SESSION

Slatterys Capel StreetJohn McGrath had 15 minutes to play with when he heard the church bells ring so he strolled his way through the narrow little streets that led to the Sunday morning ghost of the Dublin fruit market. He stopped there for a while as he always did to have a cigarette and watch the odd figures shuffling towards “Pub opening time”. It was a ritual for him now this Sunday morning.

You had to make the “session” on time of course. If most people who were to play here wrote the time down and date onto an erasable calendar then they wouldn't have missed the session. If you didn’t your place on stage could be taken by a visiting musician or a learner or worse still a spoon player. The indignity of losing your place to somebody banging a set of spoons was unimaginable.

John McGrath though was one of the company at last. He was the session whistle player, after pushing himself for a year. That some of them had known each other for 15 years made no difference to John McGrath, he felt part of their ritual now. The years hadn’t made them any older either he reflected, remembering his time watching them from the audience. Fashion had grown hair and shortened it and changed its colour with seemingly little effect on any of them.

Paddy Buckley had left his flat in the inner city at noon. He had been awoken by the wind whistling through the hole in the window and found himself still clothed and wrapped round a blanket and four pages of yesterday’s newspaper. His pillow was on the floor beside his Uileann Pipes case. He had arrived back at the time cats do, when the grey ends of the morning were beginning to expose the threadbare roofs of his street. He had fallen at the bed and just made it. Now he crept by the ‘Catholic Temperance’ members at the corner of the street with their drink-abuse signs. “Good morning” they said to him. His head throbbed and one side of his hair had stood up defiantly in spite of his best efforts.

It had been almost sunny when he left his door, but was windy and raining by the time he reached the Session. He cursed silently to himself, “another Irish Summer”. At least it might smooth down his stupid hair.

Slatterys Capel StreetIn the last 6 months he had managed to get things almost right on one occasion and that was Wednesday. He had looked up with his heavy eyes on the Wednesday through the empty glasses and the cigarette smoke and there she was, black hair, black dress. She didn’t belong there at all he had thought. He looked back down to his Uileann Pipes but it was no use, she was still there, green eyes. In the course of the night she told him she was only there with her sister and that she hated Irish traditional music. Then, for some strange reason he immediately asked her could he meet her sometime. But last night was “Tourist” Irish night in a hotel with the usual Irish Dancers, a bald comedian with a “kilt”, a singer who died three times a night for Ireland, a harpist named Maire who kept putting her hand on his knee and always smelt of garlic, along with himself and an old fiddler who only drank tea. Still it was €200 for keeping the yanks happy and the drink flowed. He couldn’t bring her to that of course but she had promised Sunday Morning.

“Jesus I’m sick as a dog” John Carmondy was saying as he painstakingly tuned his Bouzouki against the clattering of glasses and the scraping of stools and tables being positioned on the floor. “Give us an A off that whistle”, he said to John McGrath, who was folding up his anorak beside the stage.

Paddy Buckley dragged himself wearily onto the stage. “Jesus” he said. “Four seasons in one day”. “Aye” somebody replied. “Vivaldi goes microwave”. There had been one minor drama. A man whose shakes were a little worse than usual had gone out to the toilet to smoke illegally and while attempting to drop his cigarette end into the cubicle, had let it fall into the open fork of his trousers much to the hilarity of an American tourist who was even now explaining the story in graphic detail to his friends.

Slatterys Capel Street“You look like I feel” said Carmondy as Paddy strapped on his pipes. “Yes” he replied, “American Cabaret, Yanks. But you won’t believe this, at the end of the night you see, we dance with members of the audience. We’re told to go for the old yanks. Well o.k., I’m half drunk already so I get up and head towards this old lady with half moon glasses when a young one stands in front of me and says ‘can I dance with you please’. I’d no objections, so we’re into this mad dance and they usually turn the main lights down for the last dance and use spotlights. So, when it comes to the part where we swing each other round she starts fighting with me and trying to punch me. I couldn’t let her go or one of us would have gone through the window. I found out what was wrong though when the lights came up, her knickers were around her ankles. I nearly cracked up. She calmly says, ‘sorry, thank you’, pulls them up in front of everybody who’s collapsing around in laughter and goes back to her seat”.

The supposed business of the morning began, fumbling at first and slightly out of tune, finally settling down to its usual reassuring rhythm. The second round of drinks had come over and suddenly the bar was full. John Carmondy looked thoughtfully at his second large Guinness while at the same time regretting the fact that he had no breakfast in him. Joe Dowdall, a bodhran player whose age nobody dare ask and who only drank Lucozade was ready for the first song of the morning, humorous to those who didn’t know it but well known to those on stage. It was a welcome breather for the musicians.


“So they dined on the stuff
Said Darby ‘it’s tough’,
Said Paddy ‘you’re no judge of mutton’.
Then Brian McGurk on the end of his fork
Held up a big ivory button.
‘Be the powers what’s that sure I thought it was fat’,
Then Darby jumps to his feet and he screeches,
‘Be the Heavens above I was trying to shove
Me teeth through the flap of his breeches’.”

John McGrath was giving a run down of his week to John Carmondy. McGrath was good for the cigarettes and the bus-fare sometimes, Carmondy was thinking. But there was a way of telling stories that Buckley along with a few others had that made you laugh even if the stories were insignificant. McGrath’s stories all centred around his job and pubs that nobody went near and had no bearing whatsoever on the company, but he was good for the packet of cigarettes and the bus-fare sometimes.

“Here you are Carmondy, I owe you this” said Buckley interrupting his thoughts and handing him €20. “Cheers”, he said. “McGrath’s off again”.

“Yeah he’d bore the pants off you” said Buckley. “His girlfriend will be in later tonight as well. I discovered why she always blinks when she talks to you, her contact lenses don’t fit properly. She makes my eyes water when she talks to me and I find my head shifting from side to side”.

“She told me her father had been in the C.I.A.” said Carmondy, “and when she got old enough to understand she wouldn’t talk to him. She says she hates anything to do with fascism. Of course he sends her €1,000 a month so she can hate fascism in peace. Funny old world isn’t it? Oh damn, it’s your turn for a solo tune”.

Paddy tuned and Carmondy sat back and looked out on the audience. The audience was sitting on barstools that lacked the comfort of executive office chairs. His gaze turned to his coat in a crumpled heap beside the stage. Amazing how it had assumed his personality, that black coat. No longer hanging neatly opposite her green kitchen, now in a crumpled heap in his own life beside the stage. It was three months now, Friday was her birthday. But, you daren’t tell anybody here you missed somebody. McGrath and Miss C.I.A. seemed to have the perfect relationship. She sat there and read books and he talked about his job, and on Monday to Friday they went to pubs that nobody else ever went to.

Then, that lovely crunching sound of a falling glass that is not your own. It was the wife of the American who had drawn such pleasure from the cigarette episode. There was a cheer from the audience and Paddy played on oblivious.

McGrath immediately roared at Carmondy who almost choked on a whiskey but was not in the slightest bit interested. There was something else that intrigued John McGrath. Everyone knew that Carmondy was hitting four whiskeys now before he came on stage at all. Everyone knew he never left the pub at night without bringing home a “supply”, but nobody said anything. They did not comment, maybe they knew he would come through for it had happened most of them at some time or another. This frightened him, this callousness. Sometimes Carmondy had passed out well before closing time and had just been left there to come round by himself. Yet, if an outsider made any form of a joke about it, the ranks closed and that person was told exactly where to get off. Carmondy was Carmondy they said, full of mad twisted comments that had the magnificent ability to cut an adversary to pieces. “Speaking in quadrants and semi-circles” was how Paddy liked to put it but few liked to be on the receiving end.

