Country Matters: Kerry’s Joy and Arts celebrate Ledwidge Country


Meath artist Sean Tiernan, who will exhibit a collection of his work at Dublin’s United Arts Club early next month, has a unique connection with poet Francis Ledwidge, who was killed in World War I.

Hereditary families lived nearby, just outside Slane on the road above the River Boyne, and were the subject of one of Ledwidge’s better known and more emotional works. A little boy in the morningis about the painter’s uncle, a boy who, in front of school, drove cows near his house to be milked and died suddenly, unbeknownst to the soldier-poet.

The boy’s early morning merriment was marked by whistles, and he and Ledwidge would engage in merry exchanges whenever their paths crossed. But everything was to change suddenly. Coming home on Christmas vacation, the poet was shocked to learn of the boy’s death.

He wrote, “He’s not coming and I’m still waiting/He’s whistling at another gate where angels are listening.”

The boy’s name was Jack Tiernan and Ledwidge looked down the meadow that sloped down to the river: ‘Ah, I know he won’t come, but if I go / How should I know he didn’t come by / barefoot in the flowery grass? … … How is the morning so cheerful and beautiful without its whistle in the air?”

Sean Tiernan’s exhibition consists of paintings reflecting the poetry and landscape of Ledwidge’s landscape.

Originally scheduled for next week, it will now open on August 11th at the Arts Club on Fitzwilliam Street.

Kerry people are on a roll – and there’s no escaping them. After being contacted last week by a Skelligs exile in Europe, another from Southeast Asia replied, citing that of Tomás Ó Criomhthain A tOileánach as a reference book for pre-Fast Tuesday weddings on the Rock in days gone by.

The message from Tonai Rosboire or “Rossai” had me searching in vain for Ó Criomhthain, but a well-worn copy by folklorist Kevin Danaher The year in Ireland showed up with long screeds at the “Chalk Sunday” customs, more specifically “Going to the Skelligs”.

Here’s a taste: “There is a vague tradition in much of south-west Munster that Easter was celebrated a week later on the island sanctuary of Sceilg Mhichíl than on the mainland.

“Whether this is an echo of an old controversy about the date is speculation, but there was another form of disapproval of the unmarried … who have lost their chance on the mainland but could still marry on the Sceilg and steps could be taken to to send them there.”

Danaher says the purpose of the trip is “fine…if all marriageable young people are to be forced to go barefoot to Sceilg Rock on Mardi Gras and bring (a token) as penance.”

There is much more and all far removed from the lives and welfare of bird residents such as puffins and gannets.

Last weekend, swollen seas and likely jubilant hearts filled with pride in the sport of the kingdom proved a deterrent to would-be trippers who have to wait for another day. Country Matters: Kerry’s Joy and Arts celebrate Ledwidge Country

Fry Electronics Team

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