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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- I HEARD MUSIC IN THE IN THE SHINING WATER OF THE RIVER FEALE

I HEARD MUSIC IN THE IN THE SHINING WATER OF THE RIVER FEALE

By Mattie Lennon

       When a passing stranger sees the bronze bust in the quiet hamlet of Finuge, County Kerry does he or she ask if it is commemorating a local, a soldier or a literary figure. In fact it commemorates all three. When we hear Shanagolden, Red Haired Mary or The Beating of the Drum do we think of the author?

   Sean McCarthy wrote 164 songs, an autobiography, several stories, articles, poems and newspaper columns. He was a soldier, labourer, MC, storyteller, broadcaster, singer and all round entertainer. A visitor to that part of Kerry during the August weekend wouldn’t have to ask any questions about its famous son. His memory is kept alive every year since 1992 by the Sean McCarthy Memorial Festival. It consists of competitions, Ballad-sessions, storytelling and a bog-walk; all the things that Sean loved. One of the people on board from the beginning is Finuge native Minister fot Arts, Heritage and the Gaelteacht, Jimy Deenihan.

   Sean McCarthy was one of ten children. He was born in Listowel, County Kerry, on 05th July 1923.   He didn’t ever make any secret of the poverty as he was growing up. In a radio interview in 1987 he said, “ . . .the only saving grace was the imagination.” (In one of his articles he wrote, “My uncle Jim was as honest a man as hard-times would allow.”)

   He started school at five years old.  Brian McMahon, his teacher remembered, “merry mutinous eyes where gaiety and an absolute freedom of the spirit had wondrously mated.” 

   In his first song, written when he was seven with a little help from his uncle, “the tailor” Roche, he professed his superior intellect;

 

 

 

I’m intelligent Sean McCarthy

And I’m known to all the boys,

I live at the foot of Healy’s wood

With muck up to my eyes.

 

   He grew up in a home which was a house of entertainment. Years later in America, on Arthur Godfrey’s Radio Show, Sean was disappointed at his own attempt to describe,  “. . . the sheer magic, lunacy of the Rambling house as experienced by a barefoot boy.” 

   In his book I Never Saw a Purple Cow he wrote, “I heard music in the shining water of the river Feale, laughter in the flight of the wild geese, sadness in the passing of a friend and hope in the crying winds that tormented the bogs near my home.”

   From an early age he had what he described as, “. . .  an ache in my brain to write a song that would be put down on paper” but, his sensitivity and artistic leanings could be the cause of ridicule. “A songwriter was regarded as a sissy the heroic game was football.”

   There is a strong bird motif running through many of Sean’s Songs; “Wild Geese, “The proud eagle” etc. His friends claim that this symbolises freedom.

   Willing to partly relinquish the freedom of the open country, at fourteen years of age, he headed for Limerick to join the Irish Army. He was accompanied by Willy Sweeney, who was six months older, but of course they were both rejected. They spent four days picking potatoes for a west Limerick farmer who told them the story of “Willie” who died during the troubles. A quarter century later, in an apartment high above Manhattan, Sean wrote the story in song when he remembered the potato-field in “Shanagolden.”

   When he left Listowel the railway company may have suffered a minor loss of revenue. Recounting his departure  Sean refereed to, “dodging from carriage to carriage.” His literary career was influenced by poachers, politicians, footballers, storytellers, tragedy, pain and death. And, as Byran McMahon observed, he “… took as the natural food of his mind the rompings of the wren-boys and the grace-noted songs of the ballad singers.”  And ” . . . the tensions of a people whose land was broken in two.”

   He had an unusual insight into the Irish rural psyche. Exploitation in any form pained him. Like John B. Keane with Sive, Sean emphasises the tragedy of a young girl being forced to marry an older man for economic reasons in his poem Darling Kate.

You are fair of face, dear Kate, now you’re nearing twenty-one,

I hesitate to spoil your dreams, when your life has just begun.

