"I mo chuid fantasies... ailleacht, saoirse agus athas."
Translated to English...
"In my fantasies... beauty, freedom and joy."
Welcome to Chapter Seven, which opens Season Three. Once again we see the pretty blonde girl, now a teenager, coming of age. She is beautiful, smiling, dancing, twirling and beaming with joy. She is Eilís Abaigeal Kedward. Better known to us all as Elly Kedward.
Is is hard to imagine she is the same person we associate her with. However, there is a reason it is hard to imagine. As we open, it is her fantasy, and her fantasy only.
In her reality...
"I mo realtacht... caos, mearbhall agus misery."
Translated to English...
"In my reality... chaos, confusion and misery."
...a screaming, tormented young girl wandering an unknown world in a swirl of confusion, seeing herself splitting into multiple personalities of fantasy and reality, holding a mirror to see who she really is, of what is fantasy and what is reality.
It is an indication of the doubts and troubles any teenager might experience as they come of age, with expanded knowledge, yet little of the wisdom an adult would acquire.
Unlike the flashbacks we've seen previously, we are now seeing a flashforward. Even the confusion in the forest turns out to be a dream, in that Elly would come to a major turning point in her life, where she is blessed with comfort, a home, warmth and grace.
As she acclimates to her new life, redeemed from horror that she could not control, still she will feel unworthy, if not actually more-so, having led a life of dysfunction, abuse, misery, repeated rape and near death, she struggles with the blessedness of her new life; her life with God, the Savior who has brought her to this place in her life. At first she feels none of her past horrors were in vain, having found God, the One she has prayed to all her life, that if what it took to get to this point was such, then her past was not at all in vain.
But that only feeds her sense of guilt and sense of unworthiness, and her desire, her need, to have forgiveness, to grow in the grace of God.
Following the "Great Frost, the Year of the Slaughter," of which she intentionally committed petty crimes in order to remain incarcerated and "safe" (which was not at all the case), the famine and mass populated death caused authorities to let loose all the patients and inmates on their own accord, to fend for themselves, in that the government could no longer provide for them, despite their crimes.
Elly now found herself once again homeless, she once again found herself wandering the streets, where crime and violence were at an all time high. Soup kitchens were available, and she was able to take advantage of several, but soon even they found themselves scarce in resource. By the next winter she found herself needing protection from the elements. Skibbereen would not be the place to do so. She had been here for years now, either on the streets or in arrest and incarceration, and neither were an option again if she were to survive. She would leave in Autumn, in search of another town to settle and attempt a life. In the process she would eat any vegetation available and at times be able to hunt and kill the likes of squirrels, birds, even foxes to survive, eaten raw in that she had no resource to create fire.
By winter she had not succeeded to find another town, nor village. She had found nothing.
Snow was already falling and climbing in inches when she came upon a structure in the distance. She came upon a chapel, St. John's Chapel in Graiguefrehane, west of Skibbereen. She paused in total disbelief that of all places she would come upon would be the House of the Lord.
Without hesitation she entered the unlocked door; cold, wet and hungry.
She explored throughout the nave, the transept and more. She felt God had taken mercy on her, that He had saved her. She was so desperate, she would do anything to stay inside, even if she had to "folaigh sa vestry" (hide in the vestry).
A priest saw and approached her; "a young, homeless, filthy and tattered vagrant" as she described herself. To him she was nothing of those descriptions, to him she was a "leanbh De, is ga a Athair" (a child of God, in need of her Father).
His name was Father Tierney. He immediately took her in, brought her to warmth, fed her warm food, clothed her and gave her a place to rest and sleep in the Rectory, giving her a room she could call her own.
She was now 14 years old. It would be the first time ever she had slept in a bed, had fresh clothes and proper food in all her years.
Eilis Kedward would remain at the Chapel for the next several years under the care of Father Tierney. In return she would care for the Chapel in cleaning, laundering clothes, preparing food as well as caring for others in need, ironically stray orphans as well that would be fostered now and then. Despite all her experience, she had maternal instincts she would act upon. A child, taking care of children. She was never once asked to conduct any of these duties, she volunteered to do so, each one and each time.
