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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- ON RAGLAN ROAD


By Mattie Lennon

“Only in you my song begins and ends.” So wrote Philip Sidney.

 When we are intrigued, uplifted or moved by a song how often do we know where it began?

  Most Irish love-songs were inspired by women. But who were these women? When you listened to Luke Kelly belting out “Raglan Road” or Brendan O Dowda’s rendition of the haunting “Gortnamona”did you wonder who the objects of the composition were?   Gerry Hanberry’s latest book “On Raglan Road – Great Irish Love Songs and the Women Who Inspired Them”   gives the story  of the unrequited love in Patrick Kavanagh’s life when the   Medicanl Student, Hilda Moriarty admired his talent but didn’t want any romantic involvement with the 40 year old poet.  This  inspired the poem   “Raglan Road”.  The book also tells  the stories behind of thirteen  other Irish love songs and in-dept biographical accounts of their authors..  We are told in great detail who the real “Galway Girl”,Nancy Spain” and “Grace” were.  Thin Lizzy’s  “Sarah”, Mick Hanly’s “Past the Point Of Rescue”  and  Johnny Duhan’s  “The Voyage” all have strong and beautiful  women behind them.  The devastating death of Percy’s Frenh’s first wife at a  young age prompted him, in his grief, to compose “Gortnamona”. Whatever about every good man having a woman behind him does every good song have a woman behind it?  

      GerryHanberry has published four collections of poetry to date and also a biography of the Wilde family,  “More Lives Than One – The Remarkable Wilde Family Through the Generations”  and four collections of poetry .   In 2000 he won the prestigious  Originals Short Story prize in Listowel Writers’ Week.     Having won the  Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Award in 2000 he went on to win the  Strokestown Prize 2003 and RTÉ’s Rattlebag Poetry Slam  also in 2003.  In the Summer of 2004 he  won the Brendan Kennelly*/Sunday Tribune Poetry Award  and he also  won the Galway City and Co. Council’s Poetry Award for National Poetry Day 2009 and  he has been shortlisted for many of Ireland’s top poetry prizes .  Apart from his writing he is acoustic guitarist and vocalist with the great Rock, Country, Blues band The Atlantic Rhythm Section.

   He has been invited to read and deliver workshops at many literature festivals and been broadcast on Lyric FM, Galway Bay FM, Newstalk, Midwest Radio, Cape Cod Radio in the US, Ireland’s RTÉ and in Australia.   He holds an MA in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he teaches a Creative Writing course to undergraduates. He is also a teacher of English at St. Enda’s College, Salthill. He was a journalist during the 1980s and 1990s, writing a weekly column for the Galway Observer under the name “Joe Barry”. In addition he performs regularly as a singer-songwriter. He runs  creative writing and poetry appreciation workshops and delivers talks on his non-fiction works around them .  He is available to give a reading or talk, sing or play  and can be contacted at ;gerryhanberry@gmail.com

*P.S.  I hope Gerry doesn’t mind me using the following; In 2004 Brendan Kennelly wrote “ Raglan Lane “, a celebratory  “poemsong “ that gives Patrick Kavanagh a moment of happy fulfilment rather than a climax of disappointment.

                                               RAGLAN LANE.

In Raglan Lane, in the gentle rain, I saw dark love again,

Beyond belief, beyond all grief, I felt the ancient pain,

The joyful  thrust of holy lust, I stretched on heaven’s floor,

One moment burned what the years had learned and I was wild once more.

The years’ deep cries in her sad eyes became a source of light,

The heavy gloom  and sense of doom changed to pure delight,

And as we walked and talked we knew one thing for sure,

That love is blessed togetherness and loneliness is poor.

Then I grew rich with every touch, we loved the whole night long,

Her midnight hair bon the pillow there became an angel’s song,

Her happy skin, beyond all sin, was heaven opened wide,

But as the dawn came slyly on, I slept and she left my side.

Why  did she go? I’ll never know, nor will the gentle rain,

Her up and go was a cruel blow, and yet I felt no pain

For I had known her body and soul, in my own loving way,

So I lay and thanked the God of love at the dawning of the day.

Mattie Lennon  mattielennon@gmail.com

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- FIELDS OF RYE


                                                                          By Mattie Lennon.

  Des Garvin was born and reared in the townland of Shrataggle, County Mayo.  In his recently published book “Fields of Rye”, he uses Shrataggle as a blackboard to illustrate life in all of rural Ireland in the last century and before.

   Traditional music was always one of his passions and he has been a leading light in Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireannn for many decades.   Involved in Peace Groups in Northern Ireland for thirty years his leadership ability became evident as a young teenager.  When Rural  Electrification was introduced to his native heath  the Ground Rents proposed by the ESB was exorbitant. He tells us, “ . . . the ground rent on our house was calculated at £15and that was payable every two months. Today, that is roughly the equivalent of €290, and it was extortion plain and simple.”

   It was highly unlikely that any of  Des’s neighbours would sign up. Out of economic necessity there were forced to say no.  Tony Blair said that the art of leadership is to say no but Des wouldn’t agree.

