The Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen
TIME is running out on my ‘to do’ list and at this stage I’m not sure if I’ll ever get round to everything. I’ve been a bit of a procrastinator all my life foolishly thinking I had all the time in the world to do all the things I wanted to do.
At the rate I’m going, I’ll never see the Taj Mahal, but I’m not that bothered anymore after reading about the bloodshed and megalomania that lay behind what everybody else regards as the world’s greatest monument to love. Tarnished, for me, I’m afraid.
But last week, I did accomplish one of my long held ambitions and finally made it to Inniskeen, the Monaghan village where my favourite poet, Patrick Kavanagh, was born in 1904. I was just in time, by all accounts, because the truly unique Kavanagh centre, run by the community until now, is about to be taken over by Monaghan County Council. What the controversial poet – who himself was always at loggerheads with officialdom - would have thought of that is anyone’s guess, but I can only hope that Monaghan County Council is not afflicted with a Taj complex like other public bodies.
It was a truly exalting experience contemplating the Drumlin landscape that inspired the poet, walking the banks of the River Fane, visiting his grave where the grass grows unhindered and falling in love with nature again while listening to the occasional cacophony from a nearby rookery. I desperately needed the latter to break “the tremendous silence of Mid July”, and naturally I gave thanks for the “wise old crow of Clones”.
Then I come home and hear that the entire crow population of East Limerick is under attack. If Cllr Eddie Ryan has his way, extermination is on the cards for the crows of the Kilmallock/Cappamore municipal district. To say that I am appalled is an understatement. I may even have to launch a crow preservation society if Birdwatch Ireland doesn’t wise up and put all corvids alongside the cuckoo on their amber or red list. Currently crows are green-listed which means that they are not under threat, but you can’t kill them either without a special license. You can’t even keep one as a pet, and I’m told that they make the most delightful companions although they prefer to live in colonies with their own kind. All that, however, was before Cllr Eddie openly declared war on crows. Now I think they need special protection.
What is it about us Irish anyway that we feel such a need to interfere with nature? Even now when growth has stopped and vegetation is scorched and withered, we’re out cutting away whatever bit of wild greenery remains, leaving even less cover or food for wildlife.
My own County Council which showed a marked reluctance to fix the mushrooming potholes on our road last winter has just sent in its Panzer division to obliterate all vegetation on the roadside, thereby exposing the vast amounts of cans, bottles and other detritus casually thrown from passing cars by people who were educated in schools where green flags fluttered proudly in the breeze.
We have a rookery beside our house and apparently it has been there for over a hundred years. I’d die if anything happened to it -they say it’s a sign of bad luck if the crows desert you. Its inhabitants drive me crazy on occasions, especially when they decide to relieve themselves when flying over the house leaving spatters on the newly painted walls or on my new car which seems to have become a favourite target for them. They’ve tried to nest in the chimney on several occasions and being far smarter and more intelligent than I am, they actually succeeded once.
One early Spring about ten years ago, I heard a strange noise in the hot press and thinking the boiler was about to blow, I called himself in from the fields to investigate.
“You must be hearing things,” he said as he put his ear to the door before opening it. Inside, perched on a pipe, was a crow which had taken a wrong turning somewhere up the chimney and looked a bit discommoded.
Despite what the Galbally councillor says, the dawn chorus wouldn’t be the same without the crows. For me, anyway, who finds harmony a bit boring, they add some substance to the twittering. I don’t like Twitter and have never tweeted, but as sure as God, if ever there’s a crow version I’ll be the first to starting cawing.
Crows get a bad press, and as far as I’m concerned, they don’t deserve it. They’re an important part of our eco-system and they have their uses like helping to clear up the mess we throw from our car windows. Who knows they might save us from an invasion as the ravens in the Tower of London once did for England.
If they are pests, wake us up too early and slit our plastic covered silage bales, then maybe we’re the ones who find it hard to harmonize. They are highly intelligent and display the most amazing engineering skills as well as highly tuned emotional intelligence. By the way, they never forget a face either, so beware Eddie.
A final word about Inniskeen! I became an honorary citizen when I told them that I had once met and interviewed Hilda of Raglan Road fame, at a coursing meeting in Clonshire. When they heard that I came from Killaloe, they were beside themselves with delight pointing me to a plaque on the old round tower commemorating the people of Inniskeen who paid homage as the cortege of Brian Boru halted briefly in the village 1004 years ago on the way to Armagh for burial. As Kavanagh said, gods make their own importance.