A Guest Blog Post by Writer and Poet Colm Keegan. In July I was invited to work with the members of Dunsink Horse Club out in Fingal. I’d visit up there once a week, to work on poems and stories, so that eventually, the club members could build up enough material to put together for […]
A Guest Blog Post by Writer and Poet Colm Keegan.
In July I was invited to work with the members of Dunsink Horse Club out in Fingal. I’d visit up there once a week, to work on poems and stories, so that eventually, the club members could build up enough material to put together for a calendar that would be sold to raise funds for the project.
It was great craic. Dunsink Horse Club is based at the old dump down Dunsink Lane, there’s seventy horses there grazing on a gigantic pile of rubbish that to anyone passing on the M50, looks just like any regular hill. But underneath the veneer of grass, it’s actually Dublin’s largest midden.
Standing on top it, it makes you feel a certain way, the only other place I can think of that makes me feel the same way is the Hill of Tara, now there’s a mad comparison, but if you’ve been to Tara, you know what I mean about that feeling of seeing as far as the eye can see for a full 360 degrees. But before you get hooked on a rural buzz, there’s a power plant beside the project that turns the methane the hill produces into electricity, and with the Dunsink Observatory across the road looking in at you, and all the metal bits underneath the hill, it’s more steampunk than country, so it is.
Anyway, after a few weeks of working with the young people and adults out there, writing poems and then going out to ride the horses, we had enough stuff for the calendar. Brian MacCormaic was photographing both the workshops and the time spent with the horses. These pics were also included.
We called the Calendar ‘Because They Read the Wind’ (a line in one of Tony Curtis’ poems on Connemara Ponies). We had been looking for a title for a while and as soon as Tony’s line came up, we knew it was right, because it somehow catches the ethereal aspect of humanity’s relationship with horses.
The word ethereal has become dangerously worn out by those who hawk energy crystals and other new age hokum, mind. But our relationship with the horse is ethereal. It is not easily forged. It is delicate, it is graceful and it is a connection that’s easily broken.
In some ways our connection to the horse is also our connection to the past. And it is an apt coincidence that the Poolbeg Towers also ended up in calendar pictures. Very apt, considering that like the towers, Dublin’s urban horses are a kind of anachronism, a glitch in our collective narrative. Some people don’t like these glitches because they contradict their idealised, sanitised version of our city as some sort of urban, cosmopolitan, outward looking tech-hub. But without the glitches, where’s the character? If everything’s the same who are we at all?
Dunsink Horse Club is a place you could drive by and hardly notice, but it’s a place where people have built something very special. Not just because of the unique surroundings, but because it is a project to be celebrated. It’s an example of animal welfare education coupled with real collaboration between community and government. It takes work but that collaboration is the ideal alternative to blanket poundings and other less humane solutions.
If it’s not that, then what else? No more horses? Impossible. To erase the horse from our urban culture would be to sacrifice too much. Take the horse out of Dublin, and it wouldn’t be Dublin anymore.
I’ll leave yiz with this. A poem I wrote with Noel Mooney.
Around four barrels, Mutton Head sped,
so tight my leg flesh was gored by metal.
He ran so fast my shins bled red as
I blew past the cocksure Ballyerheads,
in a field near the old observatory.
Every weekend it was the same – no screech
of scramblers then, down Dunsink Lane,
just wind, my kicks, my fists tight in the reigns
and the screams of the riders I left in my wake.
A trusting rider, a willing horse.
Money in the pot, one winner takes all.
In the talk of two towns a legend grows up
from the fertile lands between Liffey and Tolka.
Hundreds of pounds they would have paid,
but Mutton Head from me, they could never take.
We crossed the finish line, again and again.
By Colm Keegan, Writer & Poet