Brent Sisson is a retired social worker who lives in a log home in the wilds of North Idaho with his family, fifty miles south of the Canadian border. He enjoys walks in the woods where he contemplates the wee people in every nook and cranny along Garfield Bay creek, an inspiration for his Teague story.
Teague McGuinness and the Faerie Kingdom 1 ~ The Emerald Isle ~ During the reign of faeries long, long ago 1830
The McGuinness farm, rugged and hardy as the Irish soul, lay several miles inland from the southern shore of Ireland’s wind-tossed coast and the distant, bustling village of Waterford. Nestled in rolling pastural slopes in well-drained soil, the domicile of Bryan and Enya McGuinness is a one-story stone farmhouse with a thatched roof. A single window looks upon the dirt road passing in front and a small detached workshop containing a simple hearth for heat augments the house. The climate, warmer and moist then anywhere else on the Emerald Isle, enhances fertility for growing pasture and crops. A stream flows year round, an excellent source for irrigation. Conditions are well disposed to raise sheep that produce wool and mutton, a reliable source of income. Mutton serves as a prime ingredient for the cherished Irish stew, and milk from the ewe turns into knockalara, a tasty cheese. Additionally, the McGuinness family tends the largest grove of fruit trees in the county. The rich, splendid Irish soil rewards year after year. The harmony between sheep and shepherd and fruit and farmer favors country bliss. Apples, admired for their quality and taste, hold a mystical reverence in Ireland, a common knowledge born of folklore and Celtic stories passed from one generation to the next. Bryan McGuinness lay sound asleep, wrapped spoon-like around his wife. Enya felt a subtle yet persistent thumping sensation and sat up. She swept her long blonde hair from her eyes and over her left shoulder. Feeling her movement, Bryan mumbled, “Are ye beginning your labor?” Enya leaned over and kissed his cheek and guided his hand to her full, rounded abdomen. “There!” she said, grinning, “Do ye feel him kick?” Bryan marveled at the new life asserting itself. “He’s a strong little tyke! He wants out, luv.” Bryan didn’t question how Enya knew the gender of their baby. She has the second sight. He remembered finding her one evening sitting alone, her breathing shallow, her face serene, her eyes fixed on nothing that he could see other than the distant wall. Words spilled from her lips, her voice strange, a sweet and lilting language that he couldn’t understand. When the spell ended, Enya took a deep breath and realized her husband’s presence. In love with this handsome, vigorous man with a cleft chin, she smiled. “What just happened?” Bryan asked. “I sought guidance from the faerie realm. The goddess of birthing called to me.“ “Ye spoke a language I didn’t comprehend.” “Aye, it is the voice of a goddess speaking the language of the faerie kindred. They have given me the gift of interpretation. She has not let me see her, not yet, but she’s real. I sometimes repeat out loud what she says in the beautiful faerie language and interpret it to my understanding. That’s what you overheard.” “What did ye learn from her?” “Our child will be healthy. The goddess of birthing said we must call our baby Teague, for the name means ‘poet’ in the ancient Celtic language of Ireland. He has the blood of poets in his veins.” Aye, ’tis true, Bryan thought, Enya’s father is a poet, and she is a gifted poet in her own right.” “Teague it is then, luv.” Indeed, through what would become a ritual, Enya instilled within her newborn son poems and stories about a magical kingdom of faeries, so interesting that the little lad never doubted their existence. Bryan, talented as well, exhibits a natural ability to draw and paint, creating captivating watercolor scenes of nature and wildlife. His artistic endeavor is a matter of the heart and spirit, an innate reflex he could not and will not deny. In fact, poetry and painting and tales of the little people are an everyday emphasis in the McGuinness home, but insufficient for making a living. Poverty is widespread on the Emerald Isle. So much so that the arts have few benefactors. *** Bryan’s partitioned workshop building contains a room where farm implements, tools and supplies are stored. A separate outside entry admits to a modest, but well-stocked art studio containing easels and an assortment of paint colors and brushes. Solvents or harsh chemicals are locked in an upper cabinet, not accessible to an inquisitive child. The ventilated room has shuttered windows that will open to natural light. Bryan determined to teach his boy to draw and paint. In the studio, he prepared a lowered easel and a small chair just for Teague and set out brushes and paints. A willing pupil, Teague loved the special attention from his da and wore a perpetual, serious demeanor on his brow as he followed the tasks set out for him. “Ye be an artist!” Bryan declared to the beaming boy, as the child lay down ragged color strokes. “Look at ye!” It was a beginning, an auspicious one, and little Teague gained proficiency day by day. He would one day know that painting is his true calling. He devoured every morsel of the craft like a starving vagabond yearning to be fed. ****
After an exciting day watching his da shear sheep as they bleated and helping his mum gather wool for bundling, an exhausted five-year-old Teague wriggled onto his mother’s lap in the evening before a flickering hearth fire. “Be still!” Enya said, rocking him tenderly. “Listen with your heart, the faeries are talking, can ye hear their poem”:
A mother’s son, beloved and dear Unlocks secrets free from fear. Engaging faeries every day, Beguiled by the mystic way.
So it was that the musical language of poetry came naturally to the young Teague in much the same way the familiar words of a favorite song come readily to every child. The boy, like a thirsty sapling planted in fertile ground, sank his roots deep into the selfsame robust Irish soil that nourished his parents.
During the autumn harvest, eight year old Teague held a shiny golden apple in the palm of his hand. Enthralled with its lustre, he could no longer stay silent. ”Why are they so pretty, mum?” Enya smiled, a gleam in her eye. “Will now, I’ll tell ye. The Celtic virgin goddess, Brigid, protects all the apple crops of the Emerald Isle. The gentle sheen ye see comes from the magic spell she casts upon the fruit to grace the hearts of the Irish people. No other place or people are blessed with the touch of a goddess.” Deep in thought, Teague imagined a being with such power. “How do ye know about her, mum? What else can she do?” “She comes to me when I feel the second sight, helping me to see the unseen. Brigid is the goddess of fire and creativity, of poetry and strength, of healing and inspiration. She is the keeper of the flame and governs the hearth-fire. She was with me when ye were birthing and she helps people heal from injury or sickness.” “Glory be!” Teague blurted, his eyes wide with wonder. “Aye, glory be!”
Teague did not have a formal education, but he was quick of mind, curious, and a prolific reader. If there were any traits that might compete with his love for art, it was the written and spoken word. He spent hours sorting unfamiliar words until they became one with his lexicon. He, his mum, and his da challenged each other for the most interesting word of the day. Life in the McGuinness home was splendid, stimulating, erudite and pleasureful. They contended together in a good-natured way. Confident and well-spoken, Teague was at ease with the so-called educated gentry. He surprised the upper crust with his acumen and ingenuity on a wide variety of subjects, unexpected from an Irish peasant of tender age. Teague embraced the values and tenets of his parents and displayed a quiet aura of discernment untarnished by pride or offense. He was not shy about expressing himself and would speak up, always, always, courteously. He was a gallant observer of his world, and the world at large.