Old Joe the bodhran player was battling along behind Paddy’s solo. The number of musicians had swollen to fourteen. Old Joe had three claims to fame. The first was that he rarely spoke, giving everybody the impression he was a thinking man but few realised that he was almost totally deaf which probably explained why he did not react when Carmondy told him he had Van Gogh’s ear for music. The second was that some years previously he had driven a tour bus for his brother in Leitrim. One day he was given a group of English tourists to drive around. Over the microphone his blunt historical comments did little for the comfort of his passengers. “That field is where the Irish beat the British in 1594, and that field is where we beat the British in 1620 and in that one there we did it in 1730”. One good humoured Englishman said “surely the English must have won at least one battle”. “Not on my bloody bus they didn’t” said Joe. His third claim to fame was that he was the one to discover a bird’s nest up the rear-end of the great Irish Patriot Wolfe Tone’s statue in South Dublin. This of course posed a few questions, the most notable being as to why he was looking up Wolfe Tone’s rear-end in the first place. Carmondy had referred to it as “rather slanted patriotism”. Paddy’s solo ended and Joe put down the bodhran and drank his Lucozade with the air of one who had done a great service to a Sunday morning.

By twenty past one, the bar was black. Children ran around after children they had discovered fathers had the few drinks before dinner, while mothers watched both father and child. The music got faster as fingers once more became reliable and sections of the audience began to clap along. A tourist was taking close up pictures of the pipes and the bodhran, Joe sat up straight and poked out his chin, Paddy just started blankly at the door and let his fingers take over. Drinks arrived and empty glasses were ferried away.

“Twenty past one” Paddy thought. “Well that’s it now, she won’t be here”. It had been all right in 1979 when he first came to Dublin and money went somewhere and women thought you had a future. Then it all went dry and everyone started scraping and instead of playing for money you played for drink. You played rubbish for Americans for your rent while your dole and the odd gig kept you above the water line. You could charm a woman out of a photograph but ultimately it turned out to be the same thing, she couldn’t afford you and you parted the best of friends. End of story.

Joe in the meantime had grabbed the microphone to sing “Kelly the boy from Killane” amid groans and sniggers from the others. “You know Paddy” said Carmondy, “if old Joe was hung for signing, he’d die innocent. What’s up mate?”

“Nothing, just wrecked tired”.

John McGrath was going to miss all this, even old Joe. America would be a strange place to live, he knew it. It would take him a while to get used to it. However, a ready made job with great prospects and rich in-laws was nothing to be sneezed at, and there was also a good Irish contingent there for sessions, he knew a lot of them. It would make coming back here for the odd Sunday morning during the holidays all the sweeter.

Meanwhile on the stage, there were already plans being made for the night so that those who went home for dinners could meet up with those who grabbed burgers. There was a large queue at the bar and the music was forgotten. Joe had already packed up his bodhran while his wife, without seeing him had already put on her brown coat. Barmen became heroic and pushed their way around looking for empty glasses.

“Thank you for coming along this morning. See you next week”. A very thin American girl with glasses pushed her way up shyly to Joe and asked him to sign a postcard. John McGrath shook his anorak and inquired where the night’s session was.

“Phone call for Paddy Buckley”, shouted a barman.

“If it’s a woman I’m here” said Paddy smoothing down his hair and pushing past Carmondy.

John McGrath was almost home now. He took his time, he had plenty. He was worried though about his money situation. They spent too much on Friday and Saturday nights, something he would have to watch. Still, they could stay in on Monday and Tuesday and now there was the prospect of a good Sunday night. The others he supposed would be holding on for a while in the bar before wandering slowly away. Carmondy would be buying a take-away.

It was hard to think he was going away form all this in just two months. He had told nobody in the job yet and definitely none of the musicians knew. There would be some surprises there – a going away party perhaps. Still, you had to strike out, it couldn’t last forever.

Tomorrow was Monday and the world would start again. Paddy would be sitting in his flat looking out on an old back yard. Carmondy would be in the “early morning pub ” drinking with a retired policeman on one side and a Boris Yelsin look-alike on the other. Joe who as a deep sea diver many years previously had gone deaf from the “bends” would be sitting in his little paper shop while his wife made tea.

But that Sunday John McGrath bought himself some cigarettes and promptly decided he was smoking too much. Music pubs were still pouring out their customers and others stood in small groups around the pavement with papers under their arms. It was amazing how the whole week seemed to run into 1 ½ hours on a Sunday morning, just to meet your friends. Maybe you were better off looking at it from the audience. Anyway he knew them now as well as he ever would. Time to move on.

 

Short Stories


The Fiddle Lesson by Michael Fitzgerald

1.
The Fiddle Lesson by Michael FitzgeraldThe climb from the back of the house up to the main road was a steep one, made even more precarious by winter’s early darkness. T.J. Burke left the house promptly at six with the battered fiddle case beneath his arm and assorted music sheets tucked into the front of his trousers for safety. The cold of the evening hit him with a sudden fierceness. He held the collar of his coat round his neck with his free hand, which numbed immediately, and began to pick his way slowly up to the stile.

The forecast was snow, but so far it had been too cold and now there were tiny blobs of white clouds scattered around the moon. Everyone else was seated around the fire listening to the wireless. His grandfather was listening to the news of the places he had never been, hunched, staring into the flames, rolling the cigarette in his overgrown fingers – nodding at relevant times. Nobody spoke. There was only the sound of dishes being scattered in dishwater.

11
Father Byrne also stared into the fire. His hands were still shaking and his eyes felt like there were two fingers shoving them into the back of his head. He poured another brandy and sat back on the old writing desk that had been with him most of his life. There was nothing working today. All he would remember about Confession was the bad breath through the grill.

And now the fiddle lesson. Why in God’s name had he suggested it at all ? Oh there was promise. The boy had good fingers, but ambition ? Nobody seemed to have any ambition here. All they ever did was sit around indoors and talk low in the winter and in the summer they sat around outdoors and talked low as if they had some big secret. It was like one continuous big secret that nobody else would ever now. He saw a stranger today climb out of his car and go into a shop down there. Everyone stood aside and let him be served first. He could have been a murderer ! “Good morning Sir….safe journey now…can you manage?” No ambition !

111
Father Byrne was already becoming a great puzzle to T.J., with his snowy hair and piercing eyes. He had been going to lessons for four months now and still could not understand the man. The priest’s personality seemed to alter with no prior indication whatsoever. Sometimes he could be agreeable, sometimes bad-tempered. He could also be totally inaudible at times and once he even fell asleep and dropped his fiddle. This alarmed T.J. at first, but the old priest began to snore and T.J. felt he must have been tired after the Confessions. So he checked the sound-post on the fiddle and went home.

He thought about the impending snow. One day last year he had to go to school walking in a gully left by the tyre of a tractor., The snow was piled above him on either side. In his schoolbag along with his well-fingered copybooks, were the compulsory three sods of turf for the school fire. Everyone brought their own heat. Very few people went un-ambushed for those few days The postman who was walking, Mr. Grogan from the Credit Union and of course, the nuns were very easy targets as they went about their evening prayers.

