Patrick Kavanagh

“We live and we sometimes learn”

I live 14 miles from Inniskeen, so it is very appropriate that Patrick Kavanagh is featured in Irish words of wisdom. From all accounts Patrick Kavanagh was a straight talker and many stories about his life continue to permeate the echos of the man who ascends further with every day that passes. Oh Shiny great soul of Monaghan


About the Son of Monaghan

Patrick Kavanagh was born in 1904 in the village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan. He was the forth son of 10 children his father was a cobbler and farmer. He left school at the age of 13 to work with father as a shoe maker and farmer.

Kavanagh published his first poem; Address to an Old Wooden Gate, in the Dundalk Democrat in 1929, though he’d been an apprentice poet for some years before. Known for his accounts of Irish life through reference to the everyday and commonplace, Kavanagh considered provincial by his peers. Kavanagh’s career can be considered in four stages”. In summary, these stages are: the poems prior to The Great Hunger (1942); The Great Hunger and the poems after 1942 – included in Kavanagh’s poetry collection, A Soul for Sale; the Come Dance with Kitty Stobling poems, which include the Canal Bank Walk poems (1960); and the poems of the period after 1960, most of which appear in Collected Poems (1964). The first three of these phases denote a varying, inconsistent, but unmistakably modernist sensibility

His was an oppressive peasant lifestyle and he carried and felt it to his soul. He felt an ever bigger problem than poverty was the lack of education, knowledge, artistic and spiritual fulfilment and is quoted to have said:


“The real poverty was lack of enlightenment…
I am afraid this fog of unknowing affected me dreadfully.”

Patrick Kavanagh A Legacy

Through all of his trials and tribulations it was in his final years, where he found love, confidence, and a meaningful faith and finally his poetry achieved the magnificence and notoriety.

Kavanghs works has influenced many a budding poet across the Island of Ireland. Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is acknowledged to have been influenced by Kavanagh. Heaney was introduced to Kavanagh’s work by the writer Michael McLaverty when they taught together at St Thomas’s, Belfast. Heaney and Kavanagh shares a belief in the capacity of the local, or parochial, to reveal the universal. Heaney once said that Kavanagh’s poetry “had a transformative effect on the general culture and liberated the gifts of the poetic generations who came after him.” Heaney noted: “Kavanagh is a truly representative modern figure in that his subversiveness was turned upon himself: dissatisfaction, both spiritual and artistic, is what inspired his growth…. His instruction and example helped us to see an essential difference between what he called the parochial and provincial mentalities”. As Kavanagh put it: “All great civilizations are based on the parish”. He concludes that Kavanagh’s poetry vindicates his “indomitable faith in himself and in the art that made him so much more than himself”.

If you are in the area you can visit the Patrick Kavanagh Centre. Find out more about at or contact them on 042 937 8560


Patrick Kavanagh sums his life up perfectly in his poem

If you ever go to Dublin town

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
And 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,
And I tell you

On Pembroke Road look out for me 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
And 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
And 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,