February-March 1844 ~ Potato Planting Season ~
Less than a mile up the road from the McGuinness family lives Enya’s sister, Aideen, and her husband Liam Callaghan. Liam, a tenant farmer, was hired by an absentee gentleman farmer, Lord Cooke. Twice a year, Lord Cooke inspected his property to assure his farm was in order. He paid taxes and covered the cost of materials, but expected Liam to plant and harvest the crop and deliver produce to market. In return, Liam and Aideen had the use of a cottage, a reasonable share of produce for their own consumption, and a modest percentage of proceeds of sale. Liam and Aideen raised potatoes, a staple of the Irish diet. During planting and harvest season it is usual for the McGuinness clan and the Callaghans to help each other with labor. This unsaid agreement, born of the eternal blood of sisterhood, bound them together like a taut, braided cinch. One day in mid-February, Liam was assessing his field to prepare for planting. Teague’s da said the Callaghan’s needed help. “Sure, da, I’ll give them a hand.” Teague, now fourteen years old, left looking for Liam’s son, Duffy. Duffy, a year younger, looked up to Teague much as he would a big brother. But Duffy knew he would be a big brother himself soon enough because his parents were expecting another child after trying for years without success. Aideen beamed when the two boys offered to help her husband. Radiant in the fulness of pregnancy, she hugged Teague and Duffy to her side as they walked out in the field to see Liam. “Here are your helpers, honey,” she said, casting a wink at her husband as he leaned on a spade. “Good!” He said as he tousled each lad’s hair. “I’ll work ‘em to death” “What are ye doing here,” Teague asked, not noticing any sign of work. “This is the most important part of any task or endeavor,” Liam said. “I be thinking.” “Thinking?” “Aye, I’m thinking about me field. Look over there and tell me what ye see.” “A field of grass and dirt, what do ye see?” “A field for planting, a future harvest of potatoes, and a hot, steaming cup of Irish stew!” Teague imagined steaming stew all right. But how do ye get there from here, he wondered, never having paid attention to potato farming. “I’ll teach ye lads the Irish way to plant lumpers, the way me da taught me, and he was notorious for his big potatoes! We’ll do the field together boys, not in one day, mind ye, ’tis little good that gets done in a hurry. Ye will help me lay the field in rows about four feet apart with drainage trenches on either side. See those shovels over there, boys? Get one for yourself.” Liam scanned the field once again while the lads ran for the tools. When they returned, Liam grabbed his spade and rushed up the slope, the boys keeping pace. He stopped at the field’s edge, turned and looked at the lay of the slope, and nodded. “I like what I see,” he said, gesturing straight ahead. “We will begin here and mark the parallel lines in the sod over the field. Between the lines we will then spread fertilizer.” “What kind of fertilizer do ye use?” Teague asked, curious. “A mix of manure, grass, and seashells, a most potent activator to stimulate growth. Then we’ll turn the grassy sod upside down over the fertilizer within the lines to form a hump and place seed potatoes by hand to the depth of the fertilizer. Next we cover the hump with fresh dirt. Once this planting is complete, we’ll establish good drainage through the trenches left where the grassy sod had laid.” Duffy grimaced as if in pain. Liam laughed and squeezed his shoulder. “I tell ye true, none of this is easy, it won’t be completed overnight. We’ll have many days of hard work, but it will be fun too. You’ll see.” Duffy nodded. “Okay then. Are ye up for it?” The lads grinned. “Aye!” “All right, let’s get at it!”
**** A Few Days Later
Liam came to the McGuinness home in the middle of the night and pounded on the door, rousing Enya. “Sorry to wake ye like this, Enya, but Aideen needs ye. She’s having contractions, and it’s way too early! I don’t know what to do!” “Well, ye came for me, thank goodness, and I can help!” At the Callaghan home, Enya took charge. “Get me a pan of water, Liam, and clean cloths and two lengths of string.” Worried and nervous, he was glad to gather the items. He sat them where told and stood by pacing and ill at ease. Observing this, Aideen said, “Honey, Enya will take care of me. You go in the other room and we’ll call you if we need anything.” “Are ye sure?” “Aye, I’ll be all right, I’m in expert hands.” Aideen felt a strong contraction coming on. She braced herself and, when Liam left the room and shut the door, she moaned as the contraction increased. Enya placed cloths below Aideen’s spread legs. “I see the baby’s head,” she said, readying herself to guide and catch the baby. “Push!” Aideen bore down. “Oh!” she screamed, “oh, mother of God!” “Push more… that’s good, more! Push! Here comes the baby. ‘Tis a boy! I have him; he’s small with all the required body parts.” But he’s pale and flaccid. I don’t like that, Enya thought, but said nothing as she tied two strings side by side around the umbilical cord and clipped the cord in half between them. Enya washed the tiny body, swaddled him in a soft cloth, and handed him to his mum. “Let’s see if he’ll eat, luv.” Aideen held him at her breast, but he would not take the nipple. “Try stimulating his lips with your finger.” Still he would not suck. Aideen looked at Enya with a worried expression, a silent question on her face. Enya nodded, “Aye, I’ll ask Brigid what to do.” Closing her eyes, she called upon the goddess and listened to Brigid’s instruction. “Brigid said you mustn’t rush him, let him rest in your arms and try again after a while.” The newborn, warmed by his mum’s cuddle, relaxed. His breathing became more regular as his skin color improved. Enya observed this settling response, waited awhile longer, and said, “Okay, let’s try again.” This time the baby took the nipple, nursing just a little, but nursing none-the-less. Aideen and Enya smiled at each other, the crisis past. The baby they called Devin struggled during his early development. He was underweight despite a healthy appetite, suffered frequent colds and occasional fevers in ensuing months, and caused his mum sleepless nights and constant worry. Liam did what he could to support her, but he too felt powerless and anxious, although he tried not to show it. Liam confided in Enya who provided suggestions and visited her sister more often. Devin gained strength, and his bouts of illness became less frequent. As for the potato crop that Teague and Duffy helped plant, it flourished that season and next. It rewarded them with lumpers galore, a grand celebrated outcome that bode well for the Callaghan family. A year and a half after Devin’s birth, Aideen delivered a little girl. Cooing, bright and healthy, they named her Cara, meaning friend.
2 ~ The Great Potato Famine ~ Harvest Time July 10, 1844
A clamor so raucous it was as though a person pursued by demons demanded entry at their door. It disturbed the usual morning deliberation at the McGuinness house. “Come in!” Bryan shouted. The door slammed open, a winded Liam rushed in, and tossed a foul smelling bag on the floor. “Look at this, will ye? I dug them me self this morning. What do ye make of it?” The bag held a rude, pungent mass of black, rotting shapes, imperceptible as potatoes. “Are all your lumpers like this?” Bryan asked, incredulous. “I don’t know! I took one look at this and came here. I did see lots of withered leaves. If all me crop is like this, I’m finished!” Indeed, the blight infected half of Liam’s crop. Farmers throughout Ireland reported similar results. A great outcry arose and government entities in London examined the cause, seeking a remedy without success. Bryan went back to the potato farm to talk further with Liam. Enya came along for support, sensing Aideen’s distress. Bryan thought the tuber rot was a passing event and said so. “Think about it man,” he said, “when has this ever happened before? Never, and it could be worse. You might have lost everything. The crop will be normal next season. It has be.” Aideen listened as Bryan talked and cast a doubtful glance at her sister. Leaning forward, she whispered, “Come outside with me.” The two sisters left and walked into the affected field, sod overturned and desolate. “What do ye think, Enya? Will things be better next year? Do ye know?” Enya pursed her lips. “Well, Bryan’s argument is reasonable. Many farmers agree with him. Still, I’ll ask the faeries if ye want.” “Would ye? I can’t help having a bad feeling.” “Aye, of course I will,” Enya said, giving her sister a hug. “You stay here, I need to be alone this time.” **** Enya made her way to the corner of the field where a large boulder rested against a low embankment. She sat with her back against the stone, shaded from sun and wind. From a pouch around her waist she pulled a clean white shard of lamb’s bone, untouched by blade of steel or the corruptive tool of man. Enya placed the bone in her lap and gazed upon it, relaxed her body, and focused her mind on the rhythm of her breathing. She sought entry to the other world, the moment of trance and transition to the faerie kingdom, a spell she experienced so often. The spell contorted into a sense of nonexistence, a calm state of unbounded blackness. Out of nowhere, a red dot in the distance appeared, throbbing and drawing ever closer. Yellow licks leaped at the edge of the red orb until the micro-thin fabric of space and time relented and a Royal Chamber appeared. An all-encompassing aura compelled Enya’s legs to buckle, and she fell to her hands and knees. She arched her back and raised her eyes to behold a personage of regal splendor standing before her, a goddess wearing a golden head band with sparkling diamonds and a turquoise stone at the center. Pale as the moon, face unblemished, her goddess eyes were tinged with a bronze, fire tested hue and her nose illustrious. An opulent red robe hung from her shoulders and a silken blouse held by pearl fasteners snugged the contours of her ample breasts. She struck a warrior’s stance, feet wide apart, girded by heavy, strapped sandals. In her left hand she held a scepter topped by a glowing, fiery ball, in her right hand a silver lance, sleek, sharp, and ready. At her side, a leather perch held a gallant hawk with talons set. The raptor kept Enya keen in its sight. Brigid’s expression softened as she beheld Enya, and her lips parted, revealing lovely teeth. “Behold a seer from the other world. Arise seeker, what is thy quest?” Enya stood upright before the goddess, her hair reflecting the ambiance of the chamber light, the shard of lamb’s bone throbbing and glistening in her hand. “I come for a knowing. We have never seen the foul, brackish malady visiting our crop fields across the Emerald Isle. The scourge has sickened people, others are starving. Pray tell, be it a passing contortion or be it the smoldering ember of plague?” “Thou has sought well. Creation is besieged, evil forces ravage the land and we on the other side, goddesses and the entire faerie kingdom, resist with all the power we can conjure. A formidable dark eminence confronts faerie and man alike.”
