“Sleep well Leonard, you were one of the people who made the world better.”

Remembering Leonard Cohen (Friday 11th November 2016)

(had this written in November but forgot to post it!)

Leonard Cohen entered my life in 1973 when I met Seamus Fay. Cohen songs were played endlessly on the tape deck in the car; we knew every word and sang them late into the nights at parties in the Castle in Cahore and in flats in Inchicore. Suzanne, The Sisters of Mercy, Marianne, The Stranger Song were all part of our repertoire interspersed with Janis Joplin’s “Another little piece of my Heart” and Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen”. Many Beatles numbers also found their way into the sing songs.

I think this was perhaps my favourite Cohen song (although in more recent years, I’ve developed a soft spot for “Hallelujah”)

Famous Blue Raincoat

Leonard Cohen

It’s four in the morning, the end of December

I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

New York is cold, but I like where I’m living

There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening

I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert

You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older

Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder

You’d been to the station to meet every train, and

You came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life

And when…




I still have a copy of this album in the attic – if I can find a turntable in working order I’ll give it a spin for old time’s sake.



There were so many tributes to Leonard and his work today but this one from The Irish Times has the more Irish connotations and is worth considering:

President Michael D Higgins was among those to pay tribute to musician Leonard Cohen whose “lasting legacy and his work will continue to inspire current and future generations.”

“Cohen captured not just feelings of loneliness and loss, but also the essence of human life: love, beauty, humour, as well as social and political engagement,” Mr Higgins said in a statement following Cohen’s death.

He noted how the singer was “deeply influenced by William Butler Yeats” and he made a very warm connection with his Irish audiences – a fact that he valued and emphasised to me when I met him in Dublin.”

There were hints that Leonard Cohen would not live much longer, but in a year that has already taken away Prince, David Bowie and George Martin, his death , announced via a Facebook post on Thursday , still came as a shock to many.

“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” the post said.

‘Incredible, sublime’

DJ Dave Fanning said on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio 1 that the late singer “was the best I’ve ever met”.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys paid tribute to her “personal favourite”. She said his “music had an ability to reach into your soul and speak to your inner thoughts, your hopes and your fears. His music brought solace and joy to so many. The world has lost one of its true music legends and indeed one of its greatest modern poets. He will be sincerely missed by his Irish fans and millions more around the globe.”

Labour spokesperson on the Arts and former Tánaiste, Joan Burton, expressed her sadness at the news. She said: “I am so sad to hear of Leonard Cohen’s passing and offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and indeed his many fans in Ireland and around the world. “His concert at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham in Dublin in 2008, not withstanding the pouring rain, was one of the best of my life, and an evening I will never forget.

“Through his music and lyrics, Leonard Cohen touched so many people, and with his great love of WB Yeats, he had a special affinity with Ireland. His thousands of Irish fans will remember fondly his concerts at Lissadell House in Sligo in 2010, held just a short distance from the birthplace of the poet.

Eddie Walsh, the co-owner of Lissadell House in Co Sligo where Cohen played two concerts in 2010, said he was “a man dedicated to art, dedicated to professionalism, incredible, sublime”. “It was one of most incredible weekends in my life. He played two magical very special concerts. We even had a rainbow over Ben Bulben one of the nights. They were two of the longest concerts he ever played because he was so blown away by Lissadell,” Mr Walsh told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.



Barry’s Tea advert has me dreaming of Christmas past

I’m such a sentimentalist about Christmas. And it doesn’t take much to make me teary and nostalgic: a verse of Silent Night (especially the one from WW1 trenches), reading ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, Santa departing from the North Pole on the radio, The Christmas Carol on the telly (even the Muppet version),  rooting out the decorations and I’m done for. There’s a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye.

Now I add to all that – hearing a radio ad, the Barry’s Tea one about the train set. It seems to have a direct route into my store of Christmas sentimentality. Catherine Donnolly who wrote the script for the tea ad passed away earlier this year. Her husband Frank Sheerin told Joe Duffy the history behind the ad on Lifeline one afternoon this week– well worth a listen on the Podcast!


There is a 1950s feel to the ad, a time when imagination was all we had to conceive a vision of fantasy. Not for us trips to the North Pole or Lapland: everyone KNEW only Santa and his elves went there. Switzer’s and Cleary’s window displays and the Dublin Streets decorated with lights were our wonderland. Maybe that’s why the simplicity of this ad taps into a kind of collective nostalgia for those simple fantastical Christmases of pure make believe.


