McGahern Paradox


“One of the differences between life and writing is that writing always has to be believable whereas life isn’t.” – John McGahern

As we reach the 101st and final entry, it’s perhaps fitting to give the last word to John McGahern (1934-2006), Leitrim’s best mythologist and master story-teller, and end this subjective and very affectionate guide to the county.

It’s a paradoxical reminder from him about the nature of reality and fiction I came across in a very damp and crumbling November 1991 issue of Hot Press magazine in one of the many abandoned houses I so regularly come across in this sometimes curiously decaying and time-locked county. Inside I found a 3 page interview by Joe Jackson (along with a long black single hair) which contained the following quote in full, “One of the differences between life and writing is that writing always has to be believable whereas life isn’t! Writing also has to conform to an idea. Now and again life will give you this exact shape but 99% of the time it doesn’t and has to be reinvented. And I find that the more you go through artifice the closer you get to real feeling whereas instantaneous feeling, or direct reporting in fiction is, by definition, cheap and shoddy.” 

While some of the things you may have read about Leitrim in the Guide may seem unbelievable, many of the ‘true’ facts and untold stories are of course even more so and poetic truth often needs an artificial foundation.

It might be useful at this stage to read the About page again to remember what this project was all about and how it came into being. I’d also like to use this final entry to thank Isabel Löfgren for coming up with the original concept, doing and inspiring many of the early entries and always being at the other end of our Unicorn Email Trail through the process as well.

While at this stage we do not plan for any new entries please keep an eye on this site for information on exhibitions from it, other documentation and spin-offs from it. We hope you enjoyed your stay and tell others about it. Many thanks.

(Stephen Rennicks)


Anti-Gravity Balls

Corglass (location on map)

In the event that we cannot save the planet from destruction attempts are being
made to spread life from Leitrim to other places in the universe. It has been
discovered that the molecules of the soil in Leitrim have become so compacted
and dense overtime that they have acquired unique anti-gravity properties. With
the correct purity level and moulding these daub balls can be thrown deep into
the atmosphere to be carried by solar winds on their journey to seed other solar
systems with life. This particular ball was thrown from Corglass. (Stephen Rennicks)

“The soil in Leitrim is poor, in places no more than an inch deep. Underneath is daub, a blue-grey modelling clay, or channel, a compacted gravel. Neither can absorb the heavy rainfall. Rich crops of rushes and wiry grasses keep the thin clay from being washed away.”
– John McGahern, Memoir

What Was it All For? No. 2

Slieve Anierin (location on map)

“What was it all for?”, a question posed by the late John McGahern which his followers are transmitting from various points within the county for the universal mind to ponder or Deep Thought to compute. This location is the peak (585 metres) of Slieve Anierin (The Iron Mountain) which according to ancient Irish legend is where the Tuatha DeDanann landed. (Stephen Rennicks)