Deirdre of the Sorrows

Scottish poet Kenneth Steven explores the legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows, which is embedded in the landscapes of Ireland and Scotland and has inspired generations of writers and musicians.

BROADCAST

First broadcast: Sunday 11th December 2022 at 6pm on RTÉ lyric fm as a Lyric Feature.

OUTLINE

‘Deirdre’s Farewell to Scotland’ is one of Scotland’s oldest songs. It refers to Deirdre, a figure from the Ulster Cycle of myths and legends, who fled to Scotland with her love, Naoise, before they were tricked into returning to Ireland, where all ended tragically. In this programme, Scottish poet Kenneth Steven discovers the origins of the story of Deirdre and explores how it has inspired writers and musicians.

Recorded on location in Ireland and Scotland, we hear about the earliest mention of the story in old manuscripts, visit places in Ireland and Scotland where the story is embedded into the landscape, and discover some of the writing and song, by both Irish and Scottish artists, which have been inspired by the story.

Throughout the programme we hear readings from Kenneth Steven’s own sequence of poems ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’.

One of the oldest written versions of the story is in the Book of Leinster, which is held at Trinity College Dublin. Pages of the book have been digitised as part of the Irish Script on Screen (a major project of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) and can be viewed at https://www.isos.dias.ie/.

Local historian John MacFarlane (left) and poet Kenneth Steven at Loch Etive in Scotland.
Kenneth Steven and guide Rosaleen Litter at the Navan Centre and Fort.
Dr Christina Cleary of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies shows Kenneth Steven digitised pages of the Book of Leinster.