In the lobby of the General Post Office in Dublin is a bronze statue. It depicts an ancient Irish warrior, standing but slumped over in death. If you look closely, you can notice that he is really not standing…he is tied to a stake. A raven stands on his shoulder. The sculpture is by Oliver Sheppard and was completed in 1911.
Is there a story here? You can bet your last pot of gold there is
Cuchlain is perhaps the greatest of all Irish heroes. That’s saying a lot, since Ireland is a land of legends, folklore and myths that is second to none.
His story is complicated, his lineage is convoluted. His legend is beyond doubt.
Cuchlain is believed to have lived in the 1st century, BC. Legends began to be written about him in 700 AD.
With so much to his history, I will give you the only facts that bring us to the sad statue.
Cuchlain’s greatest victory was when Queen Medb of Connacht sent a great army to steal the Brown Bull of Ulster. Cuchlain stopped the enemy single-handedly. During one of the battles, he was put into a position to challenge his good friend, Ferdiad. He fought him and killed him.
Later, he killed his own son, Connla, but learned his true identity after the fact. Cuchlain went onto offend the goddess of death and battles, Morrigan. Because of this, he was summoned to fight when he was ill. On his way to enter the battle, he had a vision of a woman washing the body and sword of a dead warrior. Cuchlain recognized the dead man…it was himself. He knew then that his own death was at hand. He fought with strength and honor and bravely. Soon he was too weak to stand. He knew his enemy feared him greatly. So, he had his men lash him to a post so that he could continue to stand upright.
He died, still tied upright to the wood. The enemy was unaware of his death until a raven landed on his shoulder.
There we have it. Another Irish hero is dead, another Irish legend is born.
Perhaps, just perhaps, a tiny bit of Cuchlain’s blood flows in my Irish blood.
I’m no warrior and I carry no sword, but I’ve fought battles of many kinds, and even stranger things have been known to happen to those whose roots are on a small emerald-green island in the North Atlantic.