Patrick Kavanagh’s poem was honoured in the village and the wider surrounds last week. As one visitor simply put it ‘it was an unforgettable experience’. And so it was.
On Friday afternoon you could observe the cars with strange County number plates parking across from the Raglan Road Tea Shop. We were delighted to welcome all the visitors and those who made return journeys from Kilkenny, Durrow and many other ‘far flung places’ to be with us again this year. People were coming for the full weekend and anyone interested in music, recitations and generally controlled fun were entertained in McNellos.
Saturday began with games, music and fun-art in the Inniskeen Social Club led by Pauline Downey. In the early afternoon the visitors from Durrow who stayed the full weekend were taken on a guided tour of Kavanagh Country and South Armagh visiting Crossmaglen, Silverbridge, Creggan and the surrounding countryside led by Brian Dooley.
Then in the afternoon the ‘Inniskeen through the Ages’ guided walk with heritage and history expert Larry McDermott. This walk is increasing in relevance and importance and is attracting genuine history scholars along with the casually curious.
5pm came and the bicycles began to go by in twos and threes through the winding Parish roads to Dooley’s restored farm house in Magony. More and more enthusiasts are dressing up in traditional 1930’s clothes and riding old style bicycles. This year the flora is especially luxuriant with ‘banks and stones and every blooming thing’
After a stop in Dooley’s in Magoney for refreshments provided by Susie Owens and Tony Dooley . The visitors found it hard to leave the music and storytelling in the old farm house where the bellows, crane and open fire held centre stage. It was on to Smith’s in Mullaghnahinshinagh for a rambling house night. Traditional currant bread, tea and coffee were supplied by Marie, Packie, Maria and Donal Smith assisted by Margaret Lynch as were other drinks of unknown progeny. Brian Dooley kept the show on the road as people sat comfortably in the lovingly restored 200 year old kitchen. Then back to the Social Centre and a bus in thoughtfully supplied by Coolderry Coaches for those who wished to park their bicycles.
Music song and storytelling continued at McNellos until late (or maybe till an early hour!)
Nobody was expected to surface early but when Rosaleen, Margaret and Elmar opened the Church by the Round Tower for the registration at 12.30 ‘pilgrims’ were already arriving. The Patrick Kavanagh exhibition is on display here while the Centre is being refurbished.
Paddy Martin sounded his pipes on the road; Larry McDermott, the Health & Safety director signalled the all clear; the trek began, heading through the village on the road to Mucker, Kednaminsha and the west road to Drumcatton. As we walked along Thomas Ruddy was a mound of information, explaining where the two storey National School used to be which centred so dramatically in the Chapter of Tarry Flynn. He also recited from the Bard of Callenberg, John McEnaney, and the ballad about Donaghmoyne coming to play Inniskeen.
Lennon’s loomed large as walkers did not find the time long and we were greeted with a variety of food and drink. Warm and cold drinks, finger food and chocolates courtesy of Mary Lennon. Pat Lennon had the deck ready outside, Owen-Joe McGahon was there accordion at hand. Art Agnew read ‘The Deck beside the road’. Peter Murphy explained the origins of this famous local deck. Brian Dooley and Thomas Ruddy sang and recited. Peter Lennon excelled whether dancing on concrete or on the deck. We were away again. This time to Tom Lennon’s and the re-enactment of the wedding from ‘The Green Fool’. Tom Lennon has a virtual museum of memorabilia where the early pilgrims visited while the sun lovers slowly climbed the hill.
The re-enactment was great. Open air theatre at its best. Apart from the sparkling dialogue from Eamon Monahan, Dessie Cassidy and Martha Kingham. Mickey Keenan and Rhona O’Hagan stole the show arriving in wedding finery. Thanks to the Faneside Players but the best was yet to come!
Owen Joe greeted us at Kavanagh’s home in Mucker while The Faneside Players prepared for their final re-enactment. This took place in a ‘brand new theatre’ Cassidy’s front lawn. As his Uncle Peter said to Tarry in the last lines in Tarry Flynn ‘close your eyes and you can see it better’, that is what the 70 or so people did. The opening scene from Tarry Flynn as Mrs. Flynn tries to get a reluctant Tarry not to be late for Mass, was brilliantly performed. Owen Green as Tarry, performed with a truly brilliant performance from Martha Kingham as Mrs. Flynn. Fiona Hoey and Keavy McGeeney as Kavanagh’s sisters were exceptional in their performance as was Dessie Cassidy playing Eusebius. The applause was still ringing around and ‘Pilgrims’ genuinely wondered ‘can there be better than this’
Now it was on to Kednaminsha – Drumnay Cross – in Tarry Flynn. It was here that Peter Murphy, the nonogenararian supreme, gave another of his never to be tired of performances of Fr. Daly preaching to his congregation. Using the Marian Shrine as a background for ‘Fr. Daly’ fairly laced into ‘the Drumnay blackguards’.
We are especially indebted to the road stewards; Claire Cunningham, Paddy Dowdall and Ita Keenan.
Larry McDermott, sensibly decided that it was too hot to walk the 3 kilometres to Brennan’s and we all used the coach provided by Matthews Travel. The inveterate bicycle people did their thing.
Billy Brennan’s Barn has become totemic on the Kavanagh trail and it was spic and span. Special thanks to Tommy Rooney, Joe Callan, Paddy Dowdall and Art Agnew for preparing the venue. More tea, coffee and currant bread supplied and served by Kitty Lennon, Mary O’Rourke, Ita Keenan, Susan and Michael Farrell.
More theatre. This time Brian Dooley and Thomas Ruddy had a re-enactment prepared of the libel trial in Dublin in 1954. Thomas Ruddy as John A Costello, S.C and Brian Dooley as Patrick Kavanagh. This life like performance led to a brief discussion and some more poems from Owen Greene and Rosaleen Kearney. Following refreshments Brian Dooley performed extracts from ‘The Great Hunger and Thomas Ruddy gave us more insights from Kavanagh’s literary library.
Larry McDermott officially thanked all who had made the day so enjoyable and especially the Rooney family for the use of the yard.
Rosaleen Kearney then announced the winners of the 1930’s Costume and Style Competition. It was impossible to differentiate an individual costume and the following were awarded; Rhona O’Hagan, Rose Lorenz, Rose McGeeney, not forgetting the only man ‘the groom’ Mickey Keenan. One more treat was in store. Those still with energy were invited up the hill to view the’ triangular field’ and Reynold’s farm the inspiration for ‘Shancoduff’, ‘Innocence’ and other poems.
And then it was the bikes, the cars and the coach home to the village and the barbecue. Talk was plentiful, different people had their own highlights but all agreed that the weekend lived up to expectations.
A special word of thanks to Gerry Dooley, Chairman, Inniskeen Social Club and his hard working Committee who catered for all of us and for the lively music which was provided by Kenny Mac bringing the weekend to a close.
A special word of thanks to Clogher Historical Society for the use of their safety equipment . Fitzsimons High Nelly Bike Hire, David McKeown Electrical for Generator Hire.
To all our volunteers too numerous to mention here, without their help the weekend would not be possible.