06 April 2006

Leitrim Observer Does Good

The Leitrim Observer deserves a big round of applause for the coverage they have given to the late John McGahern. The two-page spread, with a variety of excellent photographs, does the man--and the county he so loved--justice. It's just a pity that John himself won't be turning the pages of this edition of the paper. As many people have said in so many different vignettes of the last week--John would have loved this.
This week's Observer also covered the recent meeting of the Leitrim County Council. I love reading the comments from so many representatives wanting to go on record as having read and loved McGahern's books or recalling having met the man who as Cllr Caillian Ellis said, "was one of the great characters, particularly when he was out socializing with the old characters, who are also deceased." Members of the Council were proposing all kinds of ways to commemorate him. I will throw in my two cents here and say let's not rush this. The best work of commemoration has been done already, that is, in his writing. Leitrim (and North Roscommon as well) and McGahern are and will in the future always be linked inextricably. As Yeats with Sligo and Kavanagh with Monaghan. One thing though--it'll be important for the Council to make sure that the places mentioned in McGahern's books are seen as part of our region's heritage and preserved as such. They needn't be cordoned off and surrounded by interpretive centres. I don't mean that. But they shouldn't be bulldozed and covered by Lidls or housing estates either.


Blogger hesitant hack said...

A Co. Council meeting about remembering him...John would have laughed and laughed. I hope, somehow, he was listening in. Maybe for a start they could stop allowing developers to build hundreds of identikit houses in every single lane and field. Cootehall is beginning to look like Lucan.

I agree with you about commemoration. The best thing they could do would to make it subtle, almost intangible: something that would benefit the library, say, or young writers living in Leitrim. But they'll probably go for noise and visibility above quiet effectiveness.

I'm glad you've found your way to the blog. I don't update it as often as I should, but it's nice to have readers.

1:57 p.m.  
Blogger JIM S said...

Hey Alice, here's a present for you. I just moved back to Canada after 7 years in Ireland, 2 in Leitrim. It's about the old schoolhouse in Manorhamilton. Hope you enjoy it.

The Old Schoolhouse

Once proud stone walls now choked with tendrils of ivy,
Gaping windows stare forlornly at the leaden sky.
Missing slates let in the winter rain
To trickle slowly through the broken door
As I watched the schoolhouse cry.
No company now, in its decay,
No children grace its once-warm room,
As it transforms to an empty shell
Silent and lonely,cold as the tomb.
The comfort it once gave on a cold winter morn
To father and son in their turn,
Passed on all it had to give
And showed lessons to be learned.
The old desks are gone now
Sold to collectors of the past
The blackboard remains unused in years
Exposed to winters icy blast.
The floorboards are cracked or missing
That once felt the tread of hob-nailed boot,
The spaces open to the sky
Has alders taking root.
We’ve all grown up and moved away
But it was always there
The anchor of time and solid,
Four ancient walls and square.
As I recall my younger days
I accept the fact of growing old,
But I’m glad I saw again the old school
Rekindled memories I can hold.
Sunlight falls across the window panes
Sparkling from broken glass into my eyes,
As the emotions of childhood were rewarded.
My schoolhouse said ‘Goodbye’!

My eyes filled up and tears ran down
To see the school in its final pain,
It, like me, a derelict,
As we share the winter rain.

7:26 p.m.  

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