August Rain

A grey sky lay over the Twelve Bens mountains, and Roundstone was drowning in the humidity of an August afternoon. It hadn’t rained in Connemara for five long weeks, but the ferocious sky above Roundstone Bay forewarned the village of the monumental downpour to come. Jimmy remembered his grandad out on Inishnee, across the bay from the village, rambling on about the spiritual August rain brought in by the fairies to cleanse the village of a year’s worth of bad karma. Each summer the cuckoo would depart, the fields lay sun scorched after weeks of drought, and sure enough the heat of the relentless summer would beat and crackle until the annual August event when the village awoke to a strange wind loaded with menace, ready to cleanse the village of its yearlong sins. Jimmy’s father, Peatsaí, an enormous man well over six feet tall, fished in the bay just like his own father did, setting crab pots out from the harbour between Roundstone and Inishnee. They didn’t need a huge amount to sustain them. Jimmy was a lone child, without a mother, who had passed away a year after his birth. This left Jimmy and Peatsaí as the sole occupants of the small, thatched cottage on the outskirts of the village. It was the turn of the century, when the British still patrolled Ireland, although in rural Connemara there was no sign of the chaos that was lighting up the rest of the country. The village lay sheltered in Roundstone Bay seemingly unaware of the ferocious Atlantic that lay just two miles past the monastery at the edge of the village.

These were the days when kids did little schooling, and so Jimmy lived with the sea like his old man. Winters were bitterly cold, followed by slow, calm, springs, which bled into warm summers before the savage August rain. Jimmy recalls once asking his father, “Where do this downpour come from?”, but Peatsaí, never much of a talker, ordered him to keep fixing the nets and that was the end of that. In Jimmy’s teens, he started visiting his grandfather alone on Inishnee, without the overbearing presence of his father. Joe was almost in his seventies at this stage, with the look of a man who could still carry a house on his back. As Jimmy grew older, they’d sit in Joe’s cottage drinking tea, talking about the price of fish, and watch the Atlantic swell beyond the island’s lighthouse. At the end of every visit, Joe would pat Jimmy on the back, “safe home now boy,” before reminding him; “never take the currach out in August before the rain!”. Jimmy knew that Joe was a different kettle of fish altogether to his father, steeped in the tradition of island folklore, and he wondered why he couldn’t fish before the first rain of August. His grandad spoke of this first immense rain, informing Jimmy that the morning after was the greatest day of the year for fishing. Fishing before the rain only brought bad luck. Once a year, the day dawned on a calm, fantastic sea, the air so crisp you could touch it, and mackerel and pollock would jump out of the deep water, attracted by the sweet scent of the August rain. Time and youth had sailed from him since his grandad first spoke of the magic of the August rain, but on that humid afternoon on the harbour many years later, he looked upon the enormous restless clouds above the bay with a smirk on his face.