Shannon Journey

I’m from the Cuilcagh Mountains, a wild and beautiful place – or really, I’m from the skies where I was a droplet in clouds. It was wonderful, looking down on the world and seeing so much so clearly – and with my fellow droplets, we floated and sometimes scudded across the sky.
The day came when we dropped down to earth and that’s when I found the Cuilcagh Mountains. With my friends, we trickled down the mountainside in little rivulets and then came to a wonderful place. It’s called the Shannon Pot but that doesn’t tell you how magical it is, with drooping trees and whispering breezes.
And then we had a new identity as the Shannon River, off on our long journey right through the countryside, from bogs to farmland, town to country and eventually the great big sea.
We heard that the Shannon Pot overflowed and drowned Sionnan, the granddaughter of Lir, when she ate the salmon of knowledge. Maybe mythical – but isn’t it a musical name for the river?
We shouldn’t boast, but we’re the longest river in both Ireland and Britain. We meander through eleven counties, have three great lakes and lots of towns. Over history, we have nurtured fish to feed people, formed a travel route through the country, transported lots of goods and people, gave drinking water to so many, including the great monastery at Clonmacnoise near present day Athlone; formed the infamous boundary of Connacht where Cromwell sent people when clearing the eastern part of the country – yes, we have our moments, not all glorious.
Back in the time of St. Ciaran, Clonmacnoise was a kind of central hub in the country with the Esker Riada crossing east to west and the Shannon flowing from north to south. This helped Clonmacnoise become an important monastery and seat of learning. Can’t you just picture the holy men and women of old, praying to the music of the river’s flow? Ah, the monasteries! They were part of the glory days until the Vikings came and plundered them. Our wide estuary was like an invitation to sail up and see what they could find, but that’s another of our less good times.
But people have discovered that if they work with us, great things can happen. There’s all the conservation along the Shannon Callows where we now flood every summer, nurturing biodiversity, but unfortunately this caused the loss of the corncrake. You see, we can’t control the whole climate but we try to do our best.
We host lots of pleasure boats nowadays, especially on the lakes but also on the canals which were developed many years ago. It was exciting rushing downwards, generating electricity at Ardnacrusha, wheee!
Who knows what our future holds? One plan we hear is to take our water from Lough Derg all the way to Dublin for the growing needs of the city. So some of our fellow droplets could become city bound instead of returning to the sea, like me – oh, no, maybe I’d be one of those heading east? I don’t like that idea because I’m very much part of the river’s story. But we have to wait and see what these silly humans will do next.
With climate change, our water level could change through drought or flooding. We have such an uncertain future, despite our importance… but for now, I’m close to the sea after my long journey. Looking down from above when I’m a droplet again, I will definitely try to land near the Shannon Pot.