Although I never asked Santa for a train set, my brother did and I remember so well that Hornby clockwork train set as it went round and round the sitting room floor, carriages being loaded and unloaded at each circuit. My dad was the station master, directing proceedings ably during the hours between Mass and dinner. No lying about in pj’s in those days. Firstlt there was no central heating. Children had been up from  before 6 and had attended 8 o’clock Mass. Dinner would be on the table for 1 o’clock. Mum might be occassionally called from ministries in the kitchen to witness a derailments or other mishap.


A wave of strong feeling comes over me whenever I hear this ad, whether in the car, at home in the kitchen, or in a shop. It doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy Barry’s Tea, but it does makes me a little wistful for Christmases past,

In 1984 the Hornby set left the attic in 32 to travel to Naas and Grandad sat on the floor again explaining the world of engineering and transport to another generation and it was accepted with the sane verve and enthusiasm.

Two years later the Dad here, a car rather than rail man came home with a scalextric racing set – the feeling was the same although it was more involved with its ramps and chicanes and because there were 2 tracks, competition! And the voice of my own son saying: “You’ll never guess what Santa brought” and Dad as the main man, in charge of assembly and management, child relegated for hours to watching and assisting! What memories! I did miss the gentle “Toot toot”.

That radio ad evokes memories and yearnings that are so real and I know stored in the memory with a generation’s pasts and imagination.

This year I’ll spend my first Christmas in almost 40 years away from home – sharing my sister’s celebration. I’m so looking forward to it. How important to look forward as well as back!


logo-intoI joined the INTO as a young teacher, just gone 20. It was a different world then …. INTO unbelievably was a part of our social life. We met with friends from college to listen to men (mostly), discussing our rights, inspiring us to a new awareness of not only sponsibility but entitlements. Being an INTO member was hugely encouraged by older colleagues in school, colleagues who had been on the picket line in 1946 and now near retiring could remember that although unsuccessful, the strike demonstrated that workers could stand together. We made many new friends while we supped a glass or two after the meeting (usually all that I could afford) before catching the last bus home. And so I became an INTO-head. (In today’s vernacular that’s someone who leads a pretty boring existence and/or has little to do)
When I transferred to the Droichead Nua branch in 1981 I attended meetings in the Teagasc Hall in Friary Lane in Naas. It was thronged – sometimes standing room only. I’d say CEC reps hated visiting us as many stalwart debaters from our ranks argued our case most ably with them, certainly making them work for their position. CEC reps did not always come out the worse of the discussion as they opened our eyes to realities of fiscal constraints and the need for wise action.
When Seamus died in 1996, I was glad of the many supports offered by the organisation and the visits and advice of INTO friends got me through many rough patches.
Eventually I found my way onto branch committee – falling interest and diminishing crowds rather than personal ability might more appropriately explain my ‘meteoric’ rise. But I loved it. CEC reps were still put through the ‘wringer’ on many occasions as we questioned why the membership were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the organisation.


I was there for the CLASS SIZE CAMPAIGN which certainly brought a bit of a resurgence in interest both from teachers, parents and politicians (unluckily just as the Celtic Tiger was bounding off to jungles new!).
In 1999, I joined the INTO Principals Forum serving as secretary for a few years at the end of the Noughties and into the Teens. During this term, DROICHEAD caused much heated discussion and was one of the few issues where I disagreed strongly with union policy. anotherdroicheadThe ensuing directive caused huge divides in the teaching community. Sad that alternatives weren’t discussed as enthusiastically as directives! Those involved in the process were so positive and now were denied their right to continue. (Don’t I sound like a political animal!!!!) DROICHEAD was the main focus of the last INTO Congress I attended at Easter and it left quite a bitter taste in many mouths. All my congresses up to that were great affairs with a feeling of camaraderie, ‘union’ …late nights, lovely meals and probably one too many drinks….and still being in the hall for a nine o’clock start each morning ….what a way to spend your Easter holidays. This last one was not so nice!

