Unrecorded Places in Between
The scene is set in Rathfarnham, Dublin in January 1926 as Mrs Pearse, no ordinary Mrs Pearse, opens a letter she just received from someone she knew who lived in Ballymacassey, Ballylongford, Co. Kerry.
My Grandad passed away when I was 8 years old and, from memory, we went to his funeral in Bill Lanigan’s Hackney Car (a real treat!) as we headed to the very same house that is prominent in the letter.
My father, Brendan Creedon (a truly kind but strict dad) was a loving but emotionally distant father, although he always took time to explain about the birds’ nests in our garden, to play football with me ‘his football mad son’ and teach how to take frees ‘off the ground’. And I’ll never forget when he took me to my first county final in Tralee in 1962 … the list goes on and on.
He died suddenly on Friday, 12th December 1986 from his heart condition, sitting in his chair in front of the TV. T’was the same room where we both watched his first ever soccer match as the great Brazil side of 1970, with Pele and company, marched on to win the World Cup in Mexico that year. A ‘dyed in the wool’ GAA man of his era, and of course he supported the GAA’s Ban on foreign games up until then. TV changed all that fundamentalism. I was told of his passing at our office Christmas party in Dublin that night. Thankfully, I had been alcohol free for 9 years at the time so I took to the road.
As I headed for Kerry, I remembered the great day earlier in the same year, a hot August Sunday, when my father and some family members went together to Croke Park to see Kerry defeat Meath in the All Ireland semi-final. Afterwards we strolled the hallowed ground as he recalled how he played there for the Munster Colleges against Ulster in 1932. He was then a student in St. Brendan’s College, better known as ‘The Sem’ in Killarney.
Regrettably we never got to talk about his life and all the intergenerational trauma, so beautifully captured in my Grandfather’s letter to Pádraig Pearse’s mother. Like so many of my era, I never had the courage until now to tell him in those three simple words, that strangely my own grandkids rattle off with ease now… “I love you”.
As a tribute to my Dad and Grandad, I would like to share my poem “Unrecorded Places in Between” and my Grandad’s letter to Mrs Pearse, dated, January 7th 1926.
Unrecorded Places in Between
My first girlfriend appeared goddess like,
Beaming and joyful in the nearby village,
I had landed excitedly on the palm of her hand,
A pull through for a rifle, an ordinary footballer,
A besotted romantic, she mused about me,
She never letting me get ahead of myself,
Any foolish notions sent packing effortlessly.
Your Grandfather stole a calf from us,
She whispered quietly into my ear,
Resting her face softly against mine,
Never said I, but yes yes, said she,
We can all forgive if we want to,
Her voice as true as the summer sun,
Open wounds take time to heal.
Cycling furiously the four miles home,
Eager to check the facts, if only I could ask,
If my namesake was no ordinary Grandad,
A Sinn Fein judge from 1918 until the Civil War
took his title, his dignity and everything else.
The monochrome photograph sits on my desk,
Sharing family DNA, our greyish white hair too,
Reminding me of who I am, who I should be,
Long before your letter turned up in the vaults
unexpectedly, at the National Library of all places,
Check it out; click here If you don’t believe me.
Our conversation begins,
Do tell me more about your Dad,
A plasterer, wandering from place to place,
Cork to Scotland through Warrenpoint,
All those unrecorded places in between,
Decorating churches until he settled down
in Kerry, a survivor of the Great Famine,
Tough and rough by all accounts,
You a much kinder elder statesman.
Now do tell me about Brendan,
A lockout baby from 1913,
A lookout child of the Troubles,
A trauma facing teenager,
Who kept himself to himself,
What happened in that September of 25,
That day you took him home from school,
He wasn’t ready then, for what lay ahead,
You knew him well, my caring loving Dad.
You buried your Dad in late 29,
Your Republican son lost by then,
All buried in the same graveyard,
A never ending, never spoken story,
Stoically you held on, holding family,
Our unborn generations together,
Only America and survival looming.
You knew her then, I ask quietly,
Mrs Pearse, no ordinary Mrs Pearse,
So she spoke with my Dad, he never said,
What was she like, what did she say,
Did she talk about Easter week at the GPO,
Did she mention Willie or her poet son Padraig,
Did she know about the Proclamation in advance,
Or the executions that were the inevitable endings.
There and then,
You stop me in my tracks,
Hold all those thoughts, you said,
Let me read you my letter, remember
We were living on the edge,
On that wintry morning,
Desperation and Hope
Arrived onto the page together,
In very unequal measure.
January 7th. 1926
Dear Mrs. Pearse,
When I was up at St. Enda’s with my little boy, Brendan, last September, one reason why I did nor force him to stay on, was the state in which my other boy was in at the time. I think I told you that Johnny was dying, practically, at the time. Of course, the child, Brendan, knew this and he was upset and fretting.
I was very much put about myself too on account of the way my boy was and also because of the threat of eviction which hung and still hangs over me. My little place has been put up for sale in July for arrears of rent and rates which began to accumulate during the Black and Tan regime, when neither my boys nor myself could with safety do anything around the place. The sale did not come to anything for nobody bids in such a case like that, so I don’t know what their next move will be. I mention all this to show you the state of mind I was in when I was speaking to you at St. Enda’s.
Since then my boy Johnny died, (November 18th.). He was 22 ½ years old. His death was a happy, holy, peaceful death so that we have no regrets and although we miss him we are perfectly resigned to God’s Holy Will. He died firmly convinced that he was going to join the boys who died for Ireland in their heavenly home.
Now that the trouble of Johnny is over, I have been thinking of your kindness in offering to take Brendan at Christmas time. He is very willing to go now, I need not tell you what a boon it would be to us. We are held up here with three boys and three girls with no prospects for them but emigration to the United States which I don’t care for at all. If your kind offer still holds good we could send him up any time you say.
I remain &c.
To view 'Unrecorded Places in Between' handwritten by my daughter, Fiona Creedon, please click here.