At the Heart of the Community

All credit to Moth Productions and Gowna GAA who put on A Lock of Fierce Roars, a play by John McManus (a Ballyconnell man), in the Gowna Community Hall on Sunday 9 February. It was great to have a local production in the Village and the acoustics were excellent, well worth spending the money on. There is such writing talent in Cavan. It’s good to have it up front and out there, being performed. And the positive activity taking place in the local community is a great feel good factor to fall back on in the in morass of disillusionment and struggle in Ireland at the moment: the bugging of the Garda Ombudsman, the criminal gangs, the drink and drugs culture, the banking failures, trials. Sometimes it seems relentless. Having said that, ironically enough, A Lock of Fierce Roars isn’t a happy, clappy production. It touches  on the darker side of rural life, but in an amusing manner, which doesn’t leave a cloud on the brow. I’m looking forward to seeing The Devil’s Ceili, written by Philip Doherty and local Gowna lad, Derek McGahern in The Corn Mill Theatre in Carrickallen next Sunday.

 It is often local activity that helps brings the bright side back into life (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten the fraught, status ridden, political tensions that accompany community engagement). In the last ten years, it has been great to see the local community so active in Cavan and supported by the local authority staff who have worked hard to lever in the funding, whether through Peace, LEADER, Arts Council or the EU into the county. For instance, recently Cavan Council’s Arts and Social Inclusion Office recently was successful in its bid for Leonardo de Vinci funding which is providing an opportunity for a large number of local artists to travel to other places and develop their craft. They are also now looking for artists to facilitate local workshops  to develop local visual art projects into some of the rural towns, funded by the Northern Ireland Arts Council. The Cavan Peace Partnership has got extended Peace III funding to help tackle racism and sectarianism. And the Council is looking at how to get involved in the Commemoration of World War 1. All of this requires continued effort, energy, enthusiasm and commitment from local people and volunteers as well as paid staff. And that can be exhausting after a while (particularly after all the fleadhs and other events – The O’Reilly Festival, Taste of Cavan, the Babble Festival, St Paddy’s Day, The Gathering etc etc), so hats off to all those people who still make it all happen.

 But this blog about the importance of community and family is also by way of  a thanks to everyone who responded to my early January blog (in whatever way) about the publication of Slainté, and downloaded and read the novella. It was really interesting to get reactions of people. Of course, I re-read it then, and wished I could edit it further! I  wonder if the meanings and judgments I attribute to novels and books I read are intended by the author. That is the joy of reading and writing…the creativity of each of us!

 I was saying in my early January blog that I was feeling more unemployed than writer. That’s why I self published Slainté. It’s also why I am working on getting a few local projects going. I am hoping to set up ‘At The Edge’, a regular Reading in the library for published authors and poets with an open mic event afterwards for local writers to get an opportunity to read their material in public. And I am running workshops – both poetry and writing. I am still writing, if in a rather haphazard way, mainly poetry and reading it. I am a featured reader in Galway this month. I was also published this month in two recognised poetry publications and will be in a third next month. So this month I am more writer than unemployed!

 Finally, as a writer, I’m not keen on clichés, but this is an old chestnut that always continues to amaze me: the more you put in the more you get out. Sadly, I always only remember this after the event, never during the ‘putting in’ stage. And, I never take kindly to being reminded of it by others. Often what ‘I get out’ isn’t what I hoped or thought it might be…but that’s the wonder of life.

 So with those homespun words, I take my leave of you. Oh, and here is a poem I did at the end of last year. I saw Saving Mr Banks (about PL Travers, the author of my role model, Mary Poppins), and loved it. It’s in the vein of a Carol Ann Duffy series of poems, when she wrote from the perspective of the ‘partner’. Hope you like it!

 If You Knew Mary Like I Know Mary

(after Carol Ann Duffy) 

At first it was great. I loved the escape.

We’d paint our dreams and jump right in,

race on mares from the carousel,

create castles of sand, waltz with animals.

Even when I was ill, it was no bitter pill

She’d give me a spoonful of chips and pale ale.

Mess? We’d make as much as we pleased as

with a click of her fingers, it was cleared.

We danced on the roof tops with chimney sweeps,

we took tea on the ceiling,

a perfect treat!


But life like this, it isn’t real.

It makes a marriage a touch surreal.

I tried to talk to Mary, to explain

we should move on, there was no shame

in settling down.

It was the first time I saw her frown.


Practically perfect in every way

is what Mary used to say.

She didn’t like to be cocky

Mary believed in modesty.

But modest is modest and becomes not a wife.

She never understood the facts of life.

She knew what was right and what was wrong

about banking and suffragettes

and singing a song.

But while Mary could pull a dove from her skirts

and feed the birds,

she knew nothing of how to make children.

For me it became a bit of a burden.

For a man’s a man

He has to do what he can.


Can you imagine Mary naked,

having rampant sex?

No, it’s not what you’d expect.

And she didn’t either.

In fact she slept

with her Poppins clothes on,

yes, fully dressed,

with her parrot umbrella for extra protection.

At first, I thought it a real turn on

but when the Parrot was scathing

at my attempts at love making,

well, it  put me off.

It didn’t help that Mary scoffed.

As she does.


I tried my best to make our marriage work

but alongside Mary, I looked a jerk.

What she gave to Michael and Jane and the Banks Family

she couldn’t give to herself and me.

When I suggested it was time for us to set up house,

maybe in Bournemouth,

she stuck up her nose, sniffed and pouted her mouth

She put up her umbrella and sailed away,

East or was it North?

I heard the parrot whisper

Get a divorce!


The Banks family didn’t seem to mind when she left,

the day the wind changed

and we were estranged.

But me, you know, I was bereft.

I remember, everyone having fun flying their kites

Even my old rival, Dick Van Dyke.

They didn’t notice Mary fly away,

one gloved hand holding that parrot umbrella

clutching her carpet bag in the other.


But I saw that tear on Mary’s sculpted pink cheek

and knew that silently she wept for me.





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