There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Brian – The Birthright
The firelight from the hearth flickered across the stampeding beasts on the wall of the cave. The clan leader Brynyar lay on the animal pelts and tried to gather his thoughts through the pain. He was old at over forty winters and his bones ached with arthritis.
The gash in his side from the bison during the final hunt of the summer had not healed well, and despite the wound being packed with herbs by the medicine woman, it hurt like hell.
His time was near and he was afraid. Not for what was to come as that was part of the cycle of life. What really worried him was the future of his clan in the changing world around them. Even in his lifetime, he had witnessed the gradual warming of the sun and the melting of ice caps to the north, and this had resulted in massive migrations of the animals they relied on for their food and so much of their daily needs.
The clan would have to move from their ancestral winter caves here in the fertile valley and move with the herds to find a new home. He knew that he would be unable to travel with them, and although he trusted his eldest son of his hearth, he knew what a huge undertaking it would be.
Brynyar rubbed the back of his hand where a birthmark in the form of an arrow darkened its weathered skin. Each one of his sons carried the same blemish and it was right that they do so. They were the fleetest and most successful of the clans, and had a reputation as the finest hunters in the valley. Athletic and fearless they dared to go where others feared to tread, often resulting in injuries and even death. They were also accomplished craftsmen working with flint and bone to produce their much admired weapons. The women were also experts at foraging for the plants, fruits and seeds, needed to sustain them through these long dark winter months.
If they had to follow the herds north, there would be no guarantee that those plants they were familiar with would be available. Nobody knew what the earth so recently released from its icy prison would yield, or if the new rivers would yet be stocked with fish.
The future was uncertain and Brynyar fell into a fitful and painful sleep as the fire in the hearth died down for the last time in his life.
The small clan led by the eldest son of Brynyar’s hearth, packed up their belongings as soon as spring warmed the air in the valley. There were twenty five men, women and children all carrying heavy fur wrapped loads on their backs. With the women in the centre, the men and boys formed a protective perimeter, and as the days warmed they made slow but steady progress. Food was scarce in the beginning, but once they caught up with the herds, they replenished their stocks and set up their summer camp near a river. They were delighted to find that there were indeed fish in the fast flowing icy water from the north, and that the glacier melt had also nourished the surrounding land with its rich silt.
Scouting parties travelled north following the river to find a suitable winter cave, and after two months they came across another clan on the same mission. They combined forces and discovered a series of large caves above the river valley about fifty miles from the summer camp.
With their wind dried meat, rendered fat, constant supply of fresh fish, foraged plants and seeds the two clans settled into their new homes. Over the years more strong and healthy boys with the arrow birthmark were born. As the community grew, from time to time small groups split from the clan and would move on. These bands bearing the mark of the arrow travelled to all parts of the emerging continent; including across stormy seas to Britain and Ireland.
Brian Monaghan looked down at the sleeping child in his arms. His first great-grandchild, and the first to be named Brian in the family for thirty years. He lifted the delicate right hand of the baby and smiled as he saw the familiar arrow birthmark. He and his sons all had this distinctive characteristic. The tales of why they carried this reminder of their ancestry had been passed down through the countless generations by mother to daughter and father to son.
No longer hunters, the clan had dispersed to the four winds and set up homes in villages and cities. However Brian’s ancestors had remained nomadic, travelling through Europe entertaining all that they met with their acrobatic and dangerous performances. With skills honed over many generations, they became the most respected circus family of the present day.
At the end of the summer, the group of families always returned to their winter camp in the southwest of Ireland. Here they would gather their strength, enjoy family life and prepare new and even more daring acts for the next season of performances on the continent.
It was also a time of celebration and new life, and Brian held his great-grandson in both of his hands above his head and turned slowly in the sawdust covered ring.
‘Today we welcome the latest Brian Monaghan to the clan, and this fine strong and sturdy lad will one day take his place amongst you high above the ground.’
The baby’s parents looked on proudly as their son chortled and waved his hands around as if reaching for the trapeze bars in the roof of the tent.
Another generation of the famous Monaghan Circus had made his debut, carrying the mark of his birthright.
©Sally Cronin 2017
One of the reviews for the collection.
What’s in a name? is a collection of short stories, each about a different person with a name starting with a specific letter of the alphabet. This first book of two covers the letters A to J with each letter having two stories, one about a male character and one about a female character. The stories are all different and unique and Sally writes in the most beautiful and fluid manner so that you feel completely absorbed by the specific character and the life situation they are dealing with. I read some of the stories to my sons, Gregory and Michael, but others I read to myself as they were a bit adult in content for Michael, who is only eleven years old.
Two of my favourite stories in this collection are as follows:
1.Grace – A heart warming story about a five year old orphan who has lived in an orphanage all her life. Grace has had a companion and best friend, Hope, ever since she can remember and together they are able to face the rigid and strict life in the orphanage. The girls are not mistreated in any way but they rely on each other for love and support in a situation where they have no families of their own. Grace is heart broken when Hope is adopted and goes away to live with her new family. What will happen to Grace and Hope now?
2.Celia – This is a tale about a woman who has spent the last twenty years of her life in a convent. Her life has been very austere but she has been happy until now. Celia is named after her grandmother’s much loved older sister who had lived in this same convent for sixty years after entering the order at the age of fourteen years old. Her namesake had become the Mother Superior of the convent and had been happy and fulfilled in her chosen life. What about Celia though? She wants to leave the convent and strike out on her own again but after twenty years but can she find the strength do it? Who will she turn too?
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews
I hope you will join me next Sunday for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.