Ali’s Blog

You may have noticed there was no blog post from me last week. I try really hard to keep the blog updated as often as I can, but sometimes things happen which change that, and this was one of those times.

I had been planning to introduce you to a particular lady from Ireland’s history, and indeed, the post is actually half written. I thought it would be an easy post to write, because I already know something about her. However, so many obstacles popped up during the writing of it, that I gave up; I felt it wasn’t meant for me to write, or at least not yet.

It wasn’t writer’s block, but that all my research seemed to contradict itself, no matter what angle I approached it from. I was frustrated and puzzled.

I was driving home from uni on Thursday, wondering about this, when the following thought came into my head: “You have unfinished business.” Those were the exact words, and here’s where you might think me slightly mad… Read More

Eithne and Fidelma were sisters who lived in the time of St Patrick. Their story is incredible, although it may be argued that the two young women themselves were not. They were pagan princesses, daughters of Laoghaire, High King of Ireland in 432AD, when Patrick is said to have lit his paschal fire in defiance of the King, pagan custom and ritual.

When Patrick first approached the King, the sisters, known as Eithne the Fair, and Fidelma the Red, were not at court. Following tradition, they were fostered out at Cruachan, also known as Rath Croghan, in the province of Connacht, made famous as the royal residence of Queen Medb.

There, the two girls were in the process of being educated by two Druids, Maol and Caplait, who were said to be the wisest men in all of Ireland at that time. Clearly, then, they were being trained as Druids, an education which is believed to have spanned over twenty years. Read More

I haven’t posted about Carys for a long time, not because there was nothing to tell, but because progress has been a long slow plod of repetitiveness and, I know it sounds awful, but yes, monotony; not particularly interesting to read, and achievements which might seem minor and trivial to the outsider, although spectacular to us.

This week, though, we had some great news: Carys will be AFO free! At least, during the day-time. What does this mean? No more clunky, heavy plastic leg braces strapped to her lower legs. Carys needed AFO’s for several reasons: for support, as the muscles around her ankles were very weak; to stretch her calf muscles, as they are very tight, and she cant’ make a 90 degree angle at her ankle like we can; also to correct her pronation. Read More

Today I visited the shrine of Saint Dympna in a tiny little place called Lavey in Co. Cavan. Although Dympma is quite a well-known seventh century saint in Ireland, her association with Lavey is a relatively unknown local tradition.

Dympna is one of Ireland’s tragic heroines. According to legend, she was just fifteen years old when she came to her untimely end at the hands of her very own father. Her life may have been short, but she inspired the birth of something wonderful which still goes on to this day.


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Back in Lavey this afternoon, I came to where I thought the shrine was located, but which appeared to be a farm-house and dead end. I knocked on the door, and explained that I was looking for Dympna’s shrine, and the man who answered said, “I’ll just get my coat and take you down there. Have you a bottle for the holy water?”

When I gaped at him blankly, he went inside and fetched a small, bright orange, plastic Ribena bottle, surely the most humble receptacle that has ever collected holy water. Ever. Read More

I could only answer one question on the history exam paper. It said something like, ‘Describe a day in the life of…’ I don’t remember the rest of the question. But the first seven words inspired my creative juices, and a story began to build.

I was only eleven. I had joined my new school six weeks before the end of first year, right in the middle of their exams. I wasn’t expected to be able to answer any of the questions, but I was told to have a go anyway. I guess they didn’t know what else to do with me.

I have been both a writer, and a student of history, probably from as long ago as when I learned to read and to write. To this day, I can’t figure out why I am so drawn to the peoples of the past.

My father loved reading and history, but he played such a small part in my life, that I don’t feel I can credit him as my inspiration. I lived on the island of Cyprus for a while during my childhood, where I was surrounded by crumbling ancient sites in the process of being lovingly restored by archaeologists, but my interest was already formed long before we moved there; I remember asking for history books one Christmas when we still lived in Kuwait, and that was before I had ever set foot in a Greek burial chamber or Roman amphitheatre. I would have been about seven or eight at the time.

So what did I write about? Read More

Welcome to the first post in my new blog series: Incredible Irish Women. I’m very excited about this series, because history has tended to ignore its female participants, and I’m here to tell you that, actually, the women of the past were not as passive and subservient as our modern patriarchal society would have us believe. In fact, some women were very active in the power struggles, politics, battles, and religious organisation of their time, but if you want to know about them, you have to go looking, sometimes in unexpected places.

But now, I’d like to introduce you to Rose ny Neile O’Reilly. I met her when researching the 1641 depositions for a history assignment last year, and she wouldn’t leave me alone until I agreed to tell her story. I’m glad I did too… she got me a 75%! I don’t think that was enough for her, though… she’s been wanting to get on my blog ever since.

