But if dogs have a heaven, Theres one thing I know,Old shep has a wonderful home

 Howrtings Lanky

Grand, grand, which quickly covers a multitude. He held up his bag,

Veggies for the week.

You couldn’t miss Eugene at 6’6”, towering above the crowded  market. I remember a smell of beer from him when we were kids. The doctors said he was growing too fast and couldn’t put up weight. So after the instant it took him to hoover his dinner, he’d drink a pint bottle of Guinness. He and I sat together in secondary school and I also remember him snoozing during the first two classes in the afternoon.

39 quid he cost me last week, and the previous week the same thing.

He’d noticed the dog limping. Lanky doesn’t work, so money’s tight and there are no veterinary subsidies.

So what happens if he’s not right this time?

We’ll have to operate and stitch the tendon.

And how much will that cost?


It’d be cheaper to bring him to Lourdes.

The veggie stall is just in front of the arch, under which sits a man with an accordion and a friendly face. He’s there most weeks and there’s another fella, with big black horn rimmed bifocals, who stands it with him singing unfamiliar songs. Have you heard Luke Kelly sing, he played with the Dubliners? Well Luke had a unique talent, beyond description. I remember my mam crying one day as she listened to Luke sing a Phil Coulter song on the radio, “Scorn not his simplicity”. Makes me cry to this day, but it’s the voice, Luke’s voice.

There have been Luke imitators since he died and more often then not they get it arseways, his songs are laments and their voices too thin. But the guy with the glasses who stands in with yer man who sits under the arch, he has the Luke voice and if you wait a while he’ll sing Raglin Road.

Paddy Kavanagh loved a girl he could never be with, and wrote a poem and put it to this old air. The combination gets me, always, Paddy’s words, Luke’s voice, the lament, the arch, the unrequited love. If you want a little cry, ask him nicely to sing the song.



6 responses to “But if dogs have a heaven, Theres one thing I know,Old shep has a wonderful home

  1. The speakers on my ‘puter are tinny enough I couldn’t hear the lyrics properly so I googled them. It’s definitely a lament when you hear it but when I read it I didn’t see that his love was unrequited. It read to me like he had fallen in love with a beauty, they’d had a fling but she couldn’t appreciate the poetry he wrote for her – she was a disappointment ” a creature made of clay” and they split up – it doesn’t say who initiated the break. I thought it could be read several ways but it seemed a bit bitter to me – he seems to be saying: what a waste of time she was. I could have been reading or writing or experiencing a more abstract beauty but instead I was knocking about with “The Queen of Hearts” (was she a prostitute then? Lovely but uncultured? He does see her all the time on the streets.

  2. Oh big smarty pants Sam ! Now I had to go and read the words again, cause I’d fallen in love with my idea of what the whole shebang was about. I think she was Donagh O’Malley’s missus ( he was a very serious politician here ) and she may also have been from a very wealthy family. Paddy on the other hand was from a poor family of small farmers in Monaghan, and sacrificed all for his art and lived in relative poverty in Dublin. I believe that’s part of the context of the poem. The unrequited thing is an echo from my teenage years, I’ve know many a Queen of Tarts.

  3. A quote from the Blogpsphere,

    Another of his loves was Hilda: Unless you come/ I shall die in a ditch (CP164);… Hilda, she was the sun (CP165). But the romance died when he discovered: that “futures” are illusions filled with misery. Hilda wanted a man with a future, the sure sign of a shallow mind- or in the words of Shaw “middle class blasphemy” (LF105;SK152). RAGLAN ROAD was written when Hilda left (CP399). K took it very badly when she became engaged in 1947 to “a quack architect from Limerick… I pity the poor shit, both of them” (LF106). Peter called him “a minor politician” (CP398;SK126). They married later that year (LF119). The man was Donagh O’Malley, who became Minister of Education. Donagh died in 1968 and Hilda in March 1991. They were friends of the Taoiseach. In memory of Hilda’s death, Mr. Haughey recited RAGLAN ROAD at the Cabinet Meeting before the 1991 Ard Fheis.

  4. Loved this! I have Phil Coulter (who wrote the song) singing this and he does a great job also. But I agree with you no one could sing ‘Scorn not his Simplicity’ like him. Bit of a boyo was our Luke, but with a heart of gold and a voice like cracked glass but oh so sweet and full of longing, like he knew about sadness and unrequited love and how it feels to be lonely in a crowd. great post!

  5. Love Raglin Road, one of my fave songs ever. I actually wrote about the Paddy Kavanagh / Donagh O’Malley connection myself a few years back.


  6. Howarya John,

    Caught your link. One of the good things about school was that we covered Paddy Kavanagh. I think when we’re exposed to good stuff at that age, it sticks. Your mam was talking about Donagh’s missus Hilda. Paddy had the big time hots for her.

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