When the Milesians conquered Ireland, c 1000 bc, Amergin invokes the powers of the Land here upon first stepping ashore in Ireland. These words came from Amergin’s “imbas” (‘poetic inspiration’) and they marked the start of battle over sovereignty of the Land. With the words of this poem, Amergin claims the elements of Ireland. This gesture displays his Otherworldly wisdom and power over the elements. Here, he is actually “becoming”… all of these elements, or “duile” as they were called by the Druids. He joins himself (his “Fein” and internal “duile”) with the spirit that controls the elements of the Cosmos. This could be looked upon as merely symbolic, but however you wish to see it, it got results. The wind died down and the Gaels claimed sovereignty on Ireland .

02-07-2015 22;12;47


I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?

Letters to Mother and Other Dead Relatives

Review in Munster Express on 16 Aug 2016


now available on Amazon in paperback & ebook

The Waterford-born writer
and playwright, Tom O’Brien,
has a new semi-autobiographical
book out and he uses the literary
device of letters to dead
relatives to retrace growing
up in the cruel poverty of the
fi fties and sixties generation.
Circumstances and a ‘jackthe-
lad’ existence of bravado
and dipping into the collection
basket as an altar boy sets him
on a rocky road to seek work,
good times, fame and a place
in the world.
His previous books and
plays refl ect on a grey, unforgiving
Waterford, where
youthful ‘divilment’ was not
only frowned on but actively
and forcefully hammered out
of him. Yet there is hardly a
trace of bitterness in this book
with the long title – Letter To
My Mother And Other Dead
Relatives. He was a product of
a secretive time where ‘least
said, easiest mended’ and ‘keep
yourselves to yourselves’. He
clearly didn’t have a happy
childhood and you sense the
painful ‘distance’ between him
and his mother and relatives.
The death of an aunt in
London who died intestate
caused O’Brien to seek out
his family history and the revelations
became the subject
matter of these ‘Letters’ and
some of his London produced
The opening sentence in this
book says it all: “Dear Mother,
we never had much to say to
each other when you were
alive”. Within these letters,
there is not only a chronicle
of as possibly misspent youth
from job to job, from digs to
digs, with midnight fl its and
bills unpaid. A lot of drink
is consumed, dodgy deals
attempted, gambling scams
and a wonderful period when
he was in partnership with the
Mean Fiddler owner and childhood
friend, Vince Power.
I am not sure how much
O’Brien has embellished the
aspects of his ‘jack-the-lad’
existence, and his deportation
from England at one stage.
He is an excellent and colourful
writer, as his London successes
will attest to. I suspect
he dresses up the truth to keep
the reader attentive but, in the
process, he reveals a lot of hurt
and possibly regret. He seems
to need not just recognition
and affi rmation in London but
also to be accepted in his home
place. This ‘dislocation’ and
realisation that, in a sense, ‘you
can never go back’ to the past
yet you cannot shake off that
past is evident in these Letters.
Sometimes, writers reveal
more than they might wish or
realise and that is the fascination
of Tom O’Brien’s story. I
suspect that fame in London
does not compensate for a lack
of recognition in his home

Liam Murphy





How long have they sat there,


Granite haunches

Tensed in the sand

Brunting the snarling sea

Washed over again and again

Licking endless salt wounds away.


From these high cliffs I see them clearly

Wild creatures

Waiting patiently for prey

Yesterday it was desolate;

Now there are tigers in the bay










Driverless cars

Headless chickens

Oops! mind that blind…

Oh, what the Dickens!

The lingua franca

In Google we trust,

In God if we must.

Look, no hands!

It’s not a boast

It’s a statement of fact,

I don’t drive, it’s all an act.

The phone on my table

Speaks in eighteen different languages if tasked

And can answer questions

(Sometimes before they are asked).

Now they have sent ten thousand

Helium balloons into the stratosphere

Seeking all the disconnected;

Wi-Fi for all – and soon

They could – in theory – I guess

Set up shop nowadays on the moon

This is their ‘toothbrush’ test;

“Focus on the user and all else follows”

Culture and success go hand in hand;

If you don’t believe your own slogan

You’re already in no-man’s land.




Oh yes

I am fulfilled,

Four children to date

Extra marital sex

At the going rate;

A house of my own

Well, the council’s really

But they also pay the rent

‘Cos all my time and energy is spent

No working – and keeping up the pretence

That being a lazy bastard

Is not all it’s cracked up to be,

‘Cos it is and more

Though it would be much more rewarding

If I had six children

Instead of four.








Why do they cycle in the middle of the road,

Or hog the white line,

Go when the lights are red

And sometimes stop when they are green,

And steer with their knees

While their hands are doing something obscene?

Most don’t wear helmets

For when they land on their heads;

They constantly harass pedestrians

Slithering in and out like pavement Teds.

They don’t have bells

So you need eyes in your poll

And when you tell them get lost

Shout ‘I will in me hole!’

I think they should be banned, tarred and  ‘departed’

And from their wheel-mobiles  seriously parted







My Writing Life

I fuse bits of metal together;
A sculptor of steel.
Inanimate iron
Comes alive in my hands.
Angle-iron,flats,beams and round bars
Are my materials.
I heat them, bend them
Shape them and weld them.
I can make anything with steel;
A strong frame
That will hold a skyscraper
A steel hull
That can ride the waves;
I can even make a boxy flower-pot stand.

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Russian roulette as a cure for depression





‘The first time I pressed the trigger

I knew I was immortal’

‘I wished the feeling could last forever,

My jubilation was total’


‘I’m a five-timer’, he told the newcomer

Extending his gun-finger and closing it slow

Every lost life seemed etched on his forehead

Five down, one more to go


‘Boredom mostly’ and ‘it passes the time’

Were his excuses for such dramatic play.

‘And it turns the girls on too

In some extraordinary way’


‘The best cure for depression I know’

Handing the game to the next in line

Where the muzzle blew a hole between his eye and his ear

Death, too, passes the time



Bonnie Prince Charlie tried and failed

At Culloden his protest stalled

And Cumberland his forces mauled

For him there was no other chance

He ran the gantlet back to France.

Now Scotland has its chance again

You had it once, a nation then.

Independent, free, no tyrant’s yoke

For Scotland freedom’s not a joke

Fight like a fishfag, Union be damned!

Your hills, your lochs, your lives, your land.