Our Last remaining ancient River Forest …An Ghaoiradh


In this age of high speed web technology, films, recordings, photographs, poems have an ever decreasing shelf life. That may or may not benefit the consumer. I guess it depends on ones age and how deep rooted ones aesthetic values are? Despite the ease of communication today, it is my opinion that high speed communication through an electronic device has hampered and distorted the appreciation of serious artworks. Art , especially serious art has always taken time to create. History gives us numerous examples of the amount of “time” it took for the consumer to “see” not alone fully appreciate certain artists works. But the time factor is critical and although the internet appears to enable time efficiency it has disabled our time clocks which were once ticking at a natural pace. Creating the INSTANT MOMENT does not exactly enhance ones understanding it alters our critical perception. INSTANT ART like INSTANT COFFEE is unpalatable. Memory as we traditionally understood it is radically changing. How much can one fully evaluate without proper memory. Transfer human memory to an electronic “stik” and what have we left to compare and contrast. How does one assimilate and appreciate if our info banks are external drives sitting silently on a desktop or invisibly floating in a cloud?


Ask any independent music promoter, singer, film-maker or visual artist about the reality of the time slot one has to promote an album, a film, an exhibition of paintings or a book of poems. The answer currently is “a number of weeks” and if you don’t hit the GREAT GONG of instant recognition first time around your two/three year creative input will sicker swiftly into the sands of time or blend seamlessly into the ever expanding ether.



What brought me to these thoughts were the reactions from so many people who have gone to see RIVER RUNNER and have been particularly touched by the sadness of the story. Although this series of tragedies happened back in the mid 1950’s before I was born, the tale lives on. Human memory is not that easily eradicated. Despite an enormous human endeavor over a period of three years (1953-56) which must have been horrendously sad for the 39 families who inhabited the Gearagh, the hacked tree stumps of the age old oaks protrude like tombstones of that bygone era. Once the winter rains cease, the flood waters of the Gearagh recede and allow the mutilated stumps of yew and oak silouhette their watery grave-scape. A continual deathly reminder for all those who travel the Tooms Valley roads and understand the history of these flooded fields. Our screenings in the Briery Gap theatre last February brought hundreds of people from the locality who had not been to a cinema, as one elderly gentleman described it to me humourously …

“in donkey’s ears” ! A colloquialism meaning “a very long time”.


Recently a river ecology expert from the UK who came on a specific visit to examine the Gearagh claimed, that of the final four inland alluvial forest deltas left on planet earth the Gearagh is the only one that remains in tact. I have to pose a question to our local authorities and those responsible for our rivers at this point. Should this unique part of the river Lee valley, this utterly unique part of planet earth not be a glorified and fully preserved gem of Nature, a global centre of attraction? It is simply crying out for attention and INTELLIGENT PRESERVATION.


I would like to finish this post with the very personal creative words of the daughter of a former Gearagh resident who’s cottage was destroyed and its remains submerged by the flood waters in 1957.




Gearagh Roots


The Gearagh, a river woodland,

the home place of my father,

that haven that he had to leave,

didn’t leave him, ever.

Annahala was a special place

a village like no other,

it was there he spent his childhood

by a woodland full of wonder.

The cottages, the village shop

the water pump, the lime quarry,

helpful neighbours all around,

characters and stories.


In the fifties, The Lee Scheme

had the community uprooted,

families had to leave their homes

all along the river valley.

Tears fell as they watched that day

their beloved land flooded.

A community and forest gone

only Gearagh roots remain.


He reminisced about life there

when we passed there in my childhood,

the fishing spots by the Lee,

pearls found in river mussels,

the rich fertile soil where he grew

prizewinning vegetables,

but nothing could compare

to the taste of wild watercress.


I went with daddy in later years

to walk the quarry road,

he pointed out the heaps of stones

where once stood happy homes.

He showed me the bowling road

where crowds went after mass,

willows and alders grew

all around the quarry cross.

Pink roses bloomed around the ruins,

he left with wistful thoughts,

by the old bog road where we passed by

there grew Forget-me-nots.


Sincere thanks to Margaret O’Driscoll for her very personal poetic words. April 2015.


Leave a reply