Hill of Tara, County Meath, Republic of Ireland


nr Telford/Iron Bridge

Addicted to geneological research  I went with my husband to Europe for their Summer 2010 forming this poem after visits to  cemeteries where ancestors were buried. 

Hardly enough to live on, 

Nothing left to rot with;

No sword or jewel of infinite

Value – our commoners of

England, Ireland, Scotland, 

Are one of many paupers after

Another; piled in layers

Of dirt, after a shitty life.  

Agricultural Labourers of Worcestershire

Nearby, deliveries came in a black glass

Carriage, emptied and covered, a standing

Stone Mason has inscribed  the name of a

Citizen who lived once beneath the stars,

Under  the influence of a Celtic Cross;

Intricate, masterfully chiselled and

Paid for with a tidy sum before

Meeting their Maker.

Celtic Cross

Ornate marble tablets quarried

From the mountain tops proclaim

A devoted wife, husband, a child

Called to Heaven above the dismal clouds.


Will this class of  ancestor be equal

In eternity with my own dear departed?

Unable to inherit success or rise above

The Gutter;

Salvation came much

Later with the biological sciences.

Within the subsidised grassy spaces

 Layers of my blood and bone

Peasants,  Nailers, Miners of coal

And limestone, brickies labourers,

Even British Imperial soldiers…

Occupy my thoughts.

Hill of Tara, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

Generally illiterate, sometimes called


 Wives were burdened and bloody

Infected by birthing,  dirt and soldiers

Syphillis  and beatings with booze;

Left  behind Wards of State and

Church ‘bastards’,  survived to earn

A crust, however they could.

I have no fantastic psychic impressions

Of past lives as a Klimt-like Austrian

Princess or Harem dancer as a Medium

Once claimed!

My inner Shaman is un-spooked  treading

By Regency damp and mossy tombs in

Gothic Romanticism, searching for

 Surnames in vain.


 Having acquired the generational

Narrative which casts my proletariat


I create a cast of characters to a virtual

fate; in blogs and bricks of words –

This family’s  black sheep grazing around

Their burial plots.

The Pub's still standing

 Irish republicans and suffragettes are

Remembered at Glasnevin

For heroism in the fight for  democratic

Secularity, and though the parades

Long gone, further afield from the

Dead and buried slum dwellers – 

Chief  Daniel O’Connell and the

Executed Independence martyrs still

Attract  sorrow and gratitude graveside.


Free from the mad and mean world, the

Collective of  Celtic kin under the grass

Are strangers, political and spiritually

 Yet I find comfort in thinking their

 Last gasp or TB cough was  



Finally liberated from death-bed agonies,

The verses rote learned in lines of  Holy

Scriptures will sound like poetry, along

The kids playing outside. 

The promise of an after-life free from

Bacterial battling, and oppression

In hovels of working-class containment

Or Asylum, is a blessed sigh of relief ,

Giving up the  ghost in a society 

Of sadness and shame.


Body snatchers sneaked over nameless

Dens, searching for valuable

Corpses; their human remains hidden,

No contribution to medical science.

 My generation’s  Scientists  find markers,

Not by stone and marble to connect us, 

But the trace of  a Double Helix. 

We  join scholars to trace geneology

Before  the days of  St.Patrick and Bede

Self-learners on a sojourner’s stay in  

Ui Niall’s territory  entering

Passage-ways and tombs to the 

 Underworld dug into the Hill of Tara.

Breaking bread beside the erect penis

Of Celtic destiny

Reflecting  on our mothers and fathers,

Whose  DNA travels with us and through

 Into our off-spring, we silently breath

The sacred air;  a brief resting

Spot on the planet.

Procreation of Celtic genes
Hill of Tara, Navan, Ireland

Creative Commons License
The Cost of Living by Julie McNeill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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