Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Happy Christmas - A Pearse Nativity

This panel, depicting the Nativity, once formed part of a pulpit in St Mary's Church, Athlone. 

The sculptor was James Pearse, father of the Pearse brothers, Patrick and William.

It is now in the Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham.

The New Stable

Once I promised hand-carved figures,
personal, unpolished, to replace those
smiling shop-bought gauds we took out,
stood up, ignored, each Christmas.

I meant it, even thought it out.

Background Joseph in my father’s image,
Mary in mother’s – I can hear her giggle –
wise men the spit of ones we chatted with
on windswept hills in summers years ago.

I was always too busy, too careful.

Too old now, scared of leaving a half set,
a yearly reminder of loss, I made a stable
from memories of those makeshift sheds
which leaned against our houses, long gone.

I worked quickly, planned nothing,

sawed and drilled and fixed for six days,
rough wood for uprights, willow walls,
anxious that it look slipshod, authentic
shelter for animals and passing poor.

I finished it on Christmas Eve,

attached the willow roof, posted a photo
on Facebook but am still unsettled.
I promise next year, if there is a next year,
I’ll carve some figures, shepherds maybe

or a disconcerted donkey.

Michael Farry

Monday, December 16, 2019

Our Lady of Good Counsel Window, Trim

The rose window at the south end of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Trim, is being illuminated during Advent and Christmas this year, 2019, making it visible from outside after dark. This window, installed in 1904 just after the church was officially opened, was never fully visible from the inside because of the organ. The parish priest of the time, Fr Michael Woods, and the architect, William Byrne, asked that only the top portion of the window contain stained glass since the rest would be obscured by the organ.

The subject of the window was Our Lady of Good Counsel, a popular devotion at that time as Pope Leo XIII had added that invocation to the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 22 April 1903. The details of this window were being discussed in correspondence between Fr. Woods and Hardman and Co of Birmingham, who had already provided the sanctuary window in the church, from December 1903 and the window was ordered on 27 April 1904. 

While Fr Woods saved money by not including figurative stained glass in the lower part of the window he was anxious that the visible portion be of “very best and richest glass you can make”. He wrote to Hardman “It will occupy the most prominent part of the Church and will be in full view of people as they leave the Church. As the sun will be shining almost the whole day – the window facing due south, the colours will require to be deep and rich.”

The window has the Our Lady of Good Counsel image, Mary and the child Jesus, in the centre surrounded by the legend, “Mater boni consilii ora pro nobis”(Our Lady of Good Counsel, Pray for us). Five angels play different musical instruments in panels surrounding the centre. There are two angels in panels beneath this with thuribles paying homage to Our Lady and the tops of the three lights have foliage down to where the curved portion meets the straight vertical sides.

The window was erected in October 1904 at a cost £162. A donor contributed £130 stating that the price demanded by Hardman was excessive and Fr Woods paid the balance.

It seems that when the organ was installed some portions of the window without stained glass were visible and when Hardman’s fixer was installing the St. Bridget window in the church in 1914 stained glass was “introduced into West window to hide portions exposed by organ”.  This stained glass seems to consist of random pieces which don’t fit into the general scheme.

A photograph from the National Library of Ireland (above) shows the organ and the visible sections of the window. However a new organ, by Moser of Germany, installed in 1982 hid almost all the original window from the inside.

Lighting the window from inside is a great idea, allowing the window to be seen as Father Woods, who is buried at the side of the church, wished it to be seen.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Trim Poetry Competition 2020

I'm one of the judges of the Trim Poetry Competition 2020. Orla Fay, editor of Boyne Berries, is my co-judge.

Judging a poetry competition is very interesting, not only seeing the variety of styles and themes of the entries but also seeing how you react to them. I'm always aware of my own possible biases and prejudices. I once awarded a prize in a competition to a poem about the Solstice in spite of my having read more than my fill of poor poems on that theme. It was the exception, an excellent Solstice poem.

When you have a co-judge it's even more interesting. In our case each judge reads all the entries and comes up with a shortlist of 20. It's amazing how different these can be. Then the fun starts, the discussion, the advocacy, the submissions, the wins, until finally an agreed shortlist of ten is produced.

With Glen Wilson, winner of the inaugural Trim Poetry Competition 2019.

I'm looking forward to this year's deliberations so get your entries in! The competition opened on 1 December 2019 and closes on 12 February 2020. Entries are only accepted online by email to this address: trimpoetry@gmail.com. Entry Fee: €5 per poem or €10 for three poems.

Full details, including how to pay, are on the website/blog:

You will find all the rules there. Please follow the rules carefully or else we may not even see your poem. We judge anonymously of course and I make a rule of never asking afterwards to see whose poems I rejected.

The shortlist of ten will be announced towards the end of February 2020, included in Boyne Berries 27 and on the Trim Poetry Festival blog. Shortlisted poets only will be notified by email and invited to read their poems at Trim Poetry Festival, Co. Meath, Ireland, on Saturday afternoon 14 March 2020. The prize for the winner is 500 euro.  Two runners-up will receive 100 euro each.