Saturday, October 30, 2010


Hallowe'en has become something of a commercial event as of late in that almost every business interest with a bone to pick or crow to pluck would seek to profit from it in some way. Not that it wasn't ever thus, except that in more distant times it was left to individual enterprise or endeavour and the futures market for turnips was such that it wouldn't be any use looking for one in your Christmas stocking. Our American cousins and the advent of television not to mention the proportions of some "starlet" wandering around in the upstairs with only a torch on while the telephone is ringing downstairs put an end to that! Though it has its good side, I can put up with a fire on a hillside if it prevents that hillside from being turned into a quarry or an open cast mine, which has happened to quite a few hills around County Meath and other places, and their storied past and heritage didn't save them. Now where's that broomstick!

A few diversions.

Oh, the night that was in it
Berries, crab apples
And the bull's wool tied
You could lose
The thread.

And coming home from Devotions
A man might want his gates removed
A sobering thought.

The talk of the harvest
Oh, there was no day in it!

A few figures close to the verge
And the curtains twitching.

You could spend a day
Scooping out
The turnip! 
Frank Murphy: from Excursions.

Photo: The Hill of Ward Athboy County Meath.
          Where it all began!
          With thanks to Google Images!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Francis Ledwidge.

Francis Ledwidge.

I drove out to Slane a number of years back taking the old road that comes down from Skryne, which is the way I usually go to avoid the traffic of Navan, or other places. Anyway picking it up at the crossroads beyond Lismullen School it runs pretty true all the way to the Yellow Furze and I wonder is this one of the roads Ledwidge had in mind when he wrote the poem "Skreen Cross Roads" . If he was travelling from Slane to Dunsany then I suspect that this might have been one of the more tempting routes. Ledwidge was another old schoolbook favourite in that his" Lament for Thomas McDonagh " was pretty much a standard at one time. The cottage at Janeville where he was born on the 19th of August 1887 is today a museum and anyone who takes the trouble to drop in will find it more than a rewarding experience. He enlisted in the Enniskillen Fusiliers on the 24th of October 1914 and was killed at Ypres on the 31st of July 1917. Of the reasons given for his enlisting; the "Lost Love" ,Ellie Vaughie was the one I was told on the day I visited. Ellie Vaughie died a year later in Manchester giving birth to a daughter and he was given leave to attend her funeral. Francis Ledwidge served on some of the most bloodiest battlefields of the war and was killed while at roadworks in the enemy bombardment that preceded the third battle of Ypres. A story is told of his friend Mattie McGoona locking up after working late back in Navan, and turning to see Francis coming in through the gate, hurried to greet him, but he was no longer there! The information for some of the above detail was taken from "Francis Ledwidge, Poet of The Blackbird", available from the museum.

The Blackbird of Slane:
click here

With thanks to Google Images, Youtube, The artist, and the man who posted it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Boyne Readings/Emer Davis.

Boyne Readings/Emer Davis

Emer Davis of the Viaduct Bards in Drogheda was the guest reader at last night's open mic session at the Knightsbridge Village Hall in Trim, though this time in the more intimate surroundings of the library rather than  the hall itself. Introduced by Paddy Smith she read from her recently published book of poems, "Kill Your Television" a title that owes its origin to the time she spent in the "Flatlands" of London. If that's not a contradiction in terms. I think she mentioned that her poems draw their influence in some way from the times she spent in Achill Island, though they touch on many subjects. She also read a good number on the experiences of women in the second world war and there seemed to be a constant thread of movement, or journeying throughout. It was one of the most interesting of the readings and more to be heard from this poet

Photos: Emer Davis and Emer Davis and Paddy Smith.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Boyne Berries (8) Autumn 2010.

Boyne Berries (8)

Noel French of The Meath Heritage Centre launched this, the latest edition of The Boyne Writers' Group literary magazine at The Castle Arch Hotel in Trim on the 30th of September last. A beautifully produced book with a cover illustration by Greg Hastings of an early medieval monastic site or graveyard at Glendalough Co. Wicklow it contains contributions from as far away as the USA and China. Not forgetting India of course. A mixture of poetry and prose with the Boyne Writers themselves having more than one or two interesting pieces there is sure to be something here to suit every ones taste. Cherry picking though, Simon Leyland's "Oh, Happy Days" might just capture the mood of the thing, or the times we live in, and James Linnane has an interesting poem here as well. "Rome Burning"! Though if you haven't paid your mortgage...say no more. Caroline Finn compounds it, and sort of trips over into the surreal, bad day down in Ballinbrackey sort of stuff, the title best omitted, give peace a chance. A contributor to "Sunday Miscellany" on RTE Radio 1, far too early for me, but "sounds" interesting indeed. Maybe the Boyne Writers could load some of them up on the site? Boyne Berries (8) available at or details on how to purchase. Priced at €7 euro a copy. I picked mine up at Antonia's in Trim.

