Agriculture Minister chooses poem about pub chat to represent Ireland

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.

Valley Bachelors

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.

John Fitzgerald

More on this topic

St Patrick’s Day plan to dye River Liffey greenSt Patrick’s Day plan to dye River Liffey green

River Liffey to be dyed green for Paddy's Day, tourism chiefs sayRiver Liffey to be dyed green for Paddy's Day, tourism chiefs say

English council apologises for flying Welsh flag on St Patrick’s DayEnglish council apologises for flying Welsh flag on St Patrick’s Day

Watch the ‘St Patrick’s Day Round Up Of The Parades’ from around the country if you need a pick-me-upWatch the ‘St Patrick’s Day Round Up Of The Parades’ from around the country if you need a pick-me-up


Lifestyle

From Turkey to Vietnam, here’s where the chef and food writer has fallen in love with on her travellers.Sabrina Ghayour’s top 5 cities for foodies to visit

Dr Dympna Kavanagh, chief dental officer, Department of Health (University College Cork graduate)Working Life: Dr Dympna Kavanagh, chief dental officer, Department of Health

Like most Irish kids of our generation, chillies, spicy food, heat were never really big aspects of our formative eating experiences.Currabinny Cooks: Getting spicy in the kitchen

Timothy Grady is in Bantry this week to host a concert, and read from his classic book about the Irish in London, writes Don O'Mahony.Giving voice to the emigrant experience

More From The Irish Examiner