Your father, he is old, a grah, and I am far from strong,

A dowry from John Hogan’s son would help us all along.

Just think of it, my darling Kate, you would own a motor car,

You’d wear fine linen next your skin and travel near and far.

Hogan’s lands stretch far and wide, from Rathea to Drummahead;

He owns sheep and cows and fine fat sows; pyjamas for the bed.

I know he’s tall and skinny, Kate, and his looks are not the best,

But beggars can’t be choosers, love, when you’re feathering your nest!

He’s been to college in the town; his shirts are always new,

What does it matter if he’s old, he’s just the man for you.

I know you love young Paddy Joe, him with the rakish eye,

I’ve seen the way you look at him whenever he goes by.

I will admit he’s handsome, Kate, but he doesn’t own a car,

Sure, he likes to fight and drink all night above in Sheehan’s bar.

Did I ever tell you, Kate a grah… that I was pretty too?

The summer days seemed longer then, and the sky was alwas blue!

I was only gone nineteen, and your father fifty-three,

But he owned the land on which we stand and he seemed the man for me.

There was a young man lived next door, I loved with all my might,

It was his face that haunted me when your father held me tight;

I longed, dear Kate, down through the years, for the soft touch of his hand.

But young love is no substitute for ten acres of fine land.

You will wear a long white dress and a red rose in your hair,

I will throw confetti, Kate, the whole town will be there;

You will make a promise true, to honour and obey,

I will stand on your right hand, and I’ll sell my love away.

Tears are not for daytime, Kate, but only for the night,

You’ll have a daughter of your own and teach her wrong from right;

Rear her strong and healthy, Kate, pray guidance from above.

Then one fine day when she’s nineteen—she might marry just for love.

 

    Each one of his 164 songs tells  a story.

 “The Key Above The Door“, (put to music by Jim Gornal) encompasses the titles of the works of Maurice Walshe with whom Sean shared a profound sense of place. Maurice said ” A place acquires an entity of its own, an entity that is the essence of all the life and thoughts and grief’s and joys that have gone before.”  And Sean was in total agreement with that sentiment.

   As Brendan O ‘Reilly of RTE said, ” Against the backdrop of his beloved Kerry with its mountains and flowers, its toughness and gentleness, its harmonies, rhythms and outrages of nature, he has written about life and love.” When he first attained prominence as a songwriter Bryan McMahon said, “A new and vital voice was raised in the land.”     `

   During World War Two, in England, he wasn’t too young to be conscripted into the BritishArmy. He said he was a reluctant soldier who left the army “not having seen an angry German.”  While there he wrote a song called, Rudolph Hess which was sung all over the Middle East; A comic song written by a man who wrote mostly of sadness. “Why is there no humour in your songs” he once asked Euin McColl. McColl, probably because he was talking to a Kerryman, answered with a question, “Why does somebody have to die in all the Sean McCarthy songs?”

  His consciousness seemed to rise and his sensitivity sharpen when he wrote or talked of death.

   John O’ Halloran, an 83 year old toil-worn Kerryman died a lonely death in London. There were four people at his funeral including a Priest and Sean McCarthy, who went back to his digs and wrote John O’ Halloran a song about life in the raw. Sean described it as “brutal.”

   It was judged “The Best Contemporary People’s Song” by the English Folk Song and Dance Society but proved unpopular with women. Not so its author who had a Joyceian ability to empathise with females. In his Kerryman column McCarthy’s Women he profiled 100 of the fairer sex. As one old Kerry nun put it, “His women came out best, no scar or ill favour found an outlet but with his light gossamer touch he brought out the good, the honesty, the joyousness of one and all . . .“

   At one stage he claimed the affections of a, seemingly, soft-hearted New York policewoman, Marie Adele Baraloni, for whom a sentimental ballad meant tears. Sean was impressed … until he remembered the words of his uncle “the tumbler” McCarthy, “Remember Seaneen be careful of the mule with the calm look. You know what to expect from the mule with the mad eyes, but the one with the docile eyes will kick you when your mind is on other things.”       