All creation weeps At nature’s foul reap Man, woman, and kind Bear sorrow’s deadly bind. When hope is lost, When precious life is tossed, Healing rekindles midst yearning sighs From haunted, tear shrouded eyes. **** August 1, 1844
Leaving Farnsworth Manor in county Tipperary, Lord Reginald Cooke thought it prudent to check on his potato farm given the recent blight. He rode in a surrey drawn by a pale gelding. Turning down a lane leading to the farm, he slowed. The godforsaken potato field stretched before him. Beyond, at the edge of the field, he saw the tenant cottage, a one level wooden structure with a sod roof. The simple cottage, sufficient for a small family, held a single window and a hand hewn door that he always thought projected a certain charm. A detached tool shed with an exterior roof supported by poles lay within short walking distance of the house. He slapped the reins, and the horse cantered, closing fast. The grounds around the cottage are in order and uncluttered. No problem in that regard, he judged. The door opened, Liam appeared, and their eyes met. Lord Cooke brought his horse to an abrupt stop. The steed snorted and shook his mane. Lord Crook stepped from the surrey. Liam walked up with a tentative smile. “G’day, m’lord, ye traveled well, I presume?” “Aye,” Lord Cooke said, “but I’m not here to talk about my traveling comfort.” He said icily. He looked at the field, his face solemn. “I’m here because of this catastrophe. I want to see the damage first hand, and I want you to tell me why this happened. I’ve heard opinions, but it is your explanation I want to hear.” Liam nodded, “Aye, let’s look.” They walked the field a short distance away. “The one thing I know is that this winter was the wettest season I have ever seen in my entire life.” “What does that have to do with anything?” Lord Cooke asked. “Crops always need water to flourish.” “Aye, m’lord, but never as much; I believe the potatoes drowned!” “Hmm,” Lord Cooke raised his eyebrows. “Well, that's an explanation better than any I’ve heard so far.” They stood side by side, and Lord Cooke bent and scooped a handful of blackened dirt. He smelled it and frowned. “Musty,” he said, “maybe there’s something to your drowning theory.” Liam knelt, lifted a handful of untainted sod, and smelled. “Yet, some of our field is untouched and fresh.” “What to do, what to do,” Lord Cooke muttered, shaking his head. Liam pivoted and faced him eye to eye with a serious expression. “I ’ave a proposal, m’lord.” “Let’s hear it.” “I think we should double our crop next season, large enough to recover your loss and make a profit. We have the field we rested last season. We can put it into production, along with the others.” “What makes you think this disaster won’t repeat itself?” “I ’ave always brought in a fine harvest, m’lord, except for last year. I tell ye, it was a fluke, it won’t happen two years in a row, it can’t. We will ’ave a normal weather pattern, I just know it!” Lord Cooke furrowed his brow, considering, “I’m not so sure…” Liam was prepared for this hesitancy. “I ’ave put some of me own money aside every year and I will lay all me savings down, that’s how sure I be of a bumper crop.” His passion impressed Lord Cooke. A man of modest means and yet he has so much certainty of a bumper crop next year he will risk all his accumulated savings? That’s remarkable! He has been proficient and productive up till now and he’s a lifelong farmer. He must know what he’s talking about. Well, let’s see how serious he is. “Done!” Lord Cooke said, “But only if you are certain and willing to proceed. If so, use your money first when planting season comes. Add the extra rested field and plant all the others once again. When you exhaust your savings, tell me what more you need and I’ll see you have it, and I will spare no expense. But you better be right! If wrong, I warn you that you will rue this day. Tell me now if you harbor any doubts! Do we scrap it or do we agree to replant?” Liam extended his hand with a big grin on his face. “I’m so sure I would bet me life on it. Replant!” “Okay, that settles it then. By the way, you might help me with something else. I’m told there is a young lad gaining a big reputation for painting people and landscapes who lives somewhere near here. They showed me a sample of his work. Do you know of him?” Liam smiled, “Aye, m’lord, he’s me nephew, Teague McGuinness.” “Your nephew? Would you put me in touch with him, I might interest him in painting Lady Cooke, if his parents will permit it.” **** Teague wondered at the horse and surrey in front of their house. He reached for the bridle. “What a handsome boy are ye,” he said as he rubbed its forehead. “Is your master inside?” Entering, he saw, seated across from his da, an impeccably dressed gentleman holding an ornate walking cane topped with a carved lion’s head. The man gazed at him as he approached, a smile on his face. “Teague,” his da said, “this is Lord Reginald Cooke, Earl of Farnsworth Manor in county Tipperary. He is here to meet ye.” “Wants to meet me? Why?” Before Bryan could respond, Lord Cooke interjected, “Why, because laddie you have achieved notoriety as a gifted artist. You’ve been painting for some time now, I am told, and give away your art. My handmaid said you painted her daughter, a pretty little girl. She showed your painting to Lady Cooke and m’lady admired how well you captured the child’s likeness. I hope you will do some paintings for me on my estate. But, I won’t accept your work as a gift; I will pay you well as befits a genuine artist.” Teague looked at his da, “Can I?” “Aye, if you want to,” Bryan said, “but Lord Cooke just told me he has several paintings in mind, starting first with Lady Cooke sitting sidesaddle on her white stallion. Then he has some scenic views he wants you to paint to display in his grande mansion and suggests you stay at the Manor through September. That’s a big decision, Teague, since you have stayed nowhere else, so you should think about it.” “Oh, I don’t have to think more about it, da. I want to paint the lady and her stallion!”
**** ~ Farnsworth Manor ~ August 15, 1844
Teague’s time at Farnsworth Manor would not disappoint. Unaccustomed to ostentatious surroundings, he marveled at the lavish attributes of the Manor and the number of servants required to maintain the premises and serve the Lord and Lady. It was a constant, busy environment, indoors and out. The Manor included a splendid hall where banquets occurred and with paintings of his lordship’s male predecessors on display. Lord Cooke took Teague to the hall first thing so he could see for himself the size and format of the painting he would require. Central to the ancestral portraits, a large, prominent portrait of Lord Cooke hung on the wall. It reserved a smaller blank space next to his for Lady Cooke’s portrait. Where Lord Cooke’s painting was consistent with that of his forebears, a bust from the waist up, Lady Cooke’s portrait, though smaller, would show her sitting sidesaddle on her horse in the shade of an oak tree. Teague determined to present her, leaning forward with a bonny smile on her face. Her features, refined and winsome, were a tall order for the young Teague, or any accomplished artist to effectuate. Lord Cooke scrutinized Teague’s serious expression as he considered the array of portraits on the wall and the reserved space for Lady Cooke’s canvas. “What do you think, Lad? Can you meet my requirements for this project?” “Aye, I’m certain I can, but first I need to sketch a drawing of lady Cooke on her horse at the chosen site. My sketch will eliminate the need for her ladyship to pose on her horse more than once. Then I need ye to furnish a canvas in the exact dimension ye desire for the finished painting. I’ll do the rest.” “How long will all this take?” “First, I need the supplies I shall mention, and we have to ask Lady Cooke when she can pose with her horse. After that, I can give ye a better estimate of when I might be finished. Are ye concerned about a certain timeline to complete the artwork?” Lord Cooke laughed. “M’lady wanted it done yesterday! But, no, we want your best quality portrayal of her, so don’t feel rushed. Okay?” “Aye.”
**** Six Weeks Later
Lord and Lady Cooke stood hand in hand at the great hall facing the covered painting, awaiting the unveiling. Teague stood by the covered frame, one hand on the drape. “Ready?” “More than ready.” Teague swept the covering away with a flourish. Lady Cooke sucked in her breath, “Oh my, that’s… that is… marvelous!” She turned toward her husband. “Don’t you think so, my love?” “Aye, It’s so genuine. Teague has revealed your flawless creamy complexion, your sparkling blue eyes, and that naughty little curl at the corner of your lips. It is as if you could step out of the painting and fall into my arms.” “Silly, I’m right here!” she said, embracing him with a passionate kiss as Teague watched, beaming. Lord Cooke winked at Teague. “I had a hunch you could paint this well. Outstanding, laddie! Rest on your laurels. I have other less daunting work for you to start on in a couple of days. We’ll keep you busy, that’s for sure, and spring will fly!”
