Mary Jo Ryan Duncan

Samhain 2015: Mulranny, Irish funerals....

Cooked potatoes
Photographer: Evelyn Simak
Terry McDonagh and Mary Jo Ryan.
Photographer: Henry Wills.

Samhain in Mulranny

At Samhain Great  Aunt Grainne boils potatoes

for departed souls.

Sets them out on best plates with butter,

salt and  pepper, then goes to bed.

Visiting niece and partner, back from the pub

polish off the spuds.

As ever, at first light,

Great Aunt Grainne greets the Samhain morning.

Shock! The spuds are gone.

Relief. Finally her reward.

Visiting niece and partner sleep on.


First and last Irish Funeral

Young and wild In the 1950s when Ireland was poor and sad I hitchhiked

the west of Ireland and knew I’d come back and I did, often. In the

1990’s when Ireland was on its way to the Celtic Tiger I retired in

Vancouver and returned to live in a Connemara village and my first Irish

funeral – not mine, but that of Kevin Cassidy.  From the Church the

congregation walked to the cemetery, the priest waiting by the open

grave. The grey and windy day suited the occasion. The priest intoned the

prayers as the coffin was lowered into the grave.  And the song began. A

clear, high, unaccompanied and special voice of a perfect sean-nós

singer, a young woman relative of Kevin’s, sang Amhran Mhaoinise. Her

strong, penetrating voice carried on the wind to all of us then back out to

sea. She sang and sang. No one spoke or moved, mesmerized at the

voice on the wind.

Now I live in west Mayo and have attended quite a few more Irish

funerals. And I have prepared for the last, my own – in Killeen cemetery,

a beautiful site on Clew Bay. Killeen is my mother’s maiden name.   

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