Mar 01 2012

A Poem for Rory Gallagher

Published by under poems

Poet Louis de Paor

Born in Cork, Ireland in 1961, Louis de Paor is one of Ireland’s foremost Irish language poets. He is a four-time winner of the Seán Ó Ríordáin/Oireachtas Award, the premier award for a new collection of poems in Irish. He is also the recipient of the 2000 Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award, the first poet in Irish to achieve such a distinction. In 2007 he narrated the documentary on Cork poet Séan Ó Ríordáin, considered one of the greatest Irish poets of all time. Paor’s poem Croibhualadh (Heartbeat) was included in ‘Nead an Dreoilín’ (Wren’s Nest), a collection of short films produced for Irish TV exploring the poetry of six living Irish language poets. His most recent project is a bilingual, mixed media revisit of his 2002 poetry collection, Agus Rud Eile De (And Another Thing), republished by Cló Iar-Chonnachta (2010), and features collaborations with artist Kathleen Furey and musician Ronan Browne. He currently resides in Galway, Ireland, and is the Director of the Center for Irish Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway.

It was for his collection of poems, Corcach agus Dánta Eile (Cork and other Poems) that Louis de Paor won the 2000 Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for poetry, the leading American award for Irish poets. Cork and other Poems starts with the memory of his departure from Cork in the mid 1980’s to Australia where he worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney and as presenter and producer of an Irish radio programme in Melbourne. There are occasional references to Australia in the collection, but most of the pieces are set in his native city of Cork and in other parts of Ireland and deal with the “powerful impact of his homecoming” ten years later — his coming to terms with the memories from his Irish past. One of the poems deals with the passing of Irish legend Rory Gallagher during the author’s absence from his beloved Ireland. In the poem, simply titled Rory, Paor recalls the excitement of seeing Rory Gallagher’s performance at Cork City Hall in 1976, with “the waves of pounding feet that rocked the floors of City Hall” and the crowd chanting Rory, Rory, Rory. And he wonders if Rory ever knew how much he meant to the people of Ireland.

I saw Rory about 12 times in all between 1976 and 1994, in the City Hall, the Opera House, and the Arcadia in Cork, at the Mountain Dew Festival in Macroom, and finally in Melbourne. I met him after the first gig in the City Hall in 1976 when I was 15 and he seemed even shyer than I was. I was supposed to meet him in Melbourne but he was too sick after the show. I did interview him though for a radio programme I was presenting at the time on SBS Radio in Melbourne. The interview was by phone and he had just come off stage in London. He was full of chat and a great interviewee.

I suppose what’s behind the poem is the idea that maybe he never fully realized how much he and his music meant to us all and that he was gone before we had a chance to tell him. He is still the yardstick by which I measure all live music and very few have matched him over the years.

With kind permission from the author, I’ve posted a copy of Louis de Paor’s poem Rory in both English and Irish below:




Cork City Hall 1976


A million miles away from you

right at the back of the hall

my heart was beating

the drums of my hands;

I hadn’t a note in my head

only the grace-notes you picked

from tangled strings

as the knot in my veins

was undone by your brilliant fingers.

I couldn’t work out

why you kept tinkering

with the end of the tune

while the roar of our applause

rose up under the heels of your hands

that kept my dreams above water

as you walked the angry sea.

Did you really not hear

the tide flooding in behind you,

the waves of pounding feet

that rocked the floor of the City Hall

until it rolled like the deck of a ship,

that will never fill the emptiness

you left behind you on stage?

Can you feel it now,

our swiftfingered brightness,

as the light of heaven

shovels silence on the eyes

of the crowd as they press against the stage,

calling you back from the dark:



Now can you hear me?




Halla na Cathrach, Corcaigh 1976


Milliún mile siar uait

thiar i dtóin an halla,

bhí mo chroí ag bualadh

tiompán mo bhas,

an chruit im chuisle á míniú amach

idir t’ordóg is m’inchinn bhuailte,

gan nóta im cheann

ach an spionnadh a chuiris-se

le sreanganna in achrann.

B’ait liom go raghfá ag tincéireacht

mar sin ar bhuille scoir an tiúin

is tormán ár mbasbhualaidh

ag líonadh fé shála do lámh

a thug snámh smigín dom mhian

ag trácht ar uisce coipthe.

An é nár airís an tuile

ag líonadh ort, rabharta cos

a dhein bord loinge den urlár

i Halla na Cathrach

is ná líonfaidh feasta an poll

a d’fhágais ar ardán id dhiaidh?

An mbraitheann tú anois é,

ár ngile mearluaimneach méar,

is solas na bhflaitheas

ag sluaistiú ciúnais

ar shúile an tslua

atá buailte le stáitse

ag glaoch ar ais ort ón ndoircheacht,



An gcloiseann tú anois ár nguí?


Louis de Paor & John Spillane

If the words sound familiar to you then I suspect you are a fan of another Cork native, John Spillane. John Spillane grew up in the Bishoptown suburb of Cork, Ireland, graduating from University College Cork. In 2003 Spillane won the Meteor Ireland Music Award for Best Folk / Traditional Act. In 2005 he released his critically acclaimed third solo album, Beautiful Dreamer; one of the songs on the album was a tribute to Rory Gallagher titled, ‘A Song for Rory Gallagher.’ Much of the lyrics were taken from Louis de Paor’s poem, Rory. Spillane and Paor have been frequent collaborators. Calling themselves the “Gaelic Hit Factory” they took their music on the road and won the Realta Irish song contest in 2001 and 2002. In 2006 they released a CD of their compositions eponymously titled, The Gaelic Hit Factory. They have been writing great songs together since they sat together in physics class when they were 14:

Myself and Louis sat next to each other at school and have been friends since we were about 14 – we wrote our first epic poem at the back of Physics class in 5th Year. Louis followed the path of poetry and I music. We come together every now and again and write songs together in the Irish Language – Gaeilge. — John Spillane


A Song for Rory Gallagher by John Spillane & Louis de Paor

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