There was the stroke of genius by the local ‘big fellas’. At times like these, the snow on the mountains attracts a lot of people in cars. They look down on an unusually white Dublin and frolic around having a family outing in the falling snow. Then, many of them realise their cars are stuck and they have to abandon them. So – the ‘big fellas’ walk the two miles to the Wicklow border and the owners come back after the thaw to find their cars stripped to empty shells. He wondered how many of these stories Fr. Byrne ever heard in Confessions.

1V
Tomorrow was Sunday Mass too. First the nuns and then the village. Up at 5.30 fighting with the darkness, the cold. It was getting harder. A cigarette first maybe, lying on his elbow. Then he would hear the river. You always became conscious of the river. You always heard it last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Out on the creaking landing – down to the fire lit by a novice.

And hail, rain or snow, they would always be there, wearing the same Sunday clothes, sitting in the same place almost. They would look up at him with their expectant faces, the young at the back, the old at the front. All hung in inbuilt reverence. Until the sermon. The sermon seemed to throw the whole congregation into a fit of coughing. It was like a temporary release from something, as if they had rid themselves of a great burden.

It was no problem to write. He normally scribbled it in the sacristy having listened to the news or tied it to a forthcoming feast day or event. Sometimes he went up with just an idea and built it in his mind and let it flow. It was no problem – except for the coughing.

But now his eyes were throbbing, that wet pain left behind by a night’s brandy and the cure wasn’t helping. He was feeling drowsy and he knew he should have eaten. Thoughts and memories began to wander, as they always did when he was tired, and the shadow of the fire danced on the wall. He stood up from the desk with its cigarette burns and stains. Perhaps an early night after some simple revision with the boy. Pick on something that he was unsure of still, like “The Christmas Eve Reel”. Walk up and down the room for a while.

V
Two days after the Palm Sunday procession about four years earlier it had rained. Michael Burke had been lucky that day. All the lettuces and scallions were down and the hedge had been cut to a reasonable length. It had taken a while, but he stood and smoked a cigarette in the rain and watched the silver cobwebs on the hedge.

T.J. Burke was six and already knew bad language from the people next door. He wasn’t stopped when he used it – in fact nobody knew how to deal with it. To his grandfather he was a strange kid. He stood for hours on the stump of a tree and looked into the valley at buses and lorries.

Michael Burke was quiet, his house was quiet, Lily did all the talking – enough, he felt, for everyone. His house was also tidy and easy with whitewash all over the front and the fences. If a cow shat on the fence he just whitewashed over it and life went on,.

T.J.’s brother, Bill, who was four, was easier to understand. With his little turned in feet, he didn’t cry or shout and when he fell he said nothing. So it was a great surprise to Michael Burke when he heard T.J. singing “Ave Maria” and then he went to the window to see T.J. throwing the new lettuces under Bill’s little turned in feet. Palm Sunday did not enter into it. He just roared “Get that child out of here !” The next day, T.J. stood on the stump of a tree and spoke to nobody.

V1
There was one fine Saturday morning when Laurence Byrne cycled alone to Sandycove from his home in Rathmines. His mother had packed some sandwiches and saw him off with her usual blessing. He had few friends and, in a way, he never really set out to make any. He was very quiet and preferred his own company or maybe music and books. In fact he brought five books with him that day, he remembered – a life of Chaucer and a first hand history of the Boer War among them.

He sat for hours on that tiny alcove of beach among the children and the old men with their trousers turned up, and drifted, underlining something from Chaucer or just looking out to sea. It was getting quite dark when he headed for home and as he cycled into Blackrock, he did a most unusual thing. He pulled up in front of a bar, parked the bicycle and went inside. “A bottle of stout and a small Paddy” – for even then he looked a lot older than he was. Why he did it he couldn’t tell afterwards but, after repeating the process four times, he felt quite unable to move although his head was thinking clearly.

He stood up unsteadily and just made for the door, realising he had left the books behind. He bumped into somebody and reeled back against the wall. That person must have helped him to the street for he remembered holding on to the bicycle with his head against the wall, spinning. He could feel people watching him just as he was about to become violently ill. He woke up at 3 a.m. the next morning on Blackrock strand with his bicycle beside him. It was freezing cold and his legs were cut and bruised where he must have fallen.

V11
“There are dreams and dreams,” he said. “You can sit at home and play in the winter down there or you can play on Sundays outside during the summer while people sit on the grass. Or you can push it until it does what you want and get respected. Come to the window and look down. What do you see ?”

“Houses”.

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life down there in houses ?”

T.J. said nothing. Just stared at the damp roofs at the end of the hill.

“They spend the whole day down there, staring at buses and strangers and clouds. I want to give you an opportunity.”

Once while he was practising “Blind Mary” he looked up and noticed the priest staring blankly through the window. He finished the piece and there was silence. “You know sometimes I feel like Camus at the end of “The Plague”.

“I’m sorry, Father ?”

“Nothing, nothing. Play that again !”

It was a cosy room though where nothing seemed to match at all. It had hard high chairs with red foam covering, a couch with a faded yellow eiderdown drooped over it and a carpet that was once green. There were books everywhere. In cases, in boxes and behind chairs. Hundreds of old newspapers were piled up high beside an old writing desk and the fire always blazed loudly with crackling timber.

He remembered those comments very well because Fr,. Byrne had caught him smoking at the end of the lane on the Thursday. He lived in terror for the whole of that Friday in case news should reach his grandfather. But it never did nor was it mentioned at the lesson.

He stopped for a moment at the stile and listened for traffic. The convent bell was ringing for the Angelus.

VIII
He sat back in the couch, eyes heavy. A trickle of sweat ran back from his temple to his left ear. The Angelus bell was five minutes late again. He would have to speak to McFadden. Either the man or his watch would have to go. For a curious moment Mrs. Cussins, a former housekeeper, came into his mind, with her overbearing wine hat and her equally overbearing habit of cleaning the toilet every time he came out of it. The room was growing quieter and hotter and he could barely keep his eyes open now. He looked for a moment at the writing desk – “Vox audita perit, litera scripta manet” it was inscribed.

Everything was drawing in on him now, slowly. Everything else moved away and became nothing but an echo. He saw a series of faces – the usual ones – the same Sunday clothes.

Then another bell, somewhere at the back of his mind, a bell…

“Genuflect, bow your head”.

“Good morning, sir, have a nice trip.”

“Can you manage ?”

No ambition !

 

Welcome to my miscellaneous file. In this file I will put up all sorts of various things that have affected my life. And I’m going to start with a drawing, in his own classic style, by Bobby Pyke.

Most Irish people will remember the adverts in the Evening Press every Saturday for “Lemons Pure Sweets”. Every Saturday for many years these adverts were accompanied by Bobby’s “line” drawings.

He also did brilliant caricatures which can be seen in Pubs like the “Oval Bar” and other Bars where newspapermen gathered. He used to wander my beloved Irish Press at all hours of the night offering to draw your image on the spot at a “fiver” (old money) a throw.

This is his drawing of me at 2 a.m. on some morning in 1976 in the newsroom of the Irish Press.

You will note the classic “Pyke” signature.

 

Short Film: Fever Dream

This is a short movie i did for my friend Gerry Wade. I had to get off all the verses of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"...I have since forgotten them. I also did a lot of the incidental camera-work.

 

 

A newspaper tribute to my brother Eddie and a Poem in his memory from our cousin Georgina Sarjant.

