Knocknagow not dead and gone – the ‘little village’ spirit lives on

Pictured at the opening of the Kickham Country Weekend were - Fr Fergus O' Farrell, Historian;  Cllr Eddie O' Meara, Chairman, Carrick on Suir Municipal District Council; Billy Gardiner, Festival Chairman; Senator Labhras O Murchu, who officially opened the event; Padraigin Riggs, who gave the first lecture; John Dillon; and Archbishop Dermot Clifford.
Charles J Kickham was possibly one of the most important figures in Irish history, the annual weekend remembering the famous writer and patriot was told at the weekend.

Charles J Kickham was possibly one of the most important figures in Irish history, the annual weekend remembering the famous writer and patriot was told at the weekend.

The description came from Comhaltas Ceoiltoiri Eireann director general Senator Labhras O Murchu, who said that much of what Kickham said in his famed novel ‘Knocknagow’ still holds relevance today.

Kickham’s legacy was celebrated in Mullinahone for the 32nd year with the Kickham Country Weekend.

However, the driving force for the event, secretary Sheila Foley, was unable to attend Friday’s opening in the Kickham Community Centre through illness, but she was wished well in her absence.

And Senator O Murchu described her as a remarkable and inspiring person who did things the Kickham way –- for the honour of the little village.

The CCE boss said that wherever he speaks he finds it difficult not to mention Charles J Kickham.

“He is possibly one of the most important figures in Irish history.

“He was endeavouring to encapsulate every aspect of Irish life, particulary rural life, and also hoping to point out the qualities that went with that community life of helping each other and not just being self centred”.

He said he had both acted in and produced stage versions of ‘Knocknagow’ and can still feel the sentiments that Kickham was sending with every one of the characters, all of whom encapsulated the man aspirations, challenges and failures that went with community life.

Senator O Murchu recalled that he had also officially opened the weekend over twenty years ago, and remarked that there had been many changes in Irish society since, changes that Kickham would have approved.

He mentioned the Northern Ireland peace process and said that last year’s Fleadh Cheoil in Derry had attacted 430,000 people.

“There were people there from both communities, from the Waterside and the Bogside. Kickham would have been delghted that a place with a turbulent history saw nearly half a million people celebrate together”.

He believed that Kickham would enjoy the ‘new Ireland’.

Senator O Murchu said the final line of Kickham’s book was – ‘Knocknagow is dead and gone’ but that might not be true any longer.

“Knocknagow was the changing Ireland and in many ways he was right but he also might now change that particular sentiment. If you look at our own identity as a people and in terms of our rich heritage against all the odds, it is still intact.

“Just look at music and all the young people who now play Irish music – there are more playing it now than at any time so that is a cultural revolution.

“It is the same with the language. In the 50s and 60s in Ireland there was a negative debate about it, but now there’s a sense of goodwill about the language.

“Since we are in Europe with a European identity, young people now realise that every other country has a language and they want to protect, promote and enhance it, especially in areas such as literature”.

Ireland had also suffered a mass exodus during those decades.

“The wealth of Ireland was travelling to the four corners of the earth and with it a sense of loss, desperation and failure but we have turned that about through the tenacity of character of the Irish people and Kickham again embraced that concept.

“We weren’t saying that we were better than any other or our culture better, but as Kickham said, doing things for the honour of the little village”.

Senator O Murchu said there was nothing wrong in honouring someone with a monument or with a weekend such as they were attending but a better way was to to assess, analyse and measure the values of that person and try to emulate them.

“We should try to emulate the patriotism, commitment and sacrifice made by Kickham and Padraig Pearse because they didn’t do it for selfish reasons”.