PATRICK KAVANAGH CENTRE

Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and Patsy McKenna at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and Patsy McKenna at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

BUSY YEAR FOR KAVANAGH CENTRE

Art Agnew has taken on the mantle of Patrick Kavanagh. The former English teacher who was Principal of the St Louis school in Carrickmacross until 2005 is one of a team of volunteers behind the Kavanagh Centre in the former Catholic chapel in Inniskeen. It was officially opened by President Robinson in June 1994. Twenty years later President Higgins visited the building for the Kavanagh weekend in September 2014. He said the poet brought the Ireland of his and our times, with both its beauty and its savagery, into our consciousness. Now Art is hoping some of the initiatives they have taken as a committee will bring tangible results to boost this area of South Monaghan.

Patsy McKenna, Rosaleen Kearney and Art Agnew at Patrick Kavanagh's grave, Inniskeen  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Patsy McKenna, Rosaleen Kearney and Art Agnew at Patrick Kavanagh’s grave, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

An annual poetry award for secondary school students in the border area first presented in 1984 is to be expanded and will now be open to secondary school students throughout the island of Ireland. It is being sponsored by Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board. Noel Monahan will be one of the adjudicators. Art explained that in the past, if a student or school from Dublin or Waterford had submitted an entry, then it would have to be sent back, albeit very reluctantly. Now they are hoping they will receive entries from throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Billy Brennan's Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Billy Brennan’s Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Towards the end of last year, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre team were among the first to show an interest when ‘Billy Brennan’s Barn’ at Drumnanaliv near Inniskeen that featured in one of Kavanagh’s poems was put up for sale through a local auctioneer. The barn was used for unofficial dances in the 1930s and 1940s. The poem ‘Inniskeen Road: July evening’ is well-known among generations of Leaving Certificate students as it featured in the Irish curriculum since the early 1970s. Art is very hopeful that some form of state funding can be obtained to preserve this building. But one of his main concerns is the future of the visitor centre.

"The bicycles go by in twos and threes..."  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

“The bicycles go by in twos and threes…” Photo: © Michael Fisher

Talking to him and administrator Rosaleen Kearney in the small office at the centre, it is clear that 2015 will be an important year for their plans. First, they are hoping to reconfigure the layout of the building in order to display its contents in a more exciting way for visitors. But it will be necessary to make this old church dating to 1820 watertight. A conservation expert has just completed a survey of the building. He has found that the existing physical environment is not suitable at present in order to house the material in the exhibition. So capital investment is needed to make the display secure and safe. The accommodation for staff and visitors also needs to be improved, according to the report.

In the past the centre received support from the International Fund for Ireland and is hoping that other sources of support can now be found. The committee would like to see the material they have stored made available in a library for postgraduate students in particular. They are hoping to establish a lecture space and audiovisual area. If their plans succeed, they hope it will give a boost to tourism in South Monaghan.

Billy Brennan's Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Billy Brennan’s Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

For the past two years with the support of Carol Lambe of Monaghan County Council, an Inniskeen Road, July Evening festival has taken place, with visitors encouraged to tour the sites associated with Kavanagh on High Nellie bicycles. So thanks to Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and an active committee, a lot is being done to keep the memory of Kavanagh alive.

 

INNISKEEN ROAD: JULY EVENING

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ARE COPYRIGHT MICHAEL FISHER © MMXIII AND MUST NOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY WAY WITHOUT PERMISSION

Bikes on the road to Billy Brennan's Barn, Inniskeen

Bikes on the road to Billy Brennan’s Barn, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

The bicycles go by in twos and threes –
There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s barn to-night,
And there’s the half-talk code of mysteries
And the wink-and-elbow language of delight.
Half-past eight and there is not a spot
Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown
That might turn out a man or woman, not
A footfall tapping secrecies of stone.
I have what every poet hates in spite
Of all the solemn talk of contemplation.
Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight
Of being king and government and nation.
A road, a mile of kingdom, I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.
Patrick Kavanagh Inniskeen Road: July Evening 

Bikes on the road to Billy Brennan's Barn, Inniskeen

Bikes on the road to Billy Brennan’s Barn, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

This was an enjoyable visit to Patrick Kavanagh country in Inniskeen, South Monaghan. The Patrick Kavanagh Centre organised a Gathering event based on Kavanagh’s poem quoted above, Inniskeen Road: July Evening. So it was a chance to get the High Nellies back into action over a 7.5km route through and around the village. I joined the walkers. The weather was really hot, so plenty of liquid was required en route to prevent dehydration, including a welcome cup of tea at Billy Brennan’s Barn. A great idea for a festival.

Tea and a hooley at Billy Brennan's Barn, Inniskeen

Tea and a hooley at Billy Brennan’s Barn, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

IRISH NEWS: FAITH MATTERS

Faith Matters page 28 Irish News Thursday 13th September 2012.

