“mar nach mbeidh ‘chuile mháthair mar sin lena mac féin?” #MarianMay – “Caoineadh Na Tri Mhuire” (The Lament of the Three Marys) , Joe Heaney

“mar nach mbeidh ‘chuile mháthair mar sin lena mac féin?”  #MarianMay – “Caoineadh Na Tri Mhuire” (The Lament of the Three Marys) , Joe Heaney

Joe Heaney was a sean-nos singer born just over one hundred years ago near Carna in Connemara. He sang in both Irish and English, and would contribute to John Cage’s Joycean work Roaratorio.

This is one of his most famous pieces , a song he brought to wider popularity. More on the song here:

The song is best understood as a conversation between a number of participants including Peter, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and the Roman soldiers. This device advances the story with the greatest possible economy, allowing us to focus on the emotional intensity of each moment, from the viciousness of the soldiers to the disbelief and distress of Mary and finally to the quiet stoicism of Jesus, offering comfort to his distraught mother.

This is surely the most famous of the songs that Joe brought to public notice, and one of his own favourites. Along with Amhrán na Páise and Oíche Nollag, this lament reveals his deep reverence both for the spirituality of the subject-matter and for the tradition that his grandmother and others like her held up for her grandchildren and her community every year. As Máirtín Ó Cadhain wrote following Joe’s first public performance of this song in Dublin, In Caoineadh na dtrí Muire he brings home to us the joys and sorrows of Mary with the intimacy and poignancy of a Fra Angelico painting (quoted in Angela Partridge, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire: Téama na Páise i bhFilíocht Bhéil na Gaeilge, Dublin 1983, 4).

It seems to have been the case that singing this lament was, for Joe’s grandmother and other women in the community, not so much a performance as a very personal, painful, emotional experience. Angela Partridge, recording the song in 1975 from a near neighbour of Joe’s in Aird Thoir, Máire a’ Ghabha (Máire Bean Uí Cheannabháin), describes how the singer broke down in tears in the middle of the song and was unable to continue, saying ‘Tá mé goite chomh fada ansin is tá mé in ann… mar léifidh tú scéal ar ‘chuile mháthair, mar nach mbeidh ‘chuile mháthair mar sin lena mac féin? Gortaíonn Caoineadh na Páise mé an-mhór.’ (I’ve gone as far as I can… for you know it’s the story of every mother, for wouldn’t every mother be like that with her own son? Caoineadh na Páise really hurts me.)

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Happy Real Bread Week to (and with) the Auld Mill Bakery in Grangemockler

It is Real Bread Week. As I am sure you knew. The Real Bread Campaign is encouraging people to bake their own, or to buy additive free locally made loaves. This TripAdvisor review captures it well:

It seems appropriate to celebrate a local bakery which is somewhat atypical of Ireland. The Auld Mill in Grangemockler, which is on the N76 Clonmel-Kilkenny road, has the air of a boulangerie in a French village:

Stopped at this bakery out of sheer curiosity and had a toasted sandwich and tea. The bread was freshly baked and was delicious. It was a spelt bread, light yet hearthy, not dense and heavy like other spelt breads I have tried. The quality of the bread was very, very good. The baker sells fresh loaves of bread also and can slice them for you.
We took home a currant loaf, kind of like and old-fashioned Maderia cake but with raisins. It was moist, not too sweet, and it was hard not to have a second (um, er, third) slice with a cuppa.
We also got a cream coffee slice and just, wow, did not expect light, airy, flaky, perfectly baked puff pastry, but that’s what we got. Normally cream cakes look nicer than they are, you bite into them only to get a waxy, flat pastry and a greasy bite of cream, but not here. The icing, pastry, and cream on this coffee slice were all spot on.
I bake at home, and while I am an amateur I know when something is done right. The Auld Mill does it right. Will be back again, and again. Highly recommend.

Stone lettering from Nelson’s Pillar – exiled from O’Connell Street to Kilkenny

Stone lettering from Nelson’s Pillar – exiled from O’Connell Street to Kilkenny

Recently I came across Butler House, the former dower house of Kilkenny Castle. In its topiaried gardens I came across this:

Not sure how legible that is. I recall Nelson’s Head being exhibited in the Dublin Civic Museum so I am not quite sure if the remains were really so “unwanted” as all that.

Here are some.pictures of the lettering:

Via the everfascinating Pilgrimage in Medical Ireland blog here is a post on pilgrimage to St Declan’s Holy Well, Ardmore, Waterford featuring footage from 1910

The footage is from the IFI Archive, and was taken by the Horgan Brothers – other fascinating films by the three brothers can be viewed on the IFI Player. :

The Horgan Brothers’ films (1910- 1920) are some of the earliest moving images made in Ireland. Brothers George, James and Thomas Horgan began their careers in the late 19th century in Youghal, Co. Cork as shoemakers and photographers. They ran magic lantern shows in Youghal and in the surrounding villages and townlands. From 1900, following the success of their photographic studio and magic lantern shows, James Horgan began to use a motion picture camera to capture current events and their local community. In 1917 the brothers opened the purpose-built 600-seat cinema The Horgan Picture Theatre in Youghal, where they screened The Youghal Gazette – their local topical newsreel featuring events of local interest – along with contemporary international feature films. This practise was not uncommon among early cinema owners – who would frequently film events (such as fairs, processions etc) which were well-attended by locals thereby guaranteeing a full house of people keen to see themselves on the big screen . The Horgans experimented with photography and models and the collection includes the earliest surviving Irish animation which dates from about 1910. It features the Youghal Town Hall Clock standing on its head and pirouetting in place.

A thought on bookshops.

I had a recent visit to The Winding Stair bookshop in Dublin. It was a highly pleasurable experience – which was reassuring, because I had found recent trips to bookshops (no names mentioned) actually quite unpleasant.

There is a rather crushing sense of being not only sold to (which is the whole purpose of the enterprise) but being sold to in a hectoring, rushed way. Celebrity authors and blaring book covers seem to be more common than they were. Book titles and subtitles partake of the language of clickbait – hyperbolic, categorical, imperative.

Do I have any empirical evidence for this? Well, no.

Perhaps it is some sensory issue on my part, I thought. And perhaps it is nostalgia for bookshops past. The Dublin of my childhood was replete with now vanished bookshops. Years ago it seemed record stores were taking their place (and Tower Records has replaced Waterstone’s on Dawson Street) After all, who can resist the march of progress and Dublin’s march into a glorious vibrant future. So what if one eccentric ageing dilletante fuddy-duddy misses the languorous bookshops of yore, with their random discoveries and unpredictable stock? If you want random, Amazon has an algorithm for that.

My visit to The Winding Stair changed this, being a purely pleasurable experience. Some was no doubt due to the stock being a little different. Some was to due with occasion, ambience, my own mood at the time, the overall situation. Ultimately however much came down to the atmosphere being one of bookishness and reflection, rather than simply selling.

And of course I bought more books there than I had in a bookshop for quite a while.