The Avondhu - By The Fireside
THAT THERAPEUTIC KERRY AIR
Today’s playlist features songs
Stirring memories of youth
Then heady from the bottle
Emerging from nowhere - he drops to the ground.
Rumpled clothes flash through the air Motionless – a gentle heap of a man Bottles intact - peek out from his pockets Good Samaritans help him up
Feeling powerless I buy him food.
Minutes pass - then
Ascending steps - to board the bus Through fog filled glass I see him taken in an ambulance His sandwich - left on the cold seat outside.
Clouds loom large and the sky feels low On this damp November day –
I silently say to him
‘Take care and safe journey’.
“Watch, look, listen!” is the prudent advise to the aspiring seanchaí, storyteller and those who follow that route, will have the very best of truly captivating tales for their eager audience. If you listen to the legendary tellings of renowned Kerryman, Eamonn Kelly you will realise that all his stories derive from real life happenings, old customs, idioms and old sayings that decorated conversations round the fireside and indeed made great sense.
Another jovial and very eloquent Kerry bard, Brendan Kennelly, who sadly departed this life in October, got such joy and seanchaí material from incidental meetings with ordinary people, who had their stories of everyday life to relate. He was a very busy professor of English literature in Trinity College, but rose before dawn daily and walked the somewhat deserted capital streets and lanes, just to meet those people who had a story to tell. He encountered every creed and nationality on his early strolls, which we might find a strange way to start one’s day, but he was on a mission and he often spoke of how much he loved those ordinary people and wanted to listen to every tale, good or bad, that they eagerly wanted to share.
I think his agreeable personality would bring out the best in folk, even those who only had the cold pavement as their bed and another drink to ease the misery. He listened fiercely as he was interested in their journey to this station and often realised that behind the rough, shabby facade, which seemed hopeless, a gifted but stifled persona lay hidden, which prompted a fitting poetry piece...
“Though we live in a world that dreams of ending, that always seems about to begin
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin...”
I suppose Brendan was well educated in the art of song and storytelling from his childhood in Ballylongford, where his parents managed the local pub with a ‘Céad míle fáilte’ to one and all. He had a keen ear for the good scéal round the fireside and once described local ‘stout-hearted’ singers as “touching enchantment”. He never forgot his roots in The Kingdom of Kerry and journeyed back there regularly to mingle among his beloved kindred. He acknowledged that the true native needed to breathe in the therapeutic Kerry air in regular doses, it was nourishing food for the soul.
It was fitting that he exited this life in such a beloved spot that was so dear to him and we can sense that unquenchable grá for home in a lot of his writings. His poetry will live on and scholarly generations will search earnestly for his rich literature legacy and dig deep in the myriads of meaningful verses he left behind.
And so, I will leave you reader, with one of his unforgettable compositions which depicts how he derived such pleasure from the warmth and true value of friendship by just being in the company of people he loved...
“What is a room but the moments we have lived in it
Your words are the only furniture I can remember
Your body the book that told me most
If this room has a ghost, it will be your laughter in the frank dark ..... ”
Rest easy Brendan in your heavenly bed of soft Kerry earth... suaimhneas síoraí dod’ anam fíor-dhílis.