Six Siblings Achieved More Than 350 Years Service to the Catholic Church

AS THE Poor Clare Order marks its 800th anniversary, a Co Monaghan family has celebrated its own milestone of service to the Catholic Church, writes Michael Fisher. It’s a record of service to the Church in Ireland that must be unique — three priests and three nuns from the same Inniskeen family who between them have achieved more than 350 years in the religious life. Two of the McCluskey family — a priest, Fr Peter, and a nun, Sr Ethna — held their diamond (60) and platinum (70) jubilees respectively earlier this summer at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk. Mass was concelebrated by Fr Peter and their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years who served in Roslea, Co.Fermanagh and other parishes in the diocese of Clogher. Sr Ethna is a former superior of the St Louis convent in Kilkeel, Co.Down. Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour of the McCluskey family at Inniskeen and Canon Brian recalls how the poet used to borrow books from his mother’s private library at the local national school where she taught. Six of the McCluskeys gathered at the convent in Dundalk for the Mass. Fr Peter now lives at Inchicore in Dublin and Sr Ethna at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk. Canon Brian now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire — who used to work for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service — and celebrated his golden jubilee two years ago. He still says Mass at St Brigid’s Parish in Belfast. They were joined by two other sisters — Una McMahon, a retired nurse living in Belfast, and Sr Nuala, a St Louis nun for 57 years and now retired and living at the convent in Dundalk. Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Sr Aileen is a Mercy nun who is in Dublin and, like her brother Fr Gerry, is just one year short of her diamond jubilee. The contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life so far is 357 years — Sr Ethna SSL (70 years); Fr Peter OMI (60); Sr Nuala SSL (57); Fr Gerard SPS (59); Sr Aileen RSM (59); and Canon Brian (52).

Faith Matters column

Faith Matters column

350 YEARS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE

Maire McCluskey, Sr Nuala SSL, Fr Peter OMI, Sr Ethna SSL, Canon Brian McCluskey & Una McMahon

A County Monaghan family has marked  a significant milestone in the Catholic church in Ireland, with over 350 years between them in religious life. There was double cause for celebration at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk as two of the McCluskeys from Inniskeen, a priest, Fr Peter, and a nun, Sr Ethna, held their diamond (60) and platinum (70) jubilees respectively. Mass was concelebrated by their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years. Sr Ethna McCluskey entered the Louis convent in Monaghan in 1942, 100 years after the order was founded in France. Her brother Peter who studied at St Macartan’s seminary in Monaghan entered the Oblate fathers (O.M.I.) in 1945 and was ordained on June 22nd 1952. Sr Ethna trained as a national teacher at Our Lady of Mercy College, Carysfort in Dublin and went on to teach at the St Louis Convent in Rathmines. For many years she was Principal of the Girls’ National School in Clones before taking up a similar position in Dundalk. Her final appointment was as superior of the St Louis Convent in Kilkeel, Co.Down. Since her retirement in 2004 she has been residing at the Convent on the Castleblayney Road in Dundalk, a few kilometres from her family home at Blackstaff in Inniskeen. The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour. Canon Brian recalls how he used to borrow books from his mother’s private library at the local national school where she taught. Fr Peter’s first posting as a missionary priest sixty years ago was to South Africa. His journey by cargo boat to Cape Town took three weeks. He worked in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg from 1952 until his return to Ireland in 2007. He witnessed the end of the apartheid regime in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela as President.

Sr Ethna

Sr Ethna

Sr Ethna is the eldest of the family of eight. Six of them gathered at the convent in Dundalk for the Mass celebrated by Fr Peter, who since 2007 has been living at the Oblate house at Inchicore in Dublin. Joining him at the altar was his younger brother Canon Brian McCluskey, a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher, who served as a curate in his home parish of Inniskeen and was a parish priest in Threemilehouse and later Roslea. He now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire, who worked for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service. Canon McCluskey studied at the Irish College in Rome and celebrated his golden jubilee two years ago along with his classmate, Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay. He still says Sunday Mass at St Brigid’s parish. They were joined by two other sisters Una McMahon, a retired nurse living in Belfast and Sr Nuala, a St Louis nun now retired and living at the Convent in Dundalk with her older sister Ethna. She worked on the missions in Nigeria for many years and in 1985 was appointed to take charge of the Louis House nursing home in Monaghan. She has been a nun for 57 years. Following the Mass, members of the family and friends gathered for a meal at a local restaurant.

Frs Peter & Brian McCloskey

Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest who has been based in Sao Paolo, Brazil, since 1961. Previously he served as a missionary in Kenya. He is also a former pupil of St Macartan’s seminary in Monaghan, like his two brothers. Sr Aileen is a Mercy nun who is in Dublin and like her brother Fr Gerry is just one year short of her diamond jubilee. The five sisters were all boarders at the St Louis convent in Monaghan. So the total contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life reads as follows: Sr Ethna SSL 70 years, Fr Peter OMI 60, Sr Nuala SSL 57, Fr Gerard SPS 59, Sr Aileen RSM 59 and Canon Brian 52 years, giving a combined total of 357 years’ service to the Catholic church.  Ad multos annos. Copyright: © Michael Fisher @fishbelfast 2012 This story has appeared in the Northern Standard (front page), the Irish Catholic, the Dundalk Democrat & Monaghan Democrat editions, as well as the Dundalk Argus.

UPDATE: For a glimpse of what life was like at the St Louis (then boarding) school in Dundalk in the early 1960s, see this blog by “A Silver Voice from Ireland”.

Fr Peter &  Sr Ethna
Fr Peter & Sr Ethna
Sr Ethna & 3 sisters
Northern Standard
Dundalk/Monaghan Democrat
Sr Nuala & Fr Peter
St Louis nun & Sr Ethna
The Argus, Dundalk
Irish Catholic