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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

"......when yez lave me in Baltyboys"

I'm sure you often wonder where I got the ability to irritate, annoy, bore and occasionally amuse you. Well I got it from my father, the late Tim Lennon.

When he died in March 1990 I wrote the following for the Parish Newsletter;

My father, Tim Lennon, (RIP) first saw the light over Blackhill on 17th November 1898. ("A waste-not-want-not" man he would probably be pleased that the ends of the bed, in which he was born, now serve as makeshift gates at the old homestead.)

In the early days of this century his first schooldays were spent in Lacken where a Master Hickey taught. Tim left school, aged 13, and took a job with a local farmer at 8 per year. He always reckoned that the farmer in question did a bit of "chronometer-adjusting" and consequently he (Tim) was starting in the mornings long before the agreed time.

After a lifetime of various jobs, from carrying twenty-stone bags of wheat up a steep ladder in Cartons, North King Street, to swinging a 56lb sledgehammer in Ballyknockan quarry, he claimed his first year of employment, with the Kylebeg farmer, was the toughest.

He did, however, stay on for a second year; this time the annual remuneration was 13.

As a teenager he survived (apart from the two years with the farmer) the Great 'Flu and Typhoid.

He played no active part in Ireland's struggle for Independence. Nor did he ever claim to have had but he had his stories about the period. Like the morning, in 1920, when he was walking to work on the Roundwood Waterworks, from his digs.

He encountered a number of Black-and-Tans who had looted one, or more, premises. One of them offered him a drink from a five-naggin bottle of whiskey. Tim took a slug and told the Tan that he was on his way to work, at a dangerous job, in a tunnel. Greenwood's soldier then made him an offer that he found difficult to refuse; pointing a gun at his head he instructed him to drink.

Twenty-two year old Tim "didn't lave a drop in it".

When the firearm was pointing in a more favourable direction he took a shortcut back to his lodgings, and bed.

One can only assume that he was slightly hung-over when he turned up for work the next morning.

His knowledge of local history was legendry, his humour dry and his wit, at times, acid.

On one occasion, in 1974, when the Gardai were making house-to-house enquiries, into an Art robbery, at Russburough House, they called on Tim. A detective asked him if he had seen anyone suspicious around; only to be told; "Every fuckin' one I see is suspicious."

His family had two small holdings. One in Ballinahown, where they resided during the summer and the other, a winter retreat, in Kylebeg.

During the late thirties 55 residential holdings, including the Lennon's in Ballinahown, were evacuated to make way for the Liffey Scheme. Tim was not pleased (to put it mildly).

When the price offered for the land, by the ESB, was flatly refused by indignant landowners it went to Arbitration; the democracy of which Tim Lennon was not convinced.

Years later, in an RTE interview he was to say; "The Arbitrator was the Divil and the coort was in Hell" ........the feeling of the local people was that it was back to the days o' Cromwell, that they were evicted whether they were willin' or not... "there was no Sheriff needed, the dam was built an' the water was the Sheriff." On 03rd March 1940 at 10.00 A.M., when the sluice gate was lowered at Poulaphouca, part of Tim Lennon died.

He refused to see any beauty in the Blessington Lake. To him, that which had dislocated his people and submerged Lacken Well was; "The cursed pon' ."

My mother became an invalid in 1957, and for almost thirty years he looked after her, mostly on his own.

One of the many services he rendered to the local community over the years was, in the days when most people died at home, was the shaving and "leaving out" of the dead.

He was a very religious man who had what seemed to be an unshakeable faith in God. When saying his night prayers he could be heard praying for certain people, and thereby fulfilling a promise he had made at their deathbed thirty, forty or fifty years before.

In the spring of 1987, his health deteriorated and he felt he was near death. I think at that time we said anything of importance that was left for us to say to each other.

Later that year after weeks of persuasion, from almost all sections of the community, he agreed to go into hospital. On an August evening he reluctantly left Kylebeg to become a long-stay patient in Baltinglass Hospital.

Slowly he went down hill. The sturdy, well developed hands, shrunk and moved involuntary. Tobacco consumption was down for the first time. (I calculated that he smoked about three quarters of a ton of the weed in his lifetime).

A few months ago he began praying to God to take him; often asking; "Why is He leaving me so long?"

About Saint Patrick's Day his condition got worse. His voice was barely audible and he was eating very little. On hearing that he had lost interest in smoking, a neighbour suggested that his demise was imminent.

About 09.00 A.M. on Monday 26th March, a nurse observed that he was weak but breathing, much the same as he had been for days. A few moments later Prayers answered. An era had come to an end. Another chapter of history was complete......Tim Lennon was dead.

The nine decades had been kind to that face, that I was soon to see for the last time. It now wore a look of perfect peace.

He very often expressed his aversion to change, sometimes pointing out that he would not allow such and such while he was alive: "Do what yez like when yiz lave me in Baltyboys."

The time came. The coffin was lowered. And leave him we did. At he cemetery gate a local artist commented on the area; picturesque and tranquil. A warm March sun shone on the still picture of inverted mountains that was the Blessington Lake. Would he, even in Death, with the benefit of Celestial Omniscience, relent and see its beauty.

Dispersing mourners heard the soft thud of dry clay on the coffin-lid. Mother Earth would consume the Mortal remains of Tim Lennon, but not the values he left behind. Values which like the Golden Thread of Truth will make those of us who are close to him feel uncomfortable when we stray too far from the path of Righteousness. Values ever stubborn, like Tim himself, which will let us know that we can't do what we like........even though we have left him in Baltyboys.

Artist sketch of Tim Lennon

 

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Reader Comments

Name: LC Van Savage Email: lc@vansavage
Comment: It does not surprise me that a website of the caliber of Pencilstubbs would have you as a part of it. Mattie, what a moving, strong piece of literature this is about your father. How strong and how full of texture and mirth, wryness and wisdom. How could so-called "Americans" have EVER not wanted the good Irish to work for them? Obviously you are your father. Yer a helluva wroiter, Mattie me boy. Thanks. What a piece of work this is. Tim's watchin' and smoilin'! lc

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Name: Melinda Cohenour Email: mecohenour@aol.com
Comment: Thank you, Mattie Lennon, for sharing a piece of your family history. Your column is one I read with interest each month as you provide the world a glimpse of Those Things Irish.

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Name: Betty Hall Email: bckh@msn.com
Comment: What a legacy you have inherited. Well done.

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