The boy from Mucker, the brewery employee and hushing Lady Bellew

Kilkenny man Jimmy Rhatigan performing ‘Where old ghosts meet’ at The Book and Coffee Shop’ on William Street as part of Heritage week

The Kilkenny Observer attended the theatre production of ‘Where Old Ghosts meet’ staged at the Coffee and Book store on William Street as part of Heritage week. The forty strong audience was treated to a wonderful telling of the story of Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh by Kilkenny man Jimmy Rhatigan, under the direction of Geoff Rose.

“There is something very reassuring about sitting in a book shop.

Surrounded by millions of words, by hundreds of authors is a comfort blanket of sorts for many.”

The words of local theatre director Geoff Rose as he introduced Jimmy Rhatigan at the Coffee and Book Shop on William Street.

The beautiful and intimate setting was the ideal venue for this look at the life and times of poet Patrick Kavanagh brought by Playactin’ theatre company.

Often, while thumbing your way through the various sections, you wonder what a particular poet or novelist would think. And so it was on Friday of last week, in association with Heritage week, we were given an excellent insight into the world of Irish poet Paddy Kavanagh with the presentation of “Where old Ghosts meet”.

Director Geoff Rose and actor Jimmy Rhatigan obviously put a lot of thought, effort and rehearsal into the production and the forty plus audience really enjoyed the performance.

In a question and answer session that followed the performance, Jimmy was asked how his interest in Kavanagh began.

“It was fairly straightforward”, answered the former Brewery employee. “I started reading Kavanagh almost forty years ago and I suppose I never looked back.”

Jimmy explained that both he and his wife Judy have spent the last thirty years attending the annual Kavanagh week and have been at numerous lectures, readings and exhibitions on the man from Iniskeen.

The directorial handprint of Geoff Rose was obvious in this slick production.

Geoff adapted and directed the performance with his usual flair. His experience as a director goes back the best part of forty years and he has worked with such groups as Theatre Unlimited, The New Theatre Group, Playactin’ Theatre group Bickerstaffe and Pan Productions.


As an audience we learned about the young lad from Mucker, his parish of Iniskeen and the nine acre farm that would one day be his.

Although working as apprentice to his father as a cobbler, life was to change for the daydreaming Paddy Kavanagh.

We learned of him leaving school at 13, his move to Dublin and his banter with other poets and writers on the Irish scene.

How fellow writer Brendan Behan annoyed him by regularly referring to him as the F—– from Mucker.

Obviously his love of poetry shone through as did his love of land, life and love itself.

We were treated to a story of Kavanagh telling Lady Bellew to stop interrupting him when he gave a talk in the ‘Tech” in Kilkenny.

It was later reported that Kavanagh was the only person ever to speak in such a manner to the good lady.

It is fair to say the performance was a labour of love, and word and song was delivered with the conviction, love and insight that the boy from Mucker deserved.

And the audience joined in as well

The sixty minute show included some of Kavanagh best known work with audience members joining in, in some of the songs. One such song, Raglan Road had the audience singing along. Written by Patrick Kavanagh and made famous by singer Luke Kelly, On Raglan Road is one of the great iconic Irish folk tunes.

Jimmy Rhatigan explained that the song began its life in the 1940s as a lyric poem written by Kavanagh following his doomed infatuation with Hilda Moriarity, a young medical student from Dingle. Kavanagh befriended Hilda in 1944 when they both lived on Raglan Road. She enjoyed the poets company, but at twenty two, she was not interested in a romantic relationship with this forty year old man. Kavanagh, struck by Cupids arrow, saw things differently and this ensuing disappointment found expression in the poem that would eventually become On Raglan Road. It was first published in The Irish Press in 1946 as Dark-haired Miriam ran away.

Raglan Road
On Raglan Road on an autumn day I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I passed along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay
Oh I loved too much and by such by such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint without stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had loved not as I should a creature made of clay
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.

Poetry, song, coffee and storytelling in a beautiful coffee shop in Kilkenny on a Friday afternoon. What more could you ask for?

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