Family and friends gather for centenary of poet Monk Gibbon

 

AROUND 200 family and friends gathered in the Dublin Writers' Museum yesterday to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the poet, William Monk Gibbon, who died in 1987.

His sister-in-law, Ms Patricia Dingwall, described him as a man caught up in "the latest enthusiasm, the latest love, the latest indignation, the latest ideas, all brimming over".

The poet Michael Longley said Monk Gibbon had written in his war poetry about the guilt of survival. Mr Longley said his own father had also been born in 1896. "And he spent the rest of his life after 1918 wondering why he had survived."

Mr Longley read the poet's account of meeting Francis Sheehy Skeffington in prison, before he was shot. Monk Gibbon had been struck by Skeffington's dignity and the "unnecessary brutality" of the handcuffs that he was forced to wear in his cell. He described the murder as "cold, premeditated butchery".

Ms Dingwall described the man that she and her family regarded as wonderfully eccentric.

She talked about the car he called "Tigger" that he bought for £12 and sold for £15. "Starting could be a problem so it was best to leave it on a hill."

She recalled vivid memories from Donegal such as going out to lift lobster pots with him under a night sky before a storm. "You could dip your hand into the sea and shake light off your fingers."

Her husband reprimanded him for using his best typing paper when Monk Gibbon stayed with them in London, she said. "So Bill dedicated the book to him - `in whose house and on whose paper the book was written.'"

Prof Edna Longley, from Queen's University, recalled her childhood impression of Monk Gibbon and the sense that she was sometimes "tiptoeing round a volcano". The Gibbon household held a "whiff of bohemia, beauty, danger and adventure," she said.