Turf Smoke by Conall Ó Beoláin
The front room of a farm house in County Sligo, at night. Three siblings in their 40s/50s have gathered for the funeral of their elderly father.
Sheila is looking through an old notebook. Eamonn stares into space. Pat enters with a bucket of turf and some cipíns, he sets to work at the fireplace.
Sheila: Oh, come on Pat, it’s too late to put a fire down.
Eamonn: That hasn’t been lit in ages, you’ll smoke the place out.
Pat: You’re the one that was cold.
Sheila: I don’t want to smell of smoke tomorrow, Pat.
Pat: Níl aon tinteán mar do….
Eamonn: Oh don’t start that nonsense now.
Pat: What? Dad always had a good fire down in here.
Eamonn: (Shaking his head) Carting in and out buckets of turf.
Pat: It kept you warm when you were a babby.
Eamonn: An awful waste of time!
Sheila: That’s not true.
Sheila: It’s what made Dad happy. Making sure Mam had a good fire in the range for baking.
Pat: And a neat stack of turf saved for the winter.
Eamonn: Turf!? Don’t start. All those hours we spent on the bog, oh my God!
Pat: For all the hours you spent there.
Eamonn: I grew a bit of sense.
Sheila: He kept the old tractor running, just for those few months in the summer.
Eamonn: When he could have bought a quad.
Sheila: But he loved fixing things and…..tinkering around. Dropping down to Connor’s garage for a chat.
Pat: (turning to the room) I was talking to Patsy Freyne. He said they’ll use the old hearse tomorrow.
Eamonn: The Mercedes?
Pat: Yeah. Remember when they got it new? “2020-SO-20” - Patsy senior was so proud of that number plate!
Sheila: Mam’s last journey was in that hearse.
(The room falls into silence, as they reflect)
Eamonn: It must be the last petrol engine on the go around here?
Pat: Now, she’s away! (The fire begins to blaze).
Sheila: This one might suit. (An entry in the notebook)
Pat: There was always a grand draw in that chimney.
Eamonn: You’ll be lucky if we don’t get reported.
Eamonn: Turf smoke!
Pat: What are they going to do? Send the Gardaí out?
Eamonn: You better not tell your own children, they won’t be too pleased.
Pat: What do you mean?
Eamonn: Your Saoirse is a real eco-warrior.
Eamonn: She can’t believe you still eat meat.
Pat: I’ll eat what I bloody well like!
Eamonn: If she finds out you were burning turf…
Sheila: For God’s sake will ye stop! On the night that’s in it! What would Dad think?
(The glow from the fire grows. Sheila leafs through the notebook.)
Sheila: Listen to this one:
Pat: He said no eulogy, Sheila.
Eamonn: Why not?
Pat: He hated all that ………..plámás!
Sheila: Well, I’d like to read one of his own poems. At the end of the mass.
Pat: I dunno.
Eamonn: It can’t do any harm.
Sheila: It’s one of the last things he wrote.
Sheila: This time two years ago. I think you’ll like it, Pat.
Sheila: Just listen:
“Will they walk behind me to Kilgarvan?
Will the rain shower blow away, as they climb Egan’s hill?
And will the sunlight catch the flowers that grow on the bend at McGowan’s?
As the priest says the last few prayers, will they smell the fresh earth, and let their eyes follow the clouds racing towards Benbulben?
And will a robin stand close by, perched on the handle of a spade?
As they sprinkle the soil onto my coffin,
Falling on me like rain”
A native of Mayo, Conall came to drama in his 40’s, finding a home with Dalkey Players as an actor and as part of a writing group. This play reflects his love of the outdoors, Irish language and culture. Conall’s work Ar Scáth a Chéile appears in Fishamble’s Tiny Play Challenge 2020.
Excellent play. Great poem at the end.
Oh, Conall, what a great little story, painting such a real part of all our lives. It’s so much harder to do it with few words, and you’ve mastered it beautifully. Regards, Jackie (Dalkey Players)
Emma Jane Nulty
That’s beautiful Conall, so evocative.
Atmospheric. Rhythms of speech that transport one into that living room. I can smell that burning turf.
My jumper smells of turf smoke.and I can hear the swoosh of wind turbines in the far distance!
P J Rudden
That’s great Conall ..
Leave a Reply.