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Ireland

Synge Prelude

Saturday, 24 March, 2018 0 Comments

On this day in 1909, the playwright, poet and collector of folklore John Millington Synge died. He was just 37 years old. Synge was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre, and it was in thanks to the Abbey Theatre that he entered history. The occasion was the 1907 Abbey premiere of his wonderful play, The Playboy of the Western World, and the surrounding events exposed the sordid absurdity that has powered so much of Irish nationalism.

One source of audience hostility to the play was that the plot combined an idealization of parricide with an unhappy ending, but what triggered the violence was Christy Mahon’s comment about “a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts itself.” The very mention of an undergarment led The Freeman’s Journal of Monday, 28 January 1907 to condemn the play as an “unmitigated, protracted libel upon Irish peasant men and worse still upon peasant girlhood.” Rioting ensued and the police had to enforce security during each performance, making nightly arrests of outraged nationalists filled with hatred of an artistic expression that did not reflect their chosen insanity.

The Playboy of the Western World has survived time and terror and Synge’s poetry remains true to the landscape that gave him so much happiness during his short life.

Prelude

Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from cities, and the sights of men,
Lived with the sunshine, and the moon’s delight.

I knew the stars, the flowers, and the birds,
The grey and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountains, moors, and fens.

John Millington Synge (1871 – 1909)

Wicklow


Patrician peak

Saturday, 17 March, 2018 0 Comments

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir! (Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you all!)

The holiest mountain in Ireland is Croagh Patrick, five miles from the town of Westport and overlooking island-dotted Clew Bay. According to local belief, Saint Patrick fasted for forty days and nights on the summit during Lent in the year 441 AD, and on the last Sunday in July every year (“Reek Sunday”), pilgrims from near and far climb the mountain in honour of Saint Patrick.

In 1972, the great Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka climbed Croagh Patrick and captured the quintessence of rural Irish Catholicism in one iconic image. The kneeling pilgrims pictured are, from left to right, Sean Pheat Mannion, Paddy Kenny and Martin Mannion from Connemara. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam.

Croagh Patrick


Memento mori

Friday, 16 March, 2018 0 Comments

The 8th of October 1982 was a Friday and it didn’t rain in north County Dublin. In the wider world, it was the day when Poland banned the Solidarity trade union and the musical Cats opened on Broadway, but it was also the day when Séamus Ennis, the legendary piper and music collector, was buried in Naul. One person, and only one person, could have played the obligatory lament at the graveside and the honour went to Liam O’Flynn, who had studied and lived with the master himself, and who best embodied that tradition to which Ennis had devoted his life.

Today, the lament will be played for Liam O’Flynn and all the grace and gravitas that marked a career and a life that gave so much joy to so many people will fulfill the inexorable mortal destiny of “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” RIP.

Liam O'Flynn lament


Garech Browne (1939 – 2018)

Monday, 12 March, 2018 0 Comments

Garech Browne, the Guinness scion who died in London on Saturday, was one of the most important patrons of traditional and modern Irish art. His spectrum of taste can be summed up in his friendships, which ranged from the piper Paddy Moloney to the painter Francis Bacon. And in the middle of this charmed world stood Luggala, the exquisite 18th-century house located on 5,000 mountainous acres in County Wicklow, which acted as a magnet for the local and the global, from Dublin poets and East Clare fiddle players to Hollywood film directors.

Luggala played a decisive role in the fortunes of the Cockburn family in the mid-1950s as Alexander Cockburn recounted in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. His father, Claud, author of the novel Beat the Devil, had found temporary refuge from his creditors at the estate and then John Huston arrived:

“Quite apart from the simple comfort of not having water on the floor, and bailiffs at the gate, Luggala was a wonderful place to go in the mid-1950s. Writers and artists from Dublin, London Paris and New York drank and sang through the long hectic meals with a similarly dissolute throng of politicians and members-in-good-standing of the café society of the time. And during this particular Horse Show week Luggala was further dignified by the presence of the film director John Huston and his wife of those years, Ricky. My father was a friend of Huston — from his stint in New York in the late 1920s perhaps, or maybe from Spanish Civil War days — and quite apart from the pleasure of reunion there was Beat the Devil, ready and waiting to be converted into a film by the director of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

