Pauline and I watched Ken Loach’s film Jimmy’s Hall on Friday night. It was very emotional: we were both in tears at the end, and Pauline said to me ‘Think how great Ireland could have been!’ The film is based on the true story of Jim Gralton, the only Irish person ever to be deported from Ireland.
It is set in a small rural community much like our own, in the 1920s and 1930s. Gralton, a socialist, returns to Ireland from the US, having left in the aftermath of the 1919–21 war here. His friends and neighbours ask him to reopen a hall for use as a community centre, where people can meet for cultural, social and educational activities. He duly opens the hall, with assistance from the friends and neighbours, but the local parish priest resents its existence, believing that the Roman Catholic Church should control everything. Continue reading
A song based on an old poem of mine.
Time for one more,
Eyes are bright;
In store tonight
Told me often
That she might
Sail the coffin
To the light. Continue reading
[I wrote this in July but forgot to post it here then.]
You should be here in these times
To tell us what you’re thinking:
To show how your sweetness has developed
And your sharpness has increased.
This unholy blur started with shivers:
Our lives’ coldest spell.
You were gone for no reason;
Time passed slowly while snow fell.
Ireland froze, except for rivers of tears.
My latest song …
I remember you told me
You were born on a ship at sea
All the oceans we’ve explored
Since the day I climbed on board
Filed under Ireland, Music
On Tuesday we found ourselves at Lissadell House, the ancestral home of the Gore-Booth family, six years after we first visited it and Co. Sligo. Back then we went to see and hear Leonard Cohen; this time the house itself – famous for its connection with Constance Markievicz (née Gore-Booth) and W.B. Yeats – was the attraction. We looked out at the rain through the windows of which Yeats wrote (and Cohen recited):
The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
(from ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz’)
There’s an extensive and excellent Easter 1916 exhibition in Lissadell at present, including a lot of Markievicz paraphernalia. There is also a wealth of material related to Yeats and his brother, the prolific painter Jack B. Yeats. Continue reading
A new song that I’ve written.
You can’t drive a straight mile on a crooked road
Or walk away from reaping what you’ve sowed
Or fill your head with other people’s stuff
Because their dreams will never be enough
You will try
To live a life of peace
With love that will increase
The summer’s golden glow
When the dark
Of night will take its toll
The hope that’s in your soul
Will let you
Echoing the songs of long ago
Love will grow
When it’s time to start again you’ll go
With the flow
All the things you’ve done are in the past
All the days are flying by so fast
Still you try to read another sign
The time has come for crossing one more line
Soon the sun
Will bring another day
The night will fade away
New flowers will start to grow
And the life
That brings them out to play
Will find some other way
I watched the second part of the Christy Moore Journey documentary tonight, having watched the first part at the weekend. I’ve always liked Christy and his music: he is a man who clearly cares about a lot of people, but I wish he were not so selective in his caring.
A teenage girl who dies giving birth in a grotto will have a song written about her; names of the Birmingham Six and the victims of Bloody Sunday will be recited in songs. That is right and proper. But teenage girls killed by the IRA in Birmingham and children killed by the IRA in Warrington will not have a song written about them. Their names will not be recited. They are of the wrong tribe for compassion or for outrage. Neither will members of the ‘right’ tribe have their names recited if they were killed by the same tribe. Mary Travers, a 22-year-old Catholic teacher, was murdered by the IRA as she left a church. Christy won’t be writing a song about her.
Christy cares about injustices in Latin America, and that’s good. In our own situation, though, his songs show that he cares only about Irish nationalist victims – not about the victims of Irish nationalism. This is tribalism.
If you want to be a tribalist, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend to be something else altogether – a humanitarian, for example.
I admire the bravery of the rebels. I think things would probably have turned out the same (partition and an independent 26-county state) without the Easter Rising, except that there would have been less bloodshed in Ireland over the following seven years, and the new state would have benefited from the contribution of the likes of Connolly, MacDonagh, Plunkett and Collins, and might have taken a road that would have offered better lives to its citizens.
I don’t like to see history simplified and reduced to black/white, good/bad, them/us. I don’t like tribalism or wallowing in victimhood, or a belief that the Irish are somehow special. Perhaps the two most important words in any language are ‘Yes, but …’ We should question orthodoxies, including the orthodoxy of Easter 1916, in my opinion. We should challenge the idea that nobody was ever an Irish patriot unless they shot someone or blew someone up. Continue reading
Filed under History, Ireland
I recently came across the following quote from Gerry Adams, justifying the IRA’s murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten (along with a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and an 83-year-old woman) in Sligo in 1979:
‘What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation.’
It’s a strange one. Mountbatten and his companions were blown up while on a fishing trip in the Republic of Ireland – by no stretch of the imagination was this ‘a war situation’. The four people who lost their lives could, and probably would, have objected to dying in this manner.
Mountbatten’s war record mainly relates to the Second World War: he played a prominent role in the Royal Navy. We should not forget that the IRA sided with the Nazis. Continue reading