A Mayo town lost in the mists of time recalled to life by poetry that free-flows like the Moy

A Mayo town lost in the mists of time recalled to life by poetry that free-flows like the Moy St. Muredach’s Cathedral, Ballina
Ballina Remembered

by Aubrey Malone (Lapwing Publications, Belfast, €9.99; ISBN 978-1-9163457-1-3; copies can be ordered direct from the publisher marymannion@hotmail.com)

Noel Monahan

Here we have a collection of memory poems to take you back in time to Ballina, Co. Mayo. It’s about memory and images from the past, a view from the inside with the outside world flashing in and out. Like much memory poetry, the metronome of the past is forever beating to music: Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Elvis. There is much talk about films: John Wayne’s speech from The Alamo and The Guns of Navarone.

This book gives poetry a good name. The creative hand is light and free in the best sense of the art of writing poetry. It is not deliberately ornamental or trying to force images on the reader. The poems flow with the ease of your breathing.

Characters abide with striking realism: the nun whose face you could hardly see, ‘The Cottrells’ from England who owned a garage and had one of the first televisions in Ballina, and of course there has to be an ‘Auntie Nellie’:

She didn’t marry. / She would have been too much / for any man / and any man / would have been too much for her.


This is a poet who points the reader in the direction of all the interesting places in the Ballina district: The Font, The River Moy, the corner / outside Cafolla’s, St Muredach’s Cathedral, Keohane’s Book Shop…and close by ‘Enniscrone’ where the sheep look up at you / as if nothing could bother them.

Surely the tourist bodies in the West of Ireland, local radio and the local press have all spotted this unique publication.

Aubrey Malone can be satirical at times, especially with regard to language and its usage in more recent times. The long poem ‘Then and Now’ is direct with its list of our strange clichés of today: people didn’t tell you / to, ‘have a nice day’ / they knew it was your business / what kind of day you had /…
closets were things / you kept your clothes in, / not things you came out of / to declare your sexuality…

Some poems figure out the poet’s close observation of his father and mother. The poem ‘Opposites’ is a finely-constructed poem dealing with both his parents: she was at ease with herself / but not the world / he was at ease with the world / but not with himself. The poem ‘To My Mother’ has a ring of Patrick Kavanagh’s about it: you’re not gone / you’re here / cooking, mending, / tending hopes and fears…

At another level the collection of poetry deals with the social and cultural changes in Ireland over the last 70 years or so. Take the poem ‘Confessional’: in Ballina in the 50s / priests were gods / now they are spat at / on the streets…

The poem ‘Sins’ gives the same topic further attention: we went on retreats / we did sodalities / we got miraculous medals / we got plenty of indulgences / …Ireland moved / from being a Catholic country / to a post-Catholic one…it was a label we wore / we liked it more…

The poet identifies himself alongside memories of ghosts from the past and the realisation of the upheaval of change today”

And Malone observes further on: you don’t see children / playing outside their homes now / you don’t see hool-a-hoops / or skipping ropes /

Ballina Remembered by Aubrey Malone is published by Lapwing, a poetry press based in Belfast. It is a tome of 137 poems, spread over 300 pages.

The subject matter is constantly on the move. The poet identifies himself alongside memories of ghosts from the past and the realisation of the upheaval of change today.

It is a collection of rural and urban poems with a sad note of disappointment when the poet leaves Ballina and heads to Dublin. The poem ‘Presidential Ambitions’ has an interesting Dublin twist. The poetry collection is interspersed with many photos: of streets and places, film stars, TV personalities and family relations.

I feel the poems speak with their own strong images and don’t need the photographs but that is just a personal opinion and I’m sure many readers will delight in them.

Aubrey Malone’s poetic thoughts, narratives and observations flow easily with wordplay and self mockery. Ballina Remembered has magic and charm and will get you thinking. It is well worth reading.

A Cavan-based poet and teacher, Longford-born Noel Monahan’s latest publication is Chalk Dust (Salmon Poetry).