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‘His was a singing voice… the nicest and the brightest and the most glorious’

Celebrant Fr Michael Hussey addresses the congregation in the Church of Michael the Archangel, Ballylongford with the President’s Aide-De-Camp, Col Stevens, in the front pew.
Image source: Live-stream service provided by O’Gorman’s Memorial Video Services

THE priest celebrating the Requiem Mass for poet and scholar Brendan Kennelly this Wednesday said he hopes his spirit will shine out forever and that, in years to come, people will still draw strength from the books and poems and lecture notes he left behind.

Fr Michael Hussey, parish priest in the native parish of the Trinity College Professor Emeritus, remarked: “His was a singing voice, a real singing voice and, of course, what was very distinctive was a Kerry accent.

“There are many Kerry accents but Brendan’s was probably the nicest and the brightest and the most glorious.

“You couldn’t fail but to fall in love with it – and of course the women loved him. He had a soft smile, a good temperament and a lovely soft voice, say no more,” he said.

During a moving and very dignified service in the Church of Michael the Archangel, Ballylongford, Fr

Brendan Kennelly: There are many Kerry accents but his was probably the nicest and the brightest and the most glorious.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

Hussey reflected on the life of Brendan Kennelly as a poet, an academic, a scholar and a teacher and he said he had a fanciful suggestion that, before they walk off the stage, all scholars should get a big sheet of brown paper, put all their books together, put a butcher’s string around them and make them into a parcel.

“If they put a label on them what would that label be? Safeguarding memory,” he said.

“Shouldn’t that be the case for all writers, academics, historians, playwrights, the lot? What are they doing when they commit their material to paper? They are trying to safeguard memory.

“That is a powerful way of describing what’s left behind after our creative people, that their work should be seen as safeguarding memory,” Fr Hussey stated.

He said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper 30 or 40 years ago, Brendan said he loved to memorise things and have them off by heart and he described memorising as “an act of love”.

“Try telling a 15 or 16-year-old preparing for their junior cert or their leaving cert that learning and memorising is an act of love when it’s all hard work for them but, as years go by, when you can remember things, little bits of knowledge and wisdom, you appreciate then the gift of memory,” said Fr Hussey who was previously a teacher in St Brendan’s College, Killarney.

Professor Brendan Kennelly chatting with broadcaster Ryan Tubridy in Ballybunion during a Fáilte Ireland backed series of programmes promoting the Wild Atlantic Way.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

The celebrant wondered what it would be like for Brendan Kennelly arriving in heaven and having the likes of John B Keane and Bryan MacMahon at the one table for breakfast and then throwing Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh into the mix.

“And then, to wreak everything, Brendan Behan appears at the door. It would be a rather colourful scene. Maybe there’s the makings of a play there for somebody to bring all those departed geniuses together and have their voices together.

“You could see what kind of rich tapestry they would throw between them all, each of them with their own consciousness, their own gifts and their own wonders that they gave to the world,” Fr Hussey added.

“We are so fortunate to have so many creative writers in our catalogues. They have enriched people’s lives. The whole world of the arts is so important to everybody,” he stated.

Professor Brendan Kennelly has stimulated, enchanted and awakened the world to the power of the written and the spoken word

President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, were represented at the private family Mass by Aide-De-Camp Colonel Stevens.

Instead of a eulogy, the late Brendan’s brother, Kevin, recited the great wordsmith’s most famous poem, Begin, which contained the lines:

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

Brendan, who passed away, in his 85th year, in Árus Mhuire Nursing Home in Listowel last Sunday, was laid to rest with his parents, Tim and Bridie, at Lislaughtin Abbey.

A public memorial to celebrate his life will be held in 2022.