The New Normal Looks like the Old Normal as Scene of the Rhyme returns to Tullamore

The world is a different place than it was two short years ago. Caution, the first cousin of fear, still stalks the land. But we are learning to cope again, to live with what it the new normal. In Tullamore, where as part of the Poetry Town initiaitive, Scene of the Rhyme was relaunched, it was almost like the old normal, where most of the Tullamore Rhymers got together again, and the ones gone to the great gig in the sky were fondly and sadly remembered.

Poets and Boats and Trains

Scene of the Rhyme is launched in Joe Lees Bar in Tullamore

Of course it wasnt without drama, provided as usual by yours truly, and thanks to a couple of helpful Iarnród Éireann staff I got there though I nearly missed the gig.

Bleary eyed, the Facebook Messenger went BLIP. I answered. Anthony Sullivan. “You coming tonight dude?” or words to that effect. I’ve been known to forget stuff before…

“Sure” says I. “Ill be there for 750. 5pm train. Sure its for 8. Isnt it”, says I, having booked a bus ticket from Kilbeggan at 23:15 to get home.

No , it wasnt, it was 5 FECKIN PM!

Panic, panic sorted – ticket available, will be one in 15:05 train. Will buy at station I thought. Got to station – you must but BEFORE coming to station from website, and collect at machine. Booted browser up on phone – wouldnt let me buy. Help desk closed, no one about.

Eventually I found two bemused Irish Rail staff. “Can buy tickets for this train?”, says I. Buy for the next one says the dads. 5pm train.

“BUT IVE A GIG AT 5PM” says I in a panicked fashion. Looking far from the rock star and more the desperate fan, they took pity on me and said buy a ticket for the next train and if there is rom they’d let me on this one.

And so, I was off to Tullamore to spite myself! What else could possibly go wrong!

You know when you relax on a train and get sleepy? I was afraid to in case I missed my stop. Then the train stopped outside Tullamore and refused to move for about twenty mins. Was I panicking? Who, moi?!!!!

Anyway, I got in and there was a packed gig, social distancing considered in Joe Lee’s. Met up with the Rhymers crew, regaled all with my stories of cross country exploring, and Anthony Sullivan said “theres a poem in that story somewhere”. I think myself its beyond poetry!!!

The gig gets going!

Ken Hume, Anthony Sullivan and myself!
Ken Hume, Anthony Sullivan and myself!

The event got going, the usual formalities was given by Poetry Ireland officials, one of whom was half Offaly, she told us. Then it was over to David Mallaghan, the man of the hour, to get the gig going!

Peace and War is an enduting theme of David Mallaghans work, and his standout piece of the night was one where there was a personification of the Gods of War, or Conflict or Discord talking through the experiences, told as if a dream of the author. A cleverly put together and timely piece. During the night he also read the poetry of Noelle Flanagan, on love and life, which got a great reaction.

Seamus Kirwan was the first of the readers, reading some new material and some from his book “Reflections of a Mad Irishman“. His topical verse “Where has the Craic Gone” reflected on how we as a society have lost our sense of fun due to the trials of the last couple of years, jovially stating that the Craic could fight COVID. Indeed, a good state of mind, which is caused by having the craic, is a good way to approach any trial or illness. His usual conversational rhyming verse style got a good reception.

The stage was then taken – I may have the running order wrong – by Laura Tyrell, a local writer, whose verse reflects on the problems of getting people to really listen when an ear is needed, as opposed to being told your grand and your issues swept aside when you confide in someone. It gave pause to think, as most of us are guilty of that at some point and time.

Me with the late Camullis Boland at a Scene of the Rhyme gig in 2015
Me with the late Camullis Boland at a Scene of the Rhyme gig in 2015

Those that are not longer with us were remembered by Anthony Sullivan who read a poignant verse by the late Camillus Boland. Finding his voice and his voice a source of comfort in times of illness Camillus was a singer and poet of note in the area, a stalward of the folk tradition.

A poem of Cammullis where he spoke of enjoying the sights and sounds of his garden, enjoying the fruits of his labours was something what we can all relate to. Even me… and I hate gardening. I do love however sitting down in my garden enjoying watching the buthalains grow!