Galway Advertiser Publication Date: 17/01/2008 [Download Article]

Lackagh and Claregalway mourn the talented Eddie Fitzgerald

Eddie FitzgeraldA numbed silence evolved over the communities of Turloughmore and Claregalway and beyond on Wednesday night as news quickly spread throughout the area that Eddie Fitzgerald had passed away. People were left in shock and speechless that such a charismatic and powerful figure could be taken away so unexpectedly. Eddie was a giant in the community and was so much part and parcel of so much activity and had touched so many lives with his gentle witty and charismatic character.

Eddie Fitzgerald had come to live in Lackaghmore, Turloughmore in 1989, when he moved from his native Dublin to work in the Department of Defence offices in
Galway. He quickly became involved in community life in his adopted Lackagh parish and was to go on to become a leading figure in the entire community. The
untimely and unexpected passing of Eddie at the age of 52 has left a huge void, but the gentle giant has also left an enormous legacy that will never be forgotten. Eddie Fitzgerald came from Navan Road in Dublin and was an extremely talented singer and entertainer. Eddie also took part with Lackagh Mummers and played a major role in their success.

Eddie also played the role of Santa Claus at the annual senior citizens party in Lackagh for the past number of years and enjoyed entertaining the elderly as well as the young. The Santa Claus at the senior citizens’ party would convince everybody that he would be down the chimney of every adult as well as child on Christmas night. The strong acting ability saw Eddie Fitzgerald star with Claregalway/Carnmore Drama Group Compantas Lir. Eddie had started his drama career with 145 Drama Group in Dublin where he won an All Ireland Youth Award. He later joined the Navan Road Drama Society and a few years after moving to Galway Eddie had teamed up with Compantas Lir. With Compantas Lir Eddie played Jack Manders in Mungo’s Mansion in 1994 and the following year played the unforgettable Elwood P Dowd in Harvey and scooped awards all over the country in that role. Eddie also travelled the Drama circuit in Poor Beast in the Rain, Professor Tim and A Crucial Week in the Life of a Grocers Assistant and during his time with Compántas Lir won numerous awards while on the drama circuit. Eddie also starred in the many of the Autumn Supper Theatres with the group, most notably in Paddy Greaney’s Nuts and Bolts and Declan Varley’s play No Butts.

However it was through his involvement with Lackagh Church Choir that Eddie Fitzgerald made his greatest contribution. Eddie got involved in the choir and it was only a matter of time before the talents of Eddie came to the fore and he quickly became choir director. He guided the choir to new heights. New and additional people became involved and with a blend of male and female voices and young and mature voices amalgamating, Eddie Fitzgerald put Lackagh Church Choir among the top choir groups in the country.

It was with tremendous pride that Eddie, in conjunction with organist Martin Glavin, saw the fruits of his labours brought to a recording studio as just a month ago Lackagh Church Choir launched their CD Hallelujah. New emerging growing talents were important and for ten years he took his lunchtime trip to Lackagh a few times a week to take the children of Lackagh National School (drawn from first to sixth classes in the primary school) and formed Lackagh Children’s Choir.

It was with tremendous pride that Eddie Fitzgerald led Lackagh Church Choir when they performed as the opening act at the Gala Christmas Croi Concert in the Radisson Hotel, on a bill that included Liam Lawton. On the night Lackagh Church Choir won wide acclaim and it was one of Eddie’s proudest moments to watch this talented group receive such acknowledgement.

Above all else Eddie Fitzgerald was a great family person and whereever Eddie was so also were his devoted wife Rita and daughter Aíne. Eddie took tremendous pride in watching Aine grow up to achieve many awards and achievements for music and singing on her own right. While Eddie will be missed by many organisations, groups and people all around the parish and wider community, the loss to Rita and Aíne is immense.

At the funeral Mass for Eddie Fitzgerald, Lackagh Church was packed to capacity and people swelled outside despite the best efforts to get everyone in from the rain. Chief
Celebrant Fr John D Flannery, P P Lackagh was joined by Fr Oliver McDonagh, Ballintubber, Roscommon and Fr Ray Kelly, Oldcastle, both of whom had worked with Eddie in the Civil Service, Fr Martin Costello SMA, Fr Bernard Shaughnessy and Fr Enda Howley.

At the beginning of Mass Lackagh National School principal Michael Lydon and school organist and teacher Sacra Furey brought up the school management members handbook and hymn book to represent Eddie Fitzgerald’s contribution to Lackagh School, with Martin Glavin bringing up the CD Hallelujah on behalf of Lackagh Church Choir. Eddie’s wife Rita and daughter Aíne brought forward the bread and wine during the Offertory procession. There was a long and appreciative applause at the conclusion of the homily where Fr John D Flannery described Eddie as a true friend and an inspiration to many. A heartbroken Lackagh Church Choir were at their brilliant best to pay honour and thanks to their leader. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church when Eddie’s daughter Aine displayed tremendous courage as she sang In the Quiet which was the opening track of the CD as the Communion reflection.

Members of the Department of Defence from Dublin and Galway, students from Dominican Convent Taylor’s Hill, members from Lackagh Comhaltas, Children from Lackagh National School Children’s Choir and Compántas Lir formed a guard of honour as the remains were removed from Lackagh Church. Members of Compántas Lir formed a guard of honour as the remains were carried into Kilmoylan Cemetery to his final resting place. After the conclusion of prayers at the graveside at Kilmoylan, Sacra Furey played a musical tribute on the tin whistle to a Dublin native who had made an enormous contribution to his adopted area over the past two decades. Eddie Fitzgerald is survived by his wife Rita, daughter Aíne, sisters Cathy and Mary, brothers John, Gerard and Michael, in-laws, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours and a very large circle of friends.

Frank Kearney

 

Gentle Eddie

I thought of you today and suddenly the sun burst forth from the heavens,
Like the radiant smile of an innocent child caught up in wild elation.
This was how you made us all feel when you lived amongst us briefly
And we shall all be better for having known you and been touched by your kindness.
Sadness may be only a breath away but I don’t want to remember you with that.
It would be wasteful for memories of you to be gathered within a veil of tears.
No, better to remember the robust larger than life image of a big hearted man.
A man who encouraged, humoured and mustered such enthusiasm for life.
Someone who loved so deeply for so long and with such integrity.
You left a mark on all of us that can never ever be erased for eternity.

Gentle Eddie, words can only lie on pages patiently in awe of who you were.
You held our hearts and our fondest feelings in the circle of your arms.
Your laugh, your smile, your good humoured banterings were unselfishly given.
Too soon the sun went down, too soon the darkness gathered at your feet.
So many memories are interwoven in the richness that was your life.
So many people were touched by your understanding of the human condition.
There isn’t any logical explanation as to why you were taken so suddenly
That is left to each individual’s grasp of their own god and conscience.
I would rather remember the light in your eyes, the warmth of your heart
The magnificent tone and lilt of your voice and the charm of your smile.
Goodbye gentle Eddie, you will be singing in our hearts and minds forever.

Georgina
x

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Light Sleeper

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Light Sleeper

Mick Fitzgerald And The Bacha Trio - Light Sleeper

This is a selection of his own songs, written over a long period. His songs have frequently been recorded by others, including June Tabor, but Mick is their best interpreter.

