I missed the recent launch of the Sullivan Brothers CD and to make amends I went out
immediately and bought the disc. The first time listening to their songs and I listened to them all, I had mixed feelings, but their songs grew in appeal, at least that's what I found after I had played the CD for the third time. Its a wonderful achievement for a singer to put out a record in much the same way as it is for an aspiring writer to publish a book. The Sullivan Brothers have achieved great success over the last twelve months and who knows, the CD may bring them further and even greater success into the future.
The last months of 2006 promise to bring a veritable avalanche of books and CD launches, what with the Sullivan's musical contribution soon to be followed by a CD of songs and stories relating to South Kildare by Colm Walsh. Brian Hughes, I gather, is working on his second CD and while I have no knowledge of when it will appear, I would hope it will issue in time to catch the Christmas market. Of course, the recording daddy of them all, Jack L issued another CD a few months ago and like his previous releases, it proved to be the work of an extraordinary musical talent.
Local writers are also busy, what with Zoltan Zinn Collis' book hitting the book shelves in September followed soon afterwards by John MacKenna's latest contribution to the literary scene. In November, the local Golf Club will publish its centenary history while the long awaited book on County Kildare in the County History series will be launched before Christmas.
There are a lot of good things happening in and around South Kildare and the local Town Hall will host a number of events during October and November. The Shackleton Autumn School kicks off on Friday evening, 27th and goes on for the following three days with a variety of events including some extremely interesting exhibitions with lectures, drama and music. There is literally something for everyone and every age over the October Bank Holiday weekend in the Town Hall and the Heritage Centre.
And the following Wednesday, Zoltan Zinn Collis will give a talk in the Town Hall. This is an event not to be missed and comes soon after the launch of his book “Final Witness – My journeyfrom the Holocaust to Ireland”. Three days later, the Heritage Centre will be the venue for the official launch of John MacKenna's latest book, “Things you should know”. Derek Mooney of radio and TV fame will launch the book which has already been tipped for literary honours in 2007. John MacKenna is presently touring his play “My Fathers Son”with The Mend and Makedo Theatre Company which tour finishes in Mullingar this week. November is definitely MacKenna's month for on Sunday 12th hisOratorio, “Still and Distant Voices” which he wrote some years ago to commemorate the involvement of local working men in World War 1 will be performed in the Methodist Church in Woodstock Street. Music for the Oratorio was composed by Mairead O'Flynn when she was a teacher in Scoil Mhichil Naofa some years ago. She is now Principal of the National School in Ballymore Eustace. Interestingly, Jack L's father, Sean Loughman and the golden voiced Jacinta O'Donnell are the singing stars of the Oratorio, more details of which will be given in next weeks Eye on the Past.
I got a letter from one of my Athy readers concerning my piece on the River Barrow canoe trip with particular reference to the railway bridge. You may recall that I mentioned that the bridge built in 1919 as part of the railway extension to Wolfhill was the first prestressed concrete bridge in Ireland. My correspondent tells me that his father, who was a well known building Contractor, claimed that “Coy” Moore's father mixed all the concrete for the bridge using a hand turned mixer. Can any other local confirm that story for me.
Another letter received this week was from a woman in Fairview, Dublin whose mother worked for the Hannon's in Ardreigh House in 1920. Her mother, who was from Castledermot, started working for the Hannon's who previously lived at Prumplestown, Castledermot when she was a month short of her fourteenth birthday. The pay was one pound a month which Mrs. Hannon sent home to the young girl's mother in Castledermot. The charming letter gave an account of life in Ardreigh House eighty six years ago and I smiled at the following reference which brought back memories of summer evenings spent by me and my friends at Sunnyside in the late 1950's. “Entertainment for the girls who worked in Ardreigh House consisted of walking out to Bray or into Athy. They seemed to know every shop worker who ever worked there at the time and indeed, my mother bought her groceries for two decades in Dublin from a man whom she had known when he served his time at the grocery in Athy”.
When I read the letter, I was prompted to think yet again of the treasures of memory and the life experiences which all of us have garned for ourselves and which for the most part are destined never to be shared with others. I have at various times in the past raised the desirability of encouraging older people to record their reminiscences of times past. There are some extraordinary stories to be learned, many extraordinary people with tales to tell which, if not told will soon be lost forever. I know that the late Billy Kelly was engaged on behalf of the library services of Kildare County Council in recording the folk memories of people living in his area of South Kildare but how far that project progressed, I cannot say. I do know that last year Laois County Council through its Heritage Officer instituted an oral history project with the intention of recording the reminiscences and the experiences of the older generation. In the mid 1930's the Folk Commission in conjunction with the primary schools throughout Ireland organised a Folklore collection scheme, the results of which now form a major part of the holdings in the Department of Folklore in University College, Dublin. This was a scheme organised on a twenty six county basis through the Folklore Commission and points the way as to how an oral history project could be established nationally if we are ever to hope to reclaim the untapped fields of enquiry dealing with the social life and labours of ordinary men and women. Now that Heritage Officers have been appointed by some County Councils, perhaps the Minister for the Environment might consider ensuring that the Heritage function in each county is directed so that a national scheme for recording oral history can be set up under the aegis of the Department while using the Heritage Officers in each County as the County organisers for the project.
Writing of the Minister reminds me that the Relief Road Project for Athy has been the subject most often raised with me by locals during the past week or so. Everyone wants to know what is happening about a new road. It would seem that precious little information is being given out by either Kildare County Council or the Town Council. The latest information I have is that housing developers at Gallowshill are required to build sections of the outer relief road where it borders the lands being developed for housing. As a result, I am told that approximately 180 metres of the outer relief road has been laid down and that further development of that road as far as the railway crossing can be expected, but when I don't know. I welcome the current Town Council Chairperson's invitation to the local people to make known their views on the relief road measures.
It makes a huge change from the attitude of a previous Council which when presented with a petition signed by more than 2,500 local people ignored the views expressed. Indeed, the local people who attended the Council meeting to present the petition were rather discourteously treated by some public representatives on that Council. Democracy was not best served that day in the Council Chamber. However, that is all water under the bridge now, and given the current Town Council's continuing attempts to get Kildare County Council to move on the relief road, we must be hopeful that the County Council, which moved with amazing speed when dealing with the Inner Relief Road Project in the lead up to the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing can bring the same energy and commitment to putting an acceptable Relief Road in place for the town of Athy.
The Sullivan Brothers CD “Keep Holding On” which I mentioned at the top of this article was dedicated to the memory of Mark Browne, a young man who died last year after a long battle against illness. I did not know Mark personally but knew his parents and following his funeral, I wrote some lines of appreciation for a young life so sadly lost. A few weeks ago, his father Kieran gave me a copy of a number of poems which he was inspired to write following the loss of his only son who was dearly loved and greatly missed. Having read them and particularly one poem entitled “Without Him”, I have to admit that I have seldom been moved so much by words written on a page The poem written by Kieran Browne following the death of his only child is very evocative and a fine piece of writing and reads:
My past I have lost
My past and my future
My hoped for dreams gone forever
Gone are the days I would never say never
No shared enjoyment of Milligan and Co.
No shared appreciation of symphonies and riffs
Of images on celluloid
The past to be viewed during the twilight years
No man to man chats
No disagreements on which players were prats
No nuptials now
No “Grandad” called out
Memories of body and soul being tortured and broken
No explanation at my bedside when it's my turn to die.