While I loved the debate about political issues, my true interests lay in education. So in 2009 I decided to contest the election for the District Representative on the Education Committee. This meant travelling around to all the Branch meetings with my manifesto, “what I would do and the changes I’d make!” (and again I say I didn’t think of myself as political). It was a pretty tightly contested election. My ensuing victory was due in no small way I’d say to the size of my own branch and the efforts the Branch made to turn out a vote. But it was thrilling on the evening of the ‘count’ to receive the phone call from Shiela Nunan congratulating me on my success.

My first EDCOM meeting was an overnight in Kilkenny where I found myself allocated to the Arts in Education Committee, which was to be responsible for the next Education Conference. The annual INTO Consultative Conference on Education 2009 was to take place in the Amber Springs Hotel, Gorey, Co. Wexford, on November 13th and 14th and its focus would be on the theme of Creativity and Arts in the Primary School.

I who was never on stage in my life found myself involved in the staging of a short drama on the changing views to art: composing ditties and even appearing in the role of ‘a cheeky school girl’. How lucky I was that our ‘performance’ was part of the introduction and not all delegates were in the hall. There were some quite startled expressions as District 7 delegates found seats close to the stage, noting the uncanny resemblance of ‘a wan in plaits and school uniform’ to their Rep on the EDCOM! Luckily the webcam was of poor quality and that is the only remaining evidence of my acting abilities. I worked with this uber-enthusiastic committee for 2 terms (6 years) and I was proudly named with them on 6 extraordinary conference papers on important educational issues. I resigned in 2015 because I think committees need new talent to contribute new energy and ideas and maintain vibrancy. I agree wholeheartedly with those that say the Education Conference is the best of the INTO conferences – sending almost all of the delegates as better people/teachers!

Even though, no longer an EDCOM member, it did open the door to working with NCCA for 2 years on the New Language Curriculum – and that was a brilliant opportunity. And i represented INTO in Letterkenny at a conference on Global Solidarity.

And this week I attended my LAST district 7 meeting and Christmas Dinner. I’m sad – YES but friendships won’t end. And another door opens!!!!! RTAI – the Retired Teachers Association of Ireland. I already have many friends in situ there – some of the vocalists from Teagasc days – and I’m invited to their first meeting next week AND Christmas dinner. So INTO goes on……..


I’ve received my last copy of INTOUCH (although I can still read in online) and my first copy of CONASC.


And what a lovely welcome in an article by Prof Mark Morgan:
You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons
(Blessing for Retirement by John O’Donoghue)



portal-graphics-20_1157200aAfter weeks of what I think is called the autumn series (rugby) a really good rugby film was shown tonight on TV – Invictus. I’ve watched it many times and its message of endurance and courage still inspires me. Mandela played so well by Morgan Freeman and SA Rugby team captain François Pienaar played by Matt Damon. Did some googling and was very impressed by Pienaar’s account of the time, especially of the 1995 World Cup and his memories of Mandela. Most memorable was the poem “Invictus” which Mandela shared with Pinaar and its inspiration to take control of what is within yourself and show fortitude in the face of adversity. Invictus” is a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. It was written in 1875 and published in 1888


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Death and November – but not a sad story!!!!!

Death is so much a part of life: it touches everyone. The shock, the finality, the numbness is just heart wrenching. To compound this emptiness it always seems as if it’s our saints are taken while the sinners remain…. But the fault of that perception is that our scoundral is probably someone else’s hero, just as loved and embraced for all their failings.

November’s All Souls Day was always a special day in 32. The “List of the Dead” was prepared in the days before and ‘enveloped’ with a church offering: names and dates coming from a trove of Memorial Cards. The closest and most treasured of the cards were carried in Mam’s Prayer Book to be remembered way more often that just once a year. Faith converted these loved ones from being “gone” to being transformed in love. They were people who had coloured our lives: parents, grandparents, children, relatives and friends.  Communing with them brought a peace, lifted our pain and allowed them to continue as part of our lives. It transformed the sainthood that initial loss bestowed on them to an understanding of the realities of their lives. We could now remember indiscretions without judgment or guilt and fondly acknowledge that no one is totally saint or sinner.

Other times are also part of the ritual of remembering – the annual cemetery mass, lights on the Hospice Christmas Tree, anniversaries and birthdays.

Memory cards in my house now are stored in a box including Mam’s trove of cards – prayer books are out of vogue now. (It’s hard to imagine a time when they were given as presents – Mam got one from her brothers and sisters for her sixteenth birthday!)

