Monday, 17 May 2010

Who Do You Write For?

I’ve just come back from a funeral. All around me were white headed men with Kerry accents, the last stragglers of a generation who came over to the UK from Ireland in the nineteen fifties. They brought precious little with them other than their religion and the ability to work hard. Many of them took jobs in the construction industry and in health care, got married, bought houses and brought up children who spoke with a different accent to their own, children who got office jobs doing things their parents didn’t always completely understand.

You may not know the Kerry accent. It’s very distinctive and, to my ears, very beautiful. It’s close to the West Cork accent, with which my mother spoke. A few years ago I changed my electricity and gas supplier purely because the saleswoman who cold-called had a West Cork accent. Half a dozen other companies had previously tried to get me to switch and I’d given them the brush off, pointing out that any money I saved would be as nothing compared to the inconvenience. But when I picked up the telephone and heard a woman speaking with a voice like my mother’s when she was young, I was putty in her hands.

As I came out of the church this morning I heard one mourner say to his fellow, ‘How’s yourself, Sean?’ The reply came with a shake of the head, ‘Falling away, Michael, falling away.’ And indeed they were. I saw an elderly woman, as fragile as a bird, weeping quietly in a corner, unnoticed. When someone asked her whether she was all right she replied, ‘My heart is broken.’ When you are young you don’t think of old people as having breakable hearts. But human hearts retain the capacity to break all the way to the grave.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t know that many people there. I only went for my mother, because if she had been still alive she would have gone. And as I sit at home this afternoon listening to a mournful string quartet and confronting the blank computer screen before me, I realise that it is for her, too, that I write, even though she is no longer around to be impressed.

12 comments:

Liza Swift said...

I cry over anything.

But this is the first time my eyes have teared while reading a blog.

I write to heal my heart.

I cry for the hearts of others.

dirtywhitecandy said...

I write because I can't help it, and because I love to read. I really enjoyed reading this.

Carol In Canada said...

Great piece. It strikes me on many levels.
The passing of the generation who made it possible for our generation to "get on" in their adopted country.
My West Cork mum emigrated to Canada after she acquired an English husband.
Most of her siblings went to England "for the work" in the 40's and 50's, knowing full-well they'd only ever be going home to Ireland for the inevitable funerals.
The loveliest lilt is on the Cork/Kerry border...through the tunnels from Glengarriff to Kenmare.
I just discovered your blog. I'll visit again.
Slainte.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Beautiful post. It reminds me that the world is rich with characters.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks Liza, Carol & Charmaine. Very good to hear from you. And yes, Carol, I agree: the Cork/Kerry border accent is lovely.

Derek said...

There's a deep sense of soul in your words, Brian. Not just poetry but the poignant ring of truth. For all that modern society is giving us, we're losing our sense of place, of identity and of lineage. When you write like that, you offer us a glimpse of how it must have been.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks Derek. You're very kind.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks, too, Roz. Very good to hear from you.

Julie Musil said...

What a haunting and sweet post.

I write because I feel a release once I put the words on the page.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks Julie, good to hear from you.

notesfromnadir said...

How true and touching that part about the woman crying in the corner was.

I admit to not knowing a difference in Cork or Kerry accents. To me, all Irish accents are beautiful!

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks, Lisa. Good to hear from you. There is a difference, believe me.