I happened to be in the Bon Secours hospital in Cork on January 24 2023. The hospital was celebrating its anniversary.
Over the years The Bons has been good to me. An anniversary is a time for reflection. Not all my visits there were happy ones!
The Clock of Life is Wound but Once
The song My Grandfather’s Clock dates back to 1876. It tells the story from a child’s perspective of a clock bought for his grandfather on the day of his birth. Mysteriously it stopped working on the day he died. Maybe it was only a mystery to the child. I am old enough to remember the custom of manually stopping the clocks when someone in the house died.
My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.
Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering,
(tick, tick, tick, tick),I
It stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.
This grandfather clock has stood in The Bons in Cork for as long as I can remember.
They’re Teasing Us
Some of the people coming to this year’s Writers’ Week. Put the dates in your diary. It looks like a good one.
Movie of the Moment
It’s all about the movies these days as the Irish film industry is having a moment.
When I think of films I think of the late Kieran Gleeson. He would be in his element just now, lapping up all the movie news.
I am printing here an old post from 2016. It is Billy Keane’s tribute to Kieran, our man of cinema, published in the Irish Independent after Kieran’s untimely death.
Billy Keane’s Tribute to Kieran Gleeson Irish Independent Jan 25 2016
Kieran Gleeson’s eyes lit up as he explained the background to the film he was showing, and you could see he was excited – excited about sharing all he knew with his audience there in his three-screen cinema in a small country town.
There was always an introduction before his cinema club films on a Thursday night. This was his night, the night when he got to choose the films he loved. Kieran spoke as all the knowledgeable do – in simple, easy-to-understand language.
Kieran has been in love with the cinema ever since he stood up
on the piled-high metal boxes that were used for storing magic reels. There, he was the spellbound kid looking out through the porthole in the projectionist’s room with his dad and grandad in their country cinema in Cappamore, County Limerick. Afterwards, he would be full of excitement and full of talk.
Kieran ‘the man’ is still ‘the boy’ in the projection room.
Often, we would be kept on after the crowd had gone home for a discussion about the movie he was showing. He knew his stuff, did Kieran. There was no showing off, just teaching and sharing. The soft, gentle but passionate voice, hoarse from too much talk, is gone for good now.
Kieran’s life is a silent movie. He breathes with the help of a
machine. Our small town hero’s chest rises and falls with every breath. It’s as
if he’s a marathon runner at the end of a gruelling race. Kieran Gleeson who
rescued, owns and loves our local cinema here in Listowel – has advanced Motor Neurone Disease.
But he’s still communicating. Kieran writes a little, but only with great effort. He sends text messages, nods in agreement or moves his eyes
towards something he wants you to read.
Kieran writes ’29’ on a sheet of paper and hands it to his wife,
Teresa. Did you ever notice it when two people feel and read each other’s
thoughts? They seem to instinctively know what the other person is thinking.
The bond has to be strong, but there’s more than just tuning in. The two must share the dream.
The 29 refers to January 29, 1987 – the day the cinema in
Listowel reopened under Kieran’s management.
The cinema had been closed for two years. Kieran was driving by
one day with his mother and he noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign up over The Astor
Cinema. There and then, he made up his mind to buy the rat-infested wreck. A local businessman told Kieran he was “absolutely mad” – and maybe he
was. Small town cinemas were going the way of small shops. There are only a few independent cinemas left in Ireland. The prophesy of failure made Kieran all the more determined to succeed. He worked day and night and, bit by bit, the cinema began to pay for itself. His mother helped out every Sunday when the cinema was at it’s busiest.
Kieran opened three screens and he had the best of films showing
at the same time as the big cities. He was one of the first to embrace
digitalisation and encouraged Jimmy Deenihan, the then Arts Minister, to
provide grant assistance to a number of cinemas.
Hard-up parents were given deals. Kids who didn’t have enough
money were never refused. Kieran often declined the big money-making movies if he felt they were bad. He never overcharged for tickets, sweets or popcorn. Director Ger Barrett – who is now about to release his third movie, ‘Brain on Fire’, later this year – was allowed in for free. Ger premiered his last movie, ‘Glassland’, in Listowel – and the night was turned into a tribute to his mentor and friend. Actor Jack Reynor came along and Kieran was so buzzed up that the illness was put into remission for a night. It was like the football coach who sees the player he trained as a kid step o collect an All-Ireland medal.
I was only three, but I remember being brought to The Astor for
‘Summer Holiday’ by Bernie Buckley – who was babysitting me then, and still does. Dad and I cried when Davy Crockett died at the Alamo. It was here I had the first lip-kiss in the back seat.
Sometimes, when our kids were young, we’d be there at the
pictures and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kieran standing in the
aisle at the back, taking it all in. He was enjoying the kids enjoying the
picture show. The light flickered over his smiling face and, if ever there was
man who was happy at work, well, it was him. There and then, and always. After all, he gave up his studies in accountancy to help run the family cinema in Cappaghmore when his dad died suddenly from a heart attack.
There have been tough times and, last year, thousands of euro
were stolen from the safe by heartless thieves. Teresa is trying to get to
grips with the details of running a cinema, but she’s learning fast. Best of
all, she and Kieran are determined to keep the cinema going. “Our staff
have been so good to us,” she says.
Kieran had been checking out the possibility of live streaming
concerts and sporting events. He had big plans.
The kids come in from school and Kieran gets a smile out.
Teresa, I know, struggles to come to terms with how it is that such a decent
man suffers so much. She is loyal to him as a full-time carer on a break from
her job in the civil service, and loyal to his vision for the family-run
cinema. Such is the practicality of true love and mutual respect.
Teresa sent me a link to a Radio Kerry interview with John
Herlihy, where Kieran speaks of his love of the sounds of the old cinema
projection room with the 35mm reels. “We treasure that now,” she
says. “It’s all we have of his voice.”
He shuffles in his wheelchair to attract my attention. He shows
me the screen on his phone. This week, Kieran is showing ‘The Revenant’ and ‘Creed’, as well as kids’ movies. Still promoting his cinema as he fights for every movement. There is such a powerful, undefeated will within him. As I leave, I kiss my friend gently on the head and thank him for all he has done for all of us.
Kieran was a lovely kind man. His screen 3 was the only one which was wheelchair accessible. Kieran offered to show any film which normally was showing in One or Two in Screen 3 on a Monday night, just to suit Jim Cogan. All we had to do was ask.
It was an offer we never took him up on but we greatly appreciated the kind gesture.
by Mattie Lennon
Luke O’ Neill (‘though twas not his intention)
Has, nevertheless, caused me tension.
For I know age-reversal
Is not just a rehearsal.
I’m afraid that I might lose the Pension