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The Ancient Story of Lir

The Ancient Story

A retelling of the ancient Irish myth of King Lir, his four children and his powerful wife Aoife, that forms the basis of the ballet classic Swan Lake.

Many years ago in ancient Ireland, lived a King and ruler of the sea called Lir. He had a beautiful wife, called Eva, who gave him four children – eldest son Aodh, a daughter called Fionnula, and twin boys, Fiachra and Conn. When the children were young, their mother Eva died. Lir and his children were very sad, and the King wanted a new mother for his young sons and daughter, so he married Eva’s sister Aoife who, it was said, possessed magical powers.

Aoife loved the children and Lir at first, but soon she became very jealous of the time that King spent with Aodh, Fionnula, Fiachra, and Conn. She wanted to have all of his attention for herself. One day, she took the children to swim in a lake while the sun was hot in the sky. When they got there and the children were swimming in the water, Aoife used her powers to cast a spell over the children, which turned them all into beautiful swans.

She knew that if she killed the children, their ghosts would haunt her forever, so instead, she cast this spell, forcing them to live as swans for 900 years - three hundred on Lake Derravaragh, three hundred on Straits of Moyle, and three hundred more on Isle of Inish Glora. The spell would only be broken when children heard the ringing of a bell, and the arrival of St. Patrick in Ireland.

But Aoife’s spell had not taken away the children’s voices, and so it was that these four beautiful swans would sing beautiful songs and were able to tell their father what had happened to them. Lir, who had been searching for his children, came down to the lake and saw Fionnuala, now a swan, who told him of the spell cast on them by Aoife. Enraged, he banished Aoife into the mist, and she was never seen again.

Although saddened by his children’s fate, Lir remained a good father and spent his days faithfully by the lake listening to their singing. Their three hundred years on Lake Derravaragh were filled with joy, but at end of this first part of the spell, the children had to say goodbye to their father forever. They travelled to the Straits of Moyle, where they spent three hundred years enduring fierce storms and spent much time separated from each other. But they survived these three hundred years, and eventually travelled, together again, to fulfill the final stage of their spell, on a small saltwater lake on Isle of Inish Glora.

The King by now had passed, and his once glorious castle - nothing but ruins remained. One day, they heard the distant ringing of a bell – one of the first Christian bells in all of Ireland – and the swans followed the sound, knowing that the end of their spell was near. They followed the sound of the bells to the house of a holy man called Caomhog, who cared for them during the last years of their fate.

One day though, disaster struck again, when a man appeared at the house dressed in armour, saying he was the King of Connacht, and he had come for the legendary and mystical swans with beautiful singing voices. He threatened to tear down and ruin Caomhog’s house if the swans did not come with him, but just as he was laying his hands on them, the bell tolled again, and the mist of the lake came and enveloped the swans, turning them back into the children they were nine hundred years before.

The frightened King of Connacht fled immediately, and the children in their human form started to age rapidly. Caomhog knew that they would die soon, so he quickly christened them before their human bodies passed away, so that their legend and their names could live on forever, for these were said to be the Children of Lir.

The Present Story of Lir

The Present Story

'The nut is coming, the nut is coming' ... from the time I taught my younger sister how to say 'nurse' instead of 'nut' and my fascination with my father's side of the family, I knew I would teach ... someday ... somehow. 

Roll on 1988 when I was made redundant from my job and decided to set up Lir Secretarial Service (until I got a 'real' job) ... that's ironic in its own way..  Why call it 'Lir'?  Well, 10 years earlier I was a Leader in the early stages of the 1st Westmeath (Mullingar) Scout Group, mainly Cubs and later Venture scouts. We started off in the Tara District, then because the Lir District. A 10 year journey where I attended training sessions in Lough Dan and came across structured programme planning, class plans, skills demonstrations for the first time.Lir Secretarial Services became busy so I had to leave scouting aside.

I was self-taught when it came to computers, fascinated by 'basic' programming language and applications (mainly DOS) and was asked to teach others.  First training session as Lir Training: keyboarding and Word processing using 'Wordstar'.  How fantastic was that, 2 fonts, with the combination of bold, italic and underline ... such choice, I was in heaven! you would completely understand that, if all you had before were various daisy-wheels on your typewriter ... well, that's another story. 

Within two years, with the support of Joe and the arrival of our beautiful daughter, we added Lir Recruitment Services There was great satisfaction in training, upskilling, developing great relationships with businesses, and finding job placements for many of our Learners.

Was I business-minded then, no, honestly I had created a job for myself, not a smart move, but you know, it was so satisfying. I was constantly learning.  

I'm never going to fit my story into this column in full, so if you are interested, go on over to the Lir Blog to catch up on my journey, what I did, and who knows ... Frances (Lir).

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