For Brendan


Keeping with your ancients,

kin either side 

of the great divide,

you have circled this place,

taken leaves of the abiding:

eucalypts, strong and straight

as your line, survivors alike.


Through the blue

haze of your pyre,

we see your people come

and gather along Warrung shore

to watch the red devils

land their longboats,

unloading their cargo:

my people,

taibhsí liath,

grey ghosts

lined up

in chains.


Through the blue haze,

we watch your people

watch my people:

grey ghosts walking,

taibhsí liath ag céim

all along Warrung shore,

bearing their burdens,

our shared sorrows:

stolen lands, stolen stories, 

stolen children from whom

our native tongues

were torn.


Watching your people

watch my people

through the haze:

taibhsí liath ag céim,

grey ghosts walking

in chains,

I give to you

my true name:

Is mise Áine Ní Cathasaigh

(I am Anne,

Daughter of the Watchful)

as Sráid na Cathrach,

(from the Street of the Stone

Ringfort) where my own

held place


until those same

Sasanach came

and burned down

our home, shot dead

our neighbours

in my grandfather’s day:

I grew up in the grey

haze and whispers

of that lingering affray.


And here, far away,

you burn for me

leaves of the abiding,

tell to me your true name, 

all your losses and lost,

under watch of your ancients

while the blue haze encircles us

on this long-estranged Warrung shore 

where you make for me welcome

to your kinplace of old.


But my heart knows these grounds

like those shores of my own;

these lands were stolen

long before I had come.

While the haze

of your welcome

rises up and 

winds round, 

I tell you my truth

in the words of my heart:


Taibhse liath is mise,

taibhse liath anseo,

taibhse liath ag céim—

go brách idir domhain.


I am a grey ghost,

a grey ghost here,

a grey ghost walking—

forever between worlds.








Read Anne's introduction to the poem here.


  1. Heartfelt thanks to Brendan Kerin, Marrawarra and Barkindji Elder, and cultural educator for the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, for granting me permission to tell this story, inspired by his Welcome to Country smoke ceremony and our shared history as colonised peoples.
  2. Warrung is the Dharug name for the area known as Circular Quay in Sydney.
  3. The words in my native language, Gaeilge (Irish), which was outlawed under British colonial rule in Ireland translate as:

taibhsí liath — grey ghosts

ag céim — stepping/walking

Is mise — I am

Áine Ní Cathasaigh — Anne, Daughter of the Watchful

as Sráid na Cathrach — from the Street of the Stone Ringfort

Sasanach — English invaders

taibhse liath — grey ghost

anseo — here

go brách — forever

idir domhain — between worlds

  1. This poem references my family history. In 1921, my home in west Clare, Ireland was burned to the ground by occupying British soldiers. My 13-year-old paternal grandfather and family barely escaped the blazing house while several neighbours were shot dead. Ten houses in our small town and others in neighbouring villages were destroyed by British troops that night. I grew up amongst the ghosts of that night in our rebuilt family home. My maternal grandfather told me stories of being beaten as a child for speaking in our native language (Gaeilge, Irish), which had previously been prohibited under colonial law in Ireland. My paternal grandmother recounted to me many times being held at gunpoint in her home by a British soldier when she was 16 years old.