Sabina launches Mary Kennedy and Deirdre Ní Chinneide’s book “Journey to the Well”

Tue 26th Oct, 2021 | 18:45
location: Easons, St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Easons, St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Tuesday, 26th October, 2021

Speech by Sabina Higgins at the Book Launch of ‘Journey to the Well’

Easons, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, 26th October, 2021

It is a great pleasure to be here this evening to launch this most inspiring, and indeed timely, publication.  The book is a collaborative work by the two sisters Mary Kennedy and Deirdre Ní Chinnéide.  It is a series of parallel passages in which they reflect on the influences that have shaped their lives.

We all know Mary Kennedy as one of our best known and loved broadcasters on RTÉ who has presented so many different programmes over the years.   High points may be presenting the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995 – which Ireland won! and her great contribution to Nationwide on RTÉ.  The warmth and vivacity she brought to Nationwide made it a landmark programme as it went from strength to strength.

Deirdre Ní Chinnéide is well-known and valued as a creative artist  and facilitator whose medium is first and foremost spiritual sound and music.

She is essentially a pilgrim on a spiritual journey.  She leaves her work as a psychotherapist at the Rape Crisis Centre in Dublin to live in her spiritual home on Inis Mór in the Aran Islands.

Her source of energy and inspiration is immersion in Celtic spirituality.   This has been a lifelong journey guided I would think, by an impulse to reach a conscious self-realisation, though intensely personal it is also authentically connected to other people, to the collective.

Journey to the Well, inspired by St. Brigid’s Well in Clondalkin, where Deirdre and Mary grew up, is centred around the ancient Irish tradition of travelling to the well in search of healing and restoration.

Structured around the four Celtic seasons of Samhain, Imbolg, Bealtaine and Lughnasa, this publication encourages us to look deep into our own well of inner resources as we make our way through difficult times.

Their decision to write the book Journey to the Well was promted by a chance, or serendipitous, encounter the sisters had as they met at Manresa, The Ignatius Centre of Spirituality in Dublin.

They were grappling with all the difficulties, emotion and angst that the lockdown of the Pandemic caused.  They describe this loss in a chapter called Loss in Lockdown. At the retreat they found themselves walking mindfully, side by side in a labyrinth that forms a meditation path in part of the grounds.  Mary in the chapter dealing with this meeting said it was like a rebirth for the sisters.  Their lives had gone in different directions yet here they were on a sunny afternoon, walking together on a single path towards a single centre.  

“I felt quite apart from the outside world as I looked into my heart and let my thoughts and feelings speak to me, of family, of sisterhood, of relationships.  Deirdre and I walked slowly and mindfully, and I truly feel that I journeyed to the well of family memory deep in my heart as I walked.”


“What emerged was a feeling of rebirth as I made it to the centre of the labyrinth.  I felt a renewed connection to my Celtic roots and the ancient culture from which my memory derives and a huge appreciation and gratitude.”

Later they shared with each other their reflections. Seeking rebirth and growth as they emerged from the challenges of the Pandemic, they found they had so much in common as to the sources of their strength and hopes, and the spirituality that had sustained them.  They reflected on the great influence on them of their upbringing in Clondalkin where they lived in a close community that celebrated the various feastdays and ceremonies, and festivals, that marked the passing of special times of the seasons, and the year.

Important in their childhood was the fact that they lived around the corner from St. Brigid’s Well which was a meeting place for the young people, and where they were sent by the nuns to clean it up each Spring for St. Brigid’s Day, a time they also made St. Brigid’s crosses from rushes and got the day off from school.

“They say Thus our journeys to the well began, perhaps less holy and more practical, yet somehow unconsciously embedding within us some sense of renewal, of possibility, that springs from journeys to the well”.

We have, as a nation, been through a difficult journey in recent times.  During this time we also lost much of the reassuring and familiar rhythm of the year, as many of the rituals and traditions we have known since childhood were cancelled or postponed.  It threw into relieve the importance of those rituals, the regular beat they bring to the passing of time, and how comforting they can be during times of worry or confusion.

In Journey to the Well we are re-introduced to the customs and ceremonies written deeply into the Celtic calendar, and into the rich and shared heritage which has formed and shaped the Ireland we inhabit today.  The festival and ceremonies that celebrated feast days in their upbringing coincided with much of the Celtic calendar so their spirituality was as they say “in their DNA” being the legacy of our ancestors and having its roots in Celtic spirituality, which has at its core the celebration of the creation, of nature.

There are lovely accounts of their participation in those Celtic Festivals like

The Hill of Usnach, Bealtaine, The Bonfires on Inis Mór for St Johns Eve, Lughnasadh and Samhain, The Equinoxes, the Solstices.

We are reminded that each season brings its own light and shade to our world, the four working in harmony to lead us forward through the good times and the hard, and all that falls between.

This is a book that invites us to stand still, to experience nature through our senses, to listen, to look around us, to sense the beauty of each passing day and season while connecting with our inner selves and drawing on the courage and healing power such a profound connection can gift us.

Mary and Deirdre allow us insight into their own inner wells of strength and sustenance, they also reach out to a diverse and eclectic readership, reflecting throughout the book on the universal themes that define our lives.  This book brings to mind the great spiritual influencers – John O’Donoghue and John Moriarity.

Their memories and their contemplations reflect the story of our country as they invite us to join together, embracing all that we share, as we move onwards to better and more hopeful days.

As we now enter the season of Samhain we know the days will grow shorter and darker.  We also know, however, that this winter season brings its own beauty and joys, its own happy memories of what has gone before.  We also know with absolute certainty that the brighter days of Imbolg with all their glorious renewal are soon to come.

In every seasons there is light, and there is dark. This beautiful publication encourages us to draw strength from our difficulties, and to allow those glorious moments of hope to be the guiding light that constantly leads us forward.

We thank Deirdre and Mary for a wonderful book, a romantic book, rooted in a generous sense of shared humanity, and defined by a great will to reach out with love to all those with whom they have shared the difficult journey of the Coronavirus Pandemic.  This is a book that can nourish our souls and help us as we walk in solidarity towards a better future.