Anthony Cronin, John Ryan, Patrick Kavanagh
A Christmas Childhood
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — the Three Wise Kings.
And old man passing said:
‘Can’t he make it talk –
The melodion.’ I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –
there was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.
PENTAMETERS THEATRE, SUN 19th JULY @5pm
(50 yards from Hampstead Tube Station)
Colum was born Patrick Collumb in a County Longford workhouse, where his father worked. He was the first of eight children born to Patrick and Susan Collumb. When the father lost his job in 1889, he moved to the United States to participate in the Colorado gold rush. Padraic and his mother and siblings remained in Ireland. When the father returned in 1892, the family moved toGlasthule, near Dublin, where his father was employed as Assistant Manager at Sandycove and Glasthule railway station. His son attended the local national school.
When Susan Collumb died in 1897, the family was temporarily split up. Padraic (as he would be known) and one brother remained in Dublin, while their father and remaining children moved back to Longford. Colum finished school the following year and at the age of seventeen, he passed an exam for and was awarded a clerkship in the Irish Railway Clearing House. He stayed in this job until 1903.
During this period, Colum started to write and met a number of the leading Irish writers of the time, including W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Æ. He also joined the Gaelic League and was a member of the first board of the Abbey Theatre. He became a regular user of the National Library of Ireland, where he met James Joyce and the two became lifelong friends. During the riots caused by the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Playboy of the Western World, Colum, with Arthur Griffith, was the leader of those inciting the protests, which, as he later remarked, cost him his friendship with Yeats.
An Old Woman of the Roads
O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods against the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own
Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.
extract from Patrick Kavanagh’s long poem THE GREAT HUNGER
O he loved his mother
Above all others
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the back of some summer stream:
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
His two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust-nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.
The Great Hunger isn’t about the Famine. It’s about the hunger for, love, food, land, life…everything. But mostly it’s about the hunger for sex…
SOME DUBLIN CHARACTERS
Not necessarily born in Dublin but lived a significant part of their lives in the city.
THE BIRD FLANAGAN
MYLES NA gCOPALEEN
W B YEATS
JACK B YEATS
THE TOUCHER BYRNE
MARGARET BURKE SHERIDAN
One of the best books I have read on the theatre, and on the people who people it,
is John Osborne’s DAMN YOU ENGLAND. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Surprisingly, he has plenty of time for Brendan Behan. Here he is on their first meeting;
“Brendan Behan lurched into my life early one Sunday New York morning. Pounding on my hotel
room door. ‘Is anyone in this fucking cathouse alive?’ he roared. ‘My name is Brendan Behan.
I don’t smoke, I don’t eat and I don’t fuck, but I drink. You can always tell the quality
of a country by two things;its whores and its bread. And neither of them are any fucking good here’.
Brendans life was a ballad, the wild outpouring of a pure, forgiving heart. Who is there in Ireland
or England to take up his matchless song now?
Patrick Kavanagh was born in the village of Enniskeen, Co Monaghan on 21st October 1904. The son of a shoemaker and small farmer, he moved to Dublin at the age of 35, where he lived in poverty for most of his life. He survived on handouts, bits of journalism, and being supported for a time by his younger brother, Peter, who was teaching in the city. On Raglan Road is a poem about his doomed love-affair with Hilda Moriarty. Hilda was middle-class, the daughter of a wealthy Kerry doctor; he was a penniless poet, uncouth and unwashed, of small-farmer stock – indeed, a small farmer himself, who had forsaken the plough for the pen. His finest poem ‘The Great Hunger’ was so controversial that he was threatened with prosecution under the obscene publications act. Always a controversial figure, he was hated as much as loved in Dublin, and his long-running feud with Brendan Behan is well-chronicled. To Behan he was’ the fucker from Mucker’, while Patrick maintained that the only journey Brendan ever made was ‘from being a national phony to becoming an international one’.
ON RAGLAN ROAD
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay –
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.