“Nothing happens if not first a Dream”
This chapter has been added in response to all those who have visited “The Field of Dreams” and asked me to write about what brought me here, how it all began, where did the vision come from, and what’s the story?
It all started in 1993 when a brief respite from a high profile professional career first brought me to Ireland and the discovery of Knocknashee, the legendary “Hill of The Fairies.”
My first impression was disappointing, “an imposing, barren, solitary mound”, nothing like the faerie place we all imagine, and so perfectly depicted in “Lothlorien”, J.R. Tolkien’s, “Lord of the Rings.” I recall feeling rather sad and lonely, and an overwhelming sense of “being in the world, but not of it”.
I was further disillusioned when I discovered that “Knocknashee” was no longer featured on the maps of Connaught, and apart from a wealth of knowledege and personal experiences held by the immediate indigenous population who lived around the “Hill”, largely the story of Knocknashee was forgotten and gradually becoming unrecognised, taken for granted, and lost in the Mists of Time.
Fascinated, I returned to England armed with history books and filled with an urge to find out and understand more.
Home in England I was thrust back into the whirlpool of business, financial decisions, and more business, including the responsibilty and commitment to be a good mother to a young daughter and son, who were my joy and energy drive to succeed as a woman in what was still predominantly a male dominated business world. Emotional stability, financial security, status, and the best start in life I could provide for my family had become my priority goal. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my work, I did, shaping and moulding other peoples’ lives in order for them to fulfill “their dreams” was rewarding. Choreographing, directing and producing shows and marketing campaigns for international corporate companies satisfied my creative aspirations, being involved in the training and education of the young and those under-privileged, and facilitating employment for them was intensely fulfilling. BUT and a big BUT, it was totally time consuming and left little or no time for the personal “I”.
It was one of those days, the phones ringing non-stop, the staff demanding answers and instructions, the press and media hounding for the latest update on my movements, more and more meetings, interviews, appointments filling an already overloaded calendar, and all I wanted was space to think! In desperation I grabbed one of my Irish books lying on the kitchen table , I hadn’t even had time to put them away, and clutching “The Book of Conquests” by Jim Fitzpatrick I escaped to the bathroom, or more truthfully but less delicately put, the toilet, a small but delightfully appointed guest room for visiting clients.
Locking myself in I found myself laughing at myself, what on earth was a competent, motivated 45-year-old doing hiding in a closet? I smiled as I remembered a dearly loved friend, Michael Bentine, publicly renowned for his role in the 1950’S “The Goons Show” along with Peter Sellers, Sir Harry Secombe and Sligo’s own inimitable, eccentric, Spike Milligan.
Less known about Michael was his eminent career as a scientist, and it was during a vacation at his home I found out that he had “The Complete Encyclopedia Brittanica” ensconced in his toilet, and humourously confided that this was his favourite retreat when under pressure. Whilst I couldn’t boast the same collection, if such a place was good enough for him, it was good enough for me and in its favour it remained the only room in the house where I had flatly refused to have a telephone or intercom installed and stood rigidly against this ludicrous idea, against much pressure to do so. I privately thanked Michael for an ingenious solution for privacy, one I would never have thought of.
I cannot recall how long I stayed in there as time simply flashed by as I became engrossed in the story of the Tuatha Da Danaan, the mythological magical race who had landed in Ireland over 3000 years ago, burnt their ships so there would be no retreat, and fought the great Battles of Moyturra, victorious over the dark forces of the Firbolgs and the Formorians, and ruling Ireland for over 300 years. Visions of Nuadhu, King of the Tuatha Da Danaan hurling the Lia Fail , The Spear of Light into the sky as the war between good and evil enraged, The Daghda striding out against the foe, the Morrigan scavenger of the battle field in the form of a crow, Balor of the Evil Eye, Diancecht, the magical healer who created the silver arm, Breas the Beautiful all took shape before my eyes.
I was totally enthralled, everyone knows something about the great sagas of the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Arthur of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin and Morgan Le Fey, but here was a little known story of an epic fight against good and evil, heroes and heroines, mighty warriors, sorcery and magic , loves and betrayal, ancient relics, and a history immortalised through the oral passing down by the ancient seanachai, and illuminated in the beautiful songs and poems of the ancient bards of Ireland. Why on earth was this not internationally known and up there with the greats?
Over the weeks I cannot recount how many books I bought and read. Every spare moment I could escape for some time alone, often in the early morning hours when everyone was asleep I educated myself on ancient Irish history. It was quite by accident I heard of the new discovery by archaeologist Michael Gibbons, of “The Ancient Celtic Hilltown of Connaught,” sited on the top of Knocknashee, a 900ft high, spectacular limestone table-top plateau once heavily defended by 3 stone ramparts 10ft high and topped with wooden palisades. Further investigation has led historians to recognise that Knocknashee was in fact the Royal Seat of the original Tuatha De before their move toTara as their ceremonial centre for the inauguration of the ancient Kings of Ireland, and their power base for the rule over the whole of Erin, as it was then called.
Time passed so swiftly during this period of my life and my “Big Day” was upon me before I even realised it. This was a day when a group of peers in the theatrical business were coming together to negotiate a merger with my companies and with their added skill, marketing expertise, and financial involvement, would re-launch my career to a new and exciting level of personal advancement and recognition. ” Fame”. It was a bit like todays popular TV series “Dragons Den”,the only difference being that I wasn’t the one selling an idea, the product was already a success and “The Dragons” wanted a part of it.