        His wit and talent paled beside his generosity and compassion. Perhaps if there were more like him his sister Peggy wouldn’t have met a tragic end on 10th February 1946. Peggy McCarthy gave birth out of wedlock and a victim of the times, of attitude and of gossip she died of shame.

Sean, uncharacteristically harboured a resentment for years until, I suppose you could say, he became a child again, spoke to his old teacher Bryan McMahon, telling him how the hatred was festering and eating his Soul.

”Write about the bloody thing” was Bryan’s advice, which Sean took, as he said himself, “to try and get the hatred out of my system and unsnarl my gut.” The hate grew less and less each day after he wrote, In Shame Love in Shame. Tony Guerien’s play Solo Run is based on the same tragedy.

   He said, “The writing of songs or poetry or indeed any type of creative writing is a drug to me, I can do without whiskey, wine, even food for long stretches but a week without writing something if only a four line poem, would be to me a wasted week.”

 For a number of years Sean ran the Crubeen Club at Clapton Junction in London. He had a Dublin man who used to “acquire “ glasses for him. In the beginning he was bringing in “hotel-quality” glasses, too posh for the Crubeen Club. So Sean had a word with him and he started to supply more modest imbibing receptacles.

     One night a young Dublin singer Danny Doyle walked up the rickety stairs and heard Sean McCarthy singing. That was when Danny’s singing career took off and he makes no secret of the fact that it was launched by Sean McCarthy. He reached the top of the charts with his first record, “Step it Out Mary.”The song, based on a skipping rhyme, was later recorded by 26 other artists.

    On one memorable occasion, on Friday 31st October 1969, somewhere over the Atlantic, Sean was straying around the aisle of an Aer Lingus plane and a stewardess eventually got him seated beside Carol Hannon, an American of German and Irish/French parentage.   This meeting prompted Sean to dismiss the advice of his uncle “The Tumbler” who told him, “ . . . a woman is different from a greyhound. When the greyhound can’t chase the hare anymore he can sit by the fire. But once a female has you fettered to a piece of Holy Paper she’ll sit by the fire and nag you day and night.”    Carol and Sean were married on Saturday 16th January 1971 and it was such a good arrangement that, ever after, Sean would describe himself as “a happily married bachelor.”

   When Sean returned from his global travels and settled back in his beloved Kerry he was one of the founders of The Rambling House programme, which went on to win a Jacob’s Award, on Radio Kerry.

   Weeshie Fogarty of Radio Kerry has this to say, “Kerry has produced many legendary sporting men and women down through the decades. And even away from the sporting fields The Kingdom has given many sons and daughters who helped shape the destiny of this country. If a list was compiled of these legendary people in my opinion Sean McCarthy would stand shoulder to shoulder with many of those great names.

 I was fortunate and privileged to have met and spend time with him and he was one of these people who you came away from and felt so much better in yourself. Very few people have this gift but Sean was special and unique. And indeed I suppose the word unique would be as accurate as any to describe this native of North Kerry. I have never met anyone remotely as charming and special in that unique way as Sean.

He had a wonderful way of telling stories and his songs all written by himself have stood the test of time and are still frequently heard on radio and wherever people celebrate together.  His melodious and highly distinctive voice is for me a joy to listen to and he was one of these people of whom we can safely say ‘there will never, ever be another Sean McCarthy’. He was a once off.” 

  In 1992 when I was compiling a programme for RTE Radio 1, on Sean McCarthy, that other Kerry historian and songwriter, the late  Dan Keane told me, “If I was sad he would cheer me. If I was in need he would help me. If I was a child he would love me.”