**** June 1846 ~ Harvest Time ~
The winter of 1845-46 was not as wet as before, but temperatures were cold, causing grave hardship. The potato blight was even more severe than the previous year, a consummate disaster. It devastated Liam; he lost everything he invested, and Lord Cooke was furious and vengeful of mood. He decided to let his land lay fallow for a season or two and perhaps try a different crop next time. One thing is certain, I won’t use the Irishman again. I should never have listened to him. The blighter tricked me into a financial loss from which I may not recover. Lord Cooke paid a surprise visit to the potato farm. “I trusted you, but you put me in grave financial straights. I warned you of serious consequences if this calamity reoccurred!” “But…” “No buts! I have hired a new tenant farmer. You have two weeks to vacate the premises!” “Oh m’lord, I…” “It’s decided… two weeks!” **** Liam had no choice. He moved his family to Waterford, the nearest population center where an able bodied bloke might find work. He asked Aideen not to trouble Enya and Bryan; they had already helped enough. Besides, he was ashamed he didn’t heed Enya’s warning from the faerie kingdom in the first place. The faeries said mankind was besieged, hardly a forecast for a prodigious crop the second year. It would have been wiser to rest the land for a season as Lord Cooke initially proposed. Their savings would be preserved, and he would have remained employed. On the day of the move, Duffy told cousin Teague the family was leaving. In Waterford Liam, a solidly built man, capable from years of heavy toil, found occasional employment. Living circumstances were deplorable. Many Irish people starved or became ill from myriad hardships.
**** August 1846
The calamity of the potato blight continued widespread throughout the Emerald Isle. The consequences of the blight were most severe for the poor tenant farmers. Many tenant farmers like Liam were evicted from their land management. Abandoned by an inept government and blamed by mean spirited power brokers as somehow deserving of God’s wrath, the poor Irish Catholic peasant was ignored or vilified as they suffered, starved and died. Enya, worried about Aideen, Liam, Duffy and Devin, asked Teague if he would journey to Waterford to look in on them. “I will tell ye where they live, Aideen sent directions. Ye should be able to return in one day, although they may want ye to stay overnight. Would that be okay?” “Aye, I want to visit as long as possible, it’s been ages since I last saw them. Spending time as I did at Lord Cooke’s estate, I did not know of Liam and Aideen’s troubles. Nor did I realize the hardships people encounter everywhere because of the crop failure. Waterford, I hear, is hellish, though I really don't fathom what is happening there.” “Nor do I,” Enya said, “perhaps ye can find out for both of us.” “Aye, I will try to learn all that I can.” **** Teague returned two days later with anguish on his face. “It is much worse than I presumed. Liam is working but makes a modicum of money. It’s a ghastly struggle. I suggested they stay with us until things get better, but Liam has too much pride to come here.” Teague shook his head and slumped his shoulders in exasperation. “He is obsessed with carrying forward, regardless. What could I do, mum?“ “That’s all ye could do, Teague. What is your impression of the city?” “Down by the waterfront people are begging for food. Begging! It was a distressing sight. Ships are being loaded with corn right in front of their eyes! But do ye think Queen Victoria or the Prime Minister will ration corn to the needy? Not a kernel! English soldiers are everywhere to ‘keep the peace’. Crowds mill about in a surly mood. They are distributing handbills calling for a rising!” “Handbills?” “Aye, here’s one, ’tis a poem by a woman who calls herself Speranza. Listen to her soul-cry;”
Weary men, what reap ye? Golden corn for the stranger. What sow ye? Human corpses that wait for the avenger. Fainting forms, hunger stricken, what see you in the offing Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger’s scoffing. There’s a proud array of soldiers what do they round your door? They guard our master’s granaries from the thin hands of the poor. Pale mothers, wherefore weeping? Would to God that we were dead Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.
Teague teared up and said, “’tis true, mum, the protestant government denies corn to the Irish peasant and ships it to other nations instead. I observed it with me own eyes! It is an abhorrent treatment of our Irish Catholic population, and me heart cries;”
Oh the peril Oh the suffering Oh the loss Oh the grief Mother Mary weeps for her children. **** Winter 1847 ~ Waterford Ireland ~
The shack the family had to live in at Waterford was threadbare and wanting, but kept clean by Aideen. Their water supply was another matter, sparse in quantity and contaminated. Cholera attained a foothold one day in the Callaghan home when Devin, who had been drinking, started suffering watery diarrhea and vomiting. They did not know that the water was laced with feces, the source of cholera sickness. “Liam, fetch Enya. Hurry!” When Liam arrived at the McGuinness home, Enya felt an overpowering need to communicate with the Faerie Kingdom. “Something tells me I have to seek the faerie realm before we go. Wait here, Liam, I won’t be long.” In the trance-like state, Enya saw a shimmering personage who faded in and out, and gasped out loud, “D-Devin? Is that you?” Brigid appeared before her. “Your sister’s Devin has passed, Enya, and he wants you to tell his family not to be sad for he is in the company of faeries, and suffers no longer. The faeries are escorting him to heaven’s shore.”
**** ~ Spring 1848 ~
Looking for work, Liam moved with his family to the northern coast of Ireland, to a larger town in County Londonderry. It was there, at Port Londonderry, that he realized a way out of his quandary. Yes, of course, this is the answer! I‘ave to talk with Bryan at once! At his knock, Teague took him straight to his da and then listened to their conversation with rapt attention. “I ‘ave to go to America,” Liam said. “That’s all there is to it.” “America?” “Aye, ’tis the only way, I’m still fit. I can work as hard as the next man. It’s a long journey, but they say a man can make real money, enough to send for Aideen and the boys.” “Where did you get this idea?” Bryan asked, skeptical. “I ‘ave learned that many people are going there. My friend Shane is there now. It’s for sure a good thing, I tell ye. But I need help with passage. I wouldn’t ask but, ye know, ‘tis for me family.” Worried, a cloud passed over Liam’s face. “Otherwise, I tell ye true, I don’t know what will become of us.” He then hastened to add, “I’ll pay ye back, man. I promise.” Bryan nodded, reflecting, certain of where Enya would stand on this question. “Of course we’ll help. Never mind paying us back; you would do this for us if circumstances were reversed, of that I’m certain. Do what ye must do. Bring your family here, they can live with us until you send for them, that’s all the thanks we require.”