   The young boy from Strataggle convinced all and sundry to say “yes”  despite the  outrageous price quoted,  “ at least until the lines arrived in the village.”  The result? The ESB was left with no choice but to join the village to the network.  As luck would have it, between the beginning of the project and the houses of Shrataggle being connected the government of the day introduced a subsidy which reduced the ground rent to £2 every two months. The island of Inishlyre, in Clew Bay, County Mayo, was only connected to the national grid in September 2000. Obviously they didn’t ever have a young Des Garvin living there!

   An in-depth genealogical analysis of Garvins, O’Malleys,  Cormacks,  Gilroys and every other family that inhabited Des’s part of Mayo for centuries is a collector’s item.  A photo gallery of 157 images contains pictures – including   “ The Bridge at Sharaggle and Last Rick of Hay”-  that would, otherwise, have been lost but are now moments frozen in time and recorded  for posterity.

  97 year-old   Catherine Garvin, from  Shrataggle, has  been living in New York since 1939.  She educated herself and had a very successful  career in the travel trade and later the legal and banking business. She was one of 40 travel agents on board, in April 1958, when Aer Lingus introduced its trans-Atlantic service with the Seaboard Super Constellation.   A few months ago Des interviewed her for his book. She told him of how she attended secretarial school after arriving in New York and became proficient in shorthand and typing.  ( And . . . whether cutting turf in Mullach Padda Bhain or negotiating with people who were key figures  in the Good Friday agreement, Des Garvin would leave no stone unturned .)  He gave the Shrataggle  nonagenarian  a sentence and asked her to reproduce it in Pitman shorthand .  She produced the result, ” . . .in moments.”

   The author doesn’t go overboard in blowing the trumpet of his own family. Although he does point out that his aunt Anne, who worked as a cook in the Royal Victoria Club in Leeds,  was responsible for introducing chips and Yorkshire pudding to Shrataggle.

  Some years ago  Cllr Joe Mellett, , said of John Healy, that other great writer from Mayo : “He’s a guy that we can associate with especially in bad times. He made the rest of the country aware of what was happening then.”   The comment also describes Des Garvin. Wren-boys, Cillins, Missioners, blasting with gelignite , illicit distilling and travelling shows  feature. It’s all there.

   In my working days Des  was my boss for a number of years  and  am I  glad that I didn’t ever cross swords with him. What would be the point of taking on somebody who, when barely out of short trousers, convinced a stubborn rural community to take action against a semi- State body that would result in an 87% reduction in ground rents?

      Details of “Fields of Rye are  on;  www.shrataggle.com

Mattie Lennon    mattielennon@gmail.com

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- HELLO

 Mattie Lennon   mattielennon@gmail.com

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- “POETRY MY ARSE” AND “FUCK YOU JACKSON”

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- TONES THAT ARE TENDER


By Mattie Lennon

   In the 1960s when my  contemporaries  were listening to Radio Luxemburg and singing (and talking about) “a Whiter Shade of Pale”, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and such numbers I had my ear glued to the steam-radio  in anticipation of a Percy French song sung by Brendan O’ Dowda.

   Much has been written about William Percy French and now Berrie O’ Neill has written the definitive biography of the great man. Percy French’s grand- nephew Courtney Kenny puts it in a nutshell when he says, “For a very long time there has been a distinct need for a proper biography of Percy French. And here it is, at last”.

Percy French who is largely remembered for his songs was a multi-talented person.  In a period when Irish songwriters were penning ballads about widows daughters dying from TB and coffins being carried down bog roads Percy French introduced a lot of humour to the art.  While he wrote some sad songs (the words of Gortnamona written when his first wife died is one example) most of his songs were comedic and consequently have stood the test of time.  He could be inspired by a simple sight of phrase (what modern writers call a “gaddick”.) while entertaining on a cruise-ship he hear a passenger say, “They’ll be cutting the corn in Creeslough today” and  “An Emigrants Letter “ was born.

  William Percy French born in County Roscommon in 1854 was a singer, poet, painter and parodist.  He was, at times accused by the upmarket media of the day of being, “Demeaning to the Irish people.”   One of his best known songs, “Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff” has been often parodies. After the Equality Marriage Referendum here a native bard came up with” Come Back Paddy Reilly to Marry James Duff.”

   The author, Berrie O’ Neill, told me,”

     “My interest in Percy French was not at all a planned one I was born on a farm near

Eyrecourt, Co. Galway a long time ago. As the farming life did not appeal to me I joined

the Bank of Ireland and by 1982 through a mixture of good fortune and having kept my

nose clean I found myself manager of the city office of the Bank in central Belfast.

      Amongst my customers at the Bank was the late Oscar Rollins, successful business

man and a councillor in the Borough of North Down. On a golfing trip to Southport in Lancashire

he had serendipitously come across the grave of Percy French in Formby. Stricken

by a sense of pathos he had become devoted to bringing about a much greater appreciation

of the songwriter, poet and entertainer, particularly back in French’s homeland.

      With characteristic determination and strategic thoroughness Oscar enlisted to the

cause no less a person than the famous Irish tenor, Brendan O’Dowda who was at that

time seen as the personification of Percy French, He also found ready support from Ettie

and Joan French, nonagenarian daughters of the great songwriter and entertainer.”

