Of Donegal, Yeats and Selkies

Of Donegal, Yeats and Selkies

One of Kyle’s last wishes was to visit Ireland, his ancestral home. Sadly, this pilgrimage was not to be.

In November of 2015, I made a poignant and meaningful journey to Donegal, Ireland, a place Kyle had longed to see. Often called Ireland’s “wild child,” Donegal in late autumn is a measureless landscape of barren mountains, windswept heather past its bloom, and jagged edges stretching toward an unforgiving sea. It’s a land where fairies still thrive, a place where ancient chieftain’s voices still echo from the craggy hillsides, spreading across the terrain a palpable and mystical presence. 

Kyle would have been captivated by the rugged countryside his ancestors knew.

John McGhee—in a wonderful act of kindness—helped fulfill the wish of a dead boy he’d never met by purchasing a slab of Irish granite to place atop Kyle’s eternal resting place. My son will never see his Irish homeland. Now, however, a piece of Ireland has come home to him.

On a silver-cast Donegal morning, we performed a special ceremony: We baptized the granite in the chilly waters of Rosbeg Bay, allowing the salty waves to wash over it, permeate it. Rosbeg was always a special place for Kyle; it was where they filmed one of his favorite childhood movies, “The Secret of Roan Inish.” In the early morning light—the fog hanging heavy over Rosbeg—it was easy to imagine the selkies hiding among the sea-swept rocks, watching us on the shore.

South of Donegal rests County Sligo, childhood stomping grounds of famed author William Butler Yeats. It was there, after an impromptu visit to the poet’s grave, that the granite’s inscription was chosen. It’s the refrain from Yeats’s “The Stolen Child,” a truly magical poem based on old Irish legends. One of the poet’s best, it recounts the faery-whispered phrases used to spirit away a wide-eyed youngster.

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.


Kyle Brennan

Donegal, Ireland

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