Kavanagh Country

Bicycles, olden-days, simple ways, July Saturdays’ and the Monaghan Way

Inniskeen Road: July Evening                                                                                                                      by Patrick Kavanagh 

The bicycles go by in twos and threes –
There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s barn tonight,
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.

by Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967 

The Inniskeen Road July Evening Festival in Inniskeen last Saturday found us cycling along the same roads as Patrick Kavanagh would have cycled.   The idea of the festival was to celebrate the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh and depict life as it was when he was a young man in the 1930’s in this rural landscape  with bicycles a big part of life and necessity. My granny who lived not to many miles from the border was no exception and she frequently used her High Nelly bicycle to smuggle eggs from the south over the border during the time of the Northern Ireland troubles. She also enjoyed it as a way of visiting family so it was freedom to her in a different way.


Nineteen forty-five was like that
Free-wheeling to the crossroads;
Fifteen miles later; her own birth place;
Travelling was the best part, the wind at her back,
A greeting ahead. News from home….

Roaming the familiar lanes, sisters
Continuous chatter; away from the
Clatter of feeding hungry hens, pigs and
Cows. She could roam without children,
For a day: To pause for some rest.

A small slip of time away from the chores
That shaped her life. No sooner had the
Ceili begun, it was time for the door: among
Promises to write, feeling satisfied to have rested
Those tired limbs. She’d set off, her frame;

Feeling heavier, cycling up hills, the thrill
Of the annual visit finished; her spirit slightly
Diminished, yet younger. She’d relay through letters,
How when she got back to the crossroads….the
First thing she’d hear; to spoil her wonder

Were her pigs squealing with the hunger….
by Helen Harrison

I don’t think she’s have been wearing these flowers on her head like like some of the ladies at the festival but the bicycle would have been the same.

Photo of myself with a high Nelly



A poem about a country women called Nellie that I loved so well which I read at the event.


I remember every brick in the door frame,
Her silhouette.

Nellie, an aproned sixty-nine had
Never watched a movie,
Still thought meat was
The main part of a meal.

She picked bunches of yellow roses
For homeward bound church-going
Bachelors; pitying their lonesome ways.

Her spinster world was gay
With giving; usually to old ladies
Stiffened by religion and age.

Her greasy hair
Her shy smile –
Hands filled with care,
Gathering eggs
In the hedge,
Throwing kindness to hens;
Setting jam to seal –

Helen Harrison

There were roses outside many of the homesteads and inside ones we visited was homemade bread, brack, tea, poetry, song, music and more tea. Many of these country people remember the olden ways when people had time for ceili’s which are sadly missed nowadays. It was a chance to show off your talent in an informal way, in a simple way. I appreciate the kindness and acknowledgement from these people. The roses about the countryside and the old fashioned dresses during the festival, and the kindness offered at the homely homesteads reminded me of Nellie and her own simple ways.


photo of Inniskeen  Road July Evening 2018

Walking to mass or anyplace would have been along soft tracks and lanes – so I thoroughly enjoyed walking along part of the Monaghan way which runs from the village of Inniskeen.


Monaghan Way



Photo: The river Fane

The fast-flowing river Fane is still flowing even without recent rain, and in the heat I found it refreshing to sit on one of the benches under the trees. The leaves were rustling   and the trout jumping. Then I ventured along a section of the Monaghan way which        is 14.5 miles/23 km long from Inniskeen to Castleblayney. The landscape characterised by small, rounded hills known a drumlins – from a glacier sculpted landscape which is the Monaghan way. The River Fane rises at Lough Muckno through Inniskeen and discharges at Dundalk Bay.

Many of the songs and ballads were sung on the night without need for music as such were the voices present, and I was astounded at the talent. Some came all the way from Co. Clare and Kilkenny.  Music was ready when required by one of our wonderful hosts. Raglan Road was sung on the night, and here we have the poem penned by Patrick Kavanagh sung by Luke Kelly with the sound of his banjo in the background.



INNISKEEN JULY ROAD EVENING FESTIVAL is on each July and High Nelly hire available.







Photo of Patrick Kavanagh from his book of poems.


Fine artwork along the canal bank walk beside Monaghan town















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