Page 25 - The Kerry News 2018
P. 25

Christmas Stars and Stories by Patrick O Sullivan
“How we all love to look up at the stars on a quiet night, when the sky is bright and clear.” So began a piece in our Irish reader, Geataí an Eolais, the Gates of Knowledge.
Callinafercy was one of
those old fashioned country schools with yellow washed walls and gabled porch facing the road, the berried hollies in the grove a sure certain sign that Christmas was in the door. ‘What sights we see!’ our reader went on. ‘Thousands of stars gleaming and shining, all of them so still, so lonely, so remote.’ These were sentiments that struck a chord in an age when it was a familiar thing to stand and look up at the stars now and then, and especially
so at Christmas. I remember some of our older neighbours waxing lyrical about the glitter of a Christmas sky when the stars shone far and away amd the hedges were silvered with frost. According to our reader when we are out on a starry moonlit night we cannot fail to notice Bealach na Bo Finne, the Milky Way that shines like a narrow splendour all across the sky. The piece made reference too to the great telescopes that the scientists had developed in their never ending quest to find new stars. I loved looking up at the stars through the boughs of the old apple trees at the bottom
of the stonechat in the honey scented gorse. There was an
old saying in Callinafercy at Chrismastime: ‘Holly for the pictures: laurel for the dresser.’ It had been the long tradition that the very top of the dresser should be decorated with laurel, spotted laurel.
was part of the character of the season, the fragrance of fruits and jams old country shops, the waxy scent of candles the same. My grandmother’s picture of the Angelus had pride of place above the hearth. This was
especially at Christmas. This meant walking at night, the moon like a friend in the sky keeping him company all
the way. His lifting of the latch followed by the familiar greeting ‘Good Night to ye’, then the pulling up of a chair and the warming of his hands to the fire, often informing us as he did that the sky was alive with stars.
slants through the palm trees overhead. I loved the animals in the crib, especially the donkey, reminding me as he did of our little brown donkey Bill, the latter always given extra fodder in honour of the season that was in it.
of the yard. There were times in summer when the stars looked warm and close, but in the winter it was a different story. One of the poems we learned
The latter also know as Japan laurel had yellow spotted leaves and rich red berries in winter. Not only that it grew
in wild profusion in favoured spots in the grove so that when we went to gather the holly, we gathered the laurel too; the long legged herons sometimes flapping and making fuss in the scraggly crowns of the pines. If the holly was familiar, traditional, then the laurel had a hint of the exotic about it, generots sprays of it settled
an old black and white print
of men and boys saying the Angelus in a ploughed field somewhere by the sea. The scene though not local looked familiar: the broad sweep of
a bay with headlands and the inlets stretching far and away to the distant horizon, the men with their caps in their hands as they prayed, two keen looking black and white sheep dogs looking uo with intriquw from the furrows.
A neighbour had a lovely story of coming to feed his donkey on Christmas Eve, only to find a fox resting on the hay. The fox did not bolt for cover but rather slipped quietly away, the great sweep of the starry sky winking and shining above him, the old ringed fort like a dark silhouette above the still ans moonlit bay. Someone
at school at Christmas went as follows:
‘The Christ Child sat on Mary’s knee/ His hair was like a crown, And all the flowers looked up at Him/ And all the stars looked down.’
This was a familiar but wonderfully expressive phrase implying as it did that the stars had a breath, a being a presence all of their own. He sometimes spoke too of how the river
was a mirror of moonlight and stars, the plaintive cries of the curlews with a Christmassey lilt to them in the clear and frosted air, everyone knew the old saying about the stars making no noise, a vivid reminder
not only of the splendour and beauty of winter skies but also of the sense of mystery they evoked. Jack had stories of salmon jumping for joy from the Christmas river, and when they fell down. The moonlight and starlight mirrored there embraced them once again.
