I Finally saw THE SILVER TASSIE at The National Theatre last night. What a play, and what a performance! O’Casey’s great war play – or should that be anti-war play – has finally found its natural home.
Act one is set in a Dublin pub, where the victorious football team is celebrating their victory in the cup – the Silver Tassie of the title. Most of them are home on leave from the trenches and are having one last celebration before heading back to France.
Act two, which is set in what appears to be a bombed-out Monastery, drips with symbolism, and the realism of act one has been replaced by a fantastical second one. The soldiers, battered and beaten by their experiences, cower among the ruins,trying to make sense of all the madness, seeming at times to be worshipping the huge gun which pokes its nose out at one corner of the stage. Whether the inference is that religion is as bad as war,or that it causes war, I couldn’t make my mind up,but that there is a clear link between them is certainly implied. The booming and flashing was quite alarming at times, never moreso than at the end of the act, when the huge gun is trundled centre stage, loaded and then pointed directly at the audience, resulting in another almighty bang and a flash that had me seeing stars momentarily.
Acts three and four deal with the aftermath; act three with with the gassed, the shell-shocked, the maimed and the blind trying to recover some kind of normality in hospital; act four at the celebratory dance at the football club where the story began. Here the wheelchair-bound footballer who had won The silver Tassie for the team and his blinded friend finally realise that for them life will never be the same. The ending is surreal, several girls dancing with their ‘scarecrow’ partners, falling down and picking them up,falling down and picking them up…

Brilliantly done and great writing. 5*****




Ah Lackendara

You heard the voices too

At Passchendaele where you

Cowered as the big guns

Bombarded your world to silence

Blasted your thoughts to kingdom come

And left you forlorn

On that ragged outcrop

In the foothills of the Comeraghs

The fox and the curlew your only companions

The gurgling Mahon Falls

All there was to quench your thirst.

For thirty years you trod those hills

Taking little notice

Of ordinary life around you going on

Your presence on the mountain a constant reminder

Of mans’ inhumanity to man.

Jim Fitzgerald, ‘Lackendara’, with an unknown female.

Jim Fitzgerald, known as ‘Lackendara’, lived halfway up the Comeragh Mountains for over forty years. His home was a cave of sorts, with a roof comprised of bits of driftwood, stones and soil, and an entrance concealed by strips of hanging grain bags. A veteran of WW1, where he was said to have suffered shell-shock, he spent the remainder of his life in isolation in this rugged and unforgiving terrain in the foothills of the Comeraghs. He was known as a hermit, though he did venture down to the nearby village of Kilmacthomas every few weeks to collect and spend his pension on some essential groceries etc, but he never dwelt longer than was necessary, happy, it seems,  to be back in the isolation of his Comeragh home, where sheep, foxes, and other wild animals were his only companions.


Jim Fitzgerald with Marcela Kirwan in 1955

The only time I ever saw him was in 1958, when a group of us were on a day’s trekking from the Technical College in Portlaw. We had cycled the 10 miles from the college to Mahon Falls, an amazing spot where the river mahon gurgled and rushed down  the craggy rocks, before forming the river proper. We had spent most of the day climbing the mountain to get to Coumshingaun, a silent, eerie lake which  was near the top, and to investigate Crotty’s Eye, a needle-like projection nearby, where the highwayman, Crotty, watched weary travellers negotiate a treacherous pass through the foothills, before way-laying them and robbing them of their money and valuables. Crotty was eventually hanged for his crimes in Waterford City.

On our way back down we saw Lackendara in the distance, heading for his ‘home’ which was nearby. He didn’t see us because there was a large boulder between us and he was pre-occupied with a fox, which had been following him. He stopped and gave it some food from a bag he was carrying, before patting it on the head and disappearing inside his cave. The fox finished eating then trotted in to the cave after him!

Lackendara died the following year, aged 68.