BACK again after a short holiday in Ireland. What a big change from last year when prices were outrageously high and services abnormally low. Hotels which charged fifty bob for bed and breakfast were this year charging only thirty bob.
By and large service was good, especially where the staff was trained. I encountered a few first-class dodgers in some of the hotels. There was one in particular behind the bar, who disliked work. I could not catch his eye to get a drink. Neither could anybody else.
He spent ages dawdling over an order and when I eventually succeeded in attracting his attention he disappeared from my part of the bar in a series of shifty moves, just like a goat running from thunder.
WRITERS’ WEEK in Listowel was a huge success, with hundreds of visitors from England and America, not to mention our own major cities.
English visitors in particular enjoyed it very much, especially as they had been forewarned of disaster as they were leaving. Agents advised them against travelling.
All sorts of stories are circulating in England about the treatment accorded to English tourists in the South. There are tales about calculated insults, refusal of accommodation and, worst of all, wild and improbable yarns of physical assault.
I hope the English folk who spent Writers’ Week in Listowel will tell the true story about the South of Ireland when they return home.
Shortly before Writers’ Week I received a letter and poem from Thady Woods. Thady, as readers will no doubt be aware, is a native of Athea but is currently residing in Limerick. Anyway, let me quote from this popular Athea man:
“Dear John, I am sending you this simple although highly evocative poem as a tribute to Writers’ Week. Always around this time of the year I visualise the rural scenes of my childhood: the scenes which will be evoked by numerous writers during the forthcoming week in Listowel.
It is only through literature that men can share in the poetic development of man as a whole:
“The road it is far to Listowel,
Shortened by pubs on the way;
Where I’ll stop for a take and relax awhile
And wait the light of day.
The road to Listowel is far,
Maybe a drive in a car I’ll seek,
To take me there in style
For your fabulous Writers’ Week.”
As Thady says, the poem is highly evocative. What a refreshingly simple piece it is by comparison to the confused and unmetrical compositions which seem to abound these days.
The story unfolds itself in the most simple fashion and we are left in no doubt about the author’s intentions.
The vainglorious and opinionated louts who think themselves to be the only children of the muses nine should take note, should sup at the same spring as Thady Woods and endeavour to emulate him, thereby bringing us back to an age when poems were easily understood by all.
NOW FOR a story from a man who says by way of introduction: “I am a West Limerick man and the Leader is my paper. This is a true story. In a certain townland in North Kerry there lived a widowed mother and her only son who was very mild and fond of a drop.
“One morning, when the widow got up she found a note on the table. It was from the son saying he had gone to join the army.
“The next day she visited the parish priest and told him her story. The advice he gave her was to leave the son in the army as it would make a man of him.
“Time passed and the son left the army a completely changed man. He also had a nice bit of money.
“When he arrived home the parish priest invited him to the presbytery.
“I hear you have money,” the priest said. “You should give some of it to your mother and keep some yourself. Then there’s your father, the Lord have mercy on him. You should give me some of the money to say Masses for him.”
“Well,” says the ex-soldier, “if he’s in hell Masses will be no good to him and if he’s in heaven they won’t be any good to him either.” “But what if he’s in purgatory?” the priest said.
“If he’s in purgatory,” said the soldier, the best thing to do is leave him there. ‘Twill make a man out of him.”
NOW a letter from Main Street, Abbeyfeale. It is from the Gay Bachelor himself, Mattie Tobin.
“Will you ever tell me what is the idea that not a single bachelor from Ballaugh is entered for the Gay Bachelor competition in Ballybunion?”
This is a good question, and I searched for an answer in the town of Abbeyfeale when I was at a funeral there one day last week.
“The Ballaugh boys will never enter for competitions,” a well-known Abbeyfeale publican told me, “because they are too proud.”
While in Abbeyfeale, I met my friend, Dermot O’Brien, of Duagh.
“I want you to do me a small turn,” Dermot said.
“If I can,” I told him.
“I want you,” said Dermot, “to get me made a Peace Commissioner.”
Now if there’s one thing I know nothing about it’s the appointing of Peace Commissioners. All I know is that Dermot O’Brien of Duagh would make the greatest Peace Commissioner of all time.
NOW FOR the best letter of the week, in fact the best letter in a very long time. It is from Master Walpole of “Dellmar,” Ballinacurra, Limerick:-
“Dear Mr Keane, I was most interested in your article of May 27th regarding the disappearing corncrake. The people of Limerick do not realise the treasures they have in the Fort Green Estate in Ballinacurra which is within the Limerick City boundary.
“On this estate you have 237 trees of 26 varieties in mature age, grassland, marshland and river. The fifty-four acre estate supports sixty-four different varieties of birds and then different varieties of mammals as well as a playing pitch, riding school and beautiful walks.
“The area was overgrazed by cattle but for the past 18 months there has been a limited number of horses grazing there. This resulted in the return of two pairs of corncrake last year, increasing to five pairs this year. The wonderful increase in the number is due to the limited grazing.
“The estate is now seriously threatened by the wave of urbanisation. We are endeavouring to keep this area as a natural park.
“I say if you must bring city into the country please leave some of the country in the city.”
Thank you, Peter. Next time I’m in Limerick I’m going to visit Fort Green Estate.
The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of June 24, 1972
MICHAEL DALY of 59, Sunnyhill Road, Streatham, London, SW16, would like to know the author of the following poem:-
“Cuttin’ the turf, cuttin’ the turf without feet on the shining slean,
Cuttin’ the turst, cuttin’ the turf till the cows come home to the bawn.
Footin’ the turf, footin’ the turf and turnin’ our best;
Footin’ the turf, turnin’ the turf till the rook files home to her rest.”