Tag Archives: Patrick Kavanagh

Mattie Lennon Irish Author – SENSLESS CENSORS

SENSLESS CENSORS.

By  Mattie Lennon

Flann O Brien had a burning ambition to have at least one of his books banned. When he invented the character Fr Kurt Fahrt he said, “  The name will cause holy bloody ructions. It will lead to wirepulling behind the scenes here to have the book banned as obscene.”           But the book wasn’t banned, which brings me to sensors.

It has been said that every editor should have a brother who is a pimp. To give him (the editor that is) somebody to look up to.  Should every censor have a similar sibling?

There is a World Day Against Cyber censorship. It is celebrated every year on the twelfth of  March. (Next Tuesday.)  Should there be a world Day against the other sort of censors?     My namesake,  the critic Michael Lennon wrote that Ulysses was,” . Not so much pornographic as physically unclean……” I am not in a position to agree with or contradict him. Because despite numerous attempts over the years I have not yet got to Molly Bloom’s “Yes I said yes I will yes.”   Of course contrary to popular belief  Ulysses wasn’t ever officially banned in Ireland   so  ninety-seven years after its publication I can’t blame the censor for my lack of erudition in that area.

However, though I am reluctant to use the word “victim”,   for more than three score years I have

been a soft touch for “censors” of various hues.  Although in most cases I took Sam Goldwyn’s advice to, “Don’t even ignore them.”

As a bus inspector I once submitted a report on a complaint from an irate passenger.  I had transcribed, verbatim, his objection which included many expletives, known in polite society as “the vernacular of the soldier.”  My Divisional Manager asked me to change the wording,   explaining, “I can’t ask the girls to type that. “

As   fifteen year old,  due to strict parental supervision, I was obliged to devour the exploits of The Ginger Man,  Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield , and his fantasies about Miss Frost,   in the semi-darkness of the cow-house in remote  west Wicklow.  While “the shelves of Patrick Kavanagh’s library” were the hedges of his small farm at Shankaduff my book collection  was kept on   the wall-plates of a thatched byre  which lacked diurnal illumination  By the time I got my hands on “Goodbye to the Hill” a neighbour had moved out, his cottage was empty and I could savour the carryings on of Paddy Maguire around Ranelagh and Rathmines  in relative comfort.

A wise man once said that if you want something to last for ever you should either carve it in stone or write a song about it. Although I grew up within spitting distance of Ballyknockan granite quarries I am no stone-cutter.  But I did on  occasions make a feeble effort to record local happening in ill metred verse. Court cases were threatened more than once  but , sadly,didn’t materialise . And before you ask .  . . I haven’t ever been prosecuted under the Obscene Publications act.

My verbosity didn’t escape censure either. My olfactory organ, you will have noticed,  has a Grecian bend. And what, you may well ask ,has that got to do with censors?  I didn’t acquire my nasal fracture through walking into a wall, falling down, or being hit accidently. No. It happened in Blessington  fifty-five  years ago when a civic-minded man, head-butted me on the grounds that I had been using un- parliamentary language in the company of females. The ultimate in censorship I think you will agree.

When my one-act Play,  “A Wolf by the Ears” was staged by an amateur drama group in Kildare the producer removed just one line. “In case there would be somebody sinsitive in the hall “, he said.

I have no way of knowing when I will be finished with censors but I know when it started. I was eight years old and it was 1954. The year that Sean O Faolain was commenting on the powers that were and their criticism of crossroad, dancing,  V-necks, silk stockings and late dances.  To this list of debauchery was added mixed bathing and advertisements for female underwear. And either close dancing or bikinis was a passport to Hell.  One Sunday my  mother arrived home from first Mass with news. The curate, in a stentorian voice only a few decibels below that of a Redemptorist  Missioner had warned the congregation against “turning over the pages of the rags of Fleet Street.”   Despite her less than perfect eyesight  my poor mother managed the decipher the small print on the back pages of my Beano and Dandy which showed that they were printed  at D. C. Thompson’s outpost in Fleet Street. Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids weren’t actually banned from the house but my father reckoned it was “the thin end of the wedge.” 

My parents were unanimous in their belief that the relatively young Curate was well qualified to set the moral compass for the youth of west Wicklow. And why wouldn’t he; wasn’t his father a Guard in Bray?

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author- FINNEGAN’S WAKE, WITH AN APOSTROPHY.

FINNEGAN’S WAKE, WITH AN APOSTROPHY.

By Mattie Lennon.

Poet Paddy Finnegan passed away, unexpectedly, on 16th July.

Shortly after his death poet and writer Stephen James Smith wrote, “Paddy was a wonderful man who inspired me with his poetry and acted as a great supporter of other young poets too. He fought the good fight and was seen most days outside Belwey’s selling the Big Issue. I’d often stop and have a chat and buy him a cup of tea, he’d offer up a smile and a few words in Irish.

