My Molly Is Your Nelly

“Out of that childhood country what fools climb
To fight with tyrants Love and Life and Time?”

( Patrick Kavanagh – Peace)

Molly is a beautiful black and white Collie who has recently moved in next door. She has got braver over the last few weeks and spends a few idle moments entertaining me with stick throwing, fetching and general giddiness. Technically she’s called Nelly. That’s her given name next door, but I must have misheard her name the first time and she answers to Molly in our house. She loves company.

Yesterday evening Molly was in the doghouse, metaphorically, and literally. She’d borrowed someone’s phone and carefully hidden it in the backfield. I thought this was hilarious. No one else did. So , Molly was confined to her kennel. She was let out briefly later to get something to eat and bolted over to her faithful stick thrower. I was unaware that she was an escapee and as soon as I saw her outside went out to join her and we had a fun half hour until I eventually noticed someone trying to call her home. I walked her over, throwing sticks as we went.

I think I beamed from ear to ear for that whole half hour, and if I had a tail it would have been wagging as enthusiastically as Molly’s. I also get a great kick out of calling her Molly when everyone else calls her Nelly.

It’s only a small thing.

But, to paraphrase Kavanagh, God is in the small things, the bits and pieces of Everyday.

Jake and I went to visit the Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen this week. It is somewhere I’ve meant to see for quite a while. At school I dreaded studying Kavanagh, the only one of his poems that appeared with any regularity on the syllabus was ‘Stony Grey Soil’ which coloured several generations of school kids’ impression of Monaghan, and not in a good way.

As I got older I seemed to bump into him in a more pleasant ways. I lived along the Grand Canal in Dublin at one point in possibly the second busiest party house EVER. I stumbled back from Leeson Street in the early hours on many an occasion and sometimes stopped and sat beside him on his park bench watching the swans as the city came to life.

I found a book of his poems in a second hand bookshop in Galway while looking for something else and fell in love with him as I flicked past incredibly beautiful and brilliant turns of phrase.

I drunkenly argued , ( yes, I know, very unlike me), with an educated gobshite in The Stags Head , that he was a genius, Kavanagh, not the gobshite. The individual I was arguing with maintained, in a dreadfully haughty nasal drone, that even the Beatles were better poets than Kavanagh.

“AHA !” I snarled, pointing my finger dangerously close to his nose, “ Sure, they’re all from Monaghan too, and were influenced by him !”

“Rubbish !” Mr.Snooty McSnooty piffled.

I explained , with great conviction, that McCartney’s Great Granda was from Clontibret and his friend Sgt. Benny ‘Pepper’ McGuinness inspired that whole album. Lennon had carried a copy of Kavanagh’s  ‘The Green Fool’ for years , and had had a drink with him in McKenna’s on Dublin St. in Monaghan in 1964, and had got him to sign it. And George Harrison had met him in Dublin as a teenager in the 50’s and Kavanagh made such an impression on him that George’s mother had paid off his tab in the Waterloo Bar on Baggott St.

Mr.Snooty McSnooty was a bit taken aback and looked a little less sure of himself. “What about Ringo ?” he quietly asked.

“Ringo ?” I laughed “ Ach sure you’d know by the head on him he’s from Ballybay !”

We both laughed. We’re still friends.

Years later still, one Saturday morning while we were finishing up a Coder Dojo session in St.Macartan’s College, one of the kids asked why was there a statue of me in the front hall of the school. She was referring to a large bust of Kavanagh. I was honoured.  

So, off to Inniskeen we finally went to visit his visitor centre. It was wonderful. They have great bits and pieces of his life from the family home, images I’d never seen before, his own hand written notes, copy books, the printing press his brother Peter made by hand to print his poems. There’s a great auditorium with a film on a loop featuring 10 of his poems read and acted out beautifully in the hills and fields surrounding Inniskeen.  
The whole thing is stunning.

I wandered around, fascinated by the ephemera of this giant’s life and then I stopped in my tracks as I saw it. A newspaper column he’d written in 1963…taking the micky  out of the Beatles and Beatlemania !

Nooooooooooooo !

To give you a flavour :

“So far the Irish have not produced a guitaring ensemble of sufficiently outrageous codology as the Beatles. I saw the Clancy Brothers on the television and somehow they hadn’t that final touch of nerve and neck which is required.”

I choose to believe he was joking.

I only hope that Mr.Snooty McSnooty never visits Inniskeen. It may be the undoing of a great friendship.

By such bits and pieces are friendships, neighbours, empires and kingdoms rent asunder.

“A road, a mile of kingdom, I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.” – Kavanagh ‘Inniskeen Road:July Evening’

In my garden , throwing sticks for Molly, listening to Childish Gambino, imagining Monaghan as the True Centre of The Universe, I am indeed the king of every blooming thing.


P.S. This is class , ‘Reward’ by Teardrop Explodes

P.P.S. Here is the story of Kavanagh meeting George Harrison :

Beatlemania was at one of it’s many peaks in 1964. They had their first tours of the US and New Zealand, released their third and fourth albums, had countless number 1’s across the world, and filmed and released their first film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. It was a frenetic existence.

One evening in London George and his new girlfriend Patti Boyd, whom he’d met while filming the movie, went to dinner with John and Cynthia Lennon at the home of John’s dentist, John Riley. Without telling any of his guests, Riley laced everyone’s coffee with LSD.

George later said “I had such an overwhelming feeling of well being , that there was a God, and I could see him in every blade of grass.” And for the first time in 10 years he had a flashback to a meeting with a grumpy old man sitting on a park bench along the Grand Canal on Mespil Road in Dublin.