3 ~ The Luck of the Leprechaun ~
Throughout his youth Teague heard scores of villagers speak of faeries. Some locals whispered they glimpsed the little people on the banks of the River Suir that rises in the Devils Bit Mountains and flows through limestone country to form a natural barrier between Waterford on one bank and the village of South Tipperary on the other. Some people swore they could find the faeries where the river reached the Celtic Sea at Dunmore East, near the headlands of Hook and Crook, at the base of Maghera Falls. The faeries, they insisted, flitted about on the other side of the waterfall, or peeked out behind ancient, moss covered gatherings of stone. Like his mother, Teague only found faeries in his dreams, where he often saw them dancing in a field of shamrocks. Intrigued one night during a dream, Teague picked a single shamrock from a vast field of green. His dream images were so vivid that when he awakened he looked to see if he still held the shamrock in the open palm of his hand. Such dreams did not disturb him; he was certain if he ever really saw a faerie face to face, he would embrace the moment. The wee faerie are astounding. They won’t harm me, he thought. Inspired, Teague vowed he would ceaselessly try his best to be as happy, carefree and as helpful as the faeries in his mum’s stories. Eighteen years of age and fully grown, Teague was five feet tall with a spring in his walk and an enduring curiosity for everything he beheld in the natural world around him. He hiked along the River Suir and the River Blackwater, exploring their valleys and streams. He made repeated journeys to the magnificent cliffs of the South shore of Ireland and, on other days, hiked inland to the Comeragh Mountain range and the Knockmealdown Mountains. After these adventures he would return to his father’s workshop, elated with the rich tapestry of the landscape his da had painted, and plunged headlong into creating more of his own paintings and ceramic art. The curator of a prestigious art gallery in the village known as O’Flynn’s Art Studio, upon hearing of Teague’s fine art, offered to display his work. The business of the studio was to help local artists sell their creations so that both the studio and the artist earned money from every piece sold. Frugal Teague enjoyed living a modest lifestyle, so accumulating wealth was not the reason he painted. Nothing pleased him more than to bring his beloved Ireland to life on canvas and pottery. Indeed, if people honored the work he composed, then Teague was the happiest man on earth. Happiness, though, was not invariably easy to find in Ireland. Irish people who lived in the country or on farms, as well as those in cities, suffered enormously from poverty and want. The consequences of the potato blight endured. Teague grappled with how he, a paltry artist, could help those still enduring immeasurable hardships. One evening, while warming himself in his father’s workshop, Teague fell into a fitful sleep and awakened in a lush field of shamrocks. Stunned, he sat up, astounded by the unexpected enchantment before his eyes. A gnarled old scrub tree, near the edge of the meadow, stood in sharp contrast to the thick green field. Two massive branches had split apart and there, wearing a shamrock green top hat and long pants, sat a leprechaun with a silly grin on his face, his legs crossed, and a long pipe in his nimble hands. He puffed and blew circles of smoke that floated gently in the air. “Well, laddie, It’s about time ye came to see me. Glory be, ye look like your da!” the little creature said. “Ye knew me da?” “Aye, he came as a young man such as ye, but pining like a lovesick beau that he has no one to share his dreams. I told him of a bonnie lass, a poet, who lived in County Cork near the northern coast. That lassie is your mother. Have ye come seeking a fair maid to settle the longings of your heart?” “No, something else...though ‘tis my heart that troubles me. The Irish people are suffering hardship, curs on the street fare better than they. There is a plethora of illness and death, people dying alone in a hovel, malnourished, in agony and despair. The poor are exposed to the elements without shelter. Many turn on each other in their struggle to survive, fighting, stealing, and subject to arrest for crimes they would never countenance if only their humanity was respected. The powerful turn a blind eye to their plight. Babes with distended stomachs suckle a dry tit.” The leprechaun sat silent for a moment, regarding the words of his visitor. “Goodness, I have a scholar. I have never been addressed in such a manner. Ye use gilded words such as plethora in your speech. Why do you talk so?” “Momentous problems compel expressive words that fathom the terrible crimes against humanity, words that elucidate the neglect of the powerful and the prejudice of the mighty. We must hear the voice of the downtrodden peasant, the renting is cataclysmic.” The leprechaun asked, amused, “What is it ye want, lad… from me?” “Are ye a wizard? Can ye lift this bitter misery from the backs of the Irish people?” The leprechaun frowned, shaking his head. “I cannot. I lack the power to prevent death, cure illness and starvation, make right the social wrong, save babies from suffering, cause crops to grow, or forge the economy to serve the needs of everyone on the Emerald Isle. What I can do, though, is give you a lucky idea that will let you work your own magic to help the Irish people during their time of trouble.” “What lucky idea would that be?” Teague asked, intrigued by this odd notion. “Ye command a talented future, laddie, and can paint the soul of Ireland in a way that lifts the hearts of all people. Give your best work to charity, and I promise ye, the charity will have the luck of selling each of your art pieces at top price to wealthy customers. The money those charities receive from your gift can then help the most needy. So, in order for the luck of the Irish to bear fruit, ye should donate twenty-five percent of your body of work and ceramics to charity as a lifelong practice.” Twenty-five percent, Teague thought, heaven’s no, I will donate fifty percent. Teague did as the leprechaun proposed and established his good luck. The wealth of the several charities he supported increased tenfold. Indeed, countless numbers of Irish were able to have enough food, clothing, shelter, and healing to better their quality of life. Teague’s fame as a talented artist and benefactor spread as the charities promoted his artwork. In southern Ireland, in County Waterford, Teague painted landscapes of the estates of the nobility on commission. He would often include men hunting, or ladies riding fine horses in his pictures, and they paid him handsomely. He decided this was acceptable because it would help more of the poor, and the wealthy landowners always felt they got their money’s worth in return. Teague also gained popular notoriety through his lovely depictions of the faerie kingdom, complete with faeries, leprechauns, and the other magical creatures he saw in his dreams. Teague showed his work at O’Flynn’s Art Studio in Waterford village, and some artwork he created would one day be on exhibit with the Royal Dublin Society of Artists. Regardless of his fame, Teague persisted in living simply and honorably, never letting good fortune go to his head. Aye, ‘tis the luck of the leprechaun, don’t you know…
4 ~ The Interim Years ~ 1848-1900
The deleterious effects of the potato famine, and the insipid response from those in power who could have relieved it, fomented bitter reactive consequences. Efforts to secure relief from the monarchy through the House of Commons were ineffectual, whether by incompetence or ethnic and institutional racism. Desperate people emigrated to the United States. Teague’s father, a landowner, served in the House of Commons, a persistent voice for the Irish and a thorn in the side of Lord Cooke, a member of the House of Lords. Lord Cooke and Bryan met to address the crisis. Lord Cooke asserted the crown was empathetic to the Irish problem. The Queen, he pointed out, had spent E2000 from her personal money for Irish relief. “That so?” Bryan said. “I heard that the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire offered ten times that much, and was told to cut his offer back to E1000 so as to not embarrass the Queen.” “Where did you get that information?” “No matter; is it true?” “Regardless,” Lord Cooke responded, not answering the question, “the government is removing corn tariffs and that should help.” “That’s fine,” Bryan said, “if it puts corn in the bellies of the starving people. I am told the government is shipping corn out of Ireland right past our starving populace. Why can’t the British government devise food relief centers throughout Ireland to feed the masses?” “I would suppose the House of Commons could get behind that kind of remedy. Take it up with them.” “You are not interested in taking the lead in the House of Lords for a programme like that?” “I am not sure there would be much support among the Lords for establishing such a programme. But, if you would like to do it, the Queen might consider underwriting the cost. Of course, I cannot commit her.” Despite Bryan McGuinness’ advocacy, it accomplished little on the political scene to quell the anguish befalling the Irish people. Frustrated, the suffering spawned a series of Risings. In July 1848, a nationalist uprising led by the Young Ireland movement occurred. It was short-lived, unsuccessful, but a harbinger of other risings to come. The Fenian Rising of 1867 seized strategic buildings in Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic. The rising failed due to lack of arms and planning.
In 1881-85 a protracted dynamite campaign by the Fenian brotherhood plagued the nation. In 1884, Bryan McGuinness received an urgent tip that the Brotherhood had planted a bomb on the grounds of the House of Commons, set to explode at the busiest time when officials were expected, and that time was now! He rushed to the House of Commons grounds and shouted; “Bomb! Clear the area! Hurry!” The crowd dispersed as Bryan scoured the grounds and found the bomb in a nondescript paper bag. It held a clock and a red wire led to the explosive. Only seconds remained, 12,11,10. I must defuse it! 9,8,7,6 if I pull the red wire it might stop. He grasped the wire, 5,4,3,2 and yanked! The bomb exploded. Enya, her heart shattered, passed away within days of his death. Bryan was hailed as a hero. He had saved many lives that day knowing the risk he was taking. The House of Commons paid tribute to him. The Queen and the prime minister praised his selfless act. Teague’s world crumbled. Overcome with grief, he isolated himself. Concerned, Duffy went to see him. Teague felt the joy of living and the beauteous, scenic and faerie tapestries he painted no longer held validity. “What do I do now, Duffy? I am 40 years old. My parents are gone, and I feel so empty. They encouraged me and saw my work as a light in the darkness, a beacon to the better elements of human existence, an appreciation for the spiritual aspect of knowing. But the dark side has killed them. My father tried to turn the tide and look what happened! How can I carry on? What should I do now?” Duffy put his arms around his shoulders. “Your artistry is even more needed today than ever. And it can further your parents’ efforts toward helping our people overcome this terrible tribulation.” “How? Tell me.” “Many world nations are ignorant of the plight of the Irish people; the deaths, disease, poverty and cruelty foisted upon them by an inept government. You can shine that self-same light on the suffering, show the depth of despair and hopelessness wrought therefrom, and awaken the consciousness of nations that can influence the crown to change their behavior.” “You think so?” “Aye, America has woken up as you know. You helped Liam emigrate there. Liam can be your contact to broaden America’s knowledge and understanding of the Irish to empower greater help and political pressure. Other countries as well can discover enlightenment through your work. Don’t you see?” “I hadn’t thought of it that way, Duffy,” Teague said, smiling, excited. “I’ll start at once.” Teague’s first painting arrived in America for Liam to reveal. Liam was now a leader in an Irish organization that helped the Irish emigre orient and adjust to American culture and lifestyle. Liam is aware of sympathetic media that might have an interest in Teague’s work. The foremost magazine in the country was The World Express. When Liam presented his painting they chose it for the cover entitled ‘Briton’s Irish Tragedy’. The painting featured a thin, raggedly dressed woman, her anguished face streaming tears of wretchedness and pain. On her lap lay her emaciated baby with pencil-thin arms and lifeless eyes. The uproar spread like wildfire and kindled outrage and a compassionate outpouring of empathy for the Irish people. Published criticism of the insensitiveness of the English government called for policy reform and relief on a large scale. Teague continued his depictions, paintings of Irish in line boarding ships bound for America, dilapidated living spaces, and riveting images of people in distress. The seed germinated, but it would take more than Teague’s lifetime for change to show incontrovertible progress. It is estimated that one million Irish perished during the potato famine and two million emigrated to other nations.
