Inis Meáin held its annual gathering of poets, Éigse Dara Beag, last month. Seán Ó Mainnín and special guest at the gathering, Connemara author Jackie Mac Donncha, visited the home of the island’s most popular poet, Peadar Mór
Peadar Mór is big and not just big in name. Big in stature, the build of a front row forward you could imagine emerging trussed and tousled from a ruck, but big in gentleness too. On a visit to his rustic homestead he broke suddenly from his conversation in Irish – his barrel voice is not comfortable with the English tongue – and repaired to the back of his house where a badling of ducks immediately gathered around him, keen, hungry, familiar and expectant.
After giving them meal and water his acute senses detected something very tiny among a growth of nettles. Digging his arm in he emerged with a day-old golden-down chicklet in his hand. He posed for a photo with his new arrival and placed it in a blue barrel home to give company to another feathered discovery from the yard.
Then the farmer/fisherman was back beside the fire to continue his recitation. Incantations more likely because Peadar almost chants his poems. And with reason. Although he has had a book of poems published he has never written down a single line of poetry. Peadar knows them off by heart.
His talent harks back to ancient bardic tradition and Peadar Mór must be one of the last of that lineage. His subject matter is the ordinary, which he makes extraordinary with his lilting monotone delivery in a deep baritone voice. The world of Inis Meáin is laid bare in stanzas. His rich speech is enchanting, almost hypnotic, whether you understand Irish or not. You feel privileged in the company of something rare and passing – but for Peadar Mór, maybe it has already departed. Those big hands that farmed the land and hauled sea catches on board can caress a chick and also deftly weave a Súil Dé (God’s Eye), lesser known than the ubiquitous St Bridget’s Cross.
He incites pride and affection among his islander people. Two years ago at Éigse Dara Beag, the poet stood on stage and delivered. His own people cheered him as did the enchanted visiting poets and travellers. ‘Rinne mé go maith, nach ndearna?’ (‘I did well, didn’t I?’) he shouted, pleased with the reaction. The ovation only increased in decibels. How many poets get ovation?
He is superstitious, believes in ghosts and spirits and takes precautions thereby. His farmstead is a menagerie of all creatures great and small. His donkey, Duibhín, breaks unfortunately into a recording of Peadar Mór’s verses with a high-volume braying of his own world views.
Peadar is in danger of becoming big in another way. Apart from his book he has been discovered by film-makers and the path to his farm door is well trodden.
Oddly, as many come from abroad as from home. There is a nostalgia in France and Germany, as well as the US, for a simple life with a gift being able to report in verse.
Will Peadar become international? He enjoys the admiration, but the sea around may yet save him from excess attention.
At our leaving, Peadar Mór gives us each a Súil Dé with the admonishment never to sell it. Never!