It was under the tutorage of Father Tierney that Eilis would learn to read and to write. Having a native Gealic tongue, she would also learn to speak English. The very first English words she would speak with confidence would be the Lord's Prayer.
During this time she explained in her diary that she "Nior bhraitheann fiu. Fiu amhain ag 16 bliana d'aois, no raibh me cinnte go foill. Timpeall an oiread sin de chompord, an oiread sin ailleacht, an oiread sin dath, an-athas orm, mo shuile, mo chroi, ni raibh an beannacht sin de dhith ar mo anam."
Translated to English...
"I did not feel worthy. Even at age 16, still I did not feel worthy. Surrounded by so much comfort, so much beauty, so much color, so much joy, my eyes, my heart, my soul did not deserve such blessedness."
She claimed, "Bhi mo shaol chomh taitneamhach, ni raibh a fhios agam go leir a bhi tuillte orm. Gach oiche ba mhaith liom seasamh i gcoinne balla bhainse chun pionos a chur orm fein, chun dath a thoirmeasc, chun ailleacht a chosc."
Translated to English...
"My life had been so hollow, all I deserved was barren sight. Every night I would stand facing a blank wall to punish myself, to forbid color, to forbid beauty."
It was at this time she had begun to juggle and balance the distortions of her past from fantasy as the "joyful, pretty blonde girl" to the "confused and tormented ugly girl" as we see in the flashback opening of Chapter Seven.
She quoted in her diary a verse from Job, "Ma ta me olc, trua liomsa; agus ma ta me ceart, ni bheidh me ag togail suas mo cheann fos. Ta me lan mearbhaill; mar sin feiceann tu mo chiall."
Translated to English...
"If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see Thou mine affliction."
In desperate need to seek forgiveness, mercy and grace, Elly began to read the Bible each night, as well as recite the Lord's Prayer repeatedly during the day.
With each passing page of the Bible, she explained that "An nios mo a chuir me mo chroi agus a n-eolas i bhfocail Dhia, is e an t-Athair Tierney a mhol me agus eagna ar dTiarna, is mo a bhi me in ann mo chuid uafais a ghlanadh, mar a d'iompaigh gach leathanach, go mall an trama go mall scaipeadh o haunting dom."
Translated to English...
"The more I submerged my heart and knowledge into the words of God, the more Father Tierney counseled me and the wisdom of our Lord, the more I was able to cleanse myself of my horrors as though with each page turned, would the trauma slowly dissipate from haunting me."
Over time her nightmares ceased, her fantasies were no longer a crutch from reality. There was no longer the fantasies or dreams of the "pretty blonde girl." Elly now felt as beautiful as she ever wished, and more-so a beauty within herself, the beauty in her heart and in her soul.
Elly's new reality was now all that she had ever wanted.
There are pages upon pages in the diary of Elly Kedward. There are entries of anger, of abuse, of disgust, of rage, of hope, of despair, of anguish and misery. One can almost see by the pressure points on the paper from the ink of her mood in the time of writing. Entries of anger and rage are embedded deep within the paper, whereas entries of despair and sorrow were light in pressure, and in some cases the ink is blurred, indicating there were tears when being written.
Not all of the diary were journal entries, some of them contain words of poetry, words of prayer, stories, anecdotes, even sketches and drawings that gave visual indication and a visual glimpse into the life of Eilis Abigail Kedward.
What we have witnessed in Season Three has been nothing short of an extraordinary, emotional and of a profound turning point in her life.
...and it is Chapter Eight that compounds those emotions.
By now it is rather hard to comprehend this is the same person that "history had labeled the Blair Witch." But that was the case, and with very much a reason for it.
Tucked deep within those pages of Elly's diary was a folded set of smaller pages. It was a letter. Not written by Elly herself, this time it was a letter written to her.
The words written in the letter to her are as essential, as profound as any of the words Elly had ever shared of her own in her diary. And it is Chapter Eight that focuses on that. It is a letter written to her by Father Tierney, of whom was empathic, kind and generous to take her in when she first stumbled upon St. John's Chapel.
It is in Chapter Seven we are initially introduced to Father Tierney, but it is in Chapter Eight that we actually meet Father Tierney. To say he would play an absolute pivotal role into heart and soul would be an understatement.
