I will be playing a gig on this Friday night in Páidí Ó Sé's Bar in Ard a' Bhóthair, Ventry, County Kerry. It's been three and a half years now since Páidí passed away and his presence is still very much missed. During the last three years of his life myself and Páidi became friends, and I played gigs in his pub every long weekend. He was a larger than life character and I really enjoyed the company and the craic with him. T'was gas travelling down to play for Páidí, a picture of myself on the posters stuck in the side of the West Kerry ditches, covered in plastic, guiding me along like, "Tonight! John Spillane! Páidí Ó Sé's, 9pm, Fáilte!"

The first one used to be at the hairpin bend at Log na gCapall, another above at Garraí na dTor, and another few all along the lovely road out by the sea to the crossroads at Ard a' Bhóthair. "The most important thing about putting up the posters, John, is taking down the posters!" What a laugh tearing around Corca Dhuibhne in the 'Silver Bullet' late at night with Páidí, taking down the posters, flashing past the reeds in the darkness, the big ol' Gaeltacht moon above in the sky. We landed into some gap in an old stone wall. "Cá bhfuilimid a Pháidí?" says I, "Where are we?" It was Ventry graveyard, and a poster of me leaning against the wall - "Tis Holy Saturday, John, they visit their dead!" 

Páidí was hugely enthusiastic about my songs, and he took a special fancy to 'The Ballad of Patrick Murphy' which was a brand new song the first time I went down to him. It was a great honour for me when he picked it as his musical choice when he was on with Mick O' Dwyer on the radio with Miriam O' Callaghan, and when he travelled up to Passage West to be at my Community Award night in Passage GAA Club.

Every time I went down there was some different craic going on. One time Páidí wasn't there at all, and it wasn't till later on when I'd finished the gig I was told - Páidí wants you on the phone. "John! John! Will you come over the mountain? John! Will you come over the mountain, and sing the Ballad of Patrick Murphy for my friend Mícheál in Clahane? John! John!" Páidí óg kindly drove me over the Conor Pass that night; I'll never forget the fright I got that time at the great geysers of water splashing down on the bonnet of the car. Those streams that flow down the Conor Pass are guided by tunnels and pipes under the road, and sometimes the wind blows up from the abyss, an duibheagán, and shoots them back up into the sky to come crashing down on the road. There was an otherwordly feel about that midnight journey over the mountain to Clahane. I sang a good few songs over there, and Páidí entertained me with stories of football matches and piseogs and All Ireland medals. 

"I have eight All Ireland medals John!" he'd say. "Is it eight you have Páidí?" I'd say, "Congratulations! What an achievement!". "Will I tell you something about them John?". "Do Páidí, do!". "I didn't get one of them John, not one of them, at the bottom of a lucky bag!". "No lucky bag, Páidí?" I'd say, and then Páidí would list the medals and the cups and the trophies he had won, in the high Kerry rhetoric, rising to a crescendo as he reached the dizzying heights of the All Ireland medals, and then he'd finish with " And not one of them came out of the bottom of a lucky bag!" Such craic, I loved the talk out of him.

His daughters Neasa and Siún were saying to me that I might compose a song about Páidí. I was saying I would but then death came and put and end to the craic, and interrupted everything, and took him away, and put a stop to the songwriting for a while; 


Páidí Ó Sé

The king is dead,

Páidí is gone,

He is gone down like the sun,

Like a rainbow over Ventry Harbour,

Like a shooting star over Dingle Bay.

Like a shaft of sunlight over the Fear Marbh,


Whose gonna sing for Páidí Ó Sé?

The news of your death spread like a fairy wind,

Through the island of Ireland,

From Dún Chaoin to Dún na nGall,

From Béal an Mhuirthead to Béal Feirste,

D'imigh trí gháir mholta suas chun na spéire i bPáirc an Chrócaigh dhuit,


D'imigh scéal do bháis a Pháidí timpeall oileán iathghlas Éireann,

Ar nós sí gaoithe,

Mar d'imigh Labhrán Lámhfhada na mórthuras fada,

Go Cath Fionntrá i gcruth iolair fadó, 

Leis na hairm a dhein Bolcán gabha Ifrinn,

Do Dháire Donn, rí an domhain,

Ó chnoc go cnoc is ó ghleann go gleann,

Tugadh éadroime na ngasán sonais iontu,

Gur shroich sé dún a athar, 

Idir gairm an choiligh agus lá,


And it's goodbye, goodbye Páidí, 

Goodbye Páidí Ó Sé, 

All alive and shining,

On All Ireland Final Day.


Goodbye, goodbye Páidí,

From Ventry brave and bold,

The captain of your company,

All dressed in green and gold.


The old gods from the mountain,

They smiled to see you play,

All alive and shining,

All Ireland Final Day.


D'imigh scéal do bháis a Pháidí timpeall oileán iathghlas Éireann,

Ar nós sí gaoithe, ó Shliabh an Iolair go Cnoc Bhréanainn,

Ó Bhréanainn go Sliabh Mis, ó Mhis go Mullach an Ois,

Go Corcaigh na long is na seol, go ceithre chúigí na hÉireann,

Go Cnoc Áine, Sliabh na mBan, go Binn Éadair,

Chuaigh trí gháir mholta in áirde ós cionn Pháirc an Chrócaigh dhuit a Phádraig,

Go Béal Feirste, go Doire Cholmcille,

Go Gaillimh, go Sionainn, 

Go raibh ár laoch ar lár, 

Ár mbuachaill bán, ár ngiolla mear,


Theres a football waiting for you at the gates of heaven Páidí,

Let's leave the losing for another day, let's win this game today. 


John Spillane, Passage West, August 2016.



Published on 11th August 2016

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