In his poem Inniskeen Road, July Evening, Patrick Kavanagh watched ‘the bicycles go by in twos and threes to the dance in Billy Brennan’s barn’. I am sure he was well satisfied on Sunday afternoon last watching from his lofty perch on Parnassus, as the bicycles went by in their twenties and thirties to Brennan’s Barn. And there was a genuine rural Ireland party atmosphere in Brennan’s farmyard.
But we are better go back to the beginning. This was the 3rd Annual Inniskeen Road Summer Fest which began on Saturday morning in the village with a Treasure Hunt, followed by a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the afternoon in the old monastery and church. It was the brain child of Sinead Mitchell from Inniskeen. She expertly wove in the Lewis Carroll theme of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with the Christian surroundings of St. Daig’s 6th century foundation. Patrick Kavanagh said that to deprive a child of a sense of wonder is the greatest sin you can commit. We could sense him nodding his approval from above. The old monastic church, Round Tower and graveyard close by the singing Fane is a gem that villages in Ireland can only dream about.
Later on that evening the weather threatened to be a spoilsport but still twenty bicycles went on tour as promised. Led by Larry McDermott the ‘peloton’ meandered carefully to Donal Smyth’s at Mullaghinshina to the lovingly restored farm cottage with its bog oak ceiling and traditional furniture. We had music led by Brian Dooley, singing and dancing on the stone floor. Willie Joe Mealley from Castlecomer in Kilkenny demonstrated the art of making coal last, in a fire which he repeated for a full audience in Grattan Pairc next day. Packie Smyth, himself sang ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly’. We bid farewell to the Smyth’s after tea and brack and some other libations. Some went home, some went to the community centre and some to other establishments.
Next day the meeting place was at Magees where the County Laois contingent joined the swelling group. Senan Lillis from Co. Clare produced a 1920 football and boots and Art Agnew recited the Bard McEnaney’s ballad about a famous Inniskeen versus Donaghmoyne football match. On then, piped by Paddy Martin to unveil the Brian Boru memorial plaque presented by Seamus Cassidy, the local historian, remembering the millennium walk in 2014. Paddy Martin, Carrickmacross, dressed as the Abbot of Armagh, spoke on escorting Brian’s body to the cathedral city. Pat Boylan placed the plaque where it can be viewed easily in historic surroundings.
On to Toal’s Meadow where Brian Dooley regaled the crowd with the story in ‘The Green Fool’ about The Kicking Mare. Next stop was Lennon’s where we had a glorious enactment of the pig killing from ‘The Green Fool’ with Tom Lennon, Martha Kingham and David Monaghan. There was also an opportunity to take in the wonderful views across the drumlins up into County Meath and over Shancoduff.
Owen Joe McGahon was waiting at Mucker Road with his accordion. He stopped traffic. He played several airs. Rosaleen Kearney recited ‘Christmas Childhood’. Thomas Rooney recited ‘Kerr’s Ass and Owen Joe finished with a wistful but romantic playing of ‘Raglan Road’.
We reached Pairc Grattan on schedule. Peter Cassidy had appropriate background music coming over the Tannoy and crowd walked around enjoying the Lisdoonan Heritage Group making butter; Willie Joe Mealley making bread and cooking ham; Johnny Byrne’s micro farm, where the hens and chicks were a sense of wonder to the children and young of heart adults. In the field Noel Magee was waiting to give us a unique dramatic history of Kavanagh. This was a one man act to savour and people had to be prised away to get to our next destination.
The organisers want to thank Matthews Coaches for the free transport from Grattan Pairc to the Barn. Not everyone availed. The bicycles went on, determined walkers did their thing but all arrived on time!
Sean Walsh and his Comhaltas group supplied the music while the Active Retirement Group supplied tea, coffee and currant bread of all varieties. Art Agnew gently encouraged people to perform and when the impromptu concert started, Larry McDermott had a host of entertainers, men and women in equal numbers. This time we had poems from Kavanagh, Yeats and Padraic Colum; we had songs sung by visitors from Wexford, Dublin and Donegal and then as a surprise the crowd was invited to view the triangular field from the hill behind Brennan’s. This was a unique experience for so many and two women, one from County Louth and another from County Laois were quick to point out that field while triangular to the more prosaic is actually heart shaped. This added a mild but imaginative erotic flavour to the viewing. Back at the farmyard, Thomas Rooney, Thomas Ruddy and P. J. Brady all recited and a man from Wexford gave us a haunting version of ‘She moved through the fair’. Dead on 6 o’clock a shower of rain hinted that we were due back in the community centre for the ubiquitous burgers, more music, more craic and vows to meet again next year, definitely.
Where do we start thanking people? The Kavanagh Centre Committee. Rosaleen Kearney, Elmar Marron, Margaret Lynch, Joe Callan, Liam O’Keeffe and Liam Kelly (the new man). All twenty two of the people who came to the organising meeting, The Grattan’s Club members, The Tidy Towns activists, the Actively Retired Women’s Group. Truly it was community effort first to last.
Last but by no means least – everybody got fed – on Saturday at the Mad Hatters Tea Party, on Saturday night in Donal Smyth’s, in Grattan Pairc from Willie Joe Mealley and Lisdoonan Heritage, at Billy Brennan’s Barn and finally at the Community Centre.
The High Nellies were supplied by Pat and Peter Lennon and they were very obliging.
We have a new message for next year. Come for Kavanagh and stay for the brack and the burgers.
A special word to Geraldine Martin for her memorable keepsake collector’s item programme and to Paddy Martin, Inniskeen for his pipe music all day. To Sean Walsh & Comhaltas for keeping the party going at Billy Brennan’s Barn.
The Patrick Kavanagh Centre wants to thank the Carrickmacross & Castleblayney Municipal Council on their funding state of the art TV, Video equipment, and IT Scanner and Copying equipment.