Remembering Brendan Kennelly


Sir, – I have a happy memory from the early 1970s of watching a demonstration in Trinity by the Internationalists (TCD’s Maoists) beside Brendan Kennelly, then the college’s junior dean (responsible for student discipline). His only comment, with a cherubic smile, was, “I do like the fine iambic beat of their chant.” He will be missed. – Yours, etc,


Royston, UK.

Sir, – While making the Con Houlihan television documentary Waiting for Houlihan, Brendan Kennelly told me that when he was about 16, he sent a few of his poems to Con for comment. Con read the poems and sent him back a single sentence reply. “Dear Brendan, You make the right mistakes. Con.”

“I have never fully understood it”, said Brendan, “though in my heart I knew what he was saying and it meant an awful lot to me.” No doubt both are now having a good laugh about it and other Kerry stories. – Yours, etc,


Dundrum, Dublin 16.

A chara, – The last time that I met Brendan was in Dawson Street in Dublin, shortly before his departure for Kerry, where he was well-minded for the remainder of his life. He only wanted to talk about football. We had both played minor inter-county football in 1954: Brendan had played very well for Kerry, I had played abysmally for Roscommon. Kerry had played Dublin in the All-Ireland final that year, and lost by a single point. The decisive score came from what the referee adjudged to be a foul by Brendan on his opponent. Brendan never accepted that it was not a legitimate tackle. The incident was fresh in his mind.

He told me that he had been walking in Ballybunion the previous summer. He met a man older than himself sitting on a window sill outside his house. “Aren’t you young Kennelly?”, the man asked. Brendan confessed that he was. “You’re the fellow who losht us the All-Ireland in 1954.” Brendan’s comment on this recalled the colourful language of Páidí Ó Sé on the unforgiving Kerry supporters.

A higher power can now adjudicate on the legitimacy of the tackle. I am sure that it will find in his favour. – Is mise,


Baile Átha Cliath 15.

A chara, In the mid-1990s, I was playing bagpipes outside Trinity College as part of a joint fundraising effort involving the Irish Cancer Society and the Seán Treacy Pipe Band. I noticed Prof Kennelly talking to someone inside the gates. He seemed oblivious to my musical endeavours until I began playing The Valley of Knockanure, a song – enhanced by Bryan MacMahon – about a War of Independence incident that occurred about eight miles from Brendan’s native Ballylongford. Almost immediately, Prof Kennelly left his companion to go to the nearest of our collectors and made a generous contribution. – Yours, etc,


(formerly Listowel),

Thurles, Co Tipperary.