Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly in the Bush by Sidney Nolan

In Australia the immigrant Irish outlaw NED KELLY became a folk hero against the British Colonial administration. The standard bog-Irish prejudice transferred to the Colonies with it’s Protestant hierarchy. Sometimes you don’t even realise you are prejudiced until something switches the neuron lights on and one has a revelation.

For Fifty Years my husband had linked his paternal lineage to the Hero ROB ROY MCGREAGOR.

Quite logical for a young lad from Leeds called ROY, with a surname McNEILL…He must be more Scottish than Yorkshire. Our grandson runs around with his superhero cape on, his grandfather Roy, when a Yorkshire lad in the 1950’s collected comics and patiently waited for  the T.V. series.Poster_of_the_movie_Rob_Roy,_the_Highland_Rogue

Roy’s parents would have been encouraged he spent his pocket-money at Leeds markets, investing in the second-hand colour magazines, KNOWLEDGE of 1962 which grows into an encyclopaedia(and he hasn’t thrown them out yet)…

Being  a MOD at 14years, Roy fancied himself as a lover of  THE ENLIGHTENMENT which he learned from the Time-Life Books of 1966. The “Great Ages of Man” accompanied the Collier’s Encyclopaedia’s sold by a door-to-door salesman in his new landscape of Highett in suburban Melbourne.

When I met Roy and became a McNeill one habit I learned to love was listening to the ABCScience show at midday every Saturday(and for the next 32 years!)

With the advent of the DNA science it was a chance to confirm what he had always imagined. When he got the results from a sample of his Y-DNA it was not the Scottish hero ROB ROY MacGREGOR who was his direct ancestor but the Irish War-Lord Niall of the Nine Hostages!

 whats in a name

McNeill emblem

Link to UI NIALL  The legendary Great Grand Daddy of Celtic lore.Spreading the seed story!

If it wasn’t enough to know you received a Y chromosome from the pagan High King Niall who kidnapped St. Patrick as a boy thus triggering the motivation to convert the Irish to Christianity, the story has leaped into my imagination via a Spanish/Portugese migratory path.

“Galicia, northern Spain, ‘the land of a thousand rivers’, is famous for the ‘city of glass’, La Coruna, the treacherous shipwrecked coast Costa de la Muerte (the Coast of Death) and its unmistakably Celtic roots.

Due to centuries of shared fishing traditions and cross-emigration, Galicia has developed a unique culture, but one that is profoundly influenced and inspired by Ireland.

The region boasts a folk music tradition with tin whistles, fiddles and bagpipes, a form of traditional dancing and a similarly rich literary and folkloric history. In return Galicia has provided Ireland with one of its most potent symbols.

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ the Galician King of Spain Milesius sent his three sons, Ir, Heber and Heremon, to invade and conquer Ireland – promising the island to the first of the siblings to touch its soil.

As the legend goes, each of the parties raced towards the shore and one of the sons cut off his own hand with a sword and throwing it onto dry land so that he could lay claim to the country. The soil was Ulster, and the Red Hand has persisted ever since.

Due to the Irish oral tradition of storytelling, there are many variations of this tale. In some accounts the invaders are Vikings, returning Irish mercenaries or Scottish clansmen. One even attributes the symbol to battle-wounds received when two giants brutally fought each other across the mountains and valleys of the North.

Debate around its precise origins must be tempered by the recognition that the tale is likely apocryphal and of little factual historical basis. The Red Hand symbol is older than, and as universal as, civilisation itself, continually recurring in aboriginal art, Native American engravings right back to the cave paintings of Cro-Magnon humans”.

Distant Celtic Grandparental via Y- DNA  – Earls of Tyrone McNeills/Ui Niall v the British Government 17th century.





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

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