The Patrick Kavanagh Weekend going strong since 1971 took place in Inniskeen last weekend.
In beautiful weather both visitors and locals enjoyed talks, walks and a coach trip plus the announcement of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award winners easily the longest running continuous award in Ireland. The visitors were welcomed to the Centre by Patrick Martin playing the uilleann pipes which set the mood for the programme that followed.
On Friday evening the audience listened to a tribute to Dr. Antoinette Quinn, Inniskeen who died during the year. She, who has written an acclaimed biography of the poet, was an invaluable support to the Kavanagh Association, being President for many years. The audience took a minute’s silence to reflect spiritually on her life and achievements.
The Annual Poetry Award was won this year by John Mee. John was born in Canada in 1965 and has lived in Cork since he was seven years old. He works as a professor in the Law School at University College Cork. He published his first poem in 1991 and in 2008 he was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. The adjudicator, poet and novelist himself, Brian Lynch, took the audience through his judgement and the poets responded by reading and reciting from their works. Professor Emeritus Alan Titley gave a spirited and lively talk punctuated by poetic recitation and song. He defined the area of Oriel – the ancient territory of Louth, South Monaghan, South Armagh and part of Meath which was in existence and recognised before the Normans and certainly before the Elizabethans divided us all in counties for control and administrative reasons. There was a vigorous exchange of views in the question and answers session that followed. The evening ended with a beautiful musical presentation, composed by Dr. Daithi Kearney, Lecturer at DkIT. ‘To Stay Or Leave’ had an emigration theme with dancing, singing and dialogue. The Kavanagh Centre is always appreciative of the musicians from DkIT and love to welcome them to Inniskeen.
On Saturday morning the early and eager birds joined Larry McDermott on the Kavanagh Trail in Carrickmacross before Dr. Una Agnew, S.S.L gave a sparkling talk on Patrick Kevany, Patrick Kavanagh’s paternal grandfather. She traced his arrival in Kednaminsha as school teacher, his sudden departure and his final settling in Tullamore, Co. Offaly. On Sunday 13th September Dr. Agnew was the moving force in erecting a tombstone in Durrow graveyard where Patrick Kevany is buried.
Then Ursula McCarthy, Donaghmore, Kilkerley gave us a lovingly researched talk on her own place and its historical position in Gaelic culture in the 19th century. It was pleasing to see that the hall was full to the door for this lecture.
After lunch Dr. Fergus O’ Ferrall in his talk ‘Re-thinking Home: Goldsmith, Kavanagh and Heaney’ was clinically eloquent in his depiction of rural Ireland – its strengths and weaknesses and the need to be aware of our responsibilities in preserving what is valuable in it. He gave examples of places in Ireland which have taken hold of their own communities; people who are not content to wait for top down solutions but are energised to highlight what is best for their own areas. Some people came specially to hear this provocative and thought provoking lecture.
Brian Lynch, President of the Kavanagh Society gave his eagerly awaited talk on ‘Winners of Sorrow’: Patrick Kavanagh and William Cowper’. Cowper’s famous poem about the felling of a stand of poplars near the river Ouse is linked to Kavanagh through the poplar trees his own father planted in Mucker. Both poets used the Alexander Selkirk / Robinson Crusoe theme expressing the plight of being marginalised which Kavanagh writes about in Inniskeen Road: July Evening. We were then privileged to listen to the poet Mary O’Donnell read from her work. Few poets can read with her emotion, expression and delivery. Filled with gravity and mixed with wry humour, there were not copies of her latest collection ‘From Unlegendary Heroes to April Fevers’ left over.
Last but my no means least in the afternoon session, was Dr. Oliver Murphy. Born in South Armagh but living near Blackrock, Co. Louth he has written his first novel ‘A Fight for Freedom’ which outlines graphically his young life growing up in difficult times around the Border. Anne Campbell, well known journalist, introduced him and talked about the honesty of the story and that since its publication it has become a slow burner. People are beginning to talk about and it is leaving the shelves of the book shops. A vital and cohesive link with a grim environment that many experienced, the story is not without its moments of humour – robust, black and universal. It is available at the Kavanagh Centre book shop.