As a result, Chapter Eight focuses on Father Tierney and that paternal relationship.
Since a child, since an infant, we have seen time and again the horrific deck of cards Elly had been handed, and of how she had struggled to overcome those fateful cards.
As mentioned, Season Three has been nothing short of an extraordinary, emotional and profound turning point in her life, and it is in chapter Seven we are introduced to this. From the homeless, destitute, hungry and hopeless young girl at age 14, to the incidental, yet profoundly fortunate discover upon St. John's Chapel, of her safekeeping, of the exposure of an unfamiliar, untapped and untried hope she had never experienced before. A new world, a new life of not only normal, but unprecedented fortune to her heart and mind, she will become educated, well read, well spoken, caring, loving and mature. Any compassion and affection a reader of her journal may have developed prior this turn in her life can only be of empathy and concern, whereas in Season Three, the compassion and affection brings out a contagious joy and wonder of redemption and celebration of a life rescued, a life worthy of us all.
Now, in Chapter Eight, we see the light that finally peers through the dark overcast skies that have followed her throughout childhood, a light that not only gave hope, but lifted her, brought her joy, brought her closer to God, all that she every wanted, and nothing more.
Chapter Eight takes us from her young age of 14 to her adult age of 21. It opens with a brief flashback of her first years at St. Johns, in daily prayer before the alter. She's not yet feeling worthy to come before the alter, and instead chooses to remain in a pew several rows back in humility and fear. As she prays, the horrors of her past dissipate to history.
We then cut to present day, 1750. Elly is now 21 years of age.
She writes in her diary...
"Is bean adh liomsa, ta grasta timpeall orm, ta Dia timpeallaithe agam. Nior tharla an-mhor ar na blianta beaga anuas. Ta an t-athair Tierney chomh comhchineail, chomh flaithiuil, chomh curamach. Is e mo mhuinteoir, mo threoir, mo mhothu siochana e. Is e an t-athair a bhi agam riamh. Don chead uair riamh, ta a fhios agam grasta."
Translated to English...
"I am a fortunate woman, I am surrounded by grace, I am surrounded by God. The last few years have been nothing short of remarkable/. Father Tierney has been so kind, so generous, so caring. He has been my teacher, my guidance, my sense of peace. He has become the father I never had. For the first time ever, I know grace."
We have seen for ourselves and feel gratitude in our own way to the selfless and generous man of the cloth; a great and blessed man, Father Tierney, who thought nothing more than to take her in when she came upon St. John's Chapel.
14 years since birth; a life of horror, of trauma, of neglect, of abuse and of rape, a life surrounded by suffering and death, Elly had experienced the absolute worst of humanity even before she was 10, with insult added to injury in her pre-teens during the Great Frost Year of the Slaughter.
Yet circumstance would bring her to St. John's, circumstance that would lead her to the safe keeping, the guidance, the paternal love from and for Father Tierney, to her the greatest man who ever lived under Christ himself, both figuratively and literally.
Seven years she had now resided at St. John's Chapel, seven years she had studied, had learned, had smiled, had laughed, had cried, not of sadness, but of joy.
She came to St. John's in absolute fear, in absolute helplessness, absolute hopelessness. All that changed under the guidance, the care, the teachings, the knowledge and affection of Father Tierney. A Catholic priest who could not have children for obvious reasons, but took to Elly as a daughter, as his own daughter. He brought her closer to our Father, and she became close and dependent upon not just her Father, but also now... her "father."
With his guidance, with his care, with his teachings, it appears that Elly was a prodigy of sorts, and likely had always been so. In studying her diary, it became obvious she was not only a fast learner, but excelled at what she applied herself to, and possessed an astonishing accurate memory, nearly a photographic memory.
In addition, though she initially reserved her reading and studies to the Bible, in time she would also read the likes of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Pope, Dryden, Homer, Virgil and more. In other words, she would read anything she could lay her hands on.
It is also obvious that she was unaware of any such "talents" or abilities. If anything, Elly considered herself a failure.
Yet her diary is filled with words of poetry, well spoken accounts, sketches and drawings, and most interestingly - composition of melodic notes, somewhat crude in notation, but legible and translatable. In one passage, she writes of her dabbling with the chapel's organ, improvising and composing.
