The Writer William Trevor Dies
I wrote a paragraph in this blog just a year ago about the writer William Trevor and his connections to North Roscommon. William Trevor’s father, grandfather and great-grandfathers were all natives of Croghan. William Trevor is the ‘nom de plume’ for William Trevor Cox, who was born in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork in 1928 and associated most with Youghal. His great grandfather was Mark Cox and he lived at Knockroe later moving to the adjacent townland of Killapogue and a house called ‘Millbrook’. The landlord family in the area then were the Lloyds. The fortunes of this family in the 19th and 20th century are recalled in many of Trevor’s ‘big house’ stories such as ‘The News from Ireland’. In early days many of the Cox family went to school in Bishop Hudson Grammar School in Elphin. Bill, Trevor’s father went to a business school in Dublin and started work with The Bank of Ireland in 1913. The job meant numerous relocations and William Trevor Cox was born in Mitchelstown in 1928. He referred to himself being ‘carted around the country’. He attended boarding school in St. Columba’s College Dublin and graduated from Trinity College in 1950. He emigrated to England in 1954 and settled in Devon. He made a reputation as a novelist, playwright and particularly as a short story writer. One of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.
He has won the Whitbread Prize three times and has been nominated five times for the Booker Prize, more recently for his novel ‘Love and Summer’ (2009), which was also shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His name has also been mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize in Literature.
One of his early stories was ‘The Ballroom of Romance’ became a well-known Irish film starring Brenda Fricker, Mick Lally and John Kavanagh. I became aware of William Trevor Cox’s link to the area around ten years ago. I wrote to him and sent him a collections of items publicising the place of his ancestors, probably trying to sow the seed in him of re-visiting the area. He kindly responded thanking me for my contact and the material I sent. That letter of reply is ‘submerged’ at the moment. Hopefully it will re-surface as; ‘nothing gets lost but is only submerged’ in this house.
He was a friend of Kenneth and Ingrid Stewart of Carrick Road. He and Kenneth were student colleagues being educated at St. Columba's College. Trevor went on to Trinity College from which he received a degree in history. He worked as a sculptor under the name Trevor Cox after his graduation from Trinity College, supplementing his income by teaching. He married Jane Ryan in 1952 and emigrated to Great Britain two years later and settled in Devon where he spent the rest of his life as a writer. Amongst his most regarded books are; ‘Mrs Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel’, ‘The Story of Lucy Gault’ and ‘Cheating at Canasta’
From his early days he maintained regular contact with Kenneth Stewart and his wife Ingrid through the years. I talked to Ingrid a number of years ago about Mister Trevor and also to a loyal employee of Trevor’s friend Kenneth Stewart, Rosemary O’Gara Carty on Wednesday. She talked of meeting Mister Trevor in The Royal Hotel when he was on a visit to Boyle. Perhaps it was the influence of his friend that encouraged Kenneth as Rosemary said he too loved to write. She also said that William Trevor had relations buried in Croghan.
So passes another great Irish writer and joins recent deaths of Friel, McGahern and Heaney with whom he is entitled to be talked of.
“The Election of the Snows” –1917- Book Launch – next Sunday in Carrick-on-Shannon
While remembering 1916 has led to a light industry of re-enactment, remembrance, commemoration and publication this particular book possibility interests me. It deals with a very important event in that period which eventually led to the Independence of 26 counties from British rule. This was the by-election of spring 1917 which took place in North Roscommon. This followed the death of the Irish (Home Rule) Party M.P. James J. Kelly. Three candidates contested the vacated seat. They were George Noble Count Plunkett, father of the executed 1916 leader Joseph Mary Plunkett; Jasper Tully a former M.P. and Proprietor of the Roscommon Herald and Thomas J. Devine, Co. Cllr. of St. Patrick’s Street, Boyle. Thomas J. Devine is basically the forgotten man in the race. I have a thing about ‘forgotten’ men who should be more respected, regarded and better known.
The election is referred to as ‘The Election in the Snows’ due to the prevailing weather of the election period. A major figure in the election was a priest named Father Michael O’Flangan who supported Plunkett. There were many notable Sinn Fein members who came to Boyle also to work for Plunkett who won comfortably. The count, which took place in Boyle courthouse, was; Plunkett 3,022; Thomas J. Devine, 1, 708; Jasper Tully, 687. Plunkett afterwards declared that he would NOT go to a foreign parliament i.e. Westminster but just to Dublin and so became the foundation stone of the new Dail which emerged when Sinn Fein swept the Home Rule Party aside in the general election of 1918.
As you can see I am writing about Count Plunkett while I wanted to talk about Thomas J. Devine but I know little of him. I expect that will be rectified with the book on Mister Devine from Sunday. Thomas J. Devine was a County Councillor and obviously a member of the Home Rule Party, then led by John Redmond, in the early years of the 1900s’. He was in business in St. Patrick’s Street in what is now The Patrick’s Well. Prior to that it was the ‘Three Counties’ with Michael and Anne Gilmartin.