The commemorative Mass for Patrick Kavanagh and deceased family members was celebrated by Fr. Martin Treanor, P.P and the homilist was poet, Fr. Pádraig Daly, author of his latest collection ‘God in Winter’. Apart from the quality of the homily, the congregation was impressed by his reciting of the poet’s verse.
The 2014 poetry winner, Rafiq Kathwari was present to launch his recent collection ‘In Another Country’. Rafiq who was in the Kashmir Valley lives in Cooley, Co. Louth, but has spent most of his adult life in New York. He is a true Kavanagh ambassador who promotes him at every literary gathering which he attends whether in India or the US.
A great crowd eagerly awaited Tom MacIntyre’s play ‘The Gallant John Joe’. It was an opportunity to experience one of Ireland’s great actors, Tom Hickey. He did not disappoint and we left the Centre storing the memory of his performance.
The open mic session featured Kavanagh aficionados Seosamh O’Luana from Sligo, Judy and Jimmy Rhatigan from Kilkenny, Brian Dooley, Inniskeen and Art Agnew, Carrickmacross.
Sunday morning was beautiful as people hurried to the Matthews’coach for the morning tour. The tour followed Kavanagh’s journey to Dundalk to the hayseed market, it stopped at the Town Hall where Peter Murphy solemnly outlined Patrick Kavanagh’s presence at ‘Tarry Flynn’ which was sold out in November 1967. He died in Dublin shortly after. On to Blackrock and memories of Kavanagh meeting playwright, Paul Vincent Carroll. A treat awaited us at Stephenstown Pond where young soprano, Maria Hughes sang three songs, Down by the Sally Gardens, She moved through the Fair, and My Love is like a Red Red Rose. Maria sang last year in Inniskeen and was back by popular demand.
The Graveside Commemoration took place at 1.45pm. Piper Paddy Martin was present to add poignancy to the occasion. Brian Lynch, laid the wreath of wild flowers and foliage gathered from Mucker. A wide spread of people read and recited poems from his work.
Hugh McFadden, the Dublin writer who knew Kavanagh gave a wonderfully personal talk entitled ‘A Literary Adventure’ which was peppered by names of the great and the good; those who knew the poet and loved him and those who had, let’s say, a different viewpoint.
Noel Monahan, the acclaimed Cavan poet who has published six collections, read from his own work ‘Wordfarming’. His reading was a headline for all the aspiring young poets in the audience.
The Kavanagh Centre has enlarged the Schools Poetry Award to embrace all Ireland. The Centre was not disappointed as over seven hundred entries were received and the Centre was chock full when Larry McDermott gathered the parties on stage for the School’s Awards. Noel Monahan, the adjudicator gave a sensitive and constructive judgement on each of the shortlisted poets and they were invited to read their poems.
Students from as diverse areas as Carndonagh in Donegal, Mountrath in Co. Laois and Killiney in Co. Dublin were present when Niamh Smyth, co-ordinator of the Awards spoke. She outlined the Cavan Monaghan ETB‘s sponsorship which has been continuous since 1984. She congratulated all the participants, their teachers and schools. She was especially thrilled to be presenting an award to a student from Inver College, Carrickmacross, Chloe Eaton, Ballingarry, a few miles from Inniskeen.
The evening concluded with the announcement of the local Primary school awards. The winners from St. Daig’s N.S were Sarah McHugh and Shane McGahon and from Scoil Cholmcille, Blackstaff, Kaitlyn Boyle and Niamh McKenna. The awards were presented by Peter Murphy of the Kavanagh Society.
The Patrick Kavanagh Centre would like to acknowledge the support of Monaghan Co. Council, Cavan Monaghan ETB, Matthews.ie, Gerry Cumiskey Ltd., Inver College, Magees Inniskeen Ltd., Peter McArdle Plant Hire Ltd., Inniskeen Fuels Ltd., Inniskeen Credit Union Ltd., Nuremore Hotel. A big thanks to the staff and volunteers without whom these weekends would not happen.
It was a beautiful evening and people were slow to move away but gradually they left for Clare, Cork, Waterford, Carlow, Wexford, Laois, Dublin, Randalstown, Co. Antrim, Donegal and Sligo.
As the poet wrote:
‘…Gather the bits of road that were
Not gravel to the traveller
But eternal lanes of joy
On which no man who walks can die …’ (Prelude).