They must have had mighty iron back then because we have two similar pairs of gates and despite their antiquity they never seem to rust.
Anyway, these two gates were getting stuck in the ground so you couldn’t open them fully — and cows don’t like waiting! The gates hadn’t dropped — no, they are as firm as the hobs of hell with stout hanging irons and solid stone heel cups.
No, it was just over the passing years dirt and dust and grit and gravel had been deposited inside the gates, thus ‘rising’ the ground by an inch or two.
So a few hours with pick and shovel solved the problem and now the gates are swinging as freely and fully as they were in the time of Parnell.
I’m telling of the gates as a backdrop to a lovely conversation I had. Friday was a grand day, the morning was more akin to June than early April and several people walking the road stopped for a chat.
Good Friday — so there was a stilly silence pervading the countryside with heat, yes, normally ‘twould be a bitter bitingly cold day. These past weeks have been marvellous weather-wise — as if to cheer us up in these difficult times.
Well, on Friday I nearly finished the work when the mobile rang. I don’t have glasses with me around the farm so I can never see who is ringing — just answer and say ‘Hello’.
‘Hello,’ says he, wasn’t it John Spillane, yeah, the Cork wordsmith.
Last week, I’d sent him a text saying he’d be making a fortune from Royalties as his The Dance of The Cherry Trees had been played several times on the radio!
Well, I put down the pick and shovel and sat down at the butt of the ditch. We talked and laughed for quarter of an hour or so and I was enthralled;
For years I was on to John to write The Ballad of Marengo and eventually he did, versifying the story of how a Wexford-bred white horse was sold at Bartlemy Fair — just two fields away from where I was standing — and ended up being the favourite horse of Napoleon Bonaparte. John could write a poem or ballad about anything.
We spoke of these troubled times, gigs cancelled, tours cancelled, but ever the optimist, John looked on the bright side. Hopefully we’ll meet up soon and he’ll have a new poem for me.
With the gates swinging and the sun shining, I was in good form as I walked back down to the haggard in the heat of the midday sun with songs and poems in my head.
A lovely poem written by Sheila Murphy, published in Remembering the Present, an anthology of poems from North Cork which was brought out in 2012 and dedicated to all sufferers of Alzheimer’s and their families. Too Busy, written by Mary Moriarty in the same collection, could have been penned last week for the times we are in now:
Isn’t that a powerfully positive verse for these days?
Vincent Murphy of Bridestown, Kildinan, was my wife Mary’s godfather — a first cousin of her late father. Vincent was a farmer, musician and also a poet. In this month of April in the year 1999, he wrote a beautiful piece on Signs of Spring:
So evocative with hope, and hope is so vital nowadays as we strive to battle an unseen yet powerful foe.
Thirty years ago a friend of mine, Mossy Canning, published My Poems For You. He has the eye to see and ear to hear the heartbeat of nature, the gurgling of a stream, the blushing flowers and he watched A Robin:
Yes, Mossy, you can sum it up well the — mystery of this world and the next.
Years ago, when I tried my hand at trying to put random thoughts on paper in the form of poetry, I wondered if readers would shake their heads and frown in puzzlement?
The man from Inniskeen in Monaghan, Patrick Kavanagh was a cobbler turned farmer turned poet who kept turning and twisting thoughts from his fertile mind onto paper. Of April he mused;
And when this is all over, as Francis Ledwidge wrote ‘when the dark cow leaves the moor’, and brighter days are with us one and all, I’d like to spend a few quiet days in Kerry and the maybe in the autumn travel to Clare and do as Seamus Heaney said:
John Spillane, you’re a woeful man putting such thoughts of love and loss and poems into my head with ‘the Queen of hearts still making tarts and I not making hay’.
Alright, ‘tis a bit early in the year for hay, but hey Spillane, you’re like me — a bit of a dreamer, but dreams don’t last, though dreams are not forgotten, and soon I’m back in stern realty — aw shure, we all need a bit of divarsion at least once a week.