‘Farewell To Barney’
© Joe Canning 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Here’s my tale of uncle Barney, Bernard James Magee,
that graced this planet Earth for ninety years.
A farmer and a soldier and a decent human being,
a connoisseur of whiskeys, wines and beers.
A writer and a poet, expert in the ways of life,
A bachelor all his days and man of wonder,
He slipped away from all of us a year ago last night,
Now he’s somewhere in the West away out yonder.
We waked him in the parlour in his old four poster bed,
we followed his instructions to the letter,
we drank a quart of poteen he had hidden in the shed,
and the fiddler made his waking even better.
Next morning came the pastor who gave us dirty looks,
and he praised the Lord for uncle Barneys’ life,
soon after that some men arrived in long black limousines,
and to the crematorium we did drive.
We listened to the Priest again describe in glowing tones,
Barney’s life, his deeds and tribulations.
Had Barney heard those accolades the preacher handed down,
he’d have left his casket for a strong libation.
We said, “he must be talking about some other soul”,
For it wasn’t uncle Barney, that was certain,
But we let him witter on a while until he said “Amen”,
and Barney journeyed through the final curtain.
The sandwiches awaited us in Charlie Breslin’s bar,
there was soup and rolls and buns on fancy platters.
The fiddler in the corner was performing once again
and we toasted Barney’s memory by the fire.
We sang into the early hours, discussing Barney’s life,
we wondered why the rascal never wed,
his brother said, “he feared he’d end up with a nagging wife,
and a fate like that would wreck poor Barney’s head.”
Two weeks went by, a courier rapped on uncle Barney’s door,
A finely wrapped small parcel I accepted,
’twas only uncle Barney in box that held an urn,
I’d forgotten that the old boy was expected.
A fancy looking letter was contained within as well,
I read it when I’d placed him on the table,
and underlined in red ink marked by asterisk or star,
were more instructions written on the label.
“Take me down to Breslins’ lad, and put me on the bar,
in the corner where I used to rest my elbows.
Bless me with a splash of stout and for me say a prayer,
There’s a pint behind the bar for all attenders.
Take me down past Creeslough when the sun is bright and high,
to the rocks that kiss the sea by old Falcarragh,
Cast me to Atlantic when the wind blows to the West,
I trust that this wont cause you too much bother”.
I rang my uncle Michael, told him Barney had arrived,
he said, “we’ll organise another party”,
Charlie’s bar was booked then for the following Friday night
and we reserved the bus that’s owned by cousin Marty.
The whiskey it was flying and the craic was in the room,
’til some eejit knocked poor Barney off the bar,
Charlie got the Hoover and put Barney in a bag,
then we put him in the trunk of Charlie’s car.
At crack of dawn next morning, our excursion it began,
a bus with twenty-four of us transported,
the driver, cousin Marty, propped the bag on the front seat,
and with Barney in the bag the bus departed.
We made our way through Creeslough town in county Donegal,
to Falcarragh, and the place where he was born,
we said a prayer for Barney as we cast him to the wind,
‘midst the porcelain and the dust from Charlie’s floor
Sometimes I have what is described as a recurring dream,
He left to me his cottage, chickens, ducks and acre field.
Sometimes I feel his presence and his voice within my head,
and I swear that I once saw him at the bottom my bed.
But fear not I that gentle man that left me house and farm,
and if his spirit’s with me it will surely do no harm.
No doubt that he’d have loved the craic that evening in the bar,
and that’s my tale of Barney, way out West, among the stars.
Photo: Keadue Beach, between Burtonport and Dungloe, Co Donegal, Gareth Wray Photography