A poem about the pub’s social importance to rural Ireland is being broadcast to Tube passengers in London this St Patrick’s Day.
‘Valley Bachelors’ was chosen by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed after he put out a call on Twitter last Sunday for suggestions of an Irish poem.
As part of his ministerial duties visiting the UK this week, the minister will read John Fitzgerald’s poem at Charing Cross Tube station this morning. It will then be repeated during the day over the public address, as part of an annual ‘greening the Underground’ initiative by the Irish Embassy and Transport for London (TfL).
Despite suggestions of many popular works by
Seamus Heaney, WB Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, and Eavan Boland, Mr Creed made what he described as “a very personal choice”.
John Fitzgerald grew up and lives near Macroom in Mr Creed’s mainly-rural Cork North-West constituency, and the minister said the poem paints a vivid picture of a rural Ireland he knows well.
It recalls the poet’s 1970s and 1980s work in his grand-aunt’s pub in Lissarda, Co Cork, where most customers were men, mostly farmers, and mostly bachelors.
“I’d go to the pub ignorant of the match played that day, and I’d leave an expert,” said Mr Fitzgerald, head of University College Cork’s Boole Library.
“They might be talking about nature, farming, or things going on around the place. It was fascinating to listen to it all, and there might be 10 conversations going on.”
The poem then goes on to describe the sudden awkwardness when all the chats stop at the same time and everyone waits for someone else to re-start the chatter.
“I realised there was something else there, that a lot of men came to the pub for the company and to get away from the silence at home,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
Irish actress Dearbhla Molloy will read Mise Raifteirí an File this morning, and it will also be broadcast in Charing Cross today and tomorrow. Several other Tube stations will host performances by Irish musicians and dancers over the weekend.
They would drift in,
predictable twos and threes slowly filling the small room with a week’s news,
takes on team selections, name checks, indiscretions,
and you’d forget that beyond the general hubbub were whole universes of silence — long lanes, whitewashed yards, bare kitchen tables,
until once in a summer the low buttery mid-Cork gobble would unexpectedly pause and for that reason – stop and each man,
embarrassed at having been overheard or too shy to be the one to strike up again would stare down into his glass, up along the top shelf,
at the door – anywhere for as long as it took for just one voice to break the enemy’s hold.
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