St. John's Chapel contained a "Trinity Organ," developed by the French-German organ builder Karl Joseph Riepp. Elly was fascinated by it, and according to her diary, spent hours beside it, experimenting, improvising and eventually composing.
St. John's Chapel also possessed a clavichord, which was often preferable, considering its "on bog agus faoisimh o chluasaigh daoine eile i meid an orgain trionoide" (soft tone and respite from the aching ears of others in the magnitude of the trinity organ).
She wasn't able to transcribe her compositions, not having formerly learned to do so, but literally sketched out the keys and notated which key and/or keys she used and the length of measure and tempo using numerical chord notations and tablature.
In her diary, Elly tells of when on Christmas of 1748, Father Tierney gave her a lute, of which she also taught herself to play and notated compositions.
In the seven years Elly remained at St. John's Chapel, it would come to an end, as Father Tierney's time of life was coming to an end, and he knew this was to happen. Father Tierney had lost a great deal of his vision, was now color blind, and to make matters worse - a tumor in his abdomen grew larger by the week, and soon by the day. He knew it was his time. The inevitability of his mortality brought new fear, a new anxiety to Elly.
...She would be alone again.
In tears, both of them, together in the library, Father Tierney held Elly's hands. "Such strength," he reassured her, "you will need all your strength in the days to come."
"But you doubt yourself my child," he explained, "I have not seen fear in your face for such a long time."
Elly then let go of his hands, leaned over and embraced her "Da" with a hug of love, of fear, and inevitable goodbye.
Later that month, Father Tierney sat down to write a letter. A letter of conviction, of hope, of continued guidance and strength and a letter one's father might compose for his own daughter. He then carefully and quietly entered her bedroom and placed the letter on her bedside table. All the while she slept, unaware. He blessed her in silent prayer, then leaned over and gently kissed her forehead.
Elly awoke, but only slightly. Her eyes opened and she saw her "Da." She smiled in warm comfort, then closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.
Early morning the next day, before Elly had woken up, Father Tierney exited St. John's Chapel for the very last time. He then made the very long journey across miles of land, to a sailboat that would take him to Sceilig Mhor (Skellig Michael), to climb the great twin-pinnacled crag, to take his last communion alone with God. He would then descend the mountain for one last look at the ocean. And with a smile of joy, a smile that he was to be with God, he passed away.
The journey to Sceilig Mhor is the bulk of Chapter Eight, intentionally. It is intentionally revealed at a savored pace. It is a man's last moments of his life, and because it is such a profound journey, is designed for not one moment to be taken for granted. Step by step, trail by trail, hill by hill, we are also able to read the letter he composed to Elly, and we are to gain true and profound insight into their relationship.
To say Elly was devastated would be an understatement. The words she wrote in her diary repeated themselves every moment of every day; thoughts and fears that would haunt her for the rest of her days.
"I can see myself there, too weak to get up, not weak enough to die. I mean why didn't I just get up? That is all I had to do, is just get up. That's all I had to do, just get the fuck up, get fucking up."
God bless Father Tierney. We haven't been fortunate to know him as well as we all would desire.
God bless Elly Kedward. We've been fortunate to know her story, page by page in her diary.
...And we have a long way to go.
Long live Father Philip William Tierney.
God help Eilis Abaigeal Kedward.
The afterwords are short supplements to the time and topic of Elly's experiences in that particular season. They are not taken from the diary itself, but instead give insight to the period in which we have witnessed. In example, Season Two's Afterword is not taken from the words of Elly Kedward, rather it displays the environment of her life that follows immediately after Chapter Six, working as an "in between" if you will prior to the launch of Season Three.
In Season Three's Afterword, it is a dedication to the man who meant the absolute world to Elly Kedward; Father Tierney. The Afterword in itself is almost a prayer, but acts more-so intentionally as a memorial.
It is in this Afterword where we are met with the closure of his death that occurred at the very end of Chapter Eight. And it is here we hear some of the last words of Father Tierney had spoken to Elly as his time drew near. It is also here we not simply read the words Elly wrote in her diary, but instead hear them as though we can hear her thoughts, thoughts that will haunt her for the rest of her days.