   Sean was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1989 and on 31st October he was visited in Cork Hospital by award-winning singer Peggy Sweeney. Sean had often said that Peggy was “the only one who can sing my songs. He asked her to do two things; to turn him in the bed “so that I can see the stars” and “Won’t you record my songs?” She complied with both requests. Sean died on 01st November 1990 and on 15th January 1991 Peggy Sweeney launched her album “The Songs of Sean McCarthy.”  She brought out a DVD of the same name and, later, another album  More Songs of Sean McCarthy. They are available from; www.kerrymusic.com or from the singer herself at; Mountcoal, Listowel, Co. Kerry.

   At his graveside his old schoolmaster Bryan McMahon said, “When a schoolmaster stands at the grave of a beloved scholar there is a sense of loss added to loss . . . The voice of Kerry was in Sean. He had a very lovable personality and a profound truth.”

   I wrote a play And All his Songs Were Sad about Sean’s life and works. I kept fairly faithful to the true story. It was staged by the Pantagleize Theatre Company in Fort worth, Texas in 2010 (My script, including stage directions, must have been all right, because I only got one trans- Atlantic phone-call during rehearsals. It was from Richard Blake, the Technical Director; a Texan actor had asked him how to pronounce “Lyreacrompane.”) But so far no company in Ireland has bothered to produce it.

This year’s Sean McCarthy festival is 01st August to 04th August.

      Mattie Lennon mattielennon@gmail.com

 

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- THE IRISH WAKE

THE IRISH WAKE
by Mattie Lennon.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century the party held before a person departed for the USA was known as an American Wake. This was because, whatever about the person’s siblings seeing them again, it was highly unlikely that the parents would ever set eyes on that son or daughter again.

Of course when an Irish person died in America an Irish Wake would be held there. This prompted the great Seanachi, Eamon Kelly, to say, “The best American wakes were held in Ireland and the best Irish wakes were held in America.”

At home the traditional Irish Wake was held up until about forty years ago. When the body of the dead person was “laid out” (there was usually one person in the area who traditionally did this) friends and neighbours would arrive. Nowadays when there is a house-wake the deceased is usually in a coffin but in olden times the corpse was left in a bed dressed in a brown habit. The smell of wax-candles would fill the room and Holy water from a dish would be sprinkled by each visitor.

There would be lots of food and plenty of drink to be consumed. Clay pipes, tobacco and snuff would be distributed. The simile “like snuff at a wake” has entered the lexicons of expressions. People would come and socialise and remember the departed person’s life. Unless it was the tragic death of a young person it would be more of a party than a funeral. The “parlour games”, sometimes boisterous, were not perceived as disrespectful of irreverent but as a means going some small way to help the bereaved deal with their grief. It was the traditional Irish way of celebrating one’s life and ensuring that they had a good send off. People adhered to the maxim “speak well of the dead.” Cynics might say that this was carried to the point of hypocrisy. In Sean McCarthy’s song you’ll find the lines;

O’ gra o chroi twas sad to see the poor man on the bed.
A mane oul craytor when alive but a fine man now he’s dead.

And according to his fellow county man, that great chronicler of rural life, the late, great John B. Keane, one departed man was remembered thus; “He responded neither to prayers nor to priestly touch and since they could not countenance his damnation in the presence of outsiders they felt it was in order to construe his final fart as a deathbed conversion.” On another occasion the famous Listowel man had this to say, “How proud we would be if we could see previews of our funerals. What a shame the deceased cannot acknowledge the regard of those who loved him not in life but lauded him in death.”
In his book ‘Irish Wake Amusements’, folklore author Sean O Suilleabhain gave a detailed account of what went on at wakes after the Rosary was recited at midnight; From songs that couldn’t be sung in the presence of a maiden aunt to games bordering on the obscene. All sorts of tricks were played, mixing pepper with the tobacco, tying old men’s coats to chairs hiding under the bed of the corpse and shaking it to frighten those of a nervous disposition. Sometimes the Rosary would be recited more than once. The Rosary would usually be “given out” by an important figure – teacher or leader who would recite the first decade then the relatives would take part.