Around the beginning of October, now, I open the box and read through the cards, the rhymes and prayers that were so significant, look at the photos that were so carefully chosen. I add the “new” names to the “Dead List” saved on my PC, then print and send to the local sacristy that they might be remembered a little more publicly, displayed in the church porch around the anniversary time.

Not all loss is caused by death and over the years I’ve seen much grief caused just by someone’s departure. Very soon (maybe too soon) after Shay’s death someone told me that loss through death was not the hardest to bear and I found that difficult to understand. Now all these years later maybe it’s true. Emerson coined the words: “Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.” And maybe that’s because there is a ritual around it? Other separations just happen and are often unacknowledged.



Image result for pictures of all ireland 1995Everyone who is interested in GAA has rituals for All-Ireland Finals. We had rituals for all Dublin matches. It started as soon as tickets were released for sale. Jim was our organiser and he searched high and low until all the family were accommodated. He was also the supplier of jerseys as he had a collection from the seventies. The tickets were distributed in the Barn Owl on James Street on the morning of the game some tickets might not come into Jim’s possession until that morning. When the lads were young my tickets were for the stand but we quickly graduated to the Hill with “the men”. Myself and the lads always headed off for the grounds early to get near walls or barriers, places where little lads might sit and get a good view of the proceedings.


All-Ireland semis and finals were a different story – Dublin seldom made it to the latter stages of the championship. I remember the Fourteen (men) on, (number) Fourteen was off Leinster final of 1979. I knew the songs of Heffo’s Army but the glories of the last few years can obliterate the many, many days of walking up Clonliffe Road saying “Maybe next year”.

The Dubs only took home the Sam five times since David was born: 1983, 1995 (Jayo was the chant that year and well deserved after a magnificent goal), 2011, 2013, 2015.

Image result for pictures of all ireland 1995

However we were lucky and got to attend many semis and finals, both hurling and football. Our club had programme selling rights and so we hit for Croker early to collect our bundles of “official programmes”. Getting into the game was dependent on selling our allocation so we found the best sites on the approach roads and urged match goers to purchase. Having two small lads with me definitely increased my selling power. There were no seats reserved for programme sellers so when we eventually got into the field we sat on the steps. A hearty picnic at half time was welcomed after the early start to the day.

Jim’s not getting us the tickets any more ….though I’d swear he’s in a front row up above cajoling the Blues on! We’ll certainly need some divine intervention on October 1st.

So ticket provision falls to David, Cumann na Bunscol, Parnell Ticket holders and anywhere else they can be begged and borrowed. This year a smaller group than usual hit off for Croker, to various parts of the stadium, carrying the usual pre match tensions. I suppose having thought I would never get to Croke Park again–and being there for the win last year, my priorities had shifted slightly and it was a little bit easier to be magnanimous. Our run of wins would have to end – after all winning is cyclical – but still I hoped it would not be TODAY!


It was hard to believe the number of Mayo supporters – where had they got all the tickets while they were like hens’ teeth for us, some of our staunchest supporters relegated to the Ansley House to watch the proceedings ON TV!!!! Our Sea of Blue was only a sprinkling in the Field of Red and Green.

Image result for pictures of all ireland 2016

Tempers looked frayed even before the game began and it was obvious that some sort of shemozzle had occurred in the tunnel. There was funny air in the warm ups as Dublin seemed even then to be lacklustre. A crazy game started, players slipping and sliding all over the place and soon we had two goals on the board, neither scored by a Dublin player! A pretty harsh black card  for James McCarthy (although his replacement Paddy Andrews gave the flagging attack some momentum) did little to allay Dublin fears. By some miracle, we went into the break leading by double scores, 2-4 to 0-5.

Every Dublin fan still hoped: Jim Gavin will give them a serious talking to and we’ll have a game. But it was Mayo who stormed out and rattled off five unanswered points. The men who had restored football to greatness, this wonderful team of the decade, remained anonymous.

The draw was a fair result – and YET I have a question: did the referee fail Foundation Level Maths at the Leaving Cert, considering he somehow arrived at the grand total of 7 MINUTES of injury time, despite no major stoppages in the half.

Yes the draw was a fair result. One of the greatest teams in history didn’t deserve to lose having played so badly. And Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor showed serious confidence to level the game (that’s a tongue in cheek comment if ever there was one!!!!!!).

And so was forced the first All-Ireland Senior Football Final replay in 16 years. And a new October ritual of preparing for an All-Ireland will begin.

