World Poetry Day: Gallipoli by Michael J. Whelan

As today is World Poetry Day and to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the Dardanelles (Land) Campaign this time next month April 25th, I offer this poem, which I wrote after my visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula a few years ago.

The poem was inspired by my visit and also by the poem of the same name ‘The Irish at Gallipoli’ written by Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge before he was killed during the war on the Western Front. Ledwidge had seen the worst of the sufferings experienced by 10th Irish Division after the Suvla Bay landings in August and had penned his poem, while on a troopship sailing past the ancient city of Troy. The Irish and the other allied soldiers who served at Gallipoli had a healthy respect for the Turkish soldiers they fought in 1915.

The Gallipoli Peninsula today is a national park holding the graves and unmarked remains of thousands of soldiers on both sides who perished there. The poem is also a recognition of the, until recently, forgotten story of Irish soldiers lost during the conflict and to subsequent Irish historiography.

GALLIPOLI

(After a visit to the battlefields -2011)

Today I stood above the Aegean Sea
listening for echoes I could not hear.
The silent tempo of the ground
resonates still on unnatural landscapes.

The zig-zag lines where dead men toil
dug deep into blood smeared soil,
buried now with their bones
on beaches and gullies where once
they fought the Turk,
stormed the shores and hills as if thrown
against the wind by Agamemnon himself.

The silence bade me look towards Troy
across the Straits from Helles,
I still could hear no voice, nor thunder in the sky
except the launching waves
pushing ancient pebbles up the beach to rest,
where once they drowned the hearts of men.

Then behind me I could feel it,
the noise of peace and echoes of war
in a thousand monuments to the dead,
stretched out in marching order.
And there, watching me, my shadow
took on the specter of a ghost and spoke,
‘Like Hector I was the defender
brave and virtuous – but of Irish stock,
I am the soldier my country forsook.’
And in response I said

‘I have come at last to pay my respects,
I have come to take you home!’

Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan lives in Tallaght and is an award winning poet, writer and historian. For more about Michael and his work, please see his blog

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Launch of Landscapes of War and Peace

The launch took place on Monday night, of ‘Landscapes of War and Peace 1914-2014: War Poetry and Peacekeeping’ by Michael J. Whelan.

This exhibition, which is part of the Red Line Book Festival, includes an Irish soldier’s poems and images inspired by the poets of the Great War and his own peacekeeping duties in modern day conflicts in the Middle-East and Balkans. Also being exhibited are historical artefacts and documents of family history over the past 100 years, poems and other paraphernalia from World War I and UN Peacekeeping duties.

Thank you to Mayor Fintan Warfield and Brigadier General Paul Fry who launched the exhibition.

The exhibition can be viewed at the County Library, Tallaght until 23rd October 2014, during library opening hours.

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Mayor Fintan Warfield launching the exhibition

Mayor Fintan Warfield launching the exhibition

Michael J Whelan with David Power (South Dublin Libraries), Brigadier General Paul Fry and Maria Donohoe (South Dublin Libraries)

Michael J Whelan with David Power (South Dublin Libraries), Brigadier General Paul Fry and Maria Donohoe (South Dublin Libraries)

Mayor Fintan Warfield with Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland

Mayor Fintan Warfield with Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland

Photos by David Power

Alice Furlong: Tallaght Poetess

Alice Furlong was born in 1875, and spent her childhood at Ferndale in Bohernabreena. Her father James was a well known sports editor with The Irish Independent newspaper and originally came from Co. Wexford. Alice had three sisters, Margaret, Kate and Mary and they were a family who greatly enjoyed both reading and writing poetry. Alice trained to be a nurse at Dr. Steevens’ Hospital and began writing poetry at and early age. Her first poem was published when she was sixteen.

Alice Furlong

Alice Furlong

Tallaght was a small and isolated place in those days, so it is not surprising that Katharine Tynan, the poet who lived at Kingswood, knew the Furlong family. In her biography she recalls the autumn of 1888 when she was leaving Tallaght to live in London, “Before going on to the London life, I must speak of my neighbours and friends, the Furlongs, a family consisting of a father, mother and four daughters who lived not far away in a cottage in the Dublin Mountains.  Of the four sisters, three wrote poetry. They were wild, leggy young things, with manes of black hair, like mountain ponies, and they were always chattering about poetry and the things that make poetry, at the top of their cheerful young voices”.

Tallaght Village in 1900

In 1899 a London publisher, Elkin Matthews, launched Alice’s first book of poetry titled Roses and Rue and its success established her as one of the best Irish poets of her time.

