• Ali Isaac

What’s the point of an eye that doesn’t see?


My left eye

You can call me Goll from now on. No, I didn’t lose an eye in a sword fight, it was much more boring than that. I got an infection in my left eye, which considering that I’ve been wearing contact lenses for the last thirty years, is pretty good going. It means that I have to revert to my glasses for three weeks while I treat the infection, which isn’t great, because I can’t see a thing with them! So when the optician suggested I try wearing just one contact lense, I thought I’d give it a go.

You have to bear in mind that I am quite severely myopic; -10 in my right, -7 in the left with an astigmatism, and that’s my good eye! But hey-ho, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What a disaster! I had no depth perception at all. I thought I was putting the spoon in Carys’s mouth at dinner time, but instead I was actually trying to stick it in her cheek! Poor child. And as for driving…no way, Jose! It would be carnage on the roads! Glasses it is then. Or maybe an eye-patch and a contact lense, but then my family wouldn’t want to be seen out with me. A-har, me shipmates…now that’s got legs!

One thing’s for sure, I’ve since developed a grudging respect for old Goll mac Morna. As the killer of Fionn mac Cumhall’s father, and later betraying Fionn himself, he wasn’t exactly top of my christmas card list anyway. To have led the Fianna as Rífhéinni, and to have successfully fought his way through many battles with only one eye is skill and strength and determination I can only admire.

Goll’s birth name was Áedh, (pronounced Ay) meaning ‘fire’, and in combat he was known by the title Flame of Battle… I can just imagine him whirling about the battleground with his long red hair streaming out behind him like flames! His family, the Clan Morna of Connaught, were always feuding with Fionn’s, the Clan Baiscne.

When Fionn’s father, Cumhall (pronounced Koo-all), who was head of the Fianna, abducted Muirna (pronounced Meer-na), the love of his life, High King Cormac mac Airt was not at all pleased and sent Áedh after him. Clan Morna attacked Clan Baiscne at the Battle of Cnucha (Castleknock, Dublin). Despite recieving the grievious wound which robbed him of his eye, he still managed to kill Cumhall and take his place as the leader of the Fianna, known as the Fian-King, or Rífhéinni. He was known thereafter as  Goll, meaning ‘one-eyed’, not quite so distinguished a title as the first one!

Fionn grew up in hiding to keep him safe from the Clan Morna, but when he came of age, he presented himself to Cormac and promised to kill the Fire-Fairy Aillen mac Midhna in return for his birth-right as Fian-King. Cormac agreed, not expecting him to succeed. When he did, Cormac had no choice but to appoint Fionn leader of the Fianna, and Goll reluctantly stepped down.

As time passed, Goll came to respect Fionn, although their relationship was an uneasy one. This did not please the Morna Clan, who still harboured a grudge against the Baiscne. There are many tales of the Fianna in which Goll features. Interestingly, his fate seems to have been inextricably tied with Fionn’s; after rescuing Fionn from danger, Fionn rewards him with his daughter, Cainche, in marriage, although Goll was already married to Scandlach.

Eventually, though, the two men fell out when Goll killed Fionn’s son, Cairell, as the result of an argument which got out of hand. Fearing Fionn’s wrath, Goll hid in a cave with the Baiscne laying siege at its entrance. He refused to come out, and there he died twelve days later from the combined effects of hunger and thirst. Not exactly a hero’s death for poor old Goll!

Swearing revenge for the death of their kinsman, the Morna Clan defected and joined the new High King, Cairpre, who disliked Fionn and the power he had amassed at the head of the Fianna. Battle was joined at Gabhra, which saw the demise of the Fianna and the mysterious disappearance of Fionn mac Cumhall.

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