It’s the moment in time when years of work, risk taking, and entrepreneurial pioneering finally pays off, but the day turned out to be far different from what I had expected. What I recall most were the voices, hours of voices in exchange over plans for my future, the changes that would be made, what I would be expected to create, what it would cost me in return, and even a new name. In naivity and child-like innocence I had thought that all this had come about because people were finally interested in Me, not just what I did, or what I could do for them, but as the hours passed and arrangements set in motion, I can’t remember anyone involving me in the discussions, or asking me what I thought or what I wanted. It was surreal, I was the centre of it all, but feeling more and more like being on the outside looking in, and I found myself drifting away to that private realm of my mind, where I can dream and imagine and the seeds of my creations are first conceived. But it wasn’t glamour, artistes and worldwide stages that flooded my mind or came from the heart. Visions of a solitary Knocknashee “The Hill of the Faeries” appeared before me and became the set and the stage. the peoples of the Tuatha De Danaan going about their daily activities or preparing for battle became the performers, the exquisite jewellry and robes that adorned their bodies, with golden torcs and precious stones became the costumes and haunting, hypnotising sounds of a divine orchestra resonated in my ears and became the inspirational melody of creation.
Knocknashee and I were similar, both had a story to tell, but no-one seemed interested in the telling. I could feel her calling and reaching out to me and in that moment a bond was made between us. We would tell our stories together and reach out to the world to hear. It was only a matter of how, and more importantly, when? The meeting finally came to a close, the merger had been agreed, a practical and material business decision from a commercial point of view. Whislt excited about my career prospects, relieved at the potential of less time in the office and more time creating, I admit to elements of apprehension about the changes that would be necessary to what, up to date, had been a sole voyage with me at the helm and a loyal, dedicated and ambitious crew on board.
“He who hesitates is lost” had never applied to me, often forcing me to take a leap into the void, acting on pure instinct and gut feeling when I could ” see the way forward”, whilst others waste precious time procrastinating over the risk involved and more times than not miss those rare opportunities of a lifetime. The moment disappears while they talk instead of doing. Having the courage, conviction, and determination to forge ahead with speed and efficiency were attributes of my nature that had got us this far and more times than not, on our own. In my new situation this would be compromised, no longer would I have power of free will, nor total independance in decision making, and even personal interests and pursuits would come under scrutiny especially if they conflicted with “THE AGENDA”, or investment in me. In spite of these concerns I threw myself heartily into the new venture but it was not long before my fears materialised into reality.
My life wasn’t my own anymore, and whilst I had been prepared to invest my business and professional self for Fame and Fortune I wasn’t prepared to sell my soul. I already had enough materially and felt some measure of security in this knowledge, and I had far exceeded even my own expectaions as far my career and reputation were concerned but I was in a personal dilemma. Gradually I was coming to realise that I had fallen into making the fatal mistake of measuring my self worth by other peoples perceptions, and obsessive fascination with success and not by following my heart and own dreams. It was time to do work on the “inside” and this could never be achievable if I continued with my life as it was, and so the decision was made.
I will be eternally grateful to those people for the very genuine offer that I was given for my career, and their belief in my abilities, but something else far more important had entered into my life and that was the search to find my true self.
It took two years of inner struggle before I finally found the courage to leave my home, my friends, my lifetimes work and the future I had so diligantly planned. Little did I know then that this would be the beginning of an incredible journey of change, self change, and as I later found out, self re-discovery.
I knew I would receive criticism and sometimes ridicule from many sources, but I thought of my contemporaries, William Shakespeare, W.B Yeats, Lady Gregory, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and more recent believers, C.S Lewis, creator of Narnia, the timeless Derby O’Gill and the Little People, Luke Skywalker of Star Wars and the already mentioned JR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings and their undeniable incorporation of the Celtic Legends into their stories and films. At least I was in good company.
In 1995 I moved to Ireland. I had met some amazing people at Knocknashee, people who changed the course of my life forever. They taught me about their past, their beliefs, and they guided me to their “sacred places” where as children they had been taken by their ancesters, and those generations before them, to seek the fairie folk and the otherworld.
They educated me on their folklore and superstitions, and they told me of the years they had dreamed of creating what I too had envisaged but never been able to do. They believed I had ” a calling” and asked me to tell their story when they’d gone, and I promised them I would create something that from the outside would respectfully and unobtrusively nestle into their beautiful landscape, but once inside the inner beauty would reveal itself and offer joy and hope to all who venture within.
The transformation of “The Field” began in 1998, and the task was awesome, revealing what was hidden, planting the new, conserving the old and waiting for nature to play her hand and allow the spiritual garden to grow, turning a boggy marshy field into a garden of abundance.
I have loved and lost many of those who trusted me and held my hand and guided me through my journey, but their spirits and their souls live on, within The Field of Dreams and will never be forgotten, for like me, they found their peace and made their dreams come true. Their laughter and sense of humour can be seen and heard, testimony to their ability to survive under incredible hardships without forgetting how to play, and dream of a better world. I am content.
Faith has been tested, belief challenged, but my motto:”Think That You Can, and You Will” has made Gillighan’s World “The Field of Dreams” a reality for all the people who wanted it, needed it, and love it. I am fulfilled.
Much has had to be sacrificed but much more has been gained. I am satisfied. Its essence is its authenticity, its innocence, simplicity, and absolute honesty.
I am grateful for the words in Sarah Ban Breathnachs,
SIMPLE ABUNDANCE – A DAYBOOK OF COMFORT AND JOY
June 20th SECRET GARDENS
“Within your heart, keep one secret spot where dreams may go.”
“When you have a Garden, you have a Future, and when you have a Future, you are Alive.”