Kerry County Council has honoured poet Brendan Kennelly, who has returned to live in his native ‘Bally’, or Ballylongford, a place “full of stories”, after an absence of more than half a century.

The civic reception in the Shannon estuary village in north Kerry on Saturday was to mark Mr Kennelly’s contribution to literature.

The former Trinity College professor, now 80, said he been away from his beloved ‘Bally’ and Kerry for more than 60 years but the village and county always stayed with him.

The once bustling village had changed much — but in many ways, it had remained the same, the poet said.

“Dublin was my home and a place that I loved dearly but my original home was always with me, all the time, wherever I went,” said Kennelly. “Bally and its people would come to me at night as I slept; I would dream of the streets, of the river going up through the village, of the football field, of the laneways, and the teams of young people and the rhyme that we had.”

The town when he was growing up had been “a busy, self-sufficient place that was full of life and energy.”

It had a cinema, two dance halls, draperies, shoe shops, chemists, several pubs, tailors and dressmakers, bakeries, and grocery shops.

“It had everything that its people needed,” he recalled.

“Bally is full of stories,” Mr Kennelly said, recounting a number of dramatic events to the gathering of family, friends, councillors, and officials. The poet also recalled the “amazing history” of the town and this part of north Kerry.

“I am back living near Bally again,” he said.

“I carry the Bally that I wrote about in The Crooked Cross within me and see it as I pass through the village and, although a lot has changed, I still know this to be my heart’s home place.” .

Mr Kennelly was presented with a framed scroll by Kerry County Council to mark the civic reception hosted in his honour, as well as with a picture of nearby Carrigafoyle Castle. A plaque was also unveiled.

Paying tribute to Mr Kennelly’s exceptional literary output and achievements, deputy chair of Kerry County Council, Liam Purtill, said the poet was “a literary hero of north Kerry and was cherished in his native place in the same way as literary figures like John B Keane and Bryan MacMahon”.


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