Tom French Pictured in The Irish Times 2014
As readers and writers we are all always in pursuit of, what Seamus Heaney famously called,“that moment of joy, of lift, of unexpected reward.” Weaving through the pages of this centenary Boyne Berries are anger, humour, reflection, spikiness, wistfulness, regret and raw emotion. We encounter the radical idea of dying at Easter and not rising; the notion – particularly poignant in the light of the recent publication of a new translation of Book VI of The Aeneid – of quarrels among the shades; we encounter the idea of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington as a hippie protesting against Vietnam; we meet the compassion of a person who attempts, with her hands, to put a man just parted from himself back together again in order to be whole enough to enter Eternity. And there are other beautiful things. In this centenary issue I was struck by many things. It has taken me until now, reading these pages, to discover, that the perfect collective noun for birds is ‘a sky’, and it will never now be anything else except ‘a sky of birds.’ This is, I believe, why we read, to encounter the tiniest phrase and to be struck by its rightness. Here too I read of ‘train light ghosting the bottom of a field’, of the ‘tenderness at the root of things,’ and of the deep difference between anointing and elation. As citizens we are being exhorted this year to remember, to reflect and to re-imagine. As a librarian I am delighted to welcome this centenary Boyne Berries and to commend its contributors. Not only does it remember, reflect and re-imagine, it is full of soul and song and unexpected reward.
Tom French, March 2016