Finding pictures from THE LIBERTIES


The Tenters – where I was born. Ger and Helen were also born here in 19 O’Curry Road.


Oscar Square, just over from O’Curry Road where we lived – I can remember going to visit the Paddy and Phyllis O’Connors across Oscar Square. Dad worked with Paddy. Ann their daughter was the first “famous” person I knew. She represented Ireland in the 100 and 200 metres freestyle and relay in the Olympics in both Mexico (1968) and Munich (1972)


Pimlico – we used to visit the Fogarty’s who lived about 4 houses down. Mrs Fogarty had made Mam and Dad’s wedding cake and did the catering at their wedding.



Weavers Square off Cork Street – where Ger started school and where I started teaching. The school has been replaced by apartments. but the Convent where I did my interview is still there. it still caters for the community.


The entrance to the “Old” Coombe Hospital. It was demolished before I started teaching in Weaver’s Square and the new hospital was built on Cork Street.


The Liberty Market on Frances Street – the laughs we had when Dad suggested we should be buying our shoes there!!!


Thomas Street Church. Mam’s friend Rita F used to go there every Friday because there was a special devotion to St Rita. I brought the lads there to see the crib on the Christmas Eve Shay was being discharged from James Hospital.


The old wall of Dublin – all that remains.




Mohammad Ali and the O’Loughlin family

We were all saddened by Mohammad Ali’s death. everyone had their own special memories of him – my sister however relates how personal the memory was to our family:

Ali's AutographDisplaying FB_IMG_1465608523600.jpgDisplaying FB_IMG_1465608523600.jpgDisplaying FB_IMG_1465608523600.jpg

On the road back from Wexford August 1972, Dad and Mam, 6 kids and 2 dogs and luggage from 6 weeks summer holidays.  Everything including kitchen sink in a blue Opel estate car.  This journey took at least 4 hours in those days as you had to go through every town on the way back to Dublin and had to make numerous stops because occupants got travel sick. John sitting on my mothers knee in passenger seat of car and no seat belts in those days.  Probably not needed as maybe only going 20 miles an hour.  Anyway Driving along road from Enniskerry  near hotel where Breda got married some years later we spotted a figure out jogging with 3 or 4 guys in black suits.  Dad said that’s Mohammad Ali. So he stopped the car and found an piece of cardboard in the car and a pen … Needle in a haystack stuff…. And got one of the lads , Ger or Jim , to run over to get his autograph.  Dad was an ardent fan and stay up the whole night to watch Ali’s fights live … because of time difference.  Probably on a black and white telly and trying to balance an aerial somewhere to get some kind of reception from BBC.  Dad was so thrilled to get this autograph.  So Mam gave it to me a good few years ago  and it’s been in my safe keeping ever since.  What a momento to have of this great guy.  Both in and out of the ring .  So that’s my story …. Good memories of great times


Attachments area

Kilcock – a lay of

My parents were from Wicklow and Wexford so all our travels to visit relatives were down in that direction. That is where we went on holidays too.


We knew little about the road to the west

West was wherevour next door neighbours hailed frome, Sligo to be exact – they often asked my mother (famed for her recitations) to say “The Lake Isle of Inisfree”;

West was where my grandmother went on an annual pilgrimage – Knock sometimes taking me her eldest grandchild with her;

West was the road through Kilock which featured in the story of my mother’s return from Australia and her conscription in the Presentation Convent Wexford to recite “The Lay of Kilcock” at the Feis Maitiú. The poem remained hidden in her repertoire until I became a teacher in Kilcock and was then introduced to the poem. The same poem was also in the repertoire of one of my teaching colleagues and how wonderful when she recited it for me after supper in Shalom on my last week as Príomhoide.



Pat Dunn

Was admittedly one

Who came from a very old stock,

From where In the County Kildare,

Stands the famous old town of Kilcock.

A place

So devoid of all grace,

And wholly addicted to evil,

It was said

Of the living and dead,

All save he had gone straight to the Devil.

But he

Never went on the spree,

And in virtue stood firm as a rock,


He preserved a pure tone

In that wicked town of Kilcock.

At last

To eternity passed

From the troubles and sorrows of life

Poor Pat,

Who left, just think of that,

Twelve children and only one wife!

