second time in his life that Fionn wept. I think Oscar was a bit of a Galahad type figure, mightily skilled in battle arts but also educated, a poet and scholar, and extremely chivalrous and noble. At least, that is the feeling I get when I read about him. I think he was well loved by everyone.

      I hope you got your philosophical issue resolved!


  3. Another very interesting article Ali – hope your eye infection clears up sooooon 🙂

    PS – like you, I have severe myopia and can only wear glasses – contacts, lasers or inbuilt lenses wouldn’t work because the connections at the back of my eyes come into the back lens twist, which deform the back lenses – so I’ve been a ‘four-eyes for longer than you’ve been alive 😀


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