Monday, 8 June 2009

DEATH OF P.J. BARRY

P J with guitar in cowboy mode !
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P. J. RIDES OFF
INTO THE SUNSET
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The death occurred recently of P. J. Barry, poet, wit and philosopher of Ardnacrusha , County Clare. P.J. was a larger than life character who for a living made and sold garden sheds, however his daytime occupation was only half the story of a colourful persona.He was a gifted raconteur and wit who cast a sardonic eye on the excesses of middle class society. Outside his business premises there was a selection of epigrams by his literary hero Oscar Wilde on display for the education and jollification of the passing traffic.
On my return to the house here at Ardhu about 12 years ago my uncle Frank decided to buy me a garden shed as a kind of house-warming gift. Frank was a onetime neighbour of the Barry’s when he lived at Ballycannon and knew P.J.’s father Mick well, so we arrived at the Ardnacrusha premises to make the purchase. We were warmly welcomed by the man himself then ushered in to the back and the exotic delights of El Paso, a shed P.J. had converted in to a Wild West saloon. Fitted out with a fully functioning bar El Paso had entertained P.J. and friends through many a night and into the early hours, while on that afternoon we remained strictly tea-total ! For over two hours P. J. regaled us with stories and poems and his own distinctive perspective on life in modern Ireland. During the conversation he expressed his admiration for Paddy O’Gorman the journalist who interviewed the ordinary people of Ireland in his radio programme. In fact he presented me with a copy of Paddy’s book, ‘Queuing For A Living’.
P .J. (right) watches Frank being buried at Kilquane.
Frank of course was in his element reminiscing about the old days and neighbours and acquaintances around Ballycannon. We were both impressed by our hosts wide breadth of knowledge especially of literature and of course his unique, if slightly jaundiced commentary on the new prosperous Ireland. Both men agreed that in bygone days people happily reared large families in tiny little cottages, while today relatively huge houses are home to families of two or three children !
About six years ago P.J. hit the headlines when he erected his own headstone at Ballycannon Cemetery falling foul of the local Council Authorities. The headstone bore the epitaph, “What, that time already ?” and “lived in chains…now free at last !” P.J. had to move the stone several times to comply with the Council’s regulations ,but eventually found a resting place where he was buried last month. Only last February an obviously unwell P.J. made his way to attend Frank’s burial at Kilquane and I spoke briefly to him on that occasion. P.J. had a huge sense of the importance of people and place and in his own inimitable manner he added greatly to the colour and diversity of Ardnacrusha and surrounds and indeed to all who knew and loved him. In one final act that demonstrated this quality , he was laid out at McMahon’s funeral home arrayed in a cowboy outfit complete with a US Marshal’s badge, cowboy buckle, waistcoat and bandanna. P.J. is survived by his wife Teresa, son Paul and daughters Kerry and Antoinette.
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Gerard O'Shea

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ger- Thanks for taking the time to write such a nice piece on Dad. His family really appreciate it- PJ s daughter Kerrie.

Dew of Hermon said...

Kerrie,
Thanks for getting in touch I'm glad my little tribute to your dad meant something to you and your family. Ardnacrusha is a duller place without him and I know you must feel his loss greatly.
Gerry

Breda said...

Gerard,
Thank you so much for your nice "homage" to P.J. I'm sure that he would smile if he could access it (perhaps he can?). I do remember your uncle Frank. He was one of my idols growing up, as he always had the rebel spirit (rare and not encouraged in those days in rural Ireland). I remember being a pillion passenger on his motorbike as a teenager. Any motorised form of transport was also a novelty in those simple days of long ago. How rapidly things have changed during our short life span! Thank you once again.
Breda (P.J's older sister)

Dew of Hermon said...

Breda,
Thanks for your kind words, P J abd uncle Frank were both 'free spirits' who ploughed their own distinctive furrows. And as you said it wasn't always an easy thing to do in this country. You can find an appreciation of Frank at http://dewofhermon.blogspot.com/2009/02/frank-phillips-appreciation.html
Gerry