The Swans of Lickeen Lough

Lickeen Lough is a 250-acre freshwater lake in The Burren Co. Clare. Approximately 3km from both
Ennistymon and Kilfenora. Stocked with Brown Trout and home to the endangered European Eel.
During the drought of 2018, previously unseen rock showed that the lake was formed 300 million
years ago.
I interviewed residents Fionnula and Fiachra Swann about their day to day lives.
I had arranged to meet the Swanns at 12 noon. They were far from the shore when I arrived. They
made their way towards me arriving effortlessly in moments.
Fionnula is the talker, Fiachra like his name suggests is more of a …. mute swan.
Fionnula: ‘We’ve been here 10 years now. Not much has changed. There is great space and peace.
Safe enough for the little ones. The heron took a chick in the early days. He mostly keeps to himself
though. Very odd. Alone all day. He has great discipline. Eats and exercises. Really keeps to his
routine. The Shovelers live over there. (She gestures with her head; her neck is truly magnificent. I
cannot stop looking) They are grand. Very noisy in the mornings! We like the middle of the lake.
Don’t we Fi?’
Fiachra nods gently and continues to dip his beak into the crystal-clear water.
‘Plenty of stonewort and lots of insects.’ She continues. ‘There is enough food to go around and
plenty of space for everybody. We all co-exist comfortably. We don’t mix, as such. Birds of a feather,
stick together……’
I asked what impact the Pandemic has had on them?
Fionnula: ‘ It’s mostly better to be honest. Less humans around. They think they own the place.
There is less litter. Less plastic!!I hate when I’m asleep, head under my wing, and a bottle bobs up
against me. Frightens the life out of me. I always think its one of those eels. Though I haven’t seen
one in years. A woman who brings lovely soda bread every day when the sun is over Ballagh Woods
still comes but at different times. It plays havoc with our routine. She always talks to us, tells us
about her day. She is kind, gentle and lonely. She brought banana bread recently. Yuk! There is a
family with two awful children.
Fiachra lifts his head
‘The Children of Leer’ he says smiling at his own joke.
Fionnula: ‘They are horrible. They bring mouldy bread and aim for our heads. Dopes. We never go
near them. Leave it for the ducks.
I can see she is upset by this. I ask her why.
Fionnula: ‘Ah look, it’s all part of it I suppose but it’s like they think they have more of a right to be
here than us. We are all in this together. Why can’t they keep their distance and just respect our
boundaries. Last year when a gang came to look at the rocks, they were respectful. It was a tough
item for us. Worst drought we’ve ever seen. We were all affected. They took a lot of photos. I hate
when I pop my head up out of the water and there’s a long-distance lens pointing at me and the
water dripping down my down. Rude!!! Still no point in getting my feathers ruffled.’
We sit silently for a while, just watching and listening. It is a heavenly place.
Bernie O Gorman. May 2020
A little more small talk, I thank them for their time, and they glide back across the water, leaving me
to my own thoughts and the realisation that this is probably the most beautiful place in my world.
Bernie O Gorman. May 2020