My father spoke urgently to Huston of the virtues of Beat the Devil, but he found he had given, beneath fulsome dedications, his last two copies to our hostess and to a fellow guest, Terry Gilmartin. These copies were snatched back and thrown into Huston’s departing taxi. A week later, Huston was in Dublin again, shouting the novel’s praises. He and Humphrey Bogart had just completed The African Queen and were awaiting the outcome of that enormous gamble. I can remember Huston calling Bogart in Hollywood and reading substantial portions of the novel to him down the phone — a deed which stayed with me for years as the acme of extravagance.”

Note: Garech Browne’s father was Dominick Browne, the Fourth Lord Oranmore and husband of Oonagh Guinness, daughter of Honorable Arthur Ernest Guinness, the second son of the first Lord Iveagh. Dominick Browne had the rare distinction of sitting in the House of Lords for 72 years until his death at age 100 in August 2002, without ever having spoken in debate. May they all Rest in Peace.

Luggala


Dublin Airport locked in frost

Saturday, 3 March, 2018 0 Comments

This is from Audenesque (in memory of Joseph Brodsky) by Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate in Literature. The great airport “unlocking” may take place later today.

“Repetition, too, of cold
In the poet and the world,
Dublin Airport locked in frost,
Rigor mortis in your breast.
Ice no axe or book will break,
No Horatian ode unlock”

Dublin Airport


Dublin snow

Thursday, 1 March, 2018 0 Comments

The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh found peace beside Dublin’s Grand Canal and he often sat on its bank-side seats to contemplate life and compose verse. John Coll’s statue of Kavanagh was unveiled by President Mary Robinson in 1991 and was inspired by Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin. Today, Patrick Kavanagh is contemplating the snow that is general all over Dublin and Ireland.

Daisy Snow

Delicate daisy-snow
Like dream-drifts of
Unspoken love.

I shall not touch it with
My sin-soiled hands,
Nor barter for the glow
Of high exotic lands.

Patrick Kavanagh (1904 – 1967)

Kavanagh


Snow was general all over Ireland

Wednesday, 28 February, 2018 0 Comments

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
The Dead, James Joyce

Snow in Ireland


Reading From Writs to Riots

Saturday, 24 February, 2018 0 Comments

The hamlet of Kilross is located in the Electoral Division of Lattin in the Barony of Clanwilliam, Country Tipperary. In 1881, it enjoyed temporary fame when the tenants of the Brook Brasier Estate felt they were paying too much rent and refused to remit what the landlord demanded. Their revolt was one of the many violent incidents during what became known in Ireland as The Land War, and it is documented in great detail by Peter O’Grady in From Writs to Riots: The Land War comes to Kilross, which was launched last night in The Shamrock Lounge in Kilross.

Reading in Kilross


When You’re Gone

Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 0 Comments

Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan led The Cranberries from 1990 until their break-up in 2003, and again when they reunited in 2009. She died in London on 15 January and is buried in Limerick, in Caherelly Cemetery, where the oldest headstone dates from 1717.

When You’re Gone appeared on the band’s “To the Faithful Departed” album (1996).

“And in the night I could be helpless
I could be lonely, sleeping without you
And in the day, everything’s complex
There’s nothing simple when I’m not around you”

Dolores Mary Eileen O'Riordan


One Ring to Rule Them All

Tuesday, 20 February, 2018 0 Comments

“Eight medals he has, a record unbroken
Of Cork hurlers he is surely the king
So now all together, one last rousing chorus
Three cheers for the maestro, the bould Christy Ring”

Christy Ring


Carraig an Thorabh

Monday, 19 February, 2018 0 Comments

That’s the Boar’s Rock and it’s the high point of a loop walk in the Glen of Aherlow that extends along Sliabh na Muc (the Mountain of the Pigs). Recommended.

Carraig an Thorabh