Damage Limitation

Damage Limitation

You can get it on the website Claddagh Records. It can also be bought in “Claddagh Records” in Cecelia Street, “Tower Records” in Wicklow Street and “Dolphin Discs” of Moore Street. There is also an interest in Germany and the CD can be bought by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Here is a German Web review.The Cd is doing good things in Germany.

http://www.welt-musik.net/?p=2859

Irish music used to have and still has many friends in Germany. The best known Irish band over here certainly are the Dubliners, “Ireland’s Oberkrainer”, as a friend once called them. Later on there were bands like Clannad who unfortunately got lost in the esoteric scene. Some of the bands that faded with time might have taken the steps to get back into shape and used medifast to help get they're life back on track. One way they might have gotten onto the plan was by getting some medifast coupons to kick start themselves into it.

The Wild Geese were not quite as well known. But they did just as much to give Irish music such a good name over here. There name was best known in the years around 1980. Mick Fitzgerald, who previously had been active in other bands, joined the Wild Geese in 1983, as a singer, guitar player and bodhrán player. After the Wild Geese stopped being active he concentrated on acting and writing.

But now this multi-talented artist is back with a solo-album, after a break of six years: “Damage limitation”, which he worked on for almost three years. And how does it sound? Irish, of course, but in no way like Irish stereotypes. It is a typical singer/songwriter album with an Irish touch. He presents his own songs with his own melodies, and the text are full of deep thoughts, which colours the mood on this album. The slighty melancholy cover with the autumn-like atmosphere seems to have been a conscious choice.

It’s an altogether unspectacular and unobtrusive album, which leaves us with a strong impression that this is a musician who wanted to see his music and his words in the centre of attention. It’s very easy to like this way of doing things.

Mick Fitzgerald really can afford to renounce the use of technical tricks. This way his very personal compositions become really effective. The music is unrestrained and not perfect and that makes it very effective and alive. All songs were written by himself. “Damage limitation” is a serious and very honest album made by one of the stalwarts of Irish music.

Mick Fitzgerald & The Bacha Trio: Damage limitation

Mick Fitzgerald & The Bacha Trio: Damage limitation
In Deutschland hatte und hat irische Musik viele Freunde. Die bekanntesten Vertreter dürften sicher die “Dubliners” sein, die “Oberkrainer Irlands”, wie sie ein Freund einmal bezeichnete. Später kamen dann Bands wie Clannad, die leider ins allzu esoterische abglitten
 
Nicht ganz so bekannt waren “Wild Geese”. Doch waren sie nicht minder beteiligt am guten Ruf irischer Musik. Vor allem um 1980 wurden sie zu einem festen Begriff. Mick Fitzgerald, der zuvor in anderen Bands Erfahrung sammelte, gesellte sich 1983 zu den “Wild Geese”, als Sänger, Gitarrist und Bodhránspieler. Eigentlich ist er Schauspieler und Journalist. Nachdem die “Wild Geese” ihre Aktivitäten zurückfuhren, konzentrierte er sich wieder auf die Schauspielerei und aufs Schreiben.
 
Nun lässt dieser vielseitige Künstler wieder, nach 6 Jahren Pause, mit einem Soloalbum von sich hören: “Damage limitation”. Fast drei Jahre hat er daran gearbeitet. Und wie klingt’s? Irisch natürlich, doch nicht nach irischen Klischees. Es ist ein typisches Singer/Songwriter-Album mit irischem Einschlag. Er vertont hier eigene Texte, in denen er sich teils tiefgründige Gedanken macht und entsprechend ist die Stimmung des Albums gefärbt. Das ernst wirkende herbstliche Cover ist bewusst gewählt.
Insgesamt ist das Album sehr unspektakulär und unaufdringlich. Die schlichte Produktion verstärkt den Eindruck, dass hier ein Musiker vor allem seine Musik und seine Texte im Mittelpunkt sehen wollte. Sehr sympathisch.

Mick Fitzgerald kann es sich in der Tat leisten, auf die Hilfe technischer Tricks zu verzichten. Seine intimen Kompositionen wirken so am besten. Gerade die Ungezwungenheit und Unvollkommenheit lässt die Musik sehr spontan und lebendig wirken. Alle Stücke stammen aus seiner Feder. “Damage limitation” ist ein ernstes und sehr ehrliches Album eines Urgesteins der irischen Musik.

Damage Limitation - Blog Review [http://theoldblognode.blogspot.com/]

Irish Music Magazine Interview

Memory Lane was one of the longest, most traveled thoroughfares in Ireland until money shortened our attention span. One curious effect of the Tiger economy was that people once permanently mired in the past suddenly began living in the present. It wasn’t exactly a mass conversion to Buddhism, since many elements of the plastic prosperity were purchased on what used to be called the “never-never” plan.

Mick Fitzgerald has been in and around the Irish music world for over thirty years. He must have felt a few times that his shot at fame (we won’t mention fortune) was also on the never-never. But singing and song writing got into his blood and he found the Irish song-stream to be profusely inspirational. His first solo album, Light Sleeper from 2003, stitched together a set of old songs with some crafty new ones –it was a memorable, if belated, debut for a singer-songwriter. His new record, Damage Limitation, follows the same pattern and it’s a more polished but equally powerful creation (available from Claddagh Records).

The lanes of Dublin were the most mysterious, explorable parts of the city when I was growing up. They were full of life, not all of it savory. Lanes were where kids stole apples and later, kisses. They were dangerous places too. I was robbed and roughed up as a kid in the lane where Vicar Street now stands. Lanes were a favorite prowling ground for pedophiles (the defrocked kind).

On the new album, Fitzgerald opens Conquistador with these lines,
An eight-year-old Conquistador / Running barefoot down the backlane /
And the sun shone that day like it never shone before.
The little adventurer was wary of the dangers but,
..his trusty wooden sword, keeps his enemies at bay.

Fitzgerald’s songs explore the mysteries and enigmas of memory. I had spent all my childhood summers, often barefoot, in a small village near Oughterard in Co Galway. When I went back in my twenties, I realized that rain was a constant in that Connemara climate. Yet, most of my memories were of glorious, golden days.

He seems to be channeling –consciously and otherwise-- the whole history of Irish music. And not just the Irish tradition, he watches and listens intently to a broad river of musical influence –folk songs, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, reggae, jazz, country & western, the whole polyglot palette. He is doing his creative committee work over the ages with fragments and samples borrowed artfully, as I noted in my interview with him in the May issue of Irish Music magazine. This sense of being timely and timeless is strengthened by his voice that manages to be as fresh as a waterfall and old as the hills.

On the first album the song Where the Green Rushes Grow covers the familiar territory of Irish emigration:
Dragged our bodies up the gangplank /Stood on deck to wave goodbye /
Drank a health to friends and neighbours /Wiped a tear from Ireland’s eye.
It goes on to describe some irritations of exile life in Britain:
Traffic here goes on forever / Nothing finished or begun /
Dogs and cats fight for the garbage / People curse in many tongues.

Fitzgerald set this song in the mood of 1957 but when I first heard those lines, I thought they described some of the frantic parts of Irish experience under the sway of the Celtic Tiger. It's as if time overtook the setting of the song and gave it a new resonance.

His attention to the past is not nostalgic. He has no time for those fake emotions. Here’s the bridge in that same song:
Until you’ve nothing left but stupid songs and bleary eyes /
And you drink yourself back home until the day you die.
Or this from The New Roads of England,
But beauty is nothing when money is tight / Now I’m ploughing the new roads of England.

