Ireland

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


Dolores O’Riordan (1971 – 2018)

Tuesday, 16 January, 2018 0 Comments

The last time I saw the late Dolores O’Riordan was on Friday, 6 June 2003 in the Olympiastadion in Munich. Her group, The Cranberries, were the support band for The Rolling Stones during their LICKS tour.

Can there be a more thankless music job than supporting the Stones? The masses flock to their concerts for the thrill of escaping the present for the past and it was the task of The Cranberries that warm June evening to “warm up” the crowd with a 45-minute set of songs, some of which were intended for a 2004 follow-up to the band’s fifth album, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, issued in 2001. Little did we know that the material would never be released. In September 2003, The Cranberries went into hiatus and they didn’t enter a recording studio again until 2011. Now, some seven years later, aged 46, Dolores O’Riordan is dead. RIP.

Dolores O'Riordan


The game of cards and the call of duty

Saturday, 13 January, 2018 0 Comments

The Irish writer Frank O’Connor began his career with a book of stories called Guests of the Nation (1931) and the title story begins:

“At dusk the big Englishman, Belcher, would shift his long legs out of the ashes and say, ‘Well, chums, what about it?’ and Noble and myself would say ‘All right, chum’ (for we had picked up some of their curious expressions), and the little Englishman, Hawkins, would light the lamp and bring out the cards. Sometimes Jeremiah Donovan would come up and supervise the game, and get excited over Hawkins’ cards, which he always played badly, and shout at him, as if he was one of our own, ‘Ah, you divil, why didn’t you play the tray?'”

Belcher and Hawkins are two English prisoners taken during the Irish War of Independence, being guarded by three Republican militants, to use today’s PC term, and they have all become friends. Then, news comes that some Irish prisoners have been shot by the English and orders arrive for the Republicans to shoot Belcher and Hawkins in reprisal. No one can quite believe it. None of the Republicans seem to understand what they are doing and none of their victims can comprehend what is being done to them. Belcher asks for a handkerchief to tie around his eyes as his own is too small. His captors help him tie it.

“You understand that we’re only doing our duty?” said Donovan.
Belcher’s head was raised like a blind man’s, so that you could only see his chin and the top of his nose in the lantern-light.
“I never could make out what duty was myself,” he said. “I think you’re all good lads, if that’s what you mean, I’m not complaining.”

The card players of Galbally