5 ~The Twilight Years~ 1900-1915
The years passed fleeter then Teague expected until, before he knew it, he entered his seventh decade. The elder Teague had changed little; he had often been forgetful, more because of a tendency to lose himself in thoughts about his work than for any other reason. Still, because of his age and inattentive habits, people now and then thought him muddleheaded. Also, when odds and ends went missing, Teague would scurry about like a cross-eyed squirrel in search of a lost chestnut. He welcomed help from concerned strangers. These days, affable people would get down on their hands and knees, searching for something he lost, check every nook and cranny, shake their heads, and murmur under their breath... “Oh, Mister McGuinness!” One component that changed as Teague aged was his concentration. He found it tougher to focus on tasks at hand. On a lovely spring day he and his cousin Duffy went on a road trip to the hinterlands to visit Duffy’s younger sister, Clara. Teague hitched his noble donkey, Poky, to his wagon, threw blankets in the back, and Duffy climbed in to sit next to him. Holding the reins, Teague made a clicking noise and Poky moved down the lane. Clara didn’t live too far, but the donkey, true to his name, was poky. As they travelled, Duffy grew bored and sleepy and nearly fell off the wagon seat. He recovered with a jolt, noticed the soft blankets spread out in the back of the wagon and laid upon them. The familiar gentle bumping and swaying of the wagon soon lulled him to sleep. Teague paid little attention to all this drama as it unfolded. Not that he was rude. He just forgot about his passenger while lost in the beauty of the Irish scenery. Poky ambled along. In an hour, they came to a fork in the road. Go right, and they would come to Clara’s house. Go left, and the road looped backward. Now, if a donkey could talk and Teague asked which way to go, Poky might say, “Why, let’s go home, of course,” because that’s what he did. Duffy awoke just as, to his surprise, they were right back where they started! Cousin Duffy wasn’t angry or upset; he sort of thought something like this might happen. Duffy shrugged, let out an enormous sigh, smiled, and muttered, “Oh cousin McGuinness, ye did it again.”
6 ~ Fergus Fitzgerald ~
Teague’s problems were rather mild and manageable until an unexpected event upset the applecart: O’Flynn’s Art Studio was to be sold to a new owner, a businessperson from Dublin by the name of Fergus “Fitz” Fitzgerald. Teague had never met Mr. Fitzgerald, or even heard of him, but Fergus was notorious in Northern Ireland for his business acquisitions. He was an imposing man, taller than most, with an ever present air of superiority about him. His eyes, dark and brooding, drew you close, then surprised with the shock of a nose mindful of an ungainly swollen pickle. Fergus’ wacky looking protuberance had been the brunt of mean-spirited teasing as he grew up. Children giggled and taunted, “Here comes pickle-nose!” The once considerate little boy took umbrage and grew into a scrappy, insensitive lout, well suited to making tough, no holds barred, business decisions as an adult. To comprehend the intricacies of how teasing could be so damaging to Fergus, we must know what misfortune befell his parents and how life played a dirty trick on the young lad. When teased, Fergie desperately wanted to turn to his pa and ask what to do, like any other child. Sadly, his father, a fisher, had perished at sea in a terrible storm. Upon his death, widow Fitzgerald took any job she could find to survive. One evening, after he had been so wretchedly teased, his mum failed to recognize the depth of his despondency. “I’m sorry, Fergie, mum’s too tired to talk right now. I have to rest. Tell me what’s bothering you in the morning; I promise we’ll talk then.” She overslept. Anxious and realizing she was late to work, she forgot her promise and dashed off. Left alone, the lad was beside himself. What do I do now? Then it occurred to him, What would me da tell me to do if he were here? Mum said he was a hardy and tough sailor who never stood for nonsense. He’d say to hold my ground, I just know it, and never mind what the bullies think or do. **** Fergus spotted the three boys who tantalized him. They haven’t seen me, I can still avoid them. Butch, the ringleader, was a stocky kid with a round face, bulbous pear-shaped eyes, and an obnoxious swagger. He suddenly looked up as if someone had shouted his name and saw Fergus. He sniggered toward the others. They laughed and walked over. Fergus braced himself and set his stance wide apart as the boys came within reach. Butch gave him the once-over and scoffed. “Get outta here nincompoop and take that ugly nose of yours with you.” The other boys looked at each other and chortled. “Yeah, get out a here!” Fergus stood his ground. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. Butch lunged to shove him but, anticipating the move, Fergus twisted, grabbed his wrist, and pulled him off balance. The bully stumbled and, before he could recover, Fergus swept him off his feet. Butch landed hard on his back, “Oomph!” His lungs felt the severe shock of the blow and his eyes flared as he strained to catch air. I can’t breathe! Fergus straddled him, shaking his clinched fist.“You don’t like my nose, do you? Shut your trap or I’ll rearrange yours and we’ll see who has the ugliest snout! Fergus turned on the others. They stared, open-mouthed. “Come closer guys. I'll give you a knuckle sandwich for free!” “Nope!” one boy said, backing away. The others turned aside and helped Butch struggle to his feet. Fitz lunged toward them shouting, angrily, “Get outta here!” They ran off. It worked! It actually worked! The teasing ended, at least from them. Fergus decided that being tough, confident, and aggressive is a good way to handle such matters, and it became his mantra for life. **** As grueling as his mother labored cleaning houses every day, barely eating or sleeping, it wasn’t a surprise to Fitz that she became gravely ill. Lacking support and unable to care for herself, she had no other choice but to appeal to a priest for help. Fearing death, she arranged for her son to be placed in a Catholic run orphanage and industrial school. In that sad and hard time, many children without parents or family to support them would go to orphanages to live. Conflict and fighting were common among these unfortunate children. When Fergus fought, he became more confident in his fighting skill than ever. Caregivers intervened by diverting his attention to constructive pursuits, and soon discovered his quickness of mind and prowess with numbers. They placed him in the industrial school to encourage a business acumen. This helped reduce the fighting incidents, and he studied more. A prominent entrepreneur, Connor McGonigal, took an interest in the young Fitz and volunteered an apprenticeship. Connor owned a business called McGonigal Enterprises. His company succeeded at taking over failing businesses and selling them at a profit. He needed an aggressive young person of like mind to help him expand his business and noticed Fergus had an edge to him. The young man’s no-nonsense, determined attitude was just what Connor had been looking for to groom as a business partner. So it was that Fergus joined the firm and proved to be such an asset that, upon Conner’s retirement, Fergus independently bought the company from his own proceeds and renamed it Fitzgerald Enterprises. The latest broken business the now mature and established Fitz found to fix was O’Flynn’s Art Studio, on the southern coast of Ireland. Desperate in the face of failing sales and ever-increasing debt, O’Flynn’s Art Studio was happy to close a deal. Hearing about the pending acquisition by Fitzgerald Enterprises, Jack McKenna, a fellow artist and friend, cautioned Teague that the firm had a fearful reputation. “They know nothing about art, all they care about is making money. They’re up to no good. You better watch out!” Teague, older but not wiser in business matters, disregarded his friend’s warning. Instead, Teague merrily shrugged and continued his habit of being good old Teague McGuinness.
