Ireland has fascinated me for years and my experiences have been enriched by my trips to that beautiful country.
In July of 2006, for the 37th year, the people from the village of Ramelton, County Donegal, have held the Lennon Festival. I have been fortunate enough to have attended five
and the organizers have seen fit to publish four poems that were written especially for the festival "programme."
One of the highlights of the festival is a “Singing Pub” contest. People gather each night in a different pub to hear the music provided by their friends and neighbors and an occasional outsider, in a friendly contest. At the end of the contest a winning pub is selected. The exact criterion escapes me but it has to do with which pub supplied the best entertainment. I was asked to sing a song on my first visit there in the year 2000. When I said I didn't sing well, I was asked "What can you do?"
In defense I said, "I paint landscapes and write poems." I was then asked to compose a poem and read it after the singing. On the third night, I read a poem written for the contest in lieu of singing a song and dedicated it to the people of Ramelton. It was written while riding around the Irish countryside during the day. During the contest the judge asked me if I had written my poem and when I replied in the affirmative he said he would get me on right after the singing. Then a group of women from Liverpool came into the pub and it got extremely noisy. They said they had come over for a wedding the next day. They were dancing on the tables. A young man was doing Elvis impressions complete with body contortions and the crowd was going wild. The Judge turned and asked if I was ready. I said I didn't think anyone could hear me since there was so much noise.
He said "Okay then", and I assumed I was off the hook. Moments later he said, "You're up!"
I was surprised when the announcer said, "We have with us tonight a young man all the way from San Francisco. Well he was young once! He has written a special poem just for us."
A few minutes later I was standing in front of at least a hundred slightly intoxicated festival "attendees". The term "slightly" is perhaps understating it just a bit. When they handed me the microphone I was astounded at how quiet the room had become. You could have heard a pin drop. After the reading I was approached by an older woman who said about the poem, "that was touching - it was."
Then a man put his hand on my arm and said, "That was from the heart - it was."
Years later it dawned on me that maybe that was the best that they could come up with in terms of encouragement! I asked my wife what she thought and she said she could not hear me because there was so much noise. I told her there was no noise - it was perfectly quiet. She replied that the stress must have cut off my hearing. Someone asked me for a copy of the poem.
I was entirely surprised and delighted that it was to be published in the Lennon Festival programme in the year 2002. In July 2003, I went again to Ramelton determined to sing in the "Singing Pub Contest." It didn't happen and I admit that I just couldn't bring myself to offending all those people by trying to sing in 2003 nor did I attempt singing in 2004 or 2005. I did leave behind a poem for the next year's programme!
In 2005, I was approached by the pub owner after I had entered the pub of the night. She said to me, "I know you! You were here last year. Aren't you the man that wrote the poem in the programme?"
When I admitted it, she asked me to read my poem before the singing started. I said, "I would be delighted." This time I was prepared and made sure I had everyone's attention before I began to read. I also had my wife film a video of the reading. It came out very well and I have listened to the video many times, especially to the clapping and cheering at the end. The next night we were in the next pub in the series and shortly after we walked in, we were approached by the owner and she said "I understand, you read your poem in the pub across the street last night?"
When I said, "I had", the woman said "Well you know, there are some of us in this town that weren't in that pub last night, so would you be willing to read it again tonight - here, in this pub?" When I said, "I would be delighted", she seemed happy! I didn't realize it could be that easy.
I wasn't able to be there this year (2006) due to family considerations, but I did leave behind a poem and painting last year, which reflected on feelings I had when observing an old cottage within easy walking distance from the village center. I hope that from this writing some of you will actually attend a Lennon Festival in July in Ramelton, County Donegal.
Have a wonderful time and great craic!
Since I am not there this year, I would like to say hello to my friends that I am missing at breakfast: Anne and Bert and Mary and Mike - God Bless!
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