Well, well,

They tolled out his death.knell,

And things went on the same as before,

While he,

With all speed that might be,

Presented himself at Heaven’s door.

A knock

Brought a turn of the lock,

And the Prince of Apostles came out;

“Pray who,”

Said Saint Peter, ” are you

And what business have you come about?”

“In troth,”

For Saint Peter looked wroth,

Said poor Pat, like a prisoner in dock

“My name Is Pat Dunn from the town of Kilcock.”


Said the saint, takin’ stock,

And he shook his head, doubting the story.

Poor Dunn

Too soon thought he had won

His reward in the kingdom of glory.


Said the sturdy old rock,

“There’s a town of that name in no nation.”

Says Pat,

“Sir, be aisy in that,

‘Tis a Midland Great Western station.”

” I’11 look,”

Said the saint. ” in my hook.”

And he turned back the key in the lock;

But there,

In the County Kildare,

Sure enough he discovered Kilcock.

“I see

You’ve the better 0f me,

Tho’ I thought you were trying to mock;

Come in,”

Said the saint with a grin,

“You’re the first that ~ come here from Kilcock.”

Remembering friends

Sorting and throwing out – amazing the pieces of literature that one finds. Here is the article that appeared on the Kandle site on the death of Fr PJ:


Born      10 March 1946

Ordained: 20 June 1971

His home place was Tinryland, Co. Carlow.


St. Mary’s College, Knockbeg, Carlow (1959-1964)

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth (1964-1971)

Appointments with Dates: 

Diocesan Appointment Primary School Catechetics 1971-1972
CC Rathvilly 1972-1973
Watford Herts Emigrants Chaplain 1973-1977
Secretary Bishop’s Commission for Emigrants 1977-1986
CC Portlaoise 1986-1993
CC Portarlington 1993-1999
PP Kilcock and Newtown 1999-2016

Rev. Fr. Patrick Joseph (P.J.) Byrne

Funeral Details

Funeral arrangements for Fr PJ Byrne are as follows:
Removal to St Coca’s Church, Kilcock Thursday evening at 7pm where he will repose allowing parishioners to pay their respects. Night prayer at 10pm. Funeral Mass at 12 noon. Burial in Tinryland. May he rest in peace


The powerful Latin phrase “Duc in altum”, coming from the fourth verse of Luke’s gospel, translates as the instruction to “put out into the deep[1]. It was the instruction Simon Peter was given by Jesus to pull out from the safety of the shallow waters into the depths of the sea. It was, and remains a call to authentic discipleship. Luke’s gospel ends with Simon and his colleagues leaving behind their boats and following Jesus.

It was the call that P.J. answered when he left Knockbeg in 1964 and entered the seminary at Maynooth. It was the call that saw P.J. in a priesthood that spanned 45 years, ministering for a brief year in Primary Catechetics, as curate in Rathvilly before taking up a post in emigrant chaplaincy, and later becoming secretary for nine years, of the Episcopal Commission for Emigrants. After that appointment he was curate in Portlaoise for eight years and Portarlington for six years, before coming here as Parish Priest of Kilcock and Newtown, succeeding the much revered Fr. McWey.

Luke’s gospel was the last scripture passage he read at his 10.30am Mass last Sunday morning in Newtown. He was a priest who didn’t do lastminute.com; he would have started preparing his homily a full week before delivery. Short periods of reflection and prayer were followed by being out and about living that gospel among the people. He talked to me about his homiletic method on one of my visits to him. Even on Sunday night last, when I called into a stunned parochial house, next Sunday’s text was already underlined – the work had begun. But for P.J. his parting words in the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady in Newtown were: “Kildare & Offaly; Ireland & Wales – Do not be afraid!” His focus was on the tenth verse of Luke’s text.

The Book of Wisdom reassures us “the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God … their going looked like a disaster, their leaving us annihilation, but they are in peace[2]. It’s a huge comfort for family and friends in the aftermath of the suddenness of death. And it’s amazing that when someone we know and respect and love dies, we all feel we were close to them. P.J. had that capacity to stay in contact through the sending of snippets and articles. He kept ‘An Post’ going; he made you feel special. I don’t know where he got the time to do all the reading he did – The Furrow, The Tablet, The Pastoral Review, Ireland’s Own, The Daily Papers, the Kildare Nationalist, the Leinster Leader and of course The Carlow Nationalist to keep tabs on Tinryland! His distinctive handwriting was on the envelope. In an age of twitter, Instagram and Snapchat – P.J. was a straightforward plain envelope man! I’m not sure he even liked texting, but he never had any problem talking!

