The major initiatives on St Brendan, launched November 27th in St Brendan’s Cathedral in Ardfert were described by former Tanaiste Dick Spring as ‘visionary’and ‘hugely challenging’. ‘Kerry is privileged to have Brendan as its patron saint,’ Storied Kerry director, Eamonn O’Reilly said. ‘That is especially true in what we might call Duthaigh Bhreanainn/Brendan Country from Ballyheigue to Baile na nGall. Across the two weeks: May 3 to 19, straddling Brendan’s May 16th feast day – communities will have events to encourage all to get to know more about Brendan. Most of these are existing events.’
These Brendan initiatives are spearheaded by Storied Kerry/Ciarrai Scealach, whose chairman Frank Lewis said ‘the great Kerry story is St Brendan.’ The Brendan Project needs three independent permanent pillars. The first of these is to tell Brendan’s extraordinary story to today’s world. The second is to build a Brendan archive and to further study this. And thirdly.. what is Brendan’s message for today, what is his challenge to our world.
Dick Spring gave some highlights from the great Brendan legend “ with his fellow monks Brendan visits the island of Birds (the Faroes?). A bare island starts to sink when they light a fire. An island with mountains spewing out great rocks of fire must be volcanic activity on Iceland. Floating crystal cathedrals sounds like icebergs off Greenland.’
‘The most sophisticated modern technology should be used to tell this great sea saga of medieval Europe. What better place to tell the stories of Brendan than in St Brendan’s Cathedral in Ardfert. The building has been superbly conserved/restored by the Office of Public Works. ‘Elements of the legend and lives of Brendan are to be found in every medieval monastery in Europe. There is need to assemble a comprehensive Brendan archive that will include scholarly material and artistic creativity drawn from all over the world.
‘There will be need for on-going collection, scholarship and further publication on the Brendan phenomenon. All of this is work that needs to be undertaken by a third level institution or equivalent. The ambition is that this would be based on Duthaigh Bhreanainn/Brendan Country between Ballyheigue and Baile na nGall.
‘In this fifth and sixth century period there were monastic communities in most remote and harsh places, particularly on islands and sea rocks off the west coast of Ireland. This was part of the belief in a physical prayer, a belief that all of life, everything that was done with the right motive was a prayer.
‘Does the heritage of Brendan have a message for today’s world? Does it present us with a challenge? Brendan’s whole life was a prayer to God. Communities like the Benedictines and the Cistercians are a living link with the fifth and sixth centuries. Might they pass on the message and present the challenge from Brendan and his world?’
Included in the events in Getting to Know Brendan around St Brendan’s feast day Eamonn O’Reilly mentioned ‘Siamsa Tire the National Folk Theatre telling something of Brendan’s story in their own special way. Kerry Museum and Kerry Library exhibitions showing the need for a Brendan archive/scholarship/ publication. As well Brendan’s challenge for today. ‘From May 11 to 19 a group of 13 will walk the route from Ballyheigue to Baile na nGall. It is hoped this will include one person from each of the communities in Duthaigh Bhreanainn. Mikey O’Donnell says the great Kerry Camino Walk over May 3, 4 and 5 will again have hundreds walking from Tralee to Dingle.
‘Storied Kerry/Ciarrai Scealach is based on a belief that actively discovering more of the story of our own place enriches our lives and the lives of our communities.’ Frank Lewis said ‘Bonding us more closely to the place where we live makes us more contented and fulfilled. It settles and integrates new people. It preserves and enhances the real identity of our place. It is the most basic infrastructure, basic to all development – social, cultural and economic.
‘The ways to stimulate each of us to actively discovering more of the story of our own place are endlessly varied. There are examples all over Kerry. Storied Kerry did it through the North Kerry Story Trail and the Storied Killarney exhibition running at present. Developing a story house as the hub of a storied community seems fundamental. A place that is a hub and hive of activity on the local legend, landscape, flora, fauna, archaeology, history, folklore and the contemporary story. A story room – in branch libraries, interpretative centres, gardens, places of employment, hotels.’