On 23 March 2014 my beloved mother passed away, just days before her 83rd birthday. Born Helen Patricia Scully, she was a proud descendant of Kerry through her grandparents James O’Neill of Ardcanaught, Keel, and Julia Egan of Killeen, Currans. After she married Ray Brosnahan in 1958 Mum carried the Brosnahan name with equal pride and was always wonderfully supportive of Brosnahan family events. I want to dedicate the following poem to Mum. It is by the late Kerry poet Sigerson Clifford and was sent to me by Tom Brosnan of Dromultan.
I am Kerry like my mother before me,
And my mother’s mother and her man.
Now I sit on an office stool remembering,
And the memory of them like a fan
Soothes the embers into flame.
I am Kerry and proud of my name.
My heart is looped around the rutted hills,
That shoulder the stars out of the sky,
And about the wasp-yellow fields,
And the strands where kelp-streamers lie;
Where, soft as lovers’ gaelic, the rain falls,
Sweeping into silver the lacy mountain walls.
My grandfather tended the turf fire,
And, leaning backward into legend, spoke,
Of doings old before quills inked history.
I saw dark heroes fighting in the smoke,
Diarmuid dead inside his Iveragh cave,
And Deirdre coining upon Naoise’s grave.
I see the wise face now with its hundred wrinkles,
And every wrinkle held a thousand tales,
Of Finn and Oscar and Conawn Maol,
And sea-proud Niall whose conquering sails,
Raiding France for slaves and wine,
Brought Patrick to mind Milchu’s swine.
I should have put a noose about the throat of time,
And choked the passing of the hob-nailed years,
And stayed young always, shouting in the hills,
Where life held only fairy fears,
When I was young my feet were bare,
But I drove cattle to the fair.
Twas thus I lived, skin to skin with the earth,
Elbowed by the hills, drenched by the billows,
Watching the wild geese making black wedges,
By Skelligs far west and Annascaul of the willows.
Their voices came on every little wind,
Whispering across the half-door of the mind,
For always I am Kerry…