Friday 18 January 2019

A day in loving memory of writer Philip Casey

Sara Gahan

A group of friends and family of the late poet and writer Philip Casey, who passed away earlier this year, have come together to honour his memory with 'A Day for Philip'.

The committee have a number of events planned for the occasion, which will take place in Hollyfort, on Saturday, June 24, including the unveiling of a memorial plaque on the bridge at Grove Mill, at 2.30 p.m. The plaque is located close to the house where Philip spent his formative years.

The unveiling will be followed by a celebration of his life and work in the local Church of Ireland, where there will be short talks and readings from his work by family and friends. Afterwards, there will be refreshments in the Community Centre.

This important event is being very generously sponsored by Gorey Municipal District, Hollyfort Development Group, family and friends.

Even though Philip was born in London in 1950, the family moved from Screen in Wexford to Hollyfort in 1961. He attended Monaseed National School from 1961 and then Gorey CBS Secondary School, where he completed his Leaving Certificate in 1971.

It was around this time that Philip became very involved with the then 'Funge Art Festival', and following this published his book 'The Planet and Stars became Friends' in 1974.

Philip described his childhood in Wexford as the place 'that sank a deep well in my imagination'.

After secondary school, Philip moved to Dublin and then to Barcelona in 1975, where he taught English and travelled a lot. By this time Philip's work started to be published widely in literary magazines.

On his return from Barcelona, Philip became a full time writer and commenced work on a series of novels, known as the Bann River Trilogy that would win him national and international acclaim, including winning the inaugural Kerry Ingredients Listowel Writers' Novel of the Year in 1995 for The Fabulists. The next novel in the trilogy was The Water Star in 1999. The publication of The Fisher Child in 2001 completed the trilogy. The novels were very well-received and brought Philip to the attention of a wider and an international audience.

In The Bann River trilogy, the scenes move back and forth between many distant and exotic locations but the novels always feature the landscape and places of North Wexford, with which Philip was so familiar.

He maintained a symbiotic relationship with North Wexford despite having no family connection with it in later years. He never lost contact with north Wexford or his friends.

Philip was also a critically acclaimed and excellent poet. His first collection, Those Distant Summers, was published in 1980.

From this, works appeared in 'Tried and Sentenced, Selected poems' under the imprint of Emaker editions which was his own independent publishing label. His friend, Eamonn Wall, in a recent appreciation piece in the poetry magazine, Cyphers said that 'Philip used his technical skills to make us look at what is familiar in slightly different and transformative ways'.

Gorey Guardian