In Patrick Kavanagh Country


I seemed to loop my way around the North of Ireland to make my first visit to Inishkeen and the Patrick Kavanagh Festival this weekend.

I first travelled north by Ben Bulben to Letterkenny, past mile after mile of election hoardings for that day’s by-election; my destination a North West Words event at Cafe Blend, Letterkenny, that has to be one of the most welcoming poetry reading venues in the country.

Sinn Fein coasted to an easy electoral win. I made it through Omagh and Monaghan to Inishkeen with snow threatening and visitors mingling in the frosty air. We did the tour of Kavanagh places, taking in Rocksavage Fort, Cassidy’s Hanging Hill, Billy Brennan’s Barn and Shancoduff: ‘I looked and three whin bushes rode across / the horizon …’

In Carrickmacross they have their own trail of Kavanagh haunts when ‘moments big as years were mine to squander’; and frisky mares could ‘kick the stars out of the sky’.

By Sunday morning I was headed south, making my way as best I could through motorway slush listening to Emma Donoghue and her father Dennis being interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan and he talking of his  daughter’s writing that impresses ‘sentence on sentence’.

I was distracted by a dangerously filthy windscreen due to the cleaning water freezing. I vaguely heard Dennis Donoghue talk of his memoir Warrenpoint that I read almost twenty years ago, visualising the photograph of a  stern RUC father on the cover.

It was time to concentrate on getting home through the snow and bracing myself for announcements from the IMF and ECB of Ireland’s austerity programme. Patrick Kavanagh would have something sharp to say about it all.