Poet Thomas Kinsella remembered as a ‘remarkable man with special grace’

‘Farewell ceremony’ in Mount Jerome featured music chosen by the Freeman of Dublin

The funeral of poet Thomas Kinsella  at the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome Crematorium. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The funeral of poet Thomas Kinsella at the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome Crematorium. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The poet Thomas Kinsella was remembered at his funeral in Dublin on Monday as “a truly remarkable man with a special grace [who] provoked, celebrated and disturbed our Irish psyche in a unique and unforgettably valuable life’s work”.

The “farewell ceremony” took place at the Victorian Chapel in the Mount Jerome Crematorium with family and friends reading from the poet’s work and that of William Shakespeare and James Joyce.

The music, which had been chosen by the late poet, included pieces by Seán Ó Riada, Johann Sebastian Bach and Gustav Mahler.

The chief mourners were Kinsella’s daughters Sarah and Mary, son John, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

President Michael D Higgins was among those who gathered at the crematorium while Taoiseach Micheál Martin was represented by his aide de camp.

Kinsella, who was 93, had returned to Dublin after many years teaching in universities in the United States after his wife Eleanor died in 2017.

He was made a Freeman of Dublin in 2007 when a plaque was erected on his childhood home in Inchicore, which featured in much of his poetry.

Kinsella’s friend Richard Ryan told the gathering how he had first met the poet and Eleanor when he called to their home on Raglan Road in the 1960s seeking help with the publication of a poetry broadsheet to be distributed in UCD, and how the ensuing friendship had endured for 55 years.

He spoke of the poet’s intellect and endless curiosity and noted that in recent times Kinsella “read, and wrote steadily, just about every day” adding that he looked forward to reading the final work of the poet when it was posthumously published.

Fishing trips

Kinsella’s son John recalled outings with his father to the Botanic Gardens in Dublin, fishing trips in Cleggan and spins in “an absolutely gorgeous” green 1964 Buick with his siblings. He recalled how his father would “light up” the faces of his literature students as he took them on field trips in the west of Ireland

And he movingly recalled the delight an ailing Kinsella took in recent times from a simple pleasure such as a grape washed and given to him by his daughter Sara.

Civil celebrant Barry O’Mahony told the gathering that “much about Tom [was] well known, through the written word, and with many aspects of his long life lived in the public realm, as well as through the splendid RTÉ documentaries, the observations of fellow writers and academics, his work with publishers and his students’ memories”.

“These reveal much about Tom, the relationship with his wife Eleanor, and other important relationships, and, of course, his relationship with the city of Dublin itself,” he said.

That relationship was “compelling conveyed” in Kinsella’s poetry.

He said the poet’s children had hailed their parents as “very much a team” with “Tom’s formality in public life counterbalanced by Eleanor’s social grace. They complemented each other wonderfully and together…provided a rich textured environment in which to grow”.