~ O’Flynn’s Art Studio ~
Two chairs faced each other in a small, vacant room just inside the main entry to the art studio. Fergus Fitzgerald sat down, stretched his long legs, and waited impatiently for his next interviewee to come through the door. He had completed two interviews this morning with the only employees at O’Flynn’s: the manager, Seamus Donegan, and the art studio housekeeper, Maggie Murphy. They’re reasonably competent, Fitz smugly judged. I’ll keep them employed so long as they carry out my instructions. When interviewing Seamus and Maggie, Fergus told them he would not talk only with employees, he would interview artists as well because “their work is our product and product is profit. I only want artists who produce quality work!” By conscientious discipline Mr. Fitzgerald was thorough and examined every artist’s work file. He noticed something unusual. “One artist has not brought in a work of art for over a year,” he told Seamus, “and we can’t make money that way. This is exactly the sort of riffraff I intend to get rid of!” “Who are ye speakin’ about?” Seamus asked, uncomfortable with the “riffraff” remark. Fergus shuffled through his notes. “I’m speaking of the artist Teague McGuinness.” “Teague? Riffraff? Ye would get rid of him? Ye must not let him go, man, he’s the best artist we ‘ave!” Seamus insisted, “Have ye seen the quality of his work?” “What work!” Fergus said. “Production is what I’m interested in, production and the bottom line!” Later, when Fergus interviewed the housekeeper, Maggie, she mentioned proudly the display room she always kept in perfect order to present the artist’s work to prospective customers. The artists who most appreciated her efforts, she said, were McKenna, O’Brien, and McGuinness. At mention of McGuinness, Fergus reacted sarcastically, “Oh yes, Seamus and I talked about him. He’s produced no new artwork for over a year. We’re running a business. I’ll not put up with deadbeats!” “Deadbeats...?” Maggie uttered, stunned. “He must be too old to do this work anymore,” Fergus said. “Why else would he stop bringing us new art to sell?” Maggie sat as still as a bunny rabbit staring at a snake. A small pearl teardrop formed at the corner of her eye. “Oh Mr. Fitzgerald,” she finally said, “there has to be some explanation other than age. Just last week I saw Teague out and about.” “He may get around, but can he do the artwork? I don’t think so,” Fergus said, unconvinced. “He has an appointment; he should be here within the hour.”
~ The Challenge ~
It was sunny outside when Teague and Poky stopped in front of the Studio. Teague tied Poky to the hitching post and hobbled through the front door, leaning on a walking stick. The light inside was dim, and Teague mistakenly turned toward a side room and found himself amongst file cabinets and boxes. “McGuinness! Over here!” someone shouted behind him. Then, too quiet for Teague to hear, the speaker growled, “Addlepated old fool.” He made his way to the lanky man seated in the other room and extended his hand. “I’m Teague McGuinness,” he said with respect. “I know who you are,” the solemn gentleman said coldly, ignoring his hand, “I’m Mr. Fitzgerald. Take a seat.” Fergus cleared his throat and leaned forward. “I have an important reason to ask you to meet with me today, and I’ll come right to the point. This may be news to you, but for some time now O’Flynn’s Art Studio has been underperforming.” “Underperforming?” “By that I mean the studio is not selling enough art to succeed as a business, and this is unacceptable.” “Goodness, I didn’t know that,” Teague replied, genuinely concerned. “I’ve asked you here, McGuinness, because as the new owner of this company I mean to make changes about how we do things. This enterprise is in trouble and I’m convinced laggards are responsible. I’ll fix that soon enough, you can be sure of that!” Laggards? What in the world is he talking about? Teague wondered. “I’m meeting with every artist who has their artwork placed here for sale. Starting with you, I’m informing all artists straight out what I expect, so listen closely! If you want to do business with me, you will do it my way. Is that understood?” Have I done something wrong? Teague wondered, unsettled. He’s so angry! “What can I do for you, Mr. Fitzgerald? You seem upset.” “Damn right, I’m upset! I’ll tell you what you can do, you can produce more work, if you are capable of it. The record shows you’ve not brought us any new artwork for months.” “Well, that’s only because I give...” “Stop right there!” Fergus interrupted. “All I hear are excuses in this business and I’ve had my fill of it! I’ll make it easy for you. Here are my terms: If you want to sell through our studio, bring me a new piece of artwork in the next three weeks. I want something unique, better than you’ve ever made before. If you’re not able or willing to do that, McGuinness,” Fergus seethed, “you can clear out your unsold artwork right now and I’ll find a new artisan to take your place.” Teague took a deep breath. Anyone other than him would take offense at Fitzgerald’s belligerence, stand up and walk straight out the door and never come back. But that was not how Teague operated. “You have a heavy burden, Mr. Fitzgerald.” Teague smiled as he rose from his chair to leave, “I’ll do whatever I can to help you out.” “You will?” surprised that the old man accepted his terms. “Certainly, I never let a friend down.” Fergus watched the old man depart with his cane and hobble back outside. He was speechless; no one he ever challenged in such a manner called him “friend.” They might call him “jerk” or “jackass,” but never “friend.” Aye, what a strange little man is this Teague McGuinness, Fergus thought.
7 ~ Maghera Falls~
On the way back home, Teague sat in the wagon seat bumping along on the country lane and thought: If only Mr. Fitzgerald had let me explain, he would have learned that I create several new pieces of art every year. I sell it to the gentry and use the money to help the poor. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about that now. What can I craft that will satisfy him and make such an unhappy man happy? As he came to a lush meadow, he turned down a broad, meandering path alongside a rushing stream. The path dropped and looped around. He smiled when he heard the thundering cascade of Maghera Falls just beyond the bend. As the falls came into view, Teague reined Poky to a stop, gripped his walking stick, and stepped down from the wagon seat. He made his way toward a catch basin at the foot of frothy, tumbling waters. The fresh sweet scent of moist air filled his nostrils as he watched water appear above as if from a hidden, endless source, spill over greenish stones on the cliff face, and drop free to a golden pool at his feet. In the shade, kissed by streaks of sunbeams breaking through, puffs of mist curled around an open gap in the moss-covered stones behind the tumbling waterfall. He could not be sure at first, but something appeared to move behind the mist. Then he saw her, a diminutive little creature who flitted about, afloat in the air before him. It must be a dream. He pinched himself. Ouch! I’m awake after all, and face to face with a faerie. She’s calling to me, but how is it that I can hear her tiny voice over the loud cascade of water? Oh yeah, I get it! She's inside my mind! As he concentrated, the thundering noise of falling water faded to a soft murmur in the background, and he heard her every word. “Faith and begorrah!” the faerie exclaimed. “What problems ye have, Laddie! Don’t worry yourself, I will help.” “Ye...ye be aware of my troubles with Mr. Fergus Fitzgerald?” Teague said, astonished. “He is angry with me, but how can ye know that?” “Aye, laddie, ‘tis our business to know such things. When faeries are in trouble, we are always there to help.” “When faeries...?” Teague blubbered, confused, “I’m not a faerie!” “No,” the faerie giggled, “but close enough I dare say! So, listen here, Fergus Fitzgerald has asked you to create a new piece of uncommon art. Isn’t that true, laddie?” “Aye, ’tis true.” “Very well then, ye shall create a decanter the like of which no human has seen before, and I shall guide you. When you finish, place it at the art studio and leave the rest to those of us in the faerie kingdom.”
8 ~ The Faerie Princess ~
Teague, as any child could tell you by now, has a tender heart overflowing with poetry. While he crafted the beautiful decanter he gushed forth in a poem:
Upon this gilded vase, a Faerie Princess shall dwell, Prim and bold as a wee tinkling bell, Binding all creatures under her spell, With enchanting story, eternal to tell.