Before Michael Gilmartin acquired the premises it was owned by an iconic Boyle lady Agnes Josephine Devine Conlon. I actually ‘roomed’ there for a period in the early seventies. Aggie Devine was a daughter of Thomas J. Devine and spent some time in the U.S. in the 20s’ where she met with John McCormack. Aggie was a fine singer and was ever present in Boyle musical presentations and choirs. Her premises was both a grocery and bar. It was the classic, old style now-business format. Aggie loved to hum and sing and did so as she worked in her premises. I remember an incident where she told me that she had sent a Boyle publication to a relative in the U.S. as it featured her father but they returned it as it did not do him justice!
Aggie married a Mister Conlon who I am told was from the Ballyfarnon area and so the business became known as Devine-Conlon's. Aggie was a great lady and I really admired her. A brother of Aggie’s was Father Michael Devine who I remember as a highly regarded curate in Cloverhill. A brother Bertie Devine lived in Elphin Street and later on the Crescent. So his family of Dermot, Michael, Willie and Sister Mary are the grandchildren of Thomas J.
After Sunday I hope to become more acquainted with Thomas J. Devine the forgotten man of the ‘Election in the snows’ 1917.
(The Book will be launched by Sen. Michael McDowell on Sun., 27th Nov., 4pm, in St. George’s Heritage Centre and all are invited)
Connacht GAA Club Final;
What promises to be an enthralling encounter takes place on Sunday at 2 o’clock in Carrick-on-Shannon in the Connacht Final when St. Brigid’s, Roscommon’s kingpins, face the top Galway club Corofin. There is history between these two clubs as St. Brigid’s defeated Corofin in 2006 and 2011 in drama filled, tense and thrilling affairs.
Corofin feel that they have not done themselves justice in recent times and I am told they are really ‘up for’ this game. St. Brigid’s too have no lack of experience. It could be said that they are in a period of transition so we will see how that goes. These games are supposed to be held in the county ground of the entitled club. Hyde Park is unavailable and St. Brigid’s own ground disqualified on the basis of it being a ‘home’ ground for the Roscommon club so Brigid’s nominated Carrick where they had an easy win over the Leitrim champions.
I am looking forward to this game at 2 and then it is on to history book launch talked of above!
Roscommon Farmer and ‘cyanide’
A Roscommon farmer made the news this week as he brought to a ‘Farm Hazardous Waste Collection Point’, a couple of weeks ago, a quantity of ‘cyanide’-4kg- that an expert suggested was enough to ‘kill most of the population of the county’. Apparently he had the stock for over forty years when he got it to ‘kill rabbits’. Another chemical that was said to have been brought for safe disposal was one that contained components of ‘agent orange’ infamous for its use during the Vietnam War for defoliating the jungle areas of conflict. It is really staggering the things that will turn up in old barns and to a lesser extent old attics.
The Sligo Train Rumbles in the Ether
I saw on the front page of the Sligo Champion an article suggesting that the Dublin to Sligo train service could come under some sort of threat again in terms of cost management by Iarnrod Eireann. There was an even greater threat around twenty years ago when it was suggested that the service terminate in Longford. The combined Chambers of Commerce of Sligo, Boyle and Carrick on-Shannon and all the politicians in the area mounted a vigorous campaign and the line was retained and upgraded. I remember Frankie Feighan and Seamus Cooney of Boyle Chamber being to the fore in that. The train service to Dublin is a really great and necessary asset to this region and its continuation is sacrosanct. I cannot imagine that its downgrading would be even contemplated.
St. Mary’s College Staff Re-Union
All staff who were, for any duration, engaged in service at St. Mary’s College and Boyle Vocational School through the decades are welcome to attend a re-union function at King House on Thursday next December 1st. It is amazing the number of people who have passed through those schools as staff in those years. Most people have been contacted but if anyone wants to hear details you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Boyle GAA AGM Sunday Dec. 4th.
Linda Shevlin’s ‘ Radical Actions Seminar’
I got an email from Linda Shevlin regarding an event she is organising (curating) in King House on Friday December 2nd involving a number of differing facets. The title is that of ‘ Radical Actions Seminar’ plus. I imagine that if there was anyone interested and they googled that title they will get an outline of the seminar content.
I met Linda first, a few years ago, when she was involved in some artistic expo in the tower in Lough Key. Now there was a challenge. We met later as she and her partner were composing a project to take ‘All the way to……India’.
Writing that sentence reminds me of some lines by the Major in Fawlty Towers regarding a lady he was enamoured with long before ;
Major: ‘I must have been keen on her Fawlty I took her to see India’.
Fawlty: ‘To see India Major?
Major: ‘Yes Fawlty, at the Oval.
I gave her my wallet to buy a programme and I haven’t seen her since’.
Fawlty: ‘I doubt she is still looking for you at the Oval Major’
Major: ‘Perhaps not. Truman was bowling you see’
Sorry about that indulgent diversion...!!
RADICAL ACTIONS SEMINAR
King House, Boyle
Adm: €10 including lunch
BOOKINGS: 090 662 5824
‘This seminar will look at the legacy of revolution & activism in Ireland and the artists' role in shaping future states with speakers including Professor Luke Gibbons, artists Sarah Browne, Jesse Jones, Gareth Kennedy & Seamus Nolan, film maker Treasa O’Brien and photojournalist/videographer Paula Geraghty’.
There is also a screening of ‘Eat Your Children’ !!
My abroad roster grows a little with greeting to the Mattimoe clan in England; Paddy Spellman and family in New York and other places in the U.S. Kate Gilmartin in Japan. I presume I mentioned Darren Dockery earlier.