Anthony then read his own verses, one of which which was a rememberance piece on 9/11 the anniversary of which had just passed, and a love poem “I Think It Was Spring” inspired by an interview given by the late Gerry Ryan about when he met his wife. Cormac Lally, on last but not least also touched on 911, but on a WAY different and less reverent angle!

With Seamus Kirwan and Anthony Sullivan at Scene of the Rhyme in Joe Lees Bar
Ravings of a Mad Irishman by Seamus Kirwan

Mally next introduced Galway resident but Tullamore native and weaver Seamus Kirwan, and I often think of the Rhyming Weavers of Ulster when I read and listen to his work.

A weaver or words and cloth, he brought out a book some years back on his 50th called “Ravings of a Mad Irishman”, a light hearted look at life, loss and coping with the stresses of same. He read some material from that book, some not included in it, and more that he has written since.

My favourite was when he read verses of how we have lost the craic, and the pubs, finishing with a light hearted jovial verse that the craic would cure COVID. If only it were that simple, though in trials of life and ill health the craic helps a good state of mind, and while not half the battle its a pretty good foundation to start from.

Ken Hume reading at Scene of the Rhyme relaunch at PoetryTown event in Joe Lees

Ken Hume took to the stage with some poignant verses from his book “Snowstorm of Doubt and Grace” written with his late mother.

Indeed Catriona and John his late father – both of them fondly missed – accommodated the Tullamore Rhymers on the foundation of the club for a meeting place where as a writing group we shared and commented on each others work.

My favourite one of Kens was about one of his children, who shared a secret as only kids can. The verse was akin to the ones Cormac Lally used to do, and as only a parent can about their kids, which was enjoyed by parents in the room even more than the rest of us.

Then I took to the stage. Having not slipped on the gravel, or stumbled on the stage itself I was doing grand. I had a screen grab of a couple of poems I wanted to read on the phone ready to go.

In war they say, the plan fails at the first engagement. While poetry isnt war, with me at least that rule too applys. The screensaver kicked in. The phone froze. As I was blathering and doing quite a good job bluffing about a sense of identity I finally had to give up reading “Memories of Grandmother at Drumnahara, and whipped out a copy of the chapbook “Ommm” I did a few years back.

When in a crisis, stick to the old reliables is the best advice I can give anyone about doing a gig, be it a reading, a recitation or a song. So i stated with “Walking the Bog“, Give to Me and Angry Sea,  and finished up with There is no Time for Art.

David Mallaghan then read some of his own poems, touching on the situation in Palestine among other issues. he then done a reading of poems of Noeleen Flanagan, which touched on love loss and a philosophical look at life and what we need from it.

Dave Hynes, our hostage Dubliner, aka honerary Tullamore Rhymer took to the stage with his Poetry Suitcase. From it came the wonders of the verses he does, from the intellectual poems written in response to paintings, to the fun based Alliteration poems, reading Flitteration.

As he read and spoke of the loss of his brother Clive we remembered too another Dubliner who often graced the stage at Scene of the Rhyme and F15 / F14 events, the late and much missed talent that was Paul Curran of Coolock.

Cormac Lally took up the foot of the night. I have described him before as controversial. but a great talent. And he provided the exact opposite of what Anthony Sullivan had presented as tribute to the victims of 911. Lallys take was something along the lines of:

…what if the conspiacy theoroes are true, it was an US inside job, the organisers were in Trump Tower just beside the Twin Towers discussing how it would make them rich, but the terrorists had been on the lash, suffering the mother of all hangovers, missed the Twins by an inch and hit Trump Tower instead…

Scene of the Rhyme – Relaunch Promo Poster

If THATS what he wrote about 911, I wonder how he will weave the Great Fire of Tullamore into the verse he has to write as part of his posting as the Town Laurate of Tullamore!

The most memorable line was “Jimmy Saville grabbed Paris Hilton / She was the youngest one there“.


He went there!

The next Scene of the Rhyme has a lot ot live up to, but with the talent available locally and those who visit the town of Tullamore, the future indeed it is bright!!!

A big thanks to Mally for organising the event, it was great meeting the Rhymers and freinds. I managed to make the bus in Kilbeggan without any mishaps, but the following day in Galway is best forgoten, where I got convinced I was the Demon of Disaster if not the Angel of Death itself!!!


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