Charlie Reilly lived with his father in Ballynultagh, an isolated and thinly populated glen in the heart of the Wicklow mountains. The nearest shop was in Lacken three miles away. One day Charlie set out for Lacken to buy provisions. When he arrived he found that a local person had died and a wake was in progress. He partook of the hospitality of the wake-house and stuic around for the funeral; taking the corpse to the Church in the evening and the burial next day.

By the time the funeral was over another person had died and Charlie attended that wake and funeral and all that went with it. It was almost a week before he arrived back home. When his father asked where he was he was told, “I was at two funerals in Lacken; how is it we never have a funeral here”?

But the Irish wake is not dead (pun intended.) Two different Funeral Directors in a town in Donegal set up funeral; parlours. It didn’t catch on. In the words of one local Undertaker , “The wake in the family home is still even to this day the way people express their condolences to the bereaved family.”

Steven Smith, a Columbus, Ohio native, is a “different” Irish American. He is an “Irish wake instructor,”teaching people about the Irish way of dealing with death, in particular the tradition of wakes in 19th century Ireland. Sometimes described as “the eccentric Irish American” he believes Irish wakes are “the healthiest way for the mourners to participate in the send- off of the deceased.”

Steven, who works in a tent made up as an Irish cottage, tells his audiences , “Irish wakes became more like parties because it was illegal for Irishmen to be together at the one time, in case they were planning a rebellion against the British Government. The exceptions to this rule were weddings and funerals. So they really made the most of those times.” He says that many funeral parlours contact him for advice on preparing an Irish wake. “It is a real celebration of life, and the life of the person leaving the community,” he says.

Mattie Lennon

Mattie Lennon <mattielennon@gmail.com>

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Mattie Lennon Author- COME HOME TO KERRY (North Kerry Reaching Out Festival)

COME HOME TO KERRY
By Mattie Lennon

I’ve always felt that Kerry people have a more profound sense of place than anyone else.

I’m sure the Lisselton writer Maurice Walsh was thinking of Kerry specifically when he wrote, “A place acquires an entity of its own, an entity that is the essence of all the life and thoughts and griefs and joys that have gone before.”

The late John B. Keane once wrote that if you spin a Kerryman around, three times, in any part of the world, when he stops rotating a certain one of his appendages will be pointing to Mount Brandon.

North Kerry Reaching Out (NKRO) is a coming together on a voluntary basis of the villages of North Kerry with a view to promoting and preserving our culture, heritage and history. It covers the parishes of: • Listowel • Ballyduff • Lisselton / Ballydonoghue • Ballybunion • Asdee • Ballylongford • Tarbert • Duagh • Lyreacrompane • Lixnaw • Moyvane/ Newtownsandes • Knockanure • Finuge and Kilflynn.

I’ll bet you won’t find one of the above place names that haven’t produced a poet, playwright, songwriter, novelist or philosopher. (Words are the tools of Kerry People and North Kerry is the home of the lateral thinker. Ireland’s greatest living man-of-letters, Kerryman, Con Houlihan, who says of North Kerry children ‘You would have a better chance of winning a duel with a Moore Street trader’ tells the story of how, when he was teaching in Renagown, he said to a young misbehaving child, I’ll kill you.” The reply? “If you kill me, sir, you’ll have to bury me.”) Wherever a Kerry person goes in the world he or she won’t usually lose the run of themselves; perhaps Bryan McMahon’s advice, all those years ago, to “Always keep one foot in the cow-dung” was unnecessary after all.

As one committee member buts it, “We are inviting people . . . to come and enjoy a week among their own people . . . . Join us in a magical journey through the towns and parishes that your ancestors left in centuries & decades past.”

However, if you, or your ancestors, are not from any of the places mentioned, don’t worry. The good people of North Kerry will look after you. And if you are famous and have North Kerry forebears you are in good company. The ancestors of world renowned figures as diverse as Thomas Moore and Kylie Minogue were reared on the banks of the Feale. When North Kerry Reaching Out Heritage Project (NKRO) invites the Irish Diaspora worldwide for its ‘Week of Welcomes’ it means it. Kerry people can give a welcome like nobody else.