Beauty and balance took a beating in Ireland when money was flowing and plenty of new roads were ploughed. So the times caught up with that song too, or, as the Bard has it, past is prologue.

Danny Carnahan, Berkeley-based singer-songwriter, has been a long-time champion of Fitzgerald’s music. He had this to say about his writing: “He has the poet's eye for detail, lingering on small things and letting the listener globalize to enrich the meaning.” The details are often powerful and poetic. Here’s some examples.
A thin girl with a Walkman / Has turned her back on school. (It Gets You in the End)
The only time he leaves you / Is when you need someone near.
(You Don’t Have to be Famous)
The old man stood up and he gazed at the train /
And the child in his eyes came creeping again.
(October)
Old memories can creep up and catch you unawares /
Old houses can be sold but you can still dream of the stairs
(Old Comics).

Pat Egan from Chulrua has recorded a number of Fitzgerald’s songs and he also admires the poetry of the lyrics. He told me, “Part of me is in some of Mick’s songs.” Fitzgerald does recreate the cultural and emotional terrain of certain periods of life with his songs.
See her after twenty years in a shop somewhere /
Stands beside you for a moment, then she isn’t there
(When we left School).
This is a chance meeting with an old girlfriend who has no idea who you are. So they manage to be specific and yet generalizable, local but worldly. In our interview, he described the revelations that sometimes accompany song writing: "That’s what I was feeling all those years ago...or yesterday."

One of his finest songs (and it’s a challenge to pick out one) is Postscript from the first album, a tribute to Johnny Keenan, a brilliant former bandmate who departed long before his time. This epigraphic picture of youthful confidence and power would be hard to best:
We could panic still waters, we could slow down the wind
We could make or break hearts with our eyes…
Keenan, says Fitzgerald, Shone like a diamond / that never was found.

For a good while, his own songs were in danger of meeting the same fate. His songs are like diamonds, packing a lot of light and beauty into a small space.

His songs invite a kind of time travelling. Some are imaginative recreations of events that could have happened over a hundred years ago: Amidships and The Ballad of Will Johnson from the new album. Others already have a long tail. His best-known song, Rathdrum Fair, traveled to the U.S. with Carnahan in the late 1970s, entered the North American folk circuit, and came back to Ireland for a holiday in 2000 where Fitzgerald heard it sung by a Scottish busker.

Mick Fitzgerald’s music tells us why it’s important not to forget musical histories. The instrumentation is playfully nostalgic with doo-wop singing, plaintive saxophone, aching accordion and mandolin playing. It’s respectfully retro: the new album cover has him posed with one of those old boxy microphones that Elvis, Buddy Holly and their ilk used to wrestle with.

He’s probably best characterized as a reluctant romantic, a man with a generous heart, feeling the ongoing rush of time. He’s making an impression later in life when at least you are more appreciative. The boy in the song, Conquistador, grows old:
And the years just fell away / and faded into sand.
This is echoed in a recent rumination on aging and memory by another Irishman known as a wielder and welder of words:
“... As the memorable bottoms out
Into the irretrievable.”
(In The Attic, Seamus Heaney).

 

 

Mick FitzgeraldDAMAGE LIMITATION LYRICS

Download Song Lyrics here

1. When we left school
2. Said Annie – said she
3. The Ballad of Will Jonson
4. October
5. New Year’s Day
6. The Conquistator
7. Is that yourself that’s in it?
8. Old Comics
9. The Black Dodder Flowing
10. Damage Limitation
11. Amid Ships

WHEN WE LEFT SCHOOL

(1)Mick and the Bacha Trio in 2006 at the Cobblestone in Dublin.

We left school on a rainy evening
early in July.
All the years of life by numbers
had slowly drifted by
and you never forget, no you never forget.
Shook my hand all the teachers did
but our eyes they never met.

(2)

When we left school we smoked cigarettes
and went out into the world
grew our hair and stood on corners
watched the pretty girls
and you never forget, no you never forget
tried to tell her that you loved her
but your eyes they never met.

Refrain

Sometimes you dream in colour
Sometimes in black and white
Sometimes you almost touch her hand
But you never catch her eye.

Addressing the world from the Phoenix Park in Dublin(3)

You see her after twenty years
in a shop somewhere
You stand beside her for a moment
then she isn’t there
and you never forget, no you never forget
all the years just fell away
but your eyes they never met.

SAID ANNIE – SAID SHE

He’s the one that you can turn to
when your world is falling apart
but nobody really knows him
he keeps his cards close to his heart
away from all the madness
he says a prayer before he can sleep
he sees her face when his eyes are closed
he sees her constantly

Chorus

She touches his mind
She touches his heart
He holds her tightly
though they’re far apart
They walk together
through another night
She says tomorrow’s
gonna be alright.

(2)

She gathered him up in a whirlwind
He willingly went along
Suddenly she was everywhere
and suddenly she was gone
But he’s the one that you can turn to
When your world is falling apart
But nobody really knows him
He keeps his cards close to his heart.

Chorus

She touches his mind
She touches his heart
He holds her tightly
though they’re far apart
They walk together
through another night
She says tomorrow’s
gonna be alright.

THE BALLAD OF WILL JONSON

(1)

My name it is Will Jonson
I was servant to a Parson
who only gave me half of my real earnings
I could ill afford to question
for he could always get another man
another well worn ragbag short of working.

Chorus

Now I’ll spend my days a-wandering
to no man I’ll be bound
the only time he’ll walk on me
is when I’m dead below the ground
I’ll make eyes at rich ladies
hoping one will take to me
I’ll fill all her dreams if she will
put a fancy suit on me.

(2)

He had me running rings for them
doing everything for them
until one day in Capel Street
I hopped aboard a carriage
I said goodbye to the Four Courts
blessed myself going by the Brewery
had a last drink in the “Wren’s Nest”
and a last curse for the city.

Chorus

Now I’ll spend my days a-wandering
to no man I’ll be bound
the only time he’ll walk on me
is when I’m dead below the ground
I’ll make eyes at rich ladies
hoping one will take to me
I’ll fill all her dreams if she will
put a fancy suit on me.


(3)

I hear that there are villains
hiding somewhere in the mountains
and if the rich don’t give to Willie
then Willie’s going to rob them
I will join a band of robbers
vagabonds and aul odd jobbers
I’ll be one step from the hangman
and the flogger.

Chorus

Now I’ll spend my days a-wandering
to no man I’ll be bound
the only time he’ll walk on me
is when I’m dead below the ground
I’ll make eyes at rich ladies
hoping one will take to me
I’ll fill all her dreams if she will
put a fancy suit on me.


OCTOBER

(1)

The old man was brutal
but the old man was kind
he saw deep in the distance
left nothing behind
and October sent down
the first sign of snow
He stood on the platform
he was ready to go.

Chorus

He said I’m not October
and I’m not a train
and Jesus I don’t know
when I’ll be back here again.

(2)

The old man had vision
he knew deep in his heart
he’d step off the platform
and the train would depart
and October sent down
the first sign of snow
He stood on the platform
he was ready to go.

Chorus

He said I’m not October
and I’m not a train
and Jesus I don’t know
when I’ll be back here again.

(3)

The old man stood up and he gazed
at the train
and the child in his eyes came
creeping again
and October sent down the first sign
of snow
He stood on the Platform he was
ready to go.

