The Avondhu - By The Fireside


- Headphones in ears Music plays and minutes fly by Time no longer stands still Fingers tap to the rhythm of the beat. Eilís Uí Bhriain

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.

 ?? ?? The late Brendan Kennelly.
The late Brendan Kennelly.

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