George’s Mum came from Ireland and George had cousins who lived in Drumcondra. Throughout his childhood his family were frequent visitors to Dublin. On this particular day in 1955, a shy 12 year old George Harrison got separated from his mother on O’Connell St. in Dublin and then took the wrong bus, ending up near Baggot St., Patrick Kavanagh’s stomping ground.

Kavanagh’s career as a poet was in the doldrums. His initial promise was tarnished by quite a decent attempt at alcoholism and keeping company with Flann O’Brien and Brendan Behan, whom he detested. 1954 had been a real low. Having taken offence at being referred to as an ‘alcoholic sponger’ in a tiny article in a regional paper, he decided to sue and the court case attracted huge attention. He lost. He also discovered that he had lung cancer and had to undergo a severe operation to have a lung removed. During his recovery he found his muse once more and started writing again.

On warm days he took to sitting on a bench on the banks of Dublin’s Grand Canal. He’d doze off, reciting lines from his poems, old, new, and unrealised, to himself.

The shy 12 year old from Liverpool wandered away from Baggot St. and sat at the opposite end of a park bench from an old man who was muttering to himself in his sleep…

“I gave her the gifts of the mind.
I gave her the secret sign…”

“The secret sign.” George repeated.

Kavanagh opened one eye,briefly, and smiled to himself.

“That’s known to all the artists who have
Known true Gods of Sound and Time.”

“Gods of Sound.” George repeated.

Kavanagh remained quiet for a moment and decide to try a new one on this young floppy haired fella…
“He knew that posterity had no use
For anything but the soul…”

“Soul” George whispered.

Kavanagh continued…

“The lines that speak the passionate heart,
The spirit that lives alone.”

George opened his mouth to say something but spotted that Kavangh was now wide awake and staring at him.

“Are you a bloody parrot ??”

“No Sir. I just liked to sound of your words and the way you said them.” George smiled a cheeky smile as he answered the old man.

The old man smiled.

“You’re a clever fella. On your holidays ?”

“Yeah, we’re visiting me cousins in Drumcondra. Got the wrong bus.” George looked down at his feet.

“No need to worry, just walk to the end of this road and all the buses that stop on this side will take you back to O’Connell St. and you can get the right bus from there this time. Do you need the fare ?”


Kavanagh stuck his hand in his pocket and took out a shilling which he flicked over to George.

“You owe me a pint if we ever meet again.”

“Thanks. What were the songs you were saying in your sleep ?”

“Just my own… poetry.” He offered George a handshake.” Patrick Kavanagh, pleased to meet you.”

George shook hands with the old man “George Harrison, charmed. I’d love to be able to write something like that.”

“You will, Mr.Harrison, you will, you have the secret sign.”

“Me ? I’m nothing , me. My teacher keeps telling me that even if I studied really, really hard , I’d be mediocre at best.”

“Did he indeed ? We have a word for men like him…you weren’t cursed with a Nun , were you ?” George shook his head. “ We have a word for men like him in Monaghan. We call them gobshites. Look at me when I tell you these two things and then you be on your way. Are you listening ?

George nodded this time.

Kavanagh, cleared his throat and spat on the ground. “Ready ?”

George nodded again.

“Firstly, we never heed a gobshite.”

George smiled.

“Second, no man needs to be a mediocrity if he accepts himself as God made him. God only made geniuses.”

George stood up and extended his hand to Patrick. “Thank you Mr.Kavanagh. I’ll try.”

“You’ll do better than that. You’ll write Something.”

“I will.”

“You will.”

And with that they parted and their paths never crossed again…not really.

Dublin was not a terribly big place in the 1950’s, it isn’t really now, and most people knew each other. Certainly a character as large as Kavanagh would not have been hard to track down, even for a relieved holidaying mum from Liverpool. Every morning at 11.30 Patrick Kavanagh entered The Waterloo Bar on Baggot St., ordered a pint and grumbled his way through the day’s newspapers. The day after he met George was the same, except that when he offered to pay for his first pint of the day, the barman said it was already paid for, as was his tab.

“I’ll have a whiskey to go with it so” he said, smiling, and then he asked who had paid for it.

The barman placed his Powers on the bar beside his pint and said “ She said that her name was Mrs.Harrison and that she wanted to thank you for something. So what was it ?”

“What was what ?” Kavanagh answered as he sipped on his Powers.

“What was the something ?” the barman snapped.

“That’s exactly what it was !”

The bar man turned on his heels and walked down to the other end of the bar leaving Kavanagh chuckling to himself as he flicked through the papers. One of the other regulars arrived, nodded to Kavanagh and walked the length of the bar and simply nodded at the barman who understood and poured him a pint. As a regular he could tell that the barman was in a foul mood.

“What’s up , me old flower?” he said cheerily.

“This bloody job ! The hours, I don’t mind. The pay could be better. I don’t even mind the drunks. But spare me  those fuckin’ poets !!”

Kavanagh gave another snort of laughter, held up his empty pint glass, and went back to his paper.

In 1964 George Harrison wrote ‘Something’. He sang it to Pattie in the kitchen of their bungalow , Kinfauns, but didn’t share it with the Beatles until 1968.

It was recorded and released on the Abbey Road album and was released as the first single and went to number one in the US and UK, the only Beatles song written by George to do so.

It is the second most recorded Beatles song after Yesterday.

Over 150 artists , including Elvis, Sinatra, Smokie Robinson and James Brown have recorded it.

Sinatra and many others have said it is the most beautiful and finest love song ever written.

Something was worth waiting for.

Somethings always are.

Author: paul

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