NEW YEAR’S DAY

First Verse

An eastbound train on a New Year’s Day
Calls out as the night closes in
On the half empty stations
In sleepy old towns
And chimney smoke blowin’ in the wind

Second Verse

An old moon follows this train down the line
Another year over and down
Someone close by singing “Old Lang Syne”
Reminds me of when you were around.

Refrain

But the world turned so fast
And the years seemed to fly
And the picture just faded away
I don’t remember the laughter
I don’t remember the wine
Only you on a New Year’s Day

Chorus

I can see you you’re tired and you’re sleepy
And everyone’s going away
And you’ll sit by your window
Long after they’ve gone
It always rains on A New Year’s Day
It always rains on A New Year’s Day

Third Verse

I spend my whole life running into the night
Just like an old engine it seems
For better for worse
We loved and we lost
And buried it deep in a dream

Fourth Verse

So I drink to you now from God knows where
Reaching out on a New Years Day
Still I’m lost in the arms
Of an East Bound Train
Trying to push all the memories away

Refrain

But the world turned so fast
And the years seemed to fly
And the picture just faded away
I don’t remember the laughter
I don’t remember the wine
Only you on a New Year’s Day

Chorus

I can see you you’re tired and you’re sleepy
And everyone’s going away
And you’ll sit by your window
Long after they’ve gone
It always rains on A New Year’s Day
It always rains on A New Year’s Day

THE CONQUISTADOR

(1)

An eight year old Conquistador
running barefoot down a backlane
and the suns hone that day like it never
shone before
and who knows maybe it never shone
that way again.
and his trusty wooden sword kept
his enemies at bay
at eight years old you own the world
before you give it all away.

(2)

And he learned how to cower and he
learned how to hide
how to turn his collar to the howling
wind
he learned how to duck and he learned
how to hide
and did onto others as they did onto him.
And the years just fell away
and faded into sand
He never lived for any day
He wasn’t that kind of a man.

(3)

But the sun shone like a diamond
all so long ago
From early morning until the end
of light
A tired and weary Adventurero
was heading homewards for another
night
and his trusty wooden sword
would guide him through his
dreams
at eight years old you own the
world
for as far as you can see.

IS THAT YOURSELF THAT’S IN IT?

(1)

Mamma got the dinner on
moneyman all dead and gone
teacher taught me a new song
moneyman can’t sing along

Chorus

Is that yourself that’s in it?
Is that yourself that’s in it?

(2)

Pappa having a nightmare
Policemen running everywhere
Mamma tearing out her hair
moneyman too dead to care.

Chorus

Is that yourself that’s in it?
Is that yourself that’s in it?

(3)

Priest he say a silent prayer
for somebody who isn’t there
moneyman too dead to care
Pappa caught him in a snare.

Chorus

Is that yourself that’s in it?
Is that yourself that’s in it?

(4)

Hurry down, hurry down
hurry down, hurry down
moneyman below the ground
hurry down, hurry down.

Chorus

Is that yourself that’s in it?
Is that yourself that’s in it?


OLD COMICS NEVER DIE

(1)

Old comics never die
they just feel no more pain
Old jokes don’t fade away
the punchline stays the same
appearing here and there
in a venue close to you
Old comics never die
they just do what they do.

(2)

Old memories can creep up
and catch you unawares
old houses can be sold
but you can still dream of the stairs
though laughter can be brief
and leave without a sound
Old comics never die
they’ll always be around.

Refrain

Standing in a beam of light
another town another night
when the crowd is good the
world’s all right
but when they’re not
Oh when they’re not ---

(3)

There’s a place for everyone
no matter where they roam
your mind can wander free
but your dreams can have a home
appearing here and there
in a venue close to you
Old comics never die
they just do what they do.

THE BLACK DODDER FLOWING

(1)

Springtime had come
With the rain in the morning
And the swans changing plume
Scattered reeds blowing
And I a mere stranger
Had chanced without knowing
On the song of the
Black Dodder Flowing

Chorus

Spring rushes on and leaves you
And trees will be green while they stand
For seasons are only
A verse in your song
That you hold for a while in your hand.

(2)

She moves like a woman
That’s fancy and free
A woman with secrets
Well hidden from me
And bridges and houses
Keep growing keep growing
Soon they’ll bow to the
Black Dodder Flowing

Chorus

Spring rushes on and leaves you
And trees will be green while they stand
For seasons are only
A verse in your song
That you hold for a while in your hand.

(3)

I stood for a while
Where she turns for the sea
Saw the wind reach and touch her
Before turning to me
Then I walked along with her
Without ever knowing the song of the
Black Dodder Flowing

Chorus

Spring rushes on and leaves you
And trees will be green while they stand
For seasons are only
A verse in your song
That you hold for a while in your hand.



DAMAGE LIMITATION

(1)

I’m really gonna pay
I’ve nothing to protect me
You’re moving out today
It had to end this way
I’ve no one to defend me
and nothing left to say.

Chorus

Now all I know is from this very
moment
You won’t show your face again
time for damage limitation
spare ourselves the pain.

(2)

I really love your eyes
they were made to see right through me
to catch me when I lied
like the woman in the song
I held you for a moment
You were there and you were gone

Chorus

Now all I know is from this very
moment
You won’t show your face again
time for damage limitation
spare ourselves the pain.

Refrain

Maybe time will have its way and then
Your memories fade and life begins again.

Chorus

Now all I know is from this very
moment
You won’t show your face again
time for damage limitation
spare ourselves the pain.

AMID SHIPS

(1)

If you look out through the porthole
You can almost see the sky
black and unforgiving
you can hear the timber sigh
and sailors curse above us
and fight against the swell.
Prisoners down here praying
one step away form hell
there was no one at the quayside
to wave us a goodbye
We slipped out of the harbour
with our backs against the night
Oh Jesus in your mercy
look down upon this man
put your hand upon the waters
and steer us to dry land
and every small snatch of sleep
brings me home again.

(2)

My woman thinks I’m dead
I’m glad it worked that way
If she knew where I was bound
I know she’d fade away
and sometimes in the night
the creaking of the timber reminds me of the last time
we ever spent together.
And I curse the God damn whiskey
that put me in these chains
I’m half way to Australia
I won’t see her again
Oh Jesus in your mercy
look down upon this man
Put your hand upon the waters
and steer us to dry land
and every small snatch of sleep
brings me home again.

(3)

I’ve done so many bad things
I pray for your forgiveness
this cursed boat is screaming
I’m down here in the darkness
]and sometimes late at night
the creaking of the timber
reminds me of the times
I thought I’d live forever
down here there is no morning
no looking at the dawn
Just Prayers amid the curses
and time feels its way along
Oh Jesus in your mercy
look down upon this man
Put your hand upon the water
and steer us to dry land
and every small snatch of sleep
brings me home again.

 

I met P.L. Travis in July 1976 for what I thought was to be a routine interview for the “Irish Press” Newspaper (God bless it). But we hit it off immediately and stayed in contact for many years afterwards.

Tragically a lot of the correspondence was thrown out by mistake some years ago. But I went to the National Library and dug out the interview which I have reproduced here along with a telegram from her giving her views on “Our Article”.

She trusted me with a drawing of herself by “AE” (George Russell) on a piece of toilet paper which she had kept since 1917. I reproduced it in the article.

Our meeting was in 1976 and the whole experience was of its time. In the T.V. Programme “Life on Mars” a policeman gets knocked down by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1976. Had it been Dublin he would have met me in July of that year in a three piece suit with flared trousers and a young head full of journalistic ideas. I had also started to write songs and go to acting lessons on Saturday mornings.