*Note: The Guest Reader at the next open mic session at the Knightsbridge Village Hall in Trim is Emer Davis of the Viaduct Bards Writers group. Her poem "Requiem" is included in the above collection on page 11. Organised by the Boyne Writers the poetry readings begin at 8pm on Thursday the 21st. Five euro entry with tea and biscuits!

Photo: Book cover by Greg Hastings. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

James Clarence Mangan.

James Clarence Mangan.

Of all the poets that could be named as having some connection to Meath, James Clarence Mangan is perhaps the most widely and best known. A standard of the old english "readers" his poem "Dark Rosaleen" is probably known to everyone who went to school in Ireland. Born in 1803 his mother Catherine Smith came from the parish of Kiltale in South Meath. She married James Mangan a hedge-school teacher in 1803 and set up in a business in Fishamble Street in Dublin, inherited from her aunt Mary Farrell who had moved from Kiltale to Dublin. The source for this material is "A History of Kiltale" and for anyone interested in the above it is probably required reading. Published in 2000 and edited by Pat McKenna, I would think a copy could be had  from the County Library. What is interesting about the article is the first hand accounts, both from a letter written by the poet at the height of the famine in 1847 (Kiltale Summerhill Meath 21st July 1847) when he visited his mother's old home, and a piece or short article from the Irish Press dated 21st of June 1949. (Mrs Mary Madden /Culmullen)  There is too much material to be reproduced here but I would imagine the woodlands and countryside around Dunsany where he is said to have dined every Sunday with a Fr. Jones, the parish priest, has not changed all that much. The article goes on to say that after a love affair had gone wrong " Mangan used still come to Kiltale but after that he went more often to   Kilmessan. The tavern was there.... No less that W.B. Yeats said of Mangan "To the soul of Clarence Mangan was tied the burning ribbon of Genius". A number of years ago I attended a reading in his honour at the Trim Library arranged by Tommy Murray of the Meath Writers' Circle and if I remember right, some of his relations were there. James Clarence Mangan died in 1849 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetry. The video clips below are from Youtube so thanks to those who loaded them and the artists performing on them, Worth a look!

Dark here

Dark Rosaleen
click here

With Thanks to "A History of Kiltale" and Youtube. More information if you click under videos on youtube. Also thanks to Wikipedia.

Photo: Memorial Bust of James Clarence Mangan/ St Stephen's Green. (Google Images)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Poetry Ireland Day Meath 2010.

St Patrick's Cathedral Trim.

Poetry Ireland Day in Meath got off to an early enough start with a reading in St Patrick's Cathedral in Trim at 12 Noon organised by the Boyne Writers' Group. This is the second year they've had a reading at this venue and a beautiful one it is. A fair enough gathering of about ten or twelve arrived, to read, or listen to a favourite poem. Though I think most people read something. Michael Farry read "Father and Son" by F. R. Higgins and Mat Gilsenan read a poem written by his grandfather in the late eighteen hundreds if I'm not mistaken. Sounded good! Kyrie Murray read about a monument to be set in stone to the Celtic Tiger or was that a bull, and a few seemed to drift in at the end. The Boyne Writers had another reading later in the day in Kells while we were off to the library in Navan.  

Meath County Library.

Tom French of The Meath County Library was the host for this event and he laid down strict guidelines as to what you could read, in that it had to be a favourite poem and not one of your own which caught a number of people out including myself, but there were prizes to be had such as Ruth Padel's "52 Ways of looking at a poem" and "The Meath Anthology". This is the one I didn't get, but musn't complain. This turned out to be a very interesting evening in that people tendered everything from recitations to popular ballads. The one I remember best is Paul Martin doing Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat". Now I looked this up for both Nick and Johnny Cash, not bad Paul! Tommy Murray read a poem about swallows, might be a bit late in the year! Sounded good though Tommy.

Photos: St Patrick's Cathedral. Michael Farry and Mat Gilsenan
                                             Michael Shiels.
Photos: Meath County Library. Tom French and Paul Martin.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Great Speeches.

Great Speeches.

Once upon a time I inherited a desk and drawer, or to be more accurate made use of, and nothing extraordinary about that you might think except that the drawer contained a copy of the oxford companion to something or other and it was nice to sit there in the afternoons and leaf through the pages. Rank has its privileges and more than that since I was surrounded by english teachers who were of the opinion that bean counters and technocrats were best removed out the back, and hard to disagree with them on that even if they couldn't switch things on or off, or open a lock, they were good company, and it is easy to impress with Christopher Marlowe or Sheridan Le Fanu at your fingertips. Nothing remains if I can borrow from a poet except a few lines from Shakespeare or Milton or a word or two from Churchill, though given the times that we live in "In the name of God go" springs to mind. I can't remember many Irish quotes from the book though Oscar made it in and Daniel O' Connell featured if I remember right, and so he should, and when I left I put the book back in the drawer for the next incumbent, if that's the right word. It wasn't mine to begin with! I went looking for great Irish speeches and there are more than a few, but the one below, well take a look...

Click Here
Photo: Me and some Falcon, or was it an Owl? Tara/Heritage Sunday.