Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Class reunion; Grieving and digitized maps of Irish bogs

Paudy MacAuliffe sent me this photo of his former classmates who reunited  and played a football game for old time's sake.

Back Row:
Shane Harnett, Pat Scanlon, David O'Brien, Sean Pierse, Liam Kelly, Don Keane, Darren Enright, Padraig O'Donnell

Front row:
Eddie Bolger, Liam Brennan, John Moloney, Paudy Macauliffe, Donal Flaherty, Mike Carmody.


Something completely different;

This achingly beautiful piece from one of my favourite writers was published in last Saturday's Irish Times. It will resonate with anyone who has lost a partner.

Dermot Bolger is reading poems from this very very sad collection, The Venice Suite on Thought for the Day all this week on RTE1 in the mornings. These poems are intensely personal but strangely universal as well.

 Where we are now
POEM: THIS IS THE CONCLUDING poem in a sequence, The Venice Suite, that no poet would wish to write. Its memories are unique to me, yet its voyage of loss is undertaken by thousands, sometimes with huge support, like I was privileged to receive, but often in isolation.
In 2010, my wife, Bernie, collapsed while swimming with one of our sons. She had no symptoms of ill health and no thoughts of death before death cruelly thought of her. I was beside her when she died from an undiagnosed ruptured aneurysm on a trolley in the Mater hospital in Dublin, still awaiting the doctor assigned to her.
I was numb with grief, and I have no recollection of writing poems. But, sorting through drawers, 18 months on, I found multiple scraps of paper tucked away: barely legible lines scribbled on envelopes that were not poems but notes left to myself during the first dark year of mourning. Reshaping them into poems allowed me to confront that initial grieving process and try to imagine myself into the different life I now lead.
These memories are unique to me, but their underlying emotions are not. Thousands of people articulate the emotions expressed here with greater eloquence in the silence of their hearts than I managed by reconstructing thoughts first scribbled down on whatever scrap of paper came to hand.

Three years have passed since a day of incessant snow
That halted at midnight, when I ventured with our boys
Through the unchained park gates opposite our house
Into a white moonscape untainted by footstep or bird claw.
Squadrons of swollen clouds impeded any moon or starlight,
Allowing an eerie luminosity to emanate from the ground.
Branches overburdened, benches twice their natural size:
Each everyday object transformed into a source of light.
The ordinary made wondrous: rendered gleaming at midnight.
We three raced home to try and lure you from your bed
To share in our witnessing of this miraculous spectacle,
But you complained you were sleepy, snuggled down,
You waved aside each entreaty as we begged you to come:
“Not tonight,” you said, “not now, but I promise the next time.”
None of us could have conceived that when the snow next fell
It would cover your grave for weeks, leaving us shell-shocked,
Mutely comforting each other as we mourned your absent radiance.

Two years after your death I have finally built our extension,
With six feet of balustraded decking, five steps above the garden.
Our sons have converted it into an impromptu amphitheatre.
Tonight its recessed lights are abetted by the colossal supermoon
That occurs each twenty years, when its orbit is nearest the earth.
Guitars and a mandolin have been brought out to accompany songs
Composed by your sons and their friends, interspersed with old tunes
You would love to hear, as lads pass around long-necked foreign beers.
We three have known grief; have carried coffins thrice in two years,
But tonight is serenely beautiful: this is where we are, in this moment
That cannot be repeated. You’d love to sit here, but if you were in bed
I would need to plead and coax you to get dressed and wander down,
With you protesting: “Not tonight, not now, but I promise the next time.”

Next time a supermoon occurs our sons will be forty and forty-one:
I may be a pensioner of seventy-three or be long since deceased.
I don’t know what or where I will be, I am robbed of all certainty,
Liberated from trying to predict the future or shield you from it.
I know only the single lesson we have been taught by your death:
There is no next time; no moment will replicate the wonder of now.
I feel you have moved on and I possess no desire to hold you back:
But, just this once, don’t say “Not tonight, but I promise the next time”;
Don’t argue or prevaricate, but let your ghost come and sit, unnoticed,
On the wooden steps of this moonlit deck that throbs with song.
Be with us, for the eternity of this supermoon, as guitars change hands:
See what fine sons you blessed the world with; what good friends
They have summoned around them with music and chilled beer.
Two years on and this is where we are: mourning you deeply still,
Yet moving on, as we must move on: our eldest finished his degree,
Our youngest immersed in college life, their dad in a battered hat
Joining the gathering briefly to sit and share shots of Jägermeister.
We don’t know where you are, but we are finding ourselves again.
I don’t know if ghosts exist or just a welcoming emptiness awaits:
All I know is that, if you were here, dragged protesting from bed,
You would love to hear these songs, these subtle guitar riffs.
So, whether your ghost sits here or not, I want you to know we are okay
As I call you back to be with us one last time and then let you depart.

The Venice Suite is published by New Island


This is a photo of Richard Griffith (1784-1878). He was one of the engineers involved in mapping the bogs of Ireland from 1809 to 1813. He was a remarkable man, he surveyed 80,000 hectares of lowland bog and 100,000 hectares of mountain bog in detail during 1,300 days of intensive field work spread over the five years from 1809 to 1813. The maps were drawn up at a scale of four inches to the mile and were the most accurate maps yet produced for such a large area.

Bord na Móna has digitised the maps from The Bog Commissioners Reports of 1809 – 1814. The reports are the most valuable single work on Ireland’s bogs and are an essential starting point for local bog studies today. They cover, in detail: 1,013,358 acres of bog and contain a wealth of detailed information on reclamation practices in different parts of the country in the early 19th century.

The maps are here;


Two stories from Radio Kerry:

Plans to redevelop Ballybunion Church have been given the go ahead in part by An Bord Pleanala. St Brendan’s Diocesan Trust had planned to carry out renovations and extensions; a new entrance; landscaping; as well as ancillary works at the church, which is a protected structure. St John’s Church Ballybunion is the work of Irish Architect George Ashlin. Church building work began in 1894 and the building was dedicated on August 6th 1897. Kerry County Council originally granted planning permission to St Brendan’s Diocesan Trust for the works. However An Taisce lodged an appeal saying some of the plans may have a negative impact on the architectural quality of the protected structure. The plans include rearranging the altar rails and the baptismal font, extending the sacristy and installing underfloor heating. An Bord Pleanala has granted overall permission, but the removal of the altar rails and extension of the sacristy will not be allowed.


A quarter of road accidents so far in Kerry this year involved a person over the age of 60. That’s according to the Kerry Garda division which has launched a new road safety campaign aimed at older drivers.
Traditionally road safety campaigns have been aimed at younger motorists. Now Gardai are asking older drivers to take account of their age when they consider their driving ability. 
 Inspector Donal Ashe is from the Kerry Garda traffic corps. He says this campaign is not about targeting older motorists, but supporting them.

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