Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the Old Man-Killing Parishes - The Death of My Irish Cousin Larry Hickey

HICKEY (Crinnie, Castleisland, Co. Kerry*) May 15, 2011, Laurence (Larry), (peacefully), beloved husband of Mary (nee Keane) and much loved father of Bart, Marina, Helen, Noreen and D.J.; sadly missed by his loving wife and family, sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, all extended family, relatives and friends. R.I.P. Reposing at Tangney's Funeral Home, Castleisland this (Monday) evening from 4.30 o'c. to 7 o'c., followed by Removal to Castleisland Parish Church. Requiem Mass tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11 o'c. Burial afterwards in Kilbanivane Cemetery, Castleisland. House private please.

When I got home from Leo High School last night, my son Conor interrupted his study of The Principles of Air and Ventilation Systems for his class at Local 399, to tell me that my cousin Larry Hickey had died. There are a number of Larrys, as there are a wealth of Pats, Mikes, Barts, and Sylvesters. Conor said, " Larry of Crinna." He was not a 399 Hickey, nor am I. Larry was a dairy farmer on an ancient family farm that sits on a mountain above the town of Castleisland, County Kerry Ireland. I am one of the very few Hickeys without an Engineer's license, or a membership -card in Local 399. I was determined 'useless' at a very early age and consigned to a vocation that did not require attention to mechanical detail and the sweat of the brow. " Jesus, Man! You had better get into a college or you'll sh-tarve,so!" was the dictate of my grandfather

Local 399 of the International Union of Operating Engineers was started by my grandfather sometime after the 1912 stockyard strikes. Many of the engineers were from County Kerry, Ireland and it was a lousy job back then - hauling coal and shoveling cinders for the packing houses of Cudahy, Armour, Swift and the smaller concerns.

Today, it is a skilled trade that requires a command of operating systems that maintain the quality of air, water and gases required to heat, conduct clean air and provide air conditioning. The trade evolved. Where once brute strength and a willingness to suffer and strain within furnaces to clean out cinders and ash, shovel coal, maintain boilers and then battle company goons for a few quarters a day were all that were required of young immigrant fresh from the bogs of Kerry. Today a sharp and scientific understanding of air and water systems as well as brute strength and a willingness to fight for one's job with skill, a sound work ethic and attention to detail is necessary.

The Kerrymen who remained in Ireland, when my grandfather left at fifteen years of age, were the elder sons who would inherit the patch of land in the name of the family. The youngsters emigrated to England, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and America.

Larry was the eldest son, of an eldest son - my grandfather's older brother Bartholomew son of Barthlomew, or Bateen -'little Bart.' Larry was a big man like my grandfather Laurence ( Larry), but a gentle and soft-spokenly understated man where Grandpa Hickey was a pioneer Rage-aholic and an unparalleled blaspheming wild bog-man. He was a powerful gent even well into his seventies and could lift a long coal shovel from the tip of the pole with his arm parallel to the floor and bring the flat end to perfect geometric tangent and all at arm's length. Try doing the same that with the end of push broom.

Larry of Kerry operated the ancestral farm on the side of a mountain - Crinnie, or Crinna. He raised dairy cattle and formed a syndicate with his neighbors that eventually became Kerry Ingredients - Kerry Gold butter, cheese, and dry products. Larry did well.

When my wife died, I took Nora and Conor to visit Crinna ( Crinnie Mountain) and Conor helped Larry's son Bart work the cattle and dig in the bogs. Irish turf was burned in the hearth and in the cast-iron stoves for warmth and cooking fuel. Cutting and Footing turf, or digging the product which was spade-shaped into ingots of flecked black peat and dried on pyramidal reeks, made the early Kerryman engineers adepts at handling the coal shovels and could work like automatons for hours. My grandfather's greatest compliment would go, not to one who acquired a university degree, won medals in a war, hit a homerun in little league, or ran for office. His only encomium was " That man can dig, so."

Here is Tom Lally cutting the turf -

And "Your man" footing the cut turf -

Cousin Larry could dig! He had powerful hands and sinewy forearms. He could operate farm machinery. Develop and maintain a business and household budget. Understand the Irish economy and EU dairy futures and be a sweet-natured and generous soul into the bargain.

Larry visited Chicago in 2007 and that was the last time that I spoke with this lovely man.

I re-read Seamus Heany's wonderful poem The Tollund Man in tribute to Larry.

The Tollund Man concerns an archaeological dig in the Jutland region of the Baltic. A perfectly preserved corpse was taken from the Jutland bogs - a Viking. The soupy bog preserved something of a person whose soul no longer drove his muscle and bones.

This Memento Mori poem is wonderful. Our families are wonderful. Life is wonderful.

The Nobel Prize Winner's Poem about the Tollund Man

Heaney purposely writes that he will go to Aarhus to see the Tollund Man even though he knows that he is on display in Silkeborg. But in Heaney's opinion "Aarhus" goes better with the metrical feet.
Here is the original poem in English
Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters'
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.

I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.


Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,
Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.

*Castleisland is often considered the Gateway to Kerry, as the main road to all towns in Western and Southern Kerry passes through here - the N21 from Limerick continues on to Tralee while the N22 goes to Killarney and other towns in Southern Kerry.

The Glenaruddery mountains to the north and the Stacks to the west define the beginning of the 'Vale of Tralee', at the mouth of which Castleisland is situated. Most of the land around Castleisland is pasture for dairy stock, with bogland located at various locations around the town, particularly to the east and south.

It is in the barony of Trughanacmy.

•County Kerry is the most western part of Europe.
•The current popoluation is about 140,000. Just before the famine it was 293,880 .
•Thousands of years ago Ireland had two glaciers. One that carved out Kerry and one that covered the rest of Ireland.


Karaka said...

My wife (a Hickey whose ancestors left Crinnie in 1876 for New Zealand) visited Larry and Mary in 2001. We were strangers who were greeted with warmth and hospitality- Farewell Larry and thank you.

marlaoc said...

I just googled my Grandfather's Name and up popped this. I am Marla, his daughter Marina's eldest daughter.

pathickey said...

Marla O'Connor!

Your Grandparents are the loveliest of people. Larry was a very special man.

marlaoc said...

He sure was! We are all missing him a lot. I'm in the starting Uni exams tomorrow so got to stay strong

marlaoc said...

I remember Nora and Conor, goodness that was years ago now.

pathickey said...

I know you will make Larry proud! God Bless and all the folks at home, Marla.

Helen said...

hi this is helen. i am larry's daughter. my niece marla sent me an email about this. lovely to see people having such fond memories of dad.

Helen said...

hi this is helen. i am larry's daughter. my niece marla sent me an email about this. lovely to see people having such fond memories of dad.

Mary Brennan said...

Pat - just found your blog on a google search. (for the Castleisland tornado...) This is Dan Brennan's daughter Mary.

I had the pleasure of meeting Larry in the Spring of 2010, and still think of him often. The few hours I spent with him at The Good Table are some of the most pleasant that I have ever experienced. Truly a lovely man who will be missed.