Unrecorded Places in Between

by Paddy Creedon

My first girlfriend appeared goddess like,
Beaming and joyful in the nearby village,
I had landed excitedly on the palm of her hand,
A pull through for a rifle, an ordinary footballer,
A besotted romantic, she mused about me,
She never letting me get ahead of myself
Any foolish notions sent packing effortlessly.

Your Grandfather stole a calf from us,
She whispered quietly into my ear,
Resting her face softly against mine,
Never said I, but yes yes, said she,
We can all forgive if we want to,
Her voice as true as the summer sun,
Open wounds take time to heal.

Cycling furiously the four miles home,
Eager to check the facts, if only I could ask,
If my namesake was no ordinary Grandad,
A Sinn Féin judge from 1918 until the Civil War
took his title, his dignity and everything else.

The monochrome photograph sits on my desk,
Sharing family DNA, our greyish white hair too,
Reminding me of who I am, who I should be,
Long before your letter turned up in the vaults
unexpectedly, at the National Library of all places,
Check it out; click here If you don’t believe me.


And so,
Once more,
Our conversation begins

Do tell me more about your Dad,
A plasterer, wandering from place to place,
Cork to Scotland through Warrenpoint,
All those unrecorded places in between,
Decorating churches until he settled down
in Kerry, a survivor of the Great Famine,
Tough and rough by all accounts,
You a much kinder elder statesman.

Now do tell me about Brendan
A lockout baby from 1913
A lookout child of the Troubles
A trauma facing teenager
Who kept himself to himself,
What happened in that September of 25,
That day you took him home from school,
He wasn’t ready then, for what lay ahead,
You knew him well, my caring loving Dad.

You buried your Dad in late 29,
Your Republican son lost by then,
All buried in the same graveyard,
A never ending, never spoken story,
Stoically you held on, holding family,
Our unborn generations together,
Only America and survival looming.

You knew her then, I ask quietly
Mrs Pearse, no ordinary Mrs Peace
So she spoke with my Dad, he never said
What was she like, what did she say
Did she talk about Easter week at the GPO
Did she mention Willie or her poet son Padraic,
Did she know about the Proclamation in advance
Or the executions that were the inevitable endings  

There and then,
You stop me in my tracks
Hold all those thoughts, you said,
Let me read you my letter, remember
We were living on the edge,
On that wintry morning
Desperation and Hope
Arrived onto the page together,
In very unequal measure,

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Newry & Mourne Museum on 7th and 14th of October, 2023. The workshops were led by poet Maria McManus.

Inspired by the following item at the National Library of Ireland.

Creedon, Patrick, and Margaret Pearse. Letter From Patrick Creedon, Ballymackessy, Ballylongford, Co. Kerry, to Margaret Pearse Agreeing to Her Offer to Take His Son Brendan to St. Enda’s School and Explaining His Financial Status and Threat of Eviction. 1926.