Alice’s family later moved from Bohernabreena to live in Bawnville House which then stood opposite Ahern’s pub on the Old Bawn Road. She continued to write and became heavily involved in the Irish language movement, the Gaelic League, founded in 1893 by Douglas Hyde and Eoin MacNeill. She is credited with the first translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth into Irish.  Other books were to follow, including Tales of Fairy Folk and Queens and Heroes in 1907.

Alice's father, James Furlong

In 1900 Queen Victoria made an official visit to Dublin, an event which was opposed by various organizations and individuals, including Alice Furlong. During her three week stay, the Queen visited local schools, hospitals and convents and was guest of honour at various banquets. Despite the best efforts of the authorities to attract Dubliners to turn out, they were disappointed that they failed to have any popular demonstration to welcome her. One of the events organized to celebrate the Queen’s stay was a children’s picnic party which took place in the Phoenix Park. Invitations were issued in the Queen’s name to the school children of Ireland, urging them to attend. Free train tickets were given to children in all parts of Ireland, and transport companies offered cheap excursion trips to the Queen’s party.

The business community donated supplies of goods for the picnic party, including 300 gallons of milk from the Lucan Dairy, one ton of biscuits from Jacob and Co., 10,000 bags of sweets donated by Williams and Woods Co., plus a ton of jam and 3,000 buns from the bakers Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien. To the delight of those opposed, the picnic was considered a failure, attended by less than 10,000 but the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr. Pile, claimed that “50,000 loyal servants were in attendance”.

In response to this failure, Inghinidhe na hÉireann (The Daughters of Ireland), an organisation made up of female nationalists, founded by Maud Gonne, announced they were “proud of the sturdy resistance of the little Dublin children”, resolved to reward them for their patriotism, and at once organised the Patriotic Children’s Treat. Alice Furlong was a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann and is credited with the idea of the alternative picnic, which was held on Sunday, 1st July 1900. The event was attended by 30,000 children who marched in procession from Beresford Place to Conturk Park. More than twenty wagons were required to transport the cakes, sweets, fruit and ginger beer to the park, which was, according to Furlong, “distributed free to reward those children who had refused to cheer the English Queen”.

As a result of her involvement with Daughters of Ireland and the Irish language and literary movement Alice Furlong would have known most of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. It is suggested that following the execution of these leaders she became so depressed that she withdrew into seclusion to her home in Tallaght. Kathleen O’Brennan, a journalist and friend of Furlong, wrote the following in 1916, “Having ceased to write in English, she read almost exclusively in Irish, finding this the most satisfying, and she lived with the Gaels. Her love of the language was only shared with her love of Tallaght. To her this little village in the Dublin Hills, and all they recalled, filled her life. She was unhappy away from Tallaght and of recent years looked forward to resting there under the sunshine of the hills. She was an exile away from home, even but a few miles from its beauty.”

There was little doubt that she loved the natural environment of her native Tallaght. At the age of seventy-one, Alice Furlong died. Her funeral took place on 24th October 1946. She was buried in the family plot atTallaght Cemetery (St. Maelruain’s) where a huge crowd was in attendance.

Eamonn Maloney TD.

This post is a synopsis of Eamonn Maloney’s talk to Tallaght Historical Society on 9th March 2012. A version of it also appeared in The Echo on 22nd March 2012.

Tallaght Writer Named Second Place Winner of the Prestigious 2011 Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award

Local author and historian Michael Whelan MA has been awarded ‘Joint Second’ place in the prestigious Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award for his collection of poems titled Against the Black Sky, We Listen: An Irish Peacekeepers Poems, inspired by his experiences while serving as a Peacekeeper in South Lebanon and Kosovo with the Irish Defence Forces.
The late Patrick Kavanagh, regarded as one of the foremost Irish poets of the 20th century, is known for such works as the epic poem, “The Great Hunger” (1942), and the classic novel Tarry Flynn (1948). Named in his honor, the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award is bestowed upon a poet born in Ireland, of Irish nationality or a long term resident of Ireland. Poet, playwright, screenwriter, art critic and novelist Brian Lynch served as the adjudicator of the Kavanagh Award this year.
The Kavanagh Award has recognized many artists who have gone on to great success as poets and authors. Previous winners include Harry Clifton, the current Ireland Chair of Poetry; Eileán Ni Chuilleanáin, this year’s International Griffin Poetry Prize winner; Paul Durcan, the Whitbread Poetry Award and Irish American Cultural Institute Poetry Award recipient; Joe Woods, the Director of Poetry Ireland; and Sinead Morrissey, a Lannan Literary Fellowship winner.
Michael is also the author of two works of non-fiction, The Battle of Jadotville and Allegiances Compromised , both published by South Dublin Libraries.
Congratulations Michael!