The letter to the Romans included the instruction for those who work in service of the Lord “work not halfheartedly but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit[3]. P.J.’s contribution to the Irish diaspora is a legacy for which many beyond these shores will be eternally grateful. Patricia Kennedy in her recent publication, entitled ‘Welcoming the Stranger’, celebrating Irish Migrant Welfare in Britain since 1957, speaks glowingly of Fr. P.J.’s contribution alongside Bishop Eamonn Casey in helping formulate a Christian response to the Northern Ireland problem. It was the time of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four – it was not an easy time to be Irish in England. P.J. helped Fr. Bobby Gilmore establish the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, the ICPO. A friendship with former President Mary McAleese developed through this work, was a friendship that never waned. His earlier work in the emigrant chaplaincy in Westminster Diocese prepared him for his later sterling work on the emigrant commission.

Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship … look for opportunities to be hospitable[4]. It’s as if this abridged verse from the letter to the Romans was written with Fr. P.J. Byrne in mind. Articles that caught his eye might include ones around keeping a balance in ministry, having a sense of self and nourishing a deep appreciation of the spiritual. Balance was important in P.J.’s life. He treasured his little breaks; he had a passion around the GAA and he loved to entertain. Sometimes he managed to strategically combine all three around All-Ireland Final dates! Even the appointment of the new school boards of management to Scoil Chóca Naofa, St. Josephs and Scoil Uí Riada necessitated an evening meal, such was his time for the local schools – primary and secondary. Returning to the GAA; he once togged out for Carlow and let everyone know it; it was against the wee county Louth. The result escapes me, but fair to say, that when driving with I think it was, Jimmy Doyle, one day through County Cork, he pleaded with Jimmy to stop the car because he had to call in to see an old Cork friend. The car was stopped, P.J. bounced out and stormed into the house as he was accustomed to do, only to return to the car thirty seconds later – the wrong house!

It was here among you the people of Kilcock and Newtown that P.J. spent the last sixteen years of his life. He deeply appreciated your support for him in the parish, in the schools, in the clubs, in the committees and in the associations. P.J., like most of us, didn’t want conflict, he was a great compromiser, who saw the middle ground. He deeply appreciated the role of women in the church and in the life of the parish. He loved Confirmation Day – the Holy Spirit sometimes mightn’t even get a look in! While he was very aware of his own calling, he also had a great insight in identifying the gifts of women and men in the parish. He had a great respect for young people and they for him, as evidenced by the rapport he enjoyed up the way in Scoil Dara. While he was a Carlovian at heart, it seems very appropriate that he will later this afternoon be laid to rest in his native Tinryland. Writing about November in a 2010 edition of Intercom, Fr. P.J. wrote poignantly: “all of us face the mystery of death. Occasionally I wonder what will my own death be like. What happens to us after death?[5]

Among the clippings I received in last Monday morning’s post with P.J.’s infamous style of block print on the envelope were snippets about the Slane poet, Francis Ledwidge. The early lines of Ledwidge’s memorable elegy to the 1916 hero Thomas McDonagh seem very appropriate this day:

He shall not hear the bittern cry

In the wild sky where he is lain,

Nor voices of the sweeter birds

Above the wailing of the rain.

Nor shall he know when loud

March blows …[6]

On March 10th next P.J. would have turned 70 – there was a party planned for family then and a marquee booked for friends in June. We know that event will now be an eternal one, and no doubt P.J. will most likely sing ‘The Bog Down in the Valley-o’ – all 9 verses, with a couple of spare ones thrown in for good measure! May he rest in peace. Amen.

[1] Lk. 5:4

[2] Is. 3:1,3.

[3] Rom. 12:11

[4] Rom, 12:12,13

[5] Byrne, Fr. P.J., ‘In November We Remember – Life will never be the same again’, Intercom Magazine, November 2010.

[6] Ledwidge, Francis, ‘The Complete Poems’, Goldsmith, 1997, pg. 175.

See also Fr Dream (You Tube)

Published on Oct 8, 2012

A short promo video for the ”One Night Music Festival” in Kilcock’s parish church.
This event will take place in November 2012. Its on Friday 9th at 8pm.