photo credit: https://www.ireland.com/en-us/articles/galway2020/
Anois teacht an Earraigh, beidh an lá dul chun sine
Is tar éis na Féile Bríde árdóigh mé mo sheol
Ó chur me im’ cheann e ní stopfhaidh mé coiche
Go seasfaidh mé síos i lár connate Mhuigheo
I translated it to give the spirit rather than literal.
Now comes the spring and the days will be stretching,
After St Bridget’s Day I’ll be taking the road.
Since it entered my head, I won’t be for resting,
‘Til I’m standing below in the Heart of Mayo.
This old poem by Anthony Raftery, written in the early part of the nineteenth century was the old blind poet’s welcome to the Spring. Those of you who may have gone to school in Ireland before going to America, as well as your parents, will have learnt this lovely old poem in school in Ireland, for it was on the curriculum of every school in Ireland
Raftery was a wandering blind poet from Cill Aodain in Co Mayo, who walked the roads playing the fiddle and composing poems of love and praise for those who would feed him and give him a few pennies in the middle of the nineteenth century. He died in Craughwell, and is buried in Kileeneen Graveyard in a fine grave about a mile from where I live, beside his great friends and rivals the Callanan brothers who were also local poets at the time and who wrote poems in competition with him, but who also gave him shelter in the winter.
St Bridget’s Day is the first of February, and is the traditional first day of Spring over here, and being the old romantic that I am, I always feel the urge to quote Raftery on that day, and also when I see the first daffodil of Spring. Nowadays there are many different official versions of when Spring starts, in France it is in April, but for me it will always be the old date; on February the first.
Well the first daffodils are well out by now and the flowers are telling us it is Spring, but a couple of fierce Atlantic storms named Ciara and Denis have pounded the West coast of Ireland and dumped a couple of months rain on us in about two weeks, so flooding is almost the norm and bits of trees lying around tell of the high winds which gusted to 130 KPH or about eighty miles per hour. Not the sort of Spring we all envisage with birds singing sweetly and building their nests.
Because of storm Ciara, the opening of the great celebrations in Galway as European Capital of Culture 2020, was reduced to a farce, or may be a wash-out for there was a huge, very costly ceremony prepared for the great launch in a large field in Claddagh, known to us locals as The Swamp, but nowadays rather grandly called South Park. Huge gantrys were erected and launching platforms for exciting international acts and for an enormous firework display as well as large marquees. beer and catering tents.
Of course, any local would have told them that planning an event like this at this time of the year in the most exposed piece of ground in Galway, being right at the very rim of the Atlantic, was a bad idea. But then the organisers weren’t local so they went ahead preparing and building for the opening on February 8th. Hurricane Ciara was in full chat by then and there was a wind of about sixty miles per hour blowing, a higher than usual tide, so seagulls were swimming in the large lake that was South Park as the waves broke over the edge of it and torrential rain filled the field. It had, of course, to be abandoned at an unknown cost. Some say over a million Euros were written off or more. This has caused the main sponsors; the local authorities, to rethink the venture and to cap the spending at around six million or so, a far cry from the twenty million already planned.
There are mixed feelings among the local population about it, as it has been dogged by misfortune and resignations of senior personnel since it was first mooted and much money has been frittered away without any visible sign of advancement. All most of us have seen so far is a rather grand programme of proposals.
I do not wish to be seen as knocking this festival, far from it; in the beginning I believed that it would be a wonderful chance to expose our city, Galway in a good light to the whole world. I do believe though that the first thing they should have done was approach the local artists and show organisers about the whole thing at the planning stage. This didn’t happen, which was amazing in a city that had more theatre companies, dancers, musicians, artists and event organisers than you can shake a stick at. In a city that annually hosts film festivals, art festivals, drama festivals, music festivals, children’s festivals, poetry festivals, food festivals, a couple of oyster festivals and the Lord knows what else, they had to go to England to find someone to organize this Galway 2020 European City of Culture festival.
Watch this space!
Incidentally, in the last wonderful issue of The Irish Gazette, because I have lived in ten decades, somebody decided I had to be in my mid-nineties. Gimme a break lads, I’m only a young lad in my mid-eighties. Enjoy life while ye can; Sláinte!