From the Lips of my Father

by Frances Browner

Two coffins surrounded by sombre looking men,
a picture belonging to Mrs. Aherne. She’d asked
me to write her story, above in Ballynanty Beg.
I pressed ‘record’ and transcribed what she said …

My father was a Republican with the old IRA.
Out in 1916. To liberate this land, his dream.
What you work at should be dedicated to love
for your country. That was his philosophy.

Excommunicated, he still shone our shoes on Sunday.
Told us about the Tans. On the run with a man called
Collivet. Another by the name of Minogue. Three
musketeers hiding in green Irish fields where lovely
cattle were raised to feed the bloody English.
His talk mind, not mine.

When Mayors O’Callaghan and Clancy lost their lives,
they’d escorted them home the night they died. Heard
tenders arrive, gunshots fired. Jumped over the Church
wall to hide. Such emotion he showed when he told it,
I cried. Tans came to the house, bayoneted my mother.
I learnt this from the lips of my father.

At the funeral, he was standing behind the coffins.1921,
the year I was born, and they trying to form a government.
Horan, a Black and Tan, used whisper to my Mam,
‘tell Frankie not to go out tonight, pass it on.’

They set up the Great Co-operative Society, their office
beyond the jail. Put creameries all over Munster, all over
the Golden Vale. Put Ireland on the map for agriculture.
Instead of sending men over to fight, they sent produce.
Dad worked in the Co-op all his life.

I’d be under the table when he held his Republican
meetings, with a height of paper, foolscap sheets of it,
writing everything down. All the squabbles, all the plans.
Never saw the light of day. When this house went on fire
in 1956, the pages burnt in the foray.

They hadn’t reckoned on her memory. That she’d live
until 2023. Her words now saved on my phone, may as
well be carved in stone, commemorated in this poem.

Irene Catherine Aherne (1921-2023) Her father, Martin Francis Fitzpatrick (1892-1947) Limerick


Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Limerick Museum in May 2023. The workshops were led by writer David McLoughlin.