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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Come Home to Kerry

I’ll bet that if you don’t have a Kerry grandparent you know someone who has. I’ve always felt that Kerry people have a more profound sense of place than anyone else. I’m sure the Lisselton writer Maurice Walsh was thinking of Kerry specifically when he wrote,

“A place acquires an entity of its own, an entity that is the essence of all the life and thoughts and griefs and joys that have gone before.”

The late John B. Keane once wrote that if you spin a Kerryman around, three times, in any part of the world, when he stops rotating a certain one of his appendages will be pointing to Mount Brandon.

North Kerry Reaching Out (NKRO) is a coming together on a voluntary basis of the villages of North Kerry with a view to promoting and preserving our culture, heritage and history. It covers the parishes of:
• Listowel • Ballyduff • Lisselton / Ballydonoghue • Ballybunion • Asdee • Ballylongford • Tarbert • Duagh • Lyreacrompane • Lixnaw • Moyvane/ Newtownsandes • Knockanure • Finuge and Kilflynn.

Ballybunion Castle

I’ll bet you won’t find one of the above place names that haven’t produced a poet, playwright, songwriter, novelist or philosopher. (Words are the tools of Kerry People and North Kerry is the home of the lateral thinker. Ireland’s greatest living man-of-letters, Kerryman, Con Houlihan, who says of North Kerry children ‘You would have a better chance of winning a duel with a Moore Street trader’ tells the story of how, when he was teaching in Renagown, he said to a young misbehaving child, I’ll kill you.” The reply? “If you kill me, sir, you’ll have to bury me.”) Wherever a Kerry person goes in the world he or she won’t usually lose the run of themselves; perhaps Bryan McMahon’s advice, all those years ago, to “Always keep one foot in the cow-dung” was unnecessary after all.

As one committee member puts it, “We are inviting people . . . to come and enjoy a week among their own people . . . . Join us in a magical journey through the towns and parishes that your ancestors left in centuries & decades past.”

However, if you, or your ancestors, are not from any of the places mentioned, don’t worry. The good people of North Kerry will look after you. And if you are famous and have North Kerry forebears you are in good company. The ancestors of world renowned figures as diverse as Thomas Moore and Kylie Minogue were reared on the banks of the Feale.

When North Kerry Reaching Out Heritage Project (NKRO) invites the Irish Diaspora worldwide for its ‘Week of Welcomes’ it means it. Kerry people can give a welcome like nobody else.

In its few short months of existence NKRO has developed a network of followers throughout the world, whom it has helped trace their roots in North Kerry.

Lewis Mumford said, “Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.”

Whether or not you revolted against your father NKRO, through its Genealogy Programme, will ensure that you get the opportunity to make friends with your grandfather and his grandfather and his . . .

The next step on its journey of discovery is the hosting of its first welcome home festival in the first week in August. Activities planned for the week include ‘A Day in the Bog’, workshops in genealogy and local history, trips to places of beauty and historic importance as well as opportunities to learn a few Irish dance steps and how to wield a camán.

If you come to a place that produced George Fitmaurice, Brendan Kennelly, John B. Keane, Bryan McMahon, Dan Keane, Professor Alfred O Rahilly and Sean McCarthy you won’t be disappointed. Our Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, has found a connection between Listowel and, no less a scribe than, William Shakespeare. This is interesting because Professor Paul Myers of the Theatre Department of KU, Kansas, points out that some words in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” don’t rhyme if delivered in an English accent which prompts the question if Helena and Lysander were played by two Duagh people would the rhythm be more pleasing to the ear?

And a small corner of this green and misty island which can hold such international events as the Dan Paddy Andy Festival, The Brendan Kennelly Festival, the Sean McCarty Weekend and Listowel Writers Week, now in its 41st year, must be doing something right.

“Plans are currently being finalised for our week-long festival in August and we are looking forward to welcoming our many guests from throughout the world to experience life in North Kerry”, said Ger Greaney, Chairman of the Group. “We are delighted to say that we have already received several bookings from as far away as the USA and Australia. Irish people too are welcome to join us. We would love our group to be made up of North Kerry people from near and far.”

The package will include:

  • Transport from airport
  • Transport to and from events
  • Entry to all events (such as turf cutting lessons, bog walking, traditional Irish music sessions and more)
  • Transportation to visit your ancestral home in North Kerry.
  • Concessionary prices from certain businesses within our locality

The detailed Programme of Events is available from the Group’s website North Kerry Reaching Out which also includes a direct booking facility for the Festival.

Cara Trant, Secretary,
North Kerry Reaching Out,
C/o Seanchaí – Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre,
Tel. +353 (0)68 22212

Doneraile Literary and Arts Festival.
(Closing date for Short-story and poetry competition entries extended to July 15th.)

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Below: St John's Arts Centre


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