 “I’m sitting here now listening to his CD ‘Fion Ceol agus Filioct’, only a couple of months back he’d asked me to help him make more, I was awaiting his call to help make this happen, and as he speaks to me beyond the grave his verse is still unnerving me with his gravely pitted voice holding my ears and I can’t help but think he got that tone from much harshness, perhaps self-inflicted but also perhaps because society looked past him. “Paddy you’ll always live on in my memory, you’ll always be one of the first people who made poetry sing to me, you’ll always be a writers’ writer, a warrior with words. The Fionn mac Cumhaill of verse. “

Paddy was born “between two years” either in the dying moments of 1942 or just after midnight on New-year’s day 1942. Like everywhere else in rural Ireland clocks weren’t all that accurate in rural Ireland at the time.

He got a Scholarship to St Jarleths College in 1956 and continued his formal education in UCD..

Paddy had a fantastic knowledge of the English language, was fluent in all dialects of Gailge and had a good grasp of Greek and Latin. His versatility was increased in the year he spent in Wolverhampton  as one of “the men who built Britain”. He became an expert on how to fry steak on the head of a shovel.

He joined the Irish Civil Service in 1962 but office work wasn’t for Paddy. Apart from being on a higher mental plane than most of his colleagues he was an open- air man. During his stint there I’m sure  Sigersun Clifford’s line often went around in his head, “They chained my bones to an office stool and my soul to a clock’s cold hands. “ He later worked as a bus conductor with CIE for many years.

    When I got a job as a bus-conductor in 1974 I was sent to Donnybrook garage. I didn’t ask who was the most intelligent person in the garage but if I had the reply would have been concise, “Paddy Finnegan.” As a conductor he could reply to any criticism from an irate passenger; in several languages if necessary. During this period Paddy and a few of his fellow intellectual would assemble in a city centre flat which was known as Dail Oiche. It was a later edition of “The catacombs” as described by Anthony Cronin in Dead as Doornails. With such a collection of intelligentsia you can imagine (or can you?) the topics under discussion. He lived for many years in Lower Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh. If ever a house deserved a Blue Plaque its Paddy’s former residence.

 He brought out a collection of his poetry, sadly now out of print, titled Dactyl Distillations. I know dear erudite reader that you know the meaning of dactyl but I had to look it up. It is, “a foot of poetic meter in quantitave verse.”

   He was inspired by everyday events. His Post from Parnassus  was inspired by the annual Saint Patrick’s Day commemoration of Patrick Kavanagh on the banks of the Grand Canal.

      Post From Parnassus 

(after Patrick Kavanagh)

by Paddy Finnegan

Here by my seat the old ghosts meet.

Here, the place where the old menagerie

Relentlessly soldiers on

Remembering the old  green dragon, me,

On the feast of the Apostle of Ireland.

Ye greeny, greying catechumens

Will cease to stage this ceremony

Only on the command of Sergeant Death.

Then break not the heart of poet past

Nor that of preening poet present:

But know, ye prodigies of prosody

That multitudes in times to be

Will listen to my lays

And look askance

While cods forever fake

Their own importance.

   More recently he recorded a, limited edition,  CD,  Fion Ceol  agus Filioct. I hope that somebody will now bring out an “unlimited” edition.  In his later years he was a familiar sight selling the Big Issue outside Trinity College and more recently at Bewleys on Grafton Street.

   Paddy always had a story, like the day he was chatting to his fellow poet Professor  Brendan Kennelly at the gate of Trinity as dark clouds hung overhead . “ . . . I asked the Ballylongford wizard for a meteorological prognostication. He replied in the immortal words: ‘ There’’ be no rain; it’ll be as dhry, as dhry as a witches tit.’  He wasn’t gone fifteen minutes when amazingly the cloud dispersed and as our old friend Pythagoras used to say: ‘ Phoebus played a blinder for the rest of the  day.” That was Paddy.

  I asked his brother James if there were poets in their ancestry. He said no, that their father was a farmer but, in the words of Seamus Heaney, “By God, the old man could handle a spade.”

The soil of Kilkerrin will lie lightly on Paddy; didn’t his friends drop it gently on his coffin. Such a scene was described by his friend Dermot Healy who pre-deceased him by a couple of weeks, “ . . . shovels work like oars, rowing the dead man from this world”

 The soil of Kilkerrin will lie lightly on Paddy; didn’t his friends drop it gently on his coffin. Suck a scene was described by his friend Dermot Healy who pre-deceased him by a couple of weeks, “ . . . shovels work like oars, rowing the dead man from this world”

P.S. Head shot courtesy of Irish Times.

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