Wednesday 23 October 2019

Many gather for a day to remember Philip Casey

The late Philip Casey
The late Philip Casey
Karina, Peter and John Casey unveiling the plaque at Grove Mill in honour of the late Philip Casey
St John’s Church in Hollyfort was packed for the ‘A Day for Philip’ celebration

Sara Gahan

More than 200 people gathered in the picturesque village of Hollyfort to remember writer and poet Philip Casey who sadly passed away in February.

The commemoration day entitled 'A Day for Philip' included the unveiling of a memorial plaque by his brother John and sister Karina at Grove Mill Bridge.

Minister of State Michael D'Arcy, Cllr Malcolm Byrne and Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin attended, while apologies were received from a number of well-known writers and close friends of Philip who were not able to make it. They included Paddy Doyle, Dermot Bolger, Sebastian Barry and Katie Donovan. The event was put together by Gap Arts Festival, Hollyfort Community Development Association and Gorey Municipal District.

Philip was the son of the late Ann and Pat Casey, who were very well-known in the area. The family moved from Screen in 1961 to a farm at Grove Mill, Hollyfort, when Philip was aged 11. Philip was educated in Monaseed National School and then at Gorey CBS, where he completed his Leaving Certificate. The landscape, people, history and tradition of North Wexford feature in all of Philip's artistic output and this is reflected in the name of his trilogy of novels, which is known as 'The Bann River trilogy'.

The day events began at Grove Mill Bridge, which is only a short distance away from the place where Philip grew up. His brother John began the unveiling of the plaque by giving a very descriptive talk on the impact of the local area and its characters on Philip's life and his writing. John said the house at Grove Mill was the place where Philip first started to write, using scraps of paper.

Before Philips' sister Karina unveiled the plaque, she read his poem 'The Windfall Oak'. The inspiration for this poem was from a fallen oak tree on the nearly 'Webster's' island.

St John's Church was the venue for a number of readings from Philip's work later that day, which included music played by some very talented local musicians. The MC for the afternoon was well-known actor and Gap Arts Festival organiser Garrett Keogh.

Local poets Carol Boland and Sylvia Cullen, along with Philip's brother Peter, read some of his work. Among these were also some of Philip's oldest friends from the literary world including Paula Meehan, Eamonn Wall and Theo Dorgan.

Dublin poet and singer Tony Curtis gave an emotional tribute to Philip, by singing a beautiful rendition of 'The Parting Glass'. It was a favourite of Philip's and was last sang at his funeral service.

The event was brought to a close by a cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Dance me to the end of Love' by singer Emer Byrne, who was accompanied by cello and uileann pipes. Philip was a fan of Leonard Cohen.

Refreshments were served in the Community Hall afterwards. The organisers would like to thank the Gap Arts Festival, Hollyfort Community Development Association and Gorey Municipal District for the support.

Gorey Guardian