Memory Lane (from The Advertiser)
A Seasonal Poem from 1927
Butte Independent, Saturday, June 11, 1927;
CHRISTMAS EVE IN KERRY
“Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the Pooka is at rest
Contented in his stable eating hay;
The crystal snow is gleaming on the mountains of the West,
And a lonesome sea is sobbing far away;
But I know a star is watching o’er the bogland and the stream,
And ‘tis coming, coming, coming o’er the foam;
And ’tis twinkling o’er the prairie with a message and a dream
Of Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.
‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the happy mermaids croon
The songs, of youth and hope that never die;
Oh never more on that dear shore for you and me, aroon.
The rapture of that olden lullaby:
But the candle lights are gleaming on a hillside far away.
And peace is in the blue December gloam;
And o’er the sea of memory I hear the pipers play
At Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.
‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, oh I hear the fairies’ lyre
Anear the gates of slumber calling sweet.
Calling softly, calling ever to the land of young desire,
To the pattering of childhood’s happy feet;
But a sleepless sea is throbbing, and the stars are watching’ true
As they journey to the wanderers who roam —
Oh the sea, the stars shall bring me tender memories of you
MY CHRISTMAS WISH
Oh Lord, when we give this Christmas time,
Do teach us how to share
The gifts that you have given us
With those who need our care,
For the gift of Time is sacred~
The greatest gift of all,
And to share our time with others
Is the answer to your call,
For the Sick, the Old and Lonely
Need a word, a kindly cheer
For every precious minute
Of each day throughout the Year,
So, in this Special Season
Do share Your Time and Love
And your Happy, Holy Christmas
Will be Blessed by Him above
Christmas in an Irish house in Kentish Town in the 1960s
Maurice Brick Irish Central December 2021
I was wiping the mud from a 20-foot length of half-inch steel reinforcing bar with a wire brush and cursing the frost from the night before, which made it harder. I had, by then, passed the “barra liobar” (frozen fingers) part and the blood was circulating well despite the freezing cold. Steel is about the coldest thing you can handle in freezing weather.
It just didn’t seem like Christmas at all. I received a card from home the day before and Mam said how they were looking forward to Christmas and going to Dingle for the day with Dad. The lads were fine, she said, and they were wondering why I wasn’t coming home and she told them work was tight in England and maybe I wanted to put a bit of money away. Poor Mam, she always thought the better of me.
Today was payday; at least there was something good about it. Tomorrow, Friday, was Christmas Eve, so we had money for a good booze-up if nothing else for the weekend. There were six of us staying in a boarding house in Kentish Town and since we were all from the other side the mood, to say the least, was somber.
There were two from Donegal and they worked in the tunnels and made tons of money. The work was hard but, I’ll tell you, they were harder. There were three of us from West Kerry and we worked straight construction – buildings, shuttering (concrete formwork) and the like. That was hard work, too, but not as tough as the tunnels with the compressed air. The other fellow was from Clare, a more respectable sort of chap and he worked for British Rail as a porter.
I tried the tunnels myself once. I persuaded one of the Donegal fellows to get me a start and to tell the truth it was the money that enticed me outright. But my venture was a disaster. I started and descended into the tunnel and while there the compressed air hit me like a shot after an hour and my ears screamed with pain.
They were worse again when I entered the decompression chamber and I couldn’t wait to get out. I gained a great deal of respect for the Donegal fellows after that. They both wore a medal-type apparatus around their necks that gave the address of the decompression chamber of their tunnel.
On Christmas Eve, we worked half a day. The foreman was a sly bastard. He was as Irish as we were, but when the “big knobs” from the Contractor’s office appeared on site he affected such a cockney accent that you’d swear he was born as close to “Petticoat Lane” as the hawkers plying their trade there on Sunday.
Anyway, we all chipped in and gave him a pound each for Christmas. This gesture did not emanate from generosity but rather preservation. Our erstwhile foreman could be vindictive and on payday, he would come by and ask for a light and you would hand him the box of matches with a pound note tightly squeezed in there and all would be well with the world. Not a bad day’s take as there were twenty in our gang. But the job paid well and no one complained.
When I got to the house on Christmas Eve, I paid the landlady and took a bath and dressed in my Sunday best. I waited for the others and we all sat down to dinner. It had some meat and lashings of mashed potatoes, “Paddy Food” they called it. It didn’t bother us much for we knew we would have steak in a late-night café after the pubs closed anyway. The six of us were dressed and ready to go at half six and we headed straight for the “Shakespeare” near the Archway.