When the stars were shining
in the sky we were glad of the turf that we saved during the summer. One of the pieces in our Irish workbook had a sod of turf telling its own story, ending as it did with the proverb which told how turf came in on the backs of people but went out like a silken thread. ‘Tagaim isteach ar ghuaillí daoine agus teím amach mar snaithin siopa.’ It was the loveliest thing to be sitting by the Christmas fire when the great white candle shone in the window, moonlight and starlight then swimming
in the frosted glass. The old Mullard wireless set high on
a shelf, the comic genius of Eamonn Kelly or Maureen Potter bringing a smile to our eyes, the voice of Bing Crosby like the voice of the season itself. The fire was lovely, warm and Christmassey but
it made me think of summery things too like the singing of the lark in the blue blue tarrets of sky and the jingle jangle
The whole thing was so evocative of time and place that it was the easiest thing in the world to imagine the ringing
of the bell somewhere far off,
a sound softened or made
more resonant depending on the level of the tide. My father touched up the plain gilt frame with a little tin of gold paint
at Christmas, the paint tin the same shape and only slightly larger than a matchbox, this latter replete with the tiniest brush imaginable. The gliding of the frame like the varnishing of the dresser and the cleaning of the chimney was another
of those pre Christmas rituals that could not be overlooked. Our old neighbour Jack
loved visiting the neighbours,
2003 Photo Memories
Sliabh Luachra Drama Group perform “The Country Dressmaker” by George Fitzmaurice in Scartaglen Cultural Centre.
Young Templenoe players try to catch a glimpse of An Taosieach Bertie Ahern as he cuts the tape to open their new GAA field.
Kenmare Golf Club celebrate centenary with Vera Shaw, Lady Captain, Jackie Tuohy, Captain and Terry O’Doherty.
else had a story about Father Christmas. How reindeer instinctively knew their way round the planets and stars when they travelled the world on Christmas Eve but still for all that Father Christmas had a book of the stars, a book replete with coloured charts and maps of stars and planets near and far. Jack meanwhile sometimes spoke of shooting stars and falling stars, magical at any time but all the more so at Christmas and when
on the top of the dresser when we came home: the old blue willow ware and the shiny lustre jugs on the shelves beneath, the coppery sheen of the latter making them look like pictures in storybooks again. There was a time when the shop on the old bog road sold jugs full of jam at Christmas, the sweet taste of raspberry
he had settled by the fire he regaled us again with stories of Christmas past, so that even the flames themselves orange as marmalade might have hung on every word.
and strawberry jams like the taste of summer restored. My father always made a point
of varnishing the dresser for Christmas, the varnish drying to a rich deep glosss, the sweetness of it like a kind of incense filling the kitchen still. It was one of those scents that
We only had to look at my mother’s old card Christmas crib meanwhile to be reminded of the star in the Christmas story. The figures in the
crib looked like pictures in manuscripts, the muted blues of the Virgin’s cloak the perfect foil for the deep sienna of
her dress, St Joseph holding staff and lantern in his hands; the starlight streaming in
100’s of farmers from Kerry join colleagues as they snake their tractorcade to Dublin in protest at falling incomes.
Sive Rowing Club, Cahirciveen launch ‘Laidir with Minister John O’Donoghue Padraig O’Shea, Mary B Teahan and Paddy ‘Laidir’ O’Neill.
Gneeveguilla celebrate after defeating Kilcummin in the East Kerry O’Donoghue Cup final in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney.
 When we went to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the candles in the windows looked like stars in the night, the crib in the church framed with holly, the star overhead like a beacon of hope.
   The Knightly twins celebrate their birthdays at the official opening at An Bhainseach Est in Killorglin with Mayor Michael Healy-Rae
Killarney Rock Band Deuces Wild, Keith Woodgate, Jerry Falvey,Jamie Murphy and Johnny Noonan.
5,000 people turnout in Killarney for Gillian O’Sullivan, the world silver medalist homecoming parade through the town.

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