Caught by the River


Joe Devlin | 11th March 2018

A short story by Joe Devlin. Pictures by David Mackintosh.

The gentle wind and winter sun played the swaying russet grasses, causing clicking, popping and rustling to fill the air as we descended, surround sound, we paused and listened to the aeolian hillside. Patterns formed. Upturned and upended rocks and boulders littered the pathway down.

A solitary silhouetted cawing crow, perched on the highest branch of the lone bare Birch, surveyed the land to the left. In the distance, a black robed Benedictine monk stood waiting at the bus stop, wide brimmed hat on rather than cowl up, wicker basket in hidden hands, concealed by the cuffs of his habit.

Slow moving dark forms, shoals of perch inches below the surface of the muddied waters pass by. On we go to the next peat peak.  Age old decomposed sphagnum mosses underfoot provide an almost lunar bounce. Now on the tops, exposed, wind whipped clothes dragged tight to the right, as if being yanked away from our frames. The leaden sky makes the preceding hours seem like a different day.

The temporary emergence of the sun causes the faraway water to glisten. Scurrying spooked grouse scarper through the heather as we walk over the tops. The expansive foreboding firmament gives indication of the impending weather. Once again, here comes the rain.

The ground now boggy, feet sinking into, no longer springing over, the terrain. Hit by a series of showers rather than the full on soaking expected, we make our way towards the gorge to take cover under the old otherworldly oaks, we talk about Mac Daire, Lleu, the curative powers associated with these trees and of the screaming mistletoe one found here, that spoke with prophetic doom when cuttings were taken.

We continue through the forest, huge spoil stones completely covered in plush green moss sit among the Beech and Ash.  Our quiet passage over the mulch carpet, broken intermittently by the snap of twigs and rustling made by unseen woodland creatures, sensory shifting, dappled light hits the floor. Today, more than ever before, the place feels alive with mystery.  We move on to the copse enclosed circle of stones just as dusk begins to fall.


Content to Gather is the first collaborative project between Joe Devlin and David Mackintosh. It takes the form of a book published by Aye-Aye Books with writing from Devlin, drawings by Mackintosh and an afterword by Martin Holman. Limited to 500 copies. Design by Daren Newman. Priced at £10. Buy a copy here.