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What’s In A Name? Inspiration from the Ring Of Gullion AONB

What’s in a name?

Cushla Of Gullion is an Irish Landscape Textile art business in Dundalk. What is it about the landscape of the Ring Of Gullion AONB and Ireland’s Ancient East that calls to the creatives as inspiration for their art? It’s often a talking point at fairs and workshops, people asking if my name is Cushla? This is a story that I never mind explaining. To me it seems the most natural name in the world…

Cushla of Gullion.

Cushla mo Chroi is an Irish term of endearment that people take to mean ‘Love/dear of my heart’. The word Cuisle is gaelic for beat/pulse. For me creativity is the pulse of life and it beats and flows in every rock and stream on this beautiful mountain Slieve Gullion that I call home.

Cushla Of Gullion, Ring Of Gullion AONB
Derry, my Mother, on her beautiful mare Cushla outside our home in Ring Of Gullion AONB

This picture is of my mother Derry on her beloved horse Cushla in the early ’60s outside the house I grew up in and the room where I had my very first studio. My mother died when I was very young but all my memories of her are here on Slieve Gullion in the Ring Of Gullion AONB. Derry, a teacher, was the most gregarious person always encouraging a sense of wonder in me and fostering my creativity, she taught me so much in the short years we had together. She always reached for the stars and believed anything was possible. She never adhered to the ‘norm’ and liked to push the boundaries. Just thinking of her gives me the courage to dream. Derry was the very pulse of our lives so Cushla Of Gullion seems the obvious choice of name to plough my hopes and dreams into.

Ring Of Gullion AONB – the mountain is my muse.

Nestling in the hills of South Armagh, the Ring Of Gullion AONB was formed by a volcanic eruption, it is a perfect example of a ring dyke. In these gentle valleys, protected by a ring of mountains are the villages of Forkhill, Dromintee, Meigh, Lislea, Mullaghbawn, Camlough and Jonesboro, where music story and song abound. Slieve Gullion as the centrepiece beguiles us with her beauty, her history and her flora and fauna.

If you have never visited The Ring Of Gullion AONB, put it on your bucket list. Here is a place that will call you back time and time again. Every hour brings the subtle shifting mists and light transforming landscape all around. Slieve Gullion is a place as rich and rare as her people and their heritage. Legends and lore pour out from under every stone. To capture even a glimpse of her majesty in my work is a privilege.

artistic inspiration from the Ring Of Gullion AONB, Cushla Of Gullion

Slieve Gullion is my life blood, connecting me to my ancestors who bestowed upon me the gift of belonging to this special place. Gullion to me is not simply a mountain it is all encompassing. It is the overriding inspiration in my life, it is the love for this special place, her people, her songs, her stories, her beguiling beauty. A special knowing, a special belonging, a shared heritage and a deep connection to the landscape. The bonds of Gullion run deep within our souls and unite us wherever we may roam.

Mountain Inspiration

Every little stream and babbling brook sings its own song, imagination and story trickling from every hillside flooding our valley with wonderous tales and musicality. Under very rock lies a different story, building a foundation of a land rich and rare in legend and lore. Seeping into the consciousness of all our people, like magnets, we will be drawn back to our ‘homeplace our  An Teach Baile.

Artistic inspiration from the Ring Of Gullion AONB
Giclee Art Print from original wool painting by Cushla of Gullion – An Teach Baile – the Homeplace

Mountain Living

From my earliest memories Derry fostered a love of this mountain within me and a need to respect and protect this beautiful place. While we only had a short while to explore it together she planted the seed of love so deep that continually blossomed. I am very honored to call this place my home, a gift she gave me, and I am delighted to be able to share it with my family. Unlike my ancestors, who toiled the girth of the mountain in times of great poverty and hardship, I can enjoy the mountain simply for her beauty and the inspiration for my work.

Each season brings the shifting lights accross the rocks and heather a wealth of wonder, colour, texture, and changing form. There is not a day goes past that my camera does not record a subtle change, a new bloom, a rock pattern or light shadow I had not noticed before. My list of things to capture is endless, so rich is the palette and so ready the muse. There is a palpable creative energy flow in the Ring Of Gullion AONB that continually inspires the artistic eye. In times of stress, sorrow or simply when the world gets too much, Gullion gives me her protection, nourishes me, spurs me on.

Putting pen to paper

All things become clear.
As morning dusts her golden light on Gullion,
My name is called, she beckons me, stirring my senses and my soul.
I will follow the lichen ditch to a place where my heart can be still.
The delicate duo of primrose and violet wink a welcome from the ditches,
Silver and Gold the brazen whin stands to attention,
Ablaze with light, shimmering in the spider’s weft.
The returned Swallows appear to dance buffeted by the rising mist over Cloughinnea bog.
Far away a donkey’s bray echoes off the hill to welcome in the morning,
The buzzard chick screeches for breakfast
The fox cub tumbles from the cool of darkness into the morning sun.
All have awoken, as has my spirit, I am alive
All things become clear.
By Caóilfíonn Murphy- O’Hanlon 2016

Therefor, without Slieve Gullion, I would not be the artist that I am; I would not draw on the bonds of such a richly shared heritage. I have, however, been bestowed the gifts of endless vistas which I am drawn to share with those who foster a love of this special place. The ring of Gullion AONB is naturally, my main source of artistic inspiration.

Endless Inspiration

I am not alone in my endeavors. So many musicians, writers, painters, craftsmen, poets and artists of all kinds have felt the same need to capture some of the illusive magic of this place for generations; be they visitors or natives of the Ring Of Gulion AONB the artistic inspiration of this place is inescapable . It is, however, my hope that countless future generations will be powered by the same creative flow. Therefor, it is imperative to keep sharing the legends, the story, the song, the art of this rich and rare land. We need to keep on nurturing the imaginations of little minds and nourishing a sense of pride in our people and our place.

Therefor, as long as I walk this mountain I am continuously inspired and driven to create. I am always encouraged to share my passion for this place with others, to tell our stories, to remember, to reflect, to dream. My textile art is be my footprint that I leave behind upon this landscape that I love. I want my footprint to join those of my ancestors who walked here before me.