Incredible Irish Women | Rose ny Neile O'Reilly

You might be wondering what the 1641 depositions are. Today, they are an incredible resource for anyone interested in Ireland’s history, but they began as Protestant witness testimonies of peoples’ experiences of the 1641 rebellion. Housed in Trinity College Dublin, there are over 8000 transcripts, searchable online right HERE, freely available for anyone to peruse. Read More

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh
(pronunciation Ah-vleen fwee vosh-ah gheev)

Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for supporting Aliisaacstoryteller last year! I hope 2018 will be good to you. I can’t believe we’re already two weeks in… time sure flies.

Why the long silence, Ali?

Well, let’s just say the Christmas break did not go completely to plan. Two days before the big day itself I was flying around trying to make sure everything was ready, and I managed to injure my eye, which meant I could barely see, and was in agony. I couldn’t drive, do the food shopping, and certainly couldn’t see to read, write or blog. It certainly put a damper on the festivities for me.

After Christmas, Carys and I caught the Aussie flu. I was very ill, and in fact, I’m still not fully recovered, but life has to go on; I have my family to take care of, and I had to study for my exams… that was the last thing I felt like! Only one more exam to go next week, and then I have some time off until semester two starts at the end of January.

Of course I learned something from all this; as usual, I was trying to do too much, thinking ahead and not concentrating on the here and now; also, I need to take better care of myself, for my sanity as well as my health. I’m probably not the only one… am I right???

Happy New Year from Aliisaacstoryteller

Top Posts of 2017

Thank you for visiting aliisaacstoryteller last year. I write for fun about a subject I love, and I’m so happy that so many of you enjoy it, and feel the same. Thank you also for all the emails; I love getting to know you, and appreciate you taking the time and trouble to get in touch. I try to answer each one, but sometimes I get a bit snowed under, as aliisaacstoryteller is just a one-woman-band, so if you didn’t get a reply from me, I apologize sincerely.

These are the posts you liked most in 2017: Read More

There may be more impressive castles in Ireland than Maynooth Castle, but this is certainly one of the oldest, and arguably, one of the most interesting and historically significant.

Although Ireland is well known for its castles, they’re not an Irish invention. It was the Anglo-Normans in the twelfth century who began building castles in Ireland, and originally they weren’t even made from stone; they were crude but rather effective, motte and bailey constructions.

By Hchc2009 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

A sketch showing what a motte and bailiey would have looked like. Courtesy Wikimedia.

A motte is a raised earthwork upon which a wooden tower, or keep, was constructed. The bailey is a courtyard at the foot of the motte which would have been enclosed within a wooden palisade. These were defensive structures which could be thrown up relatively quickly. In later years, the wooden keeps were replaced with stone, and castles became more elaborate.

PLanning Your Visit to Ireland? Maynooth Castle

The Anglo-Normans came to Ireland in 1169, and Maynooth Castle was established soon after in 1176. The King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, had lost a battle in 1166 against the High King, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, and  Tigernán Ua Ruairc, who was King of Breffni (where I live). Read More

Must be a week for poetry! From T.S.Eliot to Aemilia Lanyer in the space of just a few days! I wrote this poem for an assignment, and got an ‘outstanding’ for it. We were tasked with choosing one of the seventeenth-century poets we had studied this semester, and writing a response in the style of the work itself that addresses an issue raised in that poem. I chose Aemilia Lanyer’s ‘A Description of Cook-ham‘.

the 'senseless' tree pinterest

Aemilia is so adept at the old iambic pentameter, that some say she may have been the actual writer of some of Shakespeare’s works. Certainly women were victims of patriarchy at the time, and writing was considered manly work. Aemilia went right on ahead and published her own book of poems in 1611, something unheard of for a woman in those days. Maybe that’s why I like her so much! =-D

A Description of Cook-ham
About Aemilia

My response to A Description of Cook-ham by Aemilia Lanyer

Fair lady, hark to my wisdom; this I
Have observed, rooted here ‘twixt earth and sky.
You think to disguise mankind’s foul actions
With your ode to his garden’s attractions,
While yon great pile of bricks you hold so dear
Is but a monument to greed and fear. Read More

Ive not managed to post anything this week, caught up in the pressure of the penultimate week of the semester, and the penultimate essay, a study on the form, language and style of modernist poem, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. I’m a bit disappointed, because I have managed, until now, to keep the blog going without missing a week. However, I have to accept that whilst I’m at uni, my priorities have to change. My sincere apologies to followers of this blog for the interruption, I hope to keep it to a minimum.

This morning I awoke to a few fresh flakes of snow, although not the avalanche we had been threatened with, a sore throat, and a poem in my head. I did not dream it, I just awoke and there it was, fully formed. It’s an incredible gift when that happens, so here it is, and as you will see, it’s a kind of response to my search for knowledge, and Eliot’s poem.

Reflections on the Pursuit of Knowledge: A Poem

reflections on the pursuit of knowledge

Its message is delivered in fragments,
Sharp edges burnished bright but veiled in obscurity,
requiring the glue of diligence.

The distance I must travel is not linear,
arching back eons
to lost literatures, ancient wisdoms, and
jumping ahead to future futility. Read More