The Linenhall Arts Centre celebrates its 25th Birthday this year. It's one of my favourite places in the world and I've made the best of friends there.
I scribbled this 'note and doggerel' piece as a sort of a birthday card.
As far as I can recall, my Dad only ever knew one poem and he recited it often and at the oddest moments. It was, of course, 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' by WB Yeats.
I say ‘of course’ because we grew up along the Garavogue River which runs from Lough Gill down to the sea. It is there, ‘of course’, that Yeats’ famed island resides.
A word for tourists. If you get in a bus or a car in Sligo, and ask them to take you to see the Lake Isle of Innisfree, it’s highly likely that they won’t. With the best intentions in the world, they will take you to a tiny tree-ridden blob off the rocky shore close to Dromahair and, yes, although it is called ‘Innisfree’, it is not Yeats’ Innisfree. That honour, in my view, goes to the Island known locally as ‘Church Island’. No bus can take you there but, if you can ever find yourself a handy boatman, you should go. Just go.
We spent much of our childhood coming and going from Yeats’ Innisfree. Not thinking of it as a place from a poem but rather as a place of undiluted magic and, yes, a place of peace. We fished along the Rookeries just off its shore and we sheltered under the trees and warmed ourselves with smoke formed tea, as the rain drew huge ever-expanding circles on the flat calm water.
We knew what it was to really have Innisfree.
What, you may ask, does all this have to do with the business in hand? The Linenhall's twenty fifth Birthday Celebrations?
It’s simple, really. After a childhood happily spent in the environs of the original, I was blessed enough to find a second Innisfree. And it is here at the Linenhall.
I could extol the virtues, sing the praises. I could do all that. But the best that I can do is to simply tell you this once more. That The Linenhall is my Innisfree.
So, with apologies to WB, wherever his bones may lie, I have tampered with his poem to turn it into a sort of twenty-fifth birthday card to my friends who keep the magic alive.
The Lake Isle of Linenhall
I will arise and go now, and go and see Marie
And Maura, Orla, Oisin, Ian and all the friends I’ve made.
Music will be played there, and many plays I’ll see,
And live in the Art that is their stock in trade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.
Dropping from the old stone of the building to where conversation springs
There morning’s a little brighter and noon is coffee flow
And evenings full with the chance of better things.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I smell the warmth of welcome, scones, and more
while I sit at my desktop, or on computers grey.
I hear it in that warm art’s core.
Happy Birthday, Linenhall, and thanks.