Monday 20 November 2017

Patrick Galvin

The influential poet and author was treasured in his native Cork, writes Ralph Riegel

IRELAND last week lost one of the greats of modern literature with the death of Patrick Galvin at 83.

Poet, author and occasional songwriter, Galvin died in his native Cork from a short illness last Tuesday.

His works led to the 2003 Hollywood film, Song for a Raggy Boy, and also inspired recordings by Christy Moore and John Spillane.

Fellow poets Theo Dorgan and Thomas McCarthy described him as a towering influence on Irish literature over the past half century.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Michael O'Connell said Galvin had been an artistic standard- bearer for Cork for decades.

Such was his influence that he was ranked alongside Frank O'Connor, Elisabeth Bowen and William Trevor.

Mr Galvin had been in frail health over recent times.

He suffered a serious stroke in 2003 -- ironically the year that the Raggy Boy film, starring Aidan Quinn, was released -- and had limited his public appearances since then. Following the stroke he had largely been confined to a wheelchair.

Mr Galvin's three-part Raggy Boy memoirs have been hailed as amongst the finest of contemporary Irish writing and several of his works were featured by both RTE and the BBC.

The poet was a member of Aosdana, the Arts Council body which recognises outstanding talent and achievement in the artistic field.

Born in 1927 in the shadow of Cork's St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Mr Galvin had travelled to Northern Ireland during World War Two intending to join the US armed forces -- but unintentionally wound up in the Royal Air Force.

His early life before the war was marked by his being sent to a reform school in Daingean in Offaly -- an experience that was powerfully detailed in his memoirs.

After his RAF term, Mr Galvin began writing, and gradually came to prominence in the 1960s. His poetry collections include Heart of Grace, Christ in London, The Woodburners, Man on the Porch and The Death of Art O'Leary.

A prolific artist, he also wrote plays for radio, made recordings of his favourite ballads and wrote short stories. In the 1970s and 80s his works enjoyed increasing acclaim and both Christy Moore and John Spillane put some of his poems to music.

Spillane's Mad Woman of Cork remains one the most renowned examples of Galvin's adapted poems.

Christy Moore became such a fan that, at his insistence, Patrick Galvin joined him on stage during one of his concerts at the annual 'Live at the Marquee' series in Cork.

Tributes were paid to his work over recent years with Cork City Council lauding him as "a Cork treasure."

President Mary McAleese honoured him during the 2005 European Capital of Culture ceremony in Cork by selecting one of his poems for public recitation.

University College Cork awarded him an honorary doctorate five years ago.

He married four times. He had five children, three sons and two daughters. One of his sons was the highly regarded entertainment writer, Patrick Newley, who predeceased his father two years ago.

Mr Galvin kept writing up until a few months before his death.

Fellow Cork poet, Thomas McCarthy, described him as "a superstar" of our generation.

Sunday Independent

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