And a storm follows you.
It may have been just an accident of a kind that led me to find
A few lines and the search for more words of Farrell’s work
But as hard as I searched I couldn’t find a book by him at all
So I scanned the stacked shelves lined with lost memories,
The feint remains of times, of days, of others hands and eyes
And I found a surprise, a collection of that other Thomas’s verse.
I carried the prize to look it over thoroughly in Bannerman’s Bar
As I sat and began to read the terse few lines of The Return
Two neatly folded cuttings fell to the floor. Thomas’s obituaries,
And the odour, gathered oldness and age wafted to me from the faded
Fragile paling page and I could see the book had never been opened,
Had never been leafed through either. Pages hidden within pages.
It may have been the absence of those tell-tale lines on the spine
Or the lack of dog eared folds that might give away the sign of a verse
A reader had once dwelled on, a preference of some kind I suppose.
And while I sat there I was reminded once more of our stay at Ahakista
In that August, and the hellish night when Farrell out alone disappeared,
And his body never found in spite of all the searches over those days.
The Fastnet Race too was destroyed by that storm and as they said
In the Tin Shed pub it was the worst kind of blow to come out of nowhere.
And that strange remembrance brought another as they sometimes do
Of our stay that time with a friend in his old tumbledown cottage
Overlooking Dunmanus Bay; and of the moment of finding your uninvited
Arrival when we’d returned from walking the mornings gathering shore.
And I can recall watching too as you smiled, unable or unwilling to explain
The reason you’d followed us. And I remember it felt so odd, so strange
That realisation we’d been followed by you, tracked down by you even,
After telling you in the plainest words to go the other way. It seemed
You’d chosen to ignore my words or perhaps heard the words differently
So you turned up anyway and proceeded to act as if nothing was wrong.
And I watched you, a stranger, wheedle your way in with our friends,
People you’d never met and didn’t know, and I began to hate you then.
And even now sitting with my thoughts of that time I realise I still retain
A deep, deep disdain, a feeling I’d thought I’d left in that place long ago.
Thirty five years after Farrell’s unexplained death a woman revealed
The story of walking that night with her son’s along the wind-blown edge.
She came across Farrell adrift in the towering waves of a sea in its rage
And described the way that he looked at her and drowned himself in order
To prevent her losing her own life too, if she’d tried to rescue him from his doom
From the certainty of his grave, as she had wanted to do and so leave
Her boy’s watching, alone and motherless. An old belief of those who worked
The sea prevented them from saving the drowning and so interrupt God’s calling.
Could such a thought have been in Farrell’s