Away With The Fairies

Reilly went away off with the Fairies on Friday afternoon. 

To ‘Cnoc na Sí,’ between Belclare and Caherlistrane, in North Galway, to be precise.

Reilly hadn’t always believed in Fairies. 

As a kid he can remember his uncle Stiofáin pointing out this very hill to him saying.

‘Reilly, that  there is ‘Cnoc na Sí’ – the Fairy Hill. Legend has it that it’s the resting place of Queen Meabh of Connacht and Césair, one of the first Goddesses of Ireland. She was a granddaughter to Noah. 

‘It’s also where Finnbheara, the King of the Connacht Fairies, still holds his court of Daoine Sidhe. There’s powerful magic in that hill.

Even at the age of seven Reilly wasn’t buying it. 

‘Come on out of that Uncle Stiofáin and stop pulling my leg. Sure even seven year olds know there’s no such thing as Fairies.’

Reilly never gave a Fairy a second thought until the Summer of ‘75.

All the talk in Bundoran that Summer was of Horslips. 

Reilly succeeded in blagging his way into the Astoria Ballroom and regretted it almost immediately. He was way out of his comfort zone. Apart from never having been to a dance before he was clearly the youngest and smallest person in the gaff. 

He slunk off up to the balcony to make himself as inconspicuous as possible and at least see what all the furore was about Horslips. 

He’ll never forget that opening instrumental number. 

The hair stood up on the back of his neck. It was almost ethereal and other worldly. He was so transfixed by the experience that he never noticed her sidling up beside him.

‘I can tell it’s your first time,’ says the pretty girl with the soft Donegal accent.

‘It is not,’ says Reilly fibbing defensively. ‘I’ve been to loads of dances in Galway where I come from.

‘Maybe so, but it’s your first time hearing ‘King of the Fairies.’ You have that haunted look in your eyes.’

‘Who’s king of the fairies when he’s at home? asks Reilly innocently.

‘King of the Fairies’ is the number Horslips have just played. My Grand-Daddy says no human could ever have composed that music. He says it came directly from the Fairies and has been passed down over the generations. It’s magic. Just look at the effect it’s having on everyone.’

‘And,’ she says. ‘If you listen very carefully you just might hear a Fairy asking you to dance!

Reilly has been believing in fairies ever since.

So it came to pass that after three score and some years Reilly set out to climb ‘Cnoc na Sí, or ‘Knockma,’ on Friday for the first time. 

He was accompanied by three Smácht legends – Noel Kelly, Declan Droney and Mic Fitzgerald – all uber achievers, super successful entrepreneurs and inexorably, ultra competitive.

They set off at a sprint pace and Reilly was grateful for the small cottage at the end of the first boirín.

‘Listen for the music lads,’ as he beckons the lads to take a pause.

‘What are you talking about Reilly? Are you out of breath already? Or are you expecting to hear fairies singing?

‘No lads. But the next time you hear Dolores Keane sing ‘Galway Bay,’ or Sean Keane sing ‘The Man From Connemara,’ or indeed any of the ‘Citizen Keane’ family sing, remember that they learned their music in this little cottage at the foot of Knockma from their Mother, and Aunties, Rita and Sarah. There’s music in this hill if you listen carefully.’

That succeeded in slowing the pace and the chatter a tad for a period. But not for long. As the gradient steepened the lads reverted to competitive mode again and started pitting their speed against each other.

The talk intensified too. It was of acquisitions and mergers and scaling and AI and other business matters. Reilly couldn’t get a word in edgeways.

They scaled the 167 metres in well under half an hour where Reilly brought them off piste and up to the Cairn where Queen Meabh is allegedly at rest.

Astride the Cairn the frenetic pace of earlier gave away to a silence, a peace, a sense of being present in another dimension. 

A warm soft breeze drifted across and up to them from Lough Corrib and Galway Bay.

Noel, who’s a technology geek, hooked Reilly up to a set of the coolest AirPods Reilly had ever seen and recorded him on his mobile phone on the impact of Knockma.

The descent was like a different journey. They took time to listen and feel and sense. They listened to the wind. They absorbed the energy from Mother Earth through their feet. They stopped chattering.

They paused again at Castle Hackett at the foot of Knockma. Built by the Kirwan family, one of the Tribes of Galway, in the 17th century, tales of the fairy folk have surrounded the castle ever since. 

Reilly regaled them with the story of Lord Kirwan who, while on his morning ride, met King Finnbheara himself riding on a horse made of fire. Luck was said to have followed the Kirwan family after this meeting, as the family prospered and their horses never lost their races. 

Reilly felt it was a positive note to end their walk on.

Afterwards, over a glorious pint in Peigi’s Bar in Claregalway, they were reviewing their learnings and insights from the hike. These hard-nosed and somewhat sceptical business-people were clearly of the opinion that there was something mystical and magical about Knockma. They stopped short of conceding however that they believed in Fairies.

Noel insisted before they left that they listen to the recording of himself and Reilly on the summit of Knockma.

Here’s the strangest thing. There were neither voices nor words on the recording. All that could be heard was the soothing sound of a gentle wind.

Noel was perplexed arguing that the technology never let him down in the past.

‘It’s called ‘Gaoth na Sí’ (The Fairy Wind), says Reilly. And it’s far older and more powerful than either Google or AI. The Fairies find the human voice odious and overpowering and onerous. They prefer the clear voice of nature.


Take time to move vigorously.
Take time to stop completely and simply be.
Take time to get around upbeat, positive and interesting people.
Take time to stop listening to the odious sound of human voices.
Take time to get away with Fairies.
Take time now to listen to these five pieces of magical music. It’ll take less than 15 minutes and you will hear the Fairies speak to you directly.

King of the Fairies by Horslips. 

Galway Bay by Dolores Keane.

The Man From Connemara by Sean Keane. 

Citizen Keane. The Keane family.

Long Monday by John Prine.

(Noel played Long Monday on their descent. Magical.)

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