Text Peter Martin
Photos by Mike Kealy
There is something about ‘Comer people.
Maybe it is their determination in what they do.
Nothing is half done. It is a sort of ‘stickability’ they have to stay with a project until it is completed.
Whether it is on a hurling field, organising the annual wellie race or performing theatre, the men and women from the mining town of Castlecomer have it by the bucket load. And some.
One such ‘Comer man who had all the aforementioned traits was miner, storyteller and author Seamus Walsh.
Indeed the words of Nelson Mandella could have been written for Seamus.
“There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
There was no doubting the passion Seamus had for his family and for friends from the mining community.
And the gathering at The Discovery Park recently to mark his anniversary showed the love and esteem in which Seamus was held.
Seamus was a prolific writer, and his books “Coal in the Blood” & “In the Shadow of the Mines” documented first-hand accounts of life in the mines, and its impact on the wider community both socially and economically.
A Poet, Seamus creatively wove words to evocatively convey life as a miner in Castlecomer.
MUSIC, MEMORY AND SONG
The evening was full with music and memory with speakers such as Martin Bridgeman, Maurice Shortall, Michael Conway, Margaret McGrath, Chubby Brennan and Joe O’Neill.
Music was provided by the Male Voice Choir and Breege Phelan.
Also playing on the night was Joe Brennan, Sarah Brennan and Jimmy Byrne.
Singer/song writer Colm Egan played via video link with a song called “The Deerpark Mines” a song about an ex – miner revisiting the ruins of the mines after its closure.
The Walsh family were all present and Seamus’s daughter Majella gave a beautiful acapella rendition of “Joe Hill”.
Many of the family made other contributions such as Seamus’s granddaughter Lauren McCartney who recited a poem that Seamus wrote called “A Gathering of Miners”.
Seamus’s Grandson Jamie Walsh also presented a poem that Seamus wrote called “Lonely Days Past”.
The atmosphere was poignant as video from Mike Kealy and photos from John Coffey were interspersed through the evening.
Seamus had a life-long passion to honour the men that went down below.
Mr Walsh was always focussed on finding alternative energy, and to show the hardships and health impacts of mining on those men and boys who worked the pits.
Seamus was instrumental in making the coal mining museum a reality.
FREE APP LAUNCHED
In a fitting tribute, Kathy Purcell,Manager at the Park, launched the free app “Castlecomer Museum of Mining” which makes the mining history included in the museum accessible to people from all over the world.
In creating the mining museum, Seamus didn’t realise that it would also be the catalyst for creating one of Ireland’s best social enterprises, creating jobs and helping to bring some civic pride back to a town that was impacted so much from the closure of the mines.
After two challenging years, the evening was a wonderful night of music, song & readings and a welcome celebration not just for Seamus but for the community he loved so much.
Noelle Walsh thanked everyone before Chrissie, Seamus’s wife, was called on to unveil a specially commissioned portrait of Seamus by Castlecomer Craft Yard Artist Niamh Curry.
GAVE FREELY OF HIS TIME
For a number of years, Seamus gave freely of his time to give talks on the life and times of a miner and the mines.
He regularly gave tours of ‘Deerpark’ mine and it was one of the highlights of Heritage week.
Not only did Seamus have the knowledge and love for the topic he spoke about, but his beautiful demeanour made sure that the listener was enthralled by time spent in his company.
In his 1999 book ‘In The Shadow Of The Mines’, there is a wonderful history of the mines and the people who worked them. It also contains some lovely poems about the characters and the hardships that being a miner brought with the job. One such poem, Choices, by Martha Kelly epitomises the life of the miner
Mining was your lifeline.
Even when you saw
Your younger brother’s body
Broken in a trench
Even when you saw
Two older brothers sail away
To streets of gold
Even when you saw
Your best friend
Carried from a black hole
Even when your five fingers
You stayed, so that we
Would one day have choices.
A wonderful evening in memory of a great man.
Take a bow, people of ‘Comer