The Valley of the Lunatics

‘The Valley of the Lunatics’ (2010) – 15’
for fiddles and loop technology or fiddle ensemble


Premiered by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh in August 2011 at the Masters of Tradition Festival, Bantry.

Programme Note

​This story was used to introduce this piece at the premiere.

There is an ancient story about an area of the Dingle Peninsula called Gleann-na-nGealt, The Valley of the Lunatics. The name is associated with Gall, who was king of Ulster and was cured of madness when he drank from the well and ate the watercress growing in its waters. Legends tell of many people coming to this well to find a cure for their madness.

So let us imagine Caoimhín O’Raghallaigh is entering this valley to find a cure for his madness! 

As he reaches the edge of the valley he peers down and sees the local lunatics, the Begley clan. The Begley’s are engaged in a strange dance, looping around the valley in circles, slightly changing direction each time they loop around and meet each other.

Sensing the fun in this madness Caoimhín runs into the valley and joins in with the Begley’s , who are by now reeling around the well, singing a slight variation of the same song over and over and over. The variations build up to a wall of sound echoing around the valley.

Soon tiredness gets the better of them all and they slump beside the well. Briainín, the mad pyromaniac of the Begley clan, lights a fire and starts singing a short lament. Caoimhín and several other Begley’s gradually join him, but they’re all so delirious they each sing different laments.

At the end of the lamenting they all start drinking from the well. The well gives them an instant burst of energy and so they each get up to dance a polka. A feeling of joy pumps through every vein in their bodies.

One by one the Begley’s begin to leave the valley, each one convinced they are finally cured of their hereditary lunacy.

But Caoimhín follows them towards Dingle with a smile, because Caoimhín knows that as soon as they reach Dingle they will all once again be infected by the madness he loves so much…….