Tom and the Virgin

There is a thatched house on a hill in Oughill. The man who lives in it can often be seen standing in his doorway looking out over the sea below. On the outside window ledge beside him stands a large painted statue of a pretty young woman in long white robes; a virgin, Tom’s Virgin. They stand together, united somehow, in rain and in sunshine, contemplating the vista spread outside their door. She is his ally; she protects him, he believes.

She even stands out on her ledge at night while Tom is snoring soundly in the tiny bedroom on the other side of the glass pane. If he wakes he can see her dark silhouette modestly imploring the great swirling Universe. To any passer-by she gleams like the white planet, an unwavering radiance.

As a couple Tom and the Virgin are secure in their points of view, a still pool amid the scandals and intrigues that pepper the Island. They make their own steady pin-prick of light. It could be the glow of a planet that burned out many years ago, an illumination that is still travelling even though the source has vanished.

Down the road, a few hundred yards from Tom and the Virgin’s house, there stands an imposing bronze statue of an ancient Celt. He is a warrior type specimen of silent virility. He wears a short leather tunic. Carrying a spear in one hand, he points confidently uphill towards the Iron Age fortifications of Dun Oughill with the other. Surely this is a likeness of Cuchullain himself, the man who passed the Plains of Ill Luck, escaped the beasts of the Poisoned Glen and overcame the Bridge of Leaps . Such a man should not be left standing idle.

One balmy night last summer some local boys decided to play
matchmaker: in the morning light for all to see there lay the Virgin in the Warrior’s arms! They were about to step over the threshold — I wish they did: he the Lord of hunters, representing the natural world, she the Goddess of farmers representing the manipulated world. It was a union that could rival the Garden of Eden.

Alas, it was only a one night stand and the runaway bride returned to Tom who became more possessive now and more wary of Celts and teenage boys. Cuchullain is gone now, hidden away in some dusty shed because of Foot and Mouth disease, and the affair forgotten except by a few.

Still, for awhile they were brilliant together — and when will the world be ready for such a union?

© Nonie O'Neill (Nonie is an artist living on Inishmore island. She specializes in woodcuts)




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