P.L. Travis was also of her time, genteel and fragile. She could have come all the way from an Ealing Movie. I realised as soon as she started talking that only she could have written “Mary Poppins”.

Sometimes the things you remember most about interviews are the things that are said after them.

We stood on her door-step in Morehamton Road before she made her way back to her memories of W.B. Yeats and A.E. and before I set out on the uncertain road that brought me to this web-site. The last thing she said to me (and I made a quick note of it) was “Michael, I do hope children will be reading books in the next century. I would prefer them to create their own characters in books not the ones that people give them in films”. Now, nearly thirty years to the day that we spoke I think she needn’t have worried.

The woman who wrote "Mary Poppins"leaves Dublin

Download the article in acrobar reader format

View the transcript below

 

 

The woman who wrote ‘Mary Poppins’ leaves Dublin

By Michael Fitzgerald

“You sound as if I were going to Kamchatka or something, or that I was a kind of shooting star, poof! you see it one minute and then you don’t …”

P. L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins, poet, essayist, friend of A.E., was all set to leave her Pink House in Leeson Street, for a new headquarters in London’s Chelsea and was treating the whole thing with her usual disregard of fuss.

“I mean, I will often be back. I can’t give up Ireland. It’s my father’s country and although I was born in Australia in a sense I was brought up here. Even the lace of our clothes was sent for from Ireland.

“I won’t have a house here, but maybe and I think of this very seriously, maybe I’ll get a place in the country sometime. Donegal is a favourite county of mine”.

Over the years I have passed the Pink House many times. Its storybook colour suggesting that its architect’s child had lent a hand, with the design. On rainy days the loosely spread stones on the drive twinkle like stars and steam rises in small drifts from its parked cars. It seemed fitting that someone like P.L. Travers should live here.

“Don’t ask me about dates”, she was saying. “I don’t even know my own age until I look at my passport”.

At 17 she became a reporter in Australia with a Sydney newspaper. Already she had had many poems published. “I was a rookie reporter for a short time but my whole aim was to get to this part of the world where I could really test myself. Was I a writer or wasn’t I”

As a reporter in Sydney she specialised in human interest stories, interviews with visiting actors or musicians. “I wasn’t a bit good at human interest stories. However a friend of mine, a reporter on the paper said to me: ‘Well I can give you ideas for human interest stories but you can’t have them for nothing. So you’ll have to pay for them. I’ll charge you 9p each for them’. Well I bought them. Eventually I saved enough money and I came to England”.

It was after she sent a poem to A.E., then Editor of the New Statesman, that a friendship developed which lasted until his death.

“He was just a wonderful big living soul of a man. I have often been asked to write about him. After all I saw him very often and I was with him when he died. But I always felt that I couldn’t write his biography because with A.E. you would have to write a biography of a soul and who am I to do that?

“I was very young and very small amidst all these giants. I remember in one poem I describe Yeats as “that old hawk of the West” and Yeats said to A.E. afterwards: ‘I rather like being called a hawk of the west but not an old hawk’. Still, to me he was a very old hawk, he was an antique.

“I didn’t know Yeats nearly as well as A.E. but I often saw the two together. Yeats would ask A.E. to bring me when they would have evening talks together. I would sit there agog listening to these two great men.

“Once I went to the lake Isle of Inishfree. I got the boatman to row me there and he said, ‘Inishfree”! You mean rat island’. But he brought me anyway and I cut as many rowan branches – which were fruiting – as I possibly could. I then brought them to Dublin, to Yeats. I got to his house. I prayed that Yeats wouldn’t open the door because it was raining and I was bedraggled and there were my great branches which I regretted immediately bringing.

“However, he did open the door. He took one look at me and shouted for someone to come and get me. He wasn’t going to deal with this situation at all.

“So somebody took the branches and took me into the kitchen where I could dry my hair and be warm. Then they said ‘the master will see you’. I went upstairs shyly and there in a glass was a little sprig of my rowan berry, not a branch – a sprig was enough. All he said to me was, ‘I want you to see my canary, she’s laid an egg’.”

At the moment she feels that the names of A.E., Yeats and James Stephens, have become synonymous with tourist attractions. “Tourists are told ‘You must see Yeats’ Tower, you must see the graveyard where he is laid’. But I would think that the greatest tribute you could pay to any of these men would be to read them and make their poems your own”.

The first Mary Poppins – there was a series of five – was written during an illness. “I wrote it to please myself really and I was very surprised when a friend saw it and said he would take it to a publisher. I was more than surprised when the publisher took it immediately and got 11 publishers in America fighting to have it”.

Why children’s books? “Well, C.S. Lewis, creator of the Narnia books, and a great hero of mine, once said: ‘I write children’s books because the form of a children’s story seems most likely to fit what I have to say’. I think this is true of myself”.

Had she noticed the child’s taste in reading material differing over the years since the first Mary Poppins was published in 1934? “Isn’t the child’s imagination always the same”, she answered. “His mind is, of course, different in the sense that he knows about the atom bomb and the metric system … his knowledge has increased. But what about his inner life – isn’t that always the same, the questing spirit of wonder, looking for his own myth, and won’t he always return to myths?

“I should be terribly sorry for any child who did not know the fairy stories”, she said. Walt Disney’s production of Mary Poppins became perhaps the most loved children’s film of them all, but what were her impressions? “I cried when I saw it. I said ‘Oh God, what have they done’. I really hadn’t wanted Disney to do it – I don’t think he was the man. I had been with him in Hollywood, and he had made me certain definite promises as to about 20 items. And it seemed to me that these promises had not been kept. But when I got over my first shock, I saw that he had, in a sense, kept to the letter – not the spirit but the letter. So I began to forgive him.

“I began to try to live in the same world as the film. It has a certain clean air abut it, although it is not very like my books. In a sense I think it betrays the chief character. But in another sense, it doesn’t because Julie Andrews, who is a friend of min, has all the necessary integrity to play the part. She was just directed wrongly. She was quite prepared to put on a black wig, with a nob of hair at the back, and a turned up nose, she’s a great trooper, and very honest. But to her surprise, as well as mine, Disney turned her into a very pretty girl, which really loses the point”.

And as for her future – she seems to sit back and put it in the light of the same fantasy world from which her many excellent books come. “I’m not in a position to make plans”, she says. “I am waiting for the future to come to me. I have something seething in me, but if I were to tell you what it was, do you know what would happen … I’d lose it”.

Letter from PL Travis - click for enlarged version Letter from PL Travis - click for enlarged version
Original envelope from PL Travis

Download above letter from P.L.Travis (read transcript below)

 

29 Shawfield Street
Chelsea
London S.W.3

11 October 1976


Dear Michael Fitzgerald,

That was a nice article we did together. Thank you for it and for the Block and Drawings. The Drawing improves with reproduction, I think! So – nine people wanted the Pink House! It has been bought by a millionaire Italian Count who is going to alter it entirely and I wouldn’t wonder if it stopped being pink very soon. Anyway he doesn’t deserve it as he has (and I hear is not likely to have) no children to enjoy its fairytale quality and run about its pretty garden. Never mind. It had its moment of glory, looking like a rose.

You have my address above so if you come to London at any time, ring me up. And I wish you good luck in your career and life – read Yeats and AE – they will make you feel proud (and of course you have other reasons) to be an Irish man.

Yours sincerely,


P.L. Travis