  Octogenarian Berrie went on, “          When the Percy French Society decided that it would be appropriate to publish a biography

of Percy French the search for a suitable author eventually and unexpectedly focused

on me and I was entrusted with the task. With a little help from family and friends

‘Tones That Are Tender ­ Percy French 1854­1920’ was published by Lilliput Press on behalf

of the Percy French Society in 2016. This, labour of love, was launched at Belfast’s

historic Linenhall Library on 4th May, my eighty sixth birthday.”

   And they couldn’t have made a better choice. Ronny Maxwell of the Percy French Society told me,   “ Thee author provides us with a most comprehensive study of French’s ancestry and family background and we gain much insight into the social history of his time and an in depth knowledge of a charismatic, unselfish, rather eccentric, family-loving individual. The well-chosen title reflects French’s kind, inoffensive personality and the gentleness of his watercolours with their generally gentle shades.  I have just finished “Tones That are Tender” and it’s many years since I read such an informative work. This biography brings out the many talents of Percy.  The beautifully presented hardback includes thirty of his watercolours as well as snippets of information not in the public domain which the author ferreted out. For instance  Dublin music publishers Piggott’s rejected his song “The Mountains of Mourned  on the grounds that it wasn’t, “. . .   serious enough for a ballad, not funny enough for a comic song.”  What was the “gaddick”  for this work which has stood the test of time?  In the words of the great songwriter himself, “Looking at the range of the Mourne Mountains from Skerries one clear afternoon I found myself repeating, ‘the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea’.   This line kept recurring to me till one day it wedded itself to an old Irish air, and the combination seemed so happy that I set to work, or rather shut myself in my top room with pen, ink and paper, and waited.”  Wasn’t it well worth the wait!   When he composed “The Mountains of Mourne” he was living at 21 Clifton Hill, Skerries  and I’m sure that now , from his celestial  “Top room” he is pleased the know that, as I write, his beloved Skerries has been selected as the tidiest town in Ireland.

   Tones That are Tender is a not-to-be-missed publication.

Details at; www.Lilliputpress.ie  or from Ronnie.maxwell@btinternet  at the Percy French Society.

Mattie Lennon     mattiejlennon@gmail.com

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By Mattie Lennon.


Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards, I take the air there willingly, perhaps more willingly than elsewhere, when take the air I must. (Mary Beckett.)

   It would appear that people of a literary bent are fascinated by graveyards. And why wouldn’t they. One intellectual told me that the only place they can concentrate properly is in a cemetery.  One friend of mine who is fairly handy with the pen but not so sure about the existence of a hereafter would spend all day in burial grounds. Being on holidays with him is a bit like being with the Bronte sisters.    He has a good sense of humour and is not offended when I call him a “Tombstone Tourist.”  Although he once informed me that the correct term for someone who loves cemeteries   is “a taphophile “. He then went into pedantic mode and informed me that his interest is known as “graveing.”

   While I don’t   fully share my friend’s penchant for burial grounds I have accompanied him on several “graving” trips. (On one occasion a gravedigger took a look at me and said, “It’s hardly worth your while going home.”)   I found the experience most interesting and I can appreciate the peace and tranquillity to be found there. In his poem   A Country Graveyard in County Kerry. Martin Delany captures it very well in the following stanza,

I have been through this graveyard many times savouring

The withering flowers wafting in the wind, the weeding

Of old graves, the scent of mown grass on sun beamed days,

The laughter of men digging new highways to eternity.

Thomas Gray described his surroundings in vivid detail in Elegy in a Country Churchyard. And while I have you, take a look at the line, “The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.”  Now, have a go at juggling the words around. You may be even surprised at how many ways you can use those words while being grammatically correct and conveying the same message.

It is claimed by oneirologists  that if you dream that you are standing, walking or sitting in a graveyard you can expect a peaceful, quiet and happy life.  Standing and walking is no bother but our burial places don’t offer many places to sit.     In many countries you will find seats in graveyards,  In the Jewish cemetery, many graves have a seat at their foot,  but in Ireland  it is not the norm.   There are of course some with seating,  New Abbey Cemetery in Kilcullen, county Kildare and the Huguenot Cemetery in Dublin are examples , but they are the exception.

    Recently, in Munster, an applicant was refused permission to erect a seat close to their family plot.  On learning of this your humble scribe contacted every local authority on the island of Ireland. And guess what.  The aforementioned was the only refusal for such a project in the last ten years.

Many Council representatives emphasised that they hadn’t ever refused permission hat a cemetery seat. “Limerick You’re  a Lady” how are ye. There is no reason not to have more seating in Irish cemeteries.  There is no legislation to prohibit the erection of seating provided it’s in a safe location.  I’m sure those who drafted the Rules and Regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds, 1n 1888, did not envisage the families of the deceased being deprived of an opportunity to sit down beside their loved ones.

   In most burial grounds in the UK families are allowed to sponsor a memorial seat to be placed in the cemetery and do not require planning permission for this. The seat is only sponsored and therefore remains the property of the Cemetery.

Mattie Lennon  mattielennon@gmail.com

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