Every year on the 5th March Cape Clear Island steals a march on the rest of Ireland when it celebrates the feast day of its Patron, Saint Ciarán. This is a sort of an early St Patricks Day celebration and involves both religious observance and ‘ceol agus craic’. This year the Community decided to fete, Tom Mc Sweeney who has recently retired as RTE’s Marine Correspondent.
Amongst our Island and Coastal Communities Tom is held in the highest of esteem and over the past twenty or more years has brought the news and views of these marginal communities to a wider audience. He has been present at innumerable triumphs and tragedies and has always found within him the appropriate words for each and every occasion. I have heard stories of how Tom often manages to find the most obscure stories and bring them to wider attention, in the best possible way, by allowing people to speak for themselves.
Tom accompanied by his wife Kathleen attended a special buffet in Club Cléire with the Island Community together with representatives from Sherkin Island, Baltimore and other coastal communities. He was presented with a painting by artist Diarmuid Breen of Trá Chiaráin, Oileán Chléire. This is one of a series of about thirty paintings of the Island by the Artist, the great majority of which are proudly hanging in the homes of the Islanders and those of the Island Diaspora.
There were speeches of course, but they were short and pithy, as those present did not need to be reminded of Tom’s enthusiasm or efforts over the years. We were very glad to hear from Tom that he intends to redouble his efforts in other media in the years to come and look forward to seeing his other projects come to fruition. Island Poet, Chuck Kruger read one of his poems, ‘Moonbow’ and somehow, given the beautiful night outside, the few well spoken words seemed exactly right for the occasion.
The Island musicians, Kevin, Danny, Mairtín and Steve were in flying form and played even livelier than usual and the party, never dull for a second, took another turn for the better when a group of young ladies celebrating a Hen night joined in with flute and fiddle and the two separate celebrations merged into one . Later that evening, Tom, gave a special kiss and hug to Lisa, the bride to be, and after 43 years of happy marriage to Kathleen a few useful hints on the recipe for a good marriage. All it all it was one of those special evenings of beginnings and endings, of intergenerational ‘ceol, craic agus cairdeas fial’, one of those special nights on the Cape that all those present will remember with good feeling for a long time to come.
Go raibh maith agaibh Tom agus Kathleen.
Séamus Ó Drisceoil,
On ritual way to bed I step outside
for a final peek at stars and moon,
the pulsing Fastnet Lighthouse beam,
neighbours’ lights, the weather.
And what towers before me but a vast white arc.
In all my seventy-plus years, I’ve never seen
such an act of nature. I gawk and I gawk
and I dash inside for Nell and we stand
spell-bound beneath this arc of whiteness,
a pure dramatic gentle gauzy white.
To the east, toward the newly-risen
wildly radiant moon, the sky gleams with stars,
Orion just emerging from the horizon,
the Pleiades distinct in their little clearing of black,
our own tiny galaxy the Milky Way
heading fainter and fainter straight for the moon;
and to the west no stars at all but a misty rain
falling perhaps but a hundred yards away.
I glance at my fisherman’s watch,
read that the moon’s five days plus past full.
After some five or twenty-five minutes
of simply staring at this gift – and trying to take in
what we guess to be a lunar rainbow, a rainbow filled
with the white light of the effulgent moon –
we decide sadly yet happily it’s time
to head for bed, our heads packed with what we feel
nature’s midnight benediction,
something straight out of the fourth dimension.
The next day, as I’m hopping out of bed,
my memories of the previous night alive and well,
I switch on the radio, hear in the opening sentence
the word moonbow, a word I’ve never heard before
and what I assume refers to the kind of phenomenon
we saw the previous night. I head for my study,
do some quick research before breakfast,
learn that there are many names for the rarity we witnessed:
fog bow, lunar bow, moonbow, white rainbow,
night-time rainbow, mother bow. And that,
amongst Native Americans, especially the Cherokee
and Shawnee people, a tradition of worshipping this moonbow
goes back 3,000 years. They experienced the moonbow
“as a distinct sign from the great Spirit” that gave them a “blessing”.
I see I’ve been unconsciously in a long line worth the wait.
by Chuck Kruger, Glen West, Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork, Ireland