John Moriarty: Grounded in Story


By John Moriarty

John Moriarty was an original, a thinker, a poet, a mythologian. He was born and reared just outside the little village of Moyvane in north Kerry. Growing up on his parent’s farm he was attuned to the rhythms of weather and soil from his youth. Having graduated from college and university, having outgrown the academic life of a lecturer in Canada, he would eventually return to Ireland, to Connemara, and later to Mangerton mountain, to discover his bush soul.

Tracing the extraordinary journey from Moriarty’s challenges with Christianity to his reconciliation of self and soul, Grounded In Story is centred in Moyvane, his home place which lives and speaks through him, with him, in him. Beautifully illustrated by his niece Amanda Carmody, Grounded In Story is a necessary book, a guide into the world, and the wisdom, of this extraordinary man.

The intention behind this selection of writing is to bring John Moriarty home to Moyvane, to demonstrate the influence of his native place on the development of his thought and to introduce, in his own words, the culture and the characters that had such a profound effect on him.

In the following extract from Grounded in Story John reflects on conversations with his father on the topic of the afterlife:

“In recent years I would hear my father say that he had done his purgatory in this life, that he had earned his place in the next life.

It surprised me therefore to hear him say one morning that he might have difficulties finding his way in the hereafter. ‘Your cows will be there before you,’ I said to him, ‘and all you’ll have to do is fall in behind them and they’ll find the way for you.’ ‘They will,’ he said, instantly comforted, ‘the cows adores me.’ It was how I knew him, walking behind his cows, all eleven of them in calf, so the walking was slow, he falling into their way, not they falling in to his way. Walking behind them or sitting behind them in the night, that’s where he did his thinking.

What I learned from him is that you don’t need to be an intellectual to be a philosopher. More often than not, it isn’t through intellect at all that deepest life in us mediates its deepest wisdom. Deepest wisdom comes to us sitting behind cows in a cowstall, sitting there quietly, listening to them chewing the cud.”

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