Beguiled and bewitched, old Teague McGuinness painted upon the decanter, a secret and mysterious garden adorned with many precious flowers. The emerald blue-green pond water was so magical you could see whatever your heart desired just by gazing into its depths. Bumblebees lit upon blossoms and gathered sweet honey nectar from every flower. The fragrant smell of roses filled the air. Butterflies flitted here and there, rising and falling on the soft summer breeze. In the pond, near a lily pad, the snout and bug-eyed visage of a humongous bullfrog emerged. If you held the decanter just so, you would swear you heard the frog’s croak: “Ribbit!” From the pond, a path invited the person cradling the decanter to turn it slightly. There, in regal splendor, stood the tiny faerie princess. Her fine wings fell to her sides like a soft cocoon, fragile yet able to lift her in an instant. Other faeries had laced the lovely trim of her blouse with golden thread, and her white skirt reached to her dainty ruby red slippers. Her golden hair matched her golden sash and, ‘tis true, her tiara crown looked like the same glass tiara stopper on the decanter! The faerie’s delicate face, drawn by Teague with the finest brush, revealed an endearing expression that displayed a calm and knowing wisdom, a hint impish, and bright little eyes that twinkled.
9 ~ The Display Case ~
Fergus remained determined to rid himself of the muddle minded old Teague McGuinness. Business is business, after all! Still, he had placed a challenge before the old man to create something exceptional and, since McGuinness left word he had completed his new artwork, Fergus had no choice but to look it over. Seamus and Maggie insisted Teague was a superb artist, but Fergus shook his head in disbelief. Those two lame-brains are bamboozled, he thought. McGuinness doesn’t fool me! Fitzgerald unlocked the door to the art studio and stepped inside. “That’s odd,” he said. “This isn’t a flower shop, so why do I smell roses?” The odor drew him toward a table near a window. Passing by a decorated mirror on the wall, he saw his own face, but turned quickly aside. He couldn’t bear to look at the image of his broad, pickle shaped nose. That’s when he noticed Teague’s artwork on the table. He scanned the pieces and sneered. Nothing special here, that ends it, McGuinness is through. He turned to leave when a tinkling bell, oh so melodious, sounded from an ornate decanter sitting smack dab in the middle of the table. What’s this, a musical vase? Now that, Fergus thought, astonished… that is different! He lifted the urn and, despite himself, broke into a broad smile when he saw the gawking bullfrog. Following the path with his eyes, he rotated it slightly while he began to remove the lovely glass stopper. His gaze fell upon the faerie princess. She winked! “What in Heaven’s name!” he exclaimed, nearly dropping the vessel. “Yippee!” the Faerie Princess shouted as she sprang off the decanter. “Kerpop!” went the stopper. Faerie powder spouted from the nozzle and swirled about Fitzgerald’s head. “Oh, my!” Fergus smacked, running his tongue over his powdered lips, “That tastes just like me mum’s amber apple pie fresh from her fireplace oven!” If we were to ask children about faerie powder, they would tell us its secret ingredient is love. So, is it any wonder that Fergus Fitzgerald, overcome with love, giggled? Then, lo-and-behold, the faerie princess began giggling as well. She spread her wings and in the wink of an eye flew right to Fergus Fitzgerald’s face and tickled his pickle nose with her magic wand. “Wha..what are you doing?” Fergus said, reaching for his head. “What are you doing to my nose?” He ran straight to the mirror on the wall. A perplexed look spread over his countenance as he studied the image. “It’s shaped the same,” he said to himself, “but somehow it’s different. It’s… it is... distinctive. Why haven’t I noticed this before?” A broad grin formed and excitement rose within. Of course, the faerie! “It has a certain flair,” he declared. “Me nose is noble!” Fergus couldn’t contain himself any longer. He let out a robust whoop and felt his legs twitch in a vaguely familiar pattern. What’s happening? I haven’t danced an Irish jig since I was six years old, but look at me now! He pumped his arms and kicked his heels and somehow managed not to break one vase or knock over one table as he swirled about the crowded room. As he pranced, tears of joy streamed down his cheeks. “My nose! My nose! I love my nose!” Truth is, anyone who saw his schnozzle thought it looked splendiferous on his mature, adult face, especially since he now flashed a blissful smile wherever he went. Well, what do you know, angry Fergus Fitzgerald became as sugary sweet as apple pie and, ’tis true, everyone young and old loves Irish apple pie! Fergus became the kindest business owner ever, concerned about the well-being of his employees, and never again thought of getting rid of good old Teague McGuinness. Not only that, Fergus stopped giving orders and discovered he enjoyed helping Seamus and Maggie at the art studio more than anything else in the world. He shared candy and pastries with the children, who came to visit. There was but one problem, he couldn’t stop eating the goodies himself, and before long he was roly-poly. The children talked it over and asked the faeries to give Fergus a new name. From that day forward, he was called Grandpa Sweet Apple Pie.
10 ~The Faerie Kingdom~
Guess who turned in her tiara for a Queen’s crown and became Queen Lilly of the Enchanted Pond? The faerie princess! She now rules over the entire Faerie Kingdom, isn’t that precious? Queen Lilly and her faeries are vigilant to help humans in times of need, so remain alert! Good people who do bad things on accident may feel a tender pat on their shoulder and hear a faint song of faerie poetry in their ears:
When Faeries sprinkle magic powder, Faerie songs resound louder Children, young and old, bestow Kindness setting souls aglow. Mindful of the needs of others, With love for brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers. Queen Lilly and faeries of the enchanted pond Hear all pleas and pledge this bond: Lads and lassies ‘tis true, One thing for sure you always knew: The Kingdom nurtures humans day and night, Grateful spirits soar with faerie light! 10 ~The Induction Ceremony~ St. Patrick’s Day 1915
Teague’s masterpiece was almost complete, his brush strokes still certain and unwavering, despite his physical weakness and labored breathing. Alone in his father’s workshop, everything he loved surrounded good old Teague McGuinness … and he was at peace. His life as a human being was ebbing but it troubled him not. A new adventure was about to begin. Three months ago, the Leprechaun came to him in a dream with a message from the faerie kingdom. It charged him with a bodacious task as time is of the essence. “Ye must paint a scene of the faerie kingdom under guidance of Queen Lilly of the Enchanted Pond,” the Leprechaun said. “She will instruct ye in your dreams. Will ye do as she requests?” “Aye!” Teague responded. “I would be honored!” The canvas, painted since the Leprechaun’s visit, needed one more image for completion, a likeness of Teague. The panorama, replete with the colors of the rainbow, seemed mythical. But Teague, a true master of the art, held nothing back. He revealed a depiction the queen’s court assembled for an induction ceremony. With the delicate touch of his exquisite brush, the figure kneeling before the Queen was finalized, and the features of Teague McGuinness came into view. The quality of the painted image on canvas was so intricate that Teague grew excited. “What would it be like if I could really be there at the Queen’s court?” Suddenly, he felt a strange flutter of his ancient heart, like the flapping wings of a hummingbird. He swooned, and laid his cheek on the painting. Duffy found his body. Teague’s countenance bore an intriguing expression. His eyes were closed as if fast asleep, a contented smile on his lips. **** Startled, Teague found himself before Queen Lilly and her entourage of faerie officialdom and guests! And there was... there was the Leprechaun who tipped his hat in greeting and floated a smoke ring above a broad waggish grin! Teague’s face lit with joy as he realized he had been transformed. And, amazingly, he felt strong and youthful, the years melted away. “Welcome to the faerie kingdom, Teague,” Queen Lilly said, casting a sweet smile, “I gathered us together to confer a grande honor upon you. Of humankind, you are most favored by the faeries. Kneel.” Teague kneeled. Queen Lilly approached, extended her wand, and dabbed him first on one shoulder and then the other. “I dub thee Sir McGuinness, Queen’s Counselor and Prime Minister of the Queen’s Court. From this day forward you shall consult the throne as special representative for all humans who believe in faeries. Arise, Sir McGuinness.” In that instant, with the Queen’s declaration ringing in his ears, Teague McGuinness became a faerie, empowered by special dispensation to appear in the dreams of humans … as faeries are apt to do. A humble artist and poet, he became an emissary for the Crown and a voice for the Irish people, and for children of all ages throughout the world who love faerie tales. And so humans and faeries, kissed by the spell of faerie powder, touched by Queen Lilly’s wand, or visited by Teague in a dream, shall be spirit-bound to live gleefully, oh so merrily ….
Story recorded by Phineas Quill-Wielder, Esquire, Chief Faerie Scribe Extraordinaire, Faerie Kingdom XXXXIV, Auspicious Reign of Queen Lilly of the Enchanted Pond. All Rights Reserved to the Crown.