After a few pints, there we went to the “Nag’s Head” on Holloway Road. However, we encountered a group from Connemara there and rather than wait for the customary confrontation – for some reason there was animosity between those from the Kerry Gaeltacht area and those from Connemara, which was also a Gaelic speaking area in Galway – we decided to forego it on Christmas Eve. But we assured each other that the matter would be taken care of in the very near future. Just as I was leaving one of the Connemara chaps said, “láithreach a mhac” (soon, my son) and I responded, “is fada liom é a mhac” (I can’t wait, my son).
We ended up in the “Sir Walter Scott” in Tollington Park and I barely remember seeing a row of pints lined up on the bar to tide us over the period between “time” called and when we actually had to leave. This period could last an hour depending on the pub governor’s mood.
We ambled, or rather staggered, into the late-night café sometime after midnight and the waitress gave us a knowing glance and said, “Steak and mash Pat, OK” and we all said “yes.” Some of us said it a few times just to make sure we had said it. It was then I thought, Jesus, I never went to Midnight Mass. That bothered me. I had always gone to Midnight Mass, but it was only last year I started drinking and it went completely out of my head.
We had our feed of steak and left and we decided to walk to the “Tube” at Finsbury Park and that would bring us to Kentish Town Station. Somehow, we made it and truthfully I don’t remember a moment on that train.
We arrived home at two and as quietly as possible reached our rooms. One of the Donegal fellows pulled out a bottle of Scotch and passed it around and we just sat on the beds and took turns taking swigs descending deeper and deeper into the realm of the absence of coherence of any sort.
I remember thinking again about missing Midnight Mass and I must have voiced my disgust a number of times to the annoyance of the others and one of them asked me to “shut the hell up.” I approached him and hit him right between the eyes and he crumpled to the floor and fell asleep.
The others struggled and lifted me onto the bed and everything just blanked out and I remember awakening on Christmas Day and the fellow I hit was nursing a bruised cheek by the window. I asked him what happened and he said he didn’t know and that he thought he bumped into something in his drunken state. I told him that I thought I hit him and that I was sorry.
He came by my side and sat there and I thought I detected a tear or two in his eyes. He looked at me and said, “You know, this is no friggin’ way to spend a Christmas, is it?” And I said, “You’re right” and I shook his hand for I thought he was a better man than I.
A Christmas Poem from an Emigrant
lI KNOW SANTA’S ON HIS WAY
GRANDPAW, Will you tell me the story, of how Christmas came to be
About the baby Jesus, the presents, and the tree
Why the stars all seem to sparkle, up yonder in the sky
And why there’s so much laughter, amongst every girl and guy
Can you tell me why the candles, seem to have a beacon light
Will it be like this forever, or is this a special night
Cometo me my little sweetheart, and climb up on my knee
And I’ll tell you the story, just the way ‘twas told to me
It started back many years ago, in a land far, far away
In a little town called Bethlehem, or so the people say
By a manger in a stable, so cold and all forlorn
There on the hay, that December day, Jesus Christ was born
You ask me of the presents, and what meaning they may hold
I guess it’s called affection, should the truth be ever told
They’re little gifts that are bestowed, and we all understand
On that special day we just want to say, God bless the giving hand
Now, I know what you are thinking, by the way you look at me
You want to hear the story, about the Christmas tree
Well, every day in His own way, God sends us from above
Some hurt, some joy, some strength and pain, but He does it all with love
He gave us gifts like mountains, the deserts, and the sea
And mankind enhanced this beauty in the form of a tree
My little girl with golden curl, about the candle glow
Should we get lost, by day or night, as on through life we go
When we’re in doubt, as we sometimes are, as on and on we roam
It’s the twinkling stars and candlelight, that will lead us safely home
Well, now I believe I’ve come to the end, I have no more to say
So go to sleep my sweetheart
I KNOW SANTA’S ON HIS WAY!
By Richard Moriarty of
and San Diego, California
I’m taking a little break to enjoy the festival with my family. Thank you everyone who sent me Christmas messages and a big thank you to everyone who helped Listowel Connection in any way during the year.
I’m looking forward to doing it all again in 2023.
Slán tamall agus beannachtaí na féile oraibh go léir.