Kavanagh Court – The Man Behind the Name

Having one of those ‘what is life?’ days? Questioning your own existence, where you are what’s your name? While we may not be able to help you out with that…we can shed some light on Kavanagh Court‘s name, why it was picked, and who Kavanagh was.

The man, the mystery

Kavanagh Court is named after one of Ireland’s most well-loved poets, Patrick Kavanagh. Born in 1904, Kavanagh became one of the major Irish writers of the 20th Century and remains celebrated today. His peers include Samuel Beckett and W.B. Yeats, the latter whose work Kavanagh strongly disliked. Today, you can find landmarks dedicated to each of these figures dotted around Dublin, including Beckett Bridge and, of course, the statue of Kavanagh along the Grand Canal, also known as ‘The Crank on the Bank’. Why not take a stroll and pay old Kav a visit?

Kavanagh began his writing career in the last years of the Irish Literary Renaissance, a movement that paralleled the rise of nationalism in Ireland after the country gained independence from Great Britain after WW1. Irish poets and writers felt freer from the constraints of English literary styles and began to express themselves on subjects more uniquely Irish with which they were more familiar, such as the nation’s impoverished peasants and labour and toil in Ireland’s rural areas.

From peasant to poet

Kavanagh himself had been born and raised in rural county Monaghan as the son of a shoemaker who owned a farm. Leaving school at the age of twelve, his literary knowledge was mainly self-taught and his interest in poetry was ridiculed. He continued to write for his own enjoyment while living a normal life playing as the goalie for a Gaelic football team, cycling to dances and going to Sunday Mass. It seemed Kavanagh was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father into peasant farming, but in 1928, he had a breakthrough and his poetry was first published in Dublin newspapers which encouraged him to pursue his love for writing.

After continued success for Kavanagh with his poetry, he was brought into the public eye through his popular book, The Green Fool, which was autobiographical of his early life and the struggles he faced both on the farm and in becoming a writer. He later produced his epic poem The Great Hunger and another novel called Tarry Flynn, but both were initially banned because the authorities thought that they showed rural Ireland in a bad light. Kavanagh argued that Tarry Flynn was ‘the only true account of rural life in Ireland’.

Kavanagh strongly disliked Yeats’ romanticised retellings of Irish country life, believing that his writing did not represent it honestly. His writing has had a strong influence over many Irish writers and poets since, including Seamus Heaney, who appreciated the simple and raw style of his work.

Why not have a watch of this video with an obituary reading by Kavanagh himself!

If You Ever Go To Dublin Town – Patrick Kavanagh

If you ever go to Dublin town
In a hundred years or so
Inquire for me in Baggot street
and what i was like to know
O he was the queer one
Fol dol the di do
He was a queer one
I tell you

My great-grandmother knew him well,
He asked her to come and call
On him in his flat and she giggled at the thought
Of a young girl’s lovely fall.
O he was dangerous,
Fol dol the di do,
He was dangerous,
I tell you.

On Pembroke Road look out for my ghost,
Dishevelled with shoes untied,
Playing through the railings with little children
Whose children have long since died.
O he was a nice man,
Fol do the di do,
He was a nice man
I tell you.

Go into a pub and listen well
If my voice still echoes there,
Ask the men what their grandsires thought
And tell them to answer fair,
O he was eccentric,
Fol do the di do,
He was eccentric
I tell you.

He had the knack of making men feel
As small as they really were
Which meant as great as God had made them
But as males they disliked his air.
O he was a proud one,
Fol do the di do,
He was a proud one
I tell you.

If ever you go to Dublin town
In a hundred years or so
Sniff for my personality,
Is it Vanity’s vapour now?
O he was a vain one,
Fol dol the di do,
He was a vain one
I tell you.

I saw his name with a hundred others
In a book in the library,
It said he had never fully achieved
His potentiality.
O he was slothful,
Fol do the di do,
He was slothful
I tell you.

He knew that posterity has no use
For anything but the soul,
The lines that speak the passionate heart,
The spirit that lives alone.
O he was a lone one,
Fol do the di do
Yet he lived happily
I tell you.