In its few short months of existence NKRO has developed a network of followers throughout the world, whom it has helped trace their roots in North Kerry. Lewis Mumford said, “Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.”

Whether or not you revolted against your father NKRO, through its Genealogy Programme, will ensure that you get the opportunity to make friends with your grandfather and his grandfather and his . . .

The next step on its journey of discovery is the hosting of its first welcome home festival in the first week in August 2012. Activities planned for the week include ‘A Day in the Bog’, workshops in genealogy and local history, trips to places of beauty and historic importance as well as opportunities to learn a few Irish dance steps and how to wield a camán.

If you come to a place that produced George Fitmaurice, Brendan Kennelly, John B. Keane, Bryan McMahon, Dan Keane, Professor Alfred O Rahilly and Sean McCarthy you won’t be disappointed. Our Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, has found a connection between Listowel and, no less a scribe than, William Shakespeare. This is interesting because Professor Paul Myers of the Theatre Department of KU, Kansas, points out that some words in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” don’t rhyme if delivered in an English accent which prompts the question if Helena and Lysander were played by two Duagh people would the rhythm be more pleasing to the ear?

And a small corner of this green and misty island which can hold such international events as the Dan Paddy Andy Festival, The Brendan Kennelly Festival, the Sean McCarty Weekend and Listowel Writers Week, now in its 41st year, must be doing something right.

“Plans are currently being finalised for our week-long festival in August and we are looking forward to welcoming our many guests from throughout the world to experience life in North Kerry”, said Ger Greaney, Chairman of the Group. “We are delighted to say that we have already received several bookings from as far away as the USA and Australia. Irish people too are welcome to join us. We would love our group to be made up of North Kerry people from near and far.”

The package will include;
• Transport from airport
• Transport to and from events
• Entry to all events (such as turf cutting lessons, bog walking, traditional Irish music sessions and more)
• Transportation to visit your ancestral home in North Kerry.
• Concessionary prices from certain businesses within our locality
The detailed Programme of Events is available from the Group’s website http://www.northkerryreachingout.com which also includes a direct booking facility for the Festival.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Cara Trant, Secretary,
North Kerry Reaching Out,
C/o Seanchaí – Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre,
24 The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Tel. +353 (0)68 22212
Email: northkerryreachingout@gmail.com

Mattie Lennon

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- BEGGARS CAN BE CHOOSERS

BEGGARS CAN BE CHOOSERS

by Mattie Lennon

“Les bons pauvres ne savent pas que leur office est d’exercer Notre gererosite.” (The poor don’t know that their function in life is to Exercise our generosity.) Jean-Paul Sarte.

I was delighted when that the stupid law (The Vagrancy (Ireland) Act 1847) had been found to be unconstitutional.

It reminds me of the first time I met the late John B.Keane in Grafton Street, in Dublin. He was being ushered Brown-Thomas-ward by his spouse. And cooperating fully: unusual for a husband. I accosted him to say thanks for his prompt reply when I had written to him shortly before requesting information for an article I was writing.

We were about thirty seconds into the conversation when an adult male with a lacerated face and looking very much the worse for wear approached me. The polystyrene cup in his outstretched hand proclaimed that he would not be offended by a donation.

I contributed 20p (I think). Ireland’s best-known playwright turned his back, (I’m sure he picked up the gesture in the Stacks Mountains as a young fellow) extracted a substantial amount and gave to the needy. I then thought that a man who had written about everything from cornerboys to the aphrodisiac properties of goat’s milk could enlighten me on an enigma, which I had been pondering for decades.

