River Story

Many years ago a monk named Floinn lived at the foot of Stacks Mountain. There were oak
woods and wolves, ringforts and rivers. Down the mountain came the water. Overhead, eagles
flew and in the undergrowth the blackbird and the wren sang.
Floinn grew old, and blind. A life of prayer gave him patience and acceptance. So he prayed, in
his little cell in the clearing by the river, not for a cure but for peace.
And there the miracle occurred.
She appeared before him as a shining brightness and her voice rose up within his head.
‘Can you hear the water?’ she said.
There was a new gurgling in the soundscape. An underground stream bubbling up to the
‘I can!’ he replied.
‘Go out to the water,’ she instructed him, ‘and wash your eyes in it and you will see again.’
Floinn went out and knelt beside the miraculous stream. He dipped his fingers in and felt the
cold liquid run over his palms. How good it would be to see it – the peat tinted water running
over the moss..
He cupped the water in his hands and lifted them to his face.
But he paused. He had been treated well by the people. They had helped him through bad
winters, and even listened to his preaching sometimes. They had come to him with their
sicknesses in the hope of a cure.
‘I am an old man,’ he said to her, as she stood there in her light. ‘I have seen the sun shine
through the green wood. I have seen the colours of the kingfisher. What use is seeing to me?
Why not give this gift to a child?’
The light grew stronger and he flinched. Had he done wrong? Her voice rippled through his
head again.
‘If you do not take the cure, it will stay in the water forever. Whoever comes here and wets their
eyes will be cured.’
Floinn opened his hands and let the water fall back into the stream.
She spoke for the last time.
‘’This is the Holy Well of Floinn. Generations will know it.’

The light faded. That was the hardest part for Floinn: falling back into the shadows. Her voice
echoed a while longer, which was a comfort, and he knelt by the stream until her voice was the
water flowing. Then he got up and went about his day.. He knew the people would come,
looking for the cure.
I walk to the Holy Well. The oak woods and wolves are gone. The blackbird shrieks and the
wren tick-ticks a warning as I pass. The light is shining through the beech leaves.
I sit before the statue, water trickling from a pipe beneath her feet into a pool, which drains into
the River Rea behind me.
Above Kilflynn bridge the Rea joins the River Shannow. The Shannow flows into the River Brick
and together all the rivers run towards the sea.
Stories are like rivers; one leads to the next, and the next.
I think about the story of Floinn. I think about the stories before his: who were they about and
where have they gone?
In calm pools, fish put their lips to the surface and it ripples. The heron waits.
If I wait here long enough maybe I will hear the river’s very first story.