You see, dear reader, if I were talking to you on a public thoroughfare anywhere in the world and a beggar was in the vicinity he would ignore you as if he was a politician and you were a voter after an election. But he would home in on me. I don’t know why. Maybe, contrary to popular opinion, I have a kind face. Come to think of it that’s not the reason. Because I have, on many occasions, been approached from the rear. Many a time in a foreign city my wife thought I was being mugged. When in fact it was just a local with broken, or no English who had decided to ask Mattie Lennon for a small amount of whatever the prevailing currency was. Maybe those people have knowledge of Phrenology and the shape of my weather-beaten head, even when viewed from behind, reveals the fact that I am a soft touch.

However, a foreman gave a more practical explanation to the boss, on a building site where I was employed many years ago. The site was contagious to a leafy street in what is now fashionable Dublin 4 and those from the less affluent section of society used to ferret me out there. Pointing a toil-worn, knarled, forefinger at me the straight-talking foreman, Matt Fagen, explained the situation to the builder, Peter Ewing, a mild mannered, pipe-smoking, kindly Scot. “Every tinker an’ tramp in Dublin is coming to this house, an’ all because o’ dat hoor……because dat hoor is here…an’ they know he’s one o’ themselves.”

I was relating this to John B. adding, ” I seem to attract them.” o which he promptly replied;” (calling on the founder of his religion). You do.”

The reason for his rapid expression of agreement was standing at my elbow in the person of yet another of our marginalized brethren with outstretched hand.

So the best-known Kerryman since Kitchener left me none the wiser as to why complete strangers mistake me for Saint Francis of Assisi.

And salutations such as “hello” or “Good morning” are replaced by “How are ye fixed?”, “Are you carrying” and, in the old days, “Have you a pound you wouldn’t be usin’ “?

I do not begrudge the odd contribution to the less well off and I am not complaining that I am often singled out as if I was the only alms-giver. Come to think of it, it is, I suppose, a kind of a compliment.

Sometimes I say ; “I was just going to ask you”, but I always give something and I don’t agree with Jack Nicholson who says; ” The only way to avoid people who come up to you wanting stuff all the time is to ask first. It freaks them out.” Those unfortunate people are bad enough without freaking them out. Of course there are times when it is permissible not to meet each request with a contribution. I recall an occasion in the distant, pre-decimal days when a man who believed that, at all times, even the most meager of funds should be shared, approached my late father for five pounds. When asked ; ” Would fifty shillings be any use to you?” he conceded that yes, half a loaf would be better than no bread. Lennon Senior replied; “Right. The next fiver I find I’ll give you half of it.”

Of course none of us know the day or the hour we’ll be reduced to begging. In the meantime I often thought of begging as an experiment. But I wouldn’t have what it takes. Not even the most high powered advertising by Building Societies and other financial establishments can restore my confidence, to ask for money in any shape or form, which was irreparably damaged when I asked a Blessington shopkeeper for a loan of a pound nearly fifty years ago. He said; I’d give you anything, son….but it’s agin the rule o’ the house.”

I wonder was he a pessimist. It has been said that you should always borrow from a pessimist; he doesn’t expect it back. Well recently I was in a restaurant when a work colleague texted me asking to borrow a small amount of money……he was seated two tables away.

As JFK said in his inaugural speech: ” If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

I don’t know about the rich but I have learned one thing about the poor; BEGGARS CAN BE CHOOSERS.

Contact Mattie Lennon at info@mattielennon.com

http://www.mattielennon.com

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Glucksman Ireland House NYU- Poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice Reads His Work

Poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice reads his work

Thursday October 20th, 2011 7:00 PM

Glucksman Ireland House NYU

Poetry’s answer to John B. Keane, County Kerry-native Gabriel Fitzmaurice, a master of the sonnet, reads from his newly published collection, POEMS OF FAITH AND DOUBT, as well as selections from his over forty published works in English and Irish.

ireland.house@nyu.edu Glucksman Ireland House NYU Irish Studies Program

Organizer(s): Glucksman Ireland House NYU

Venue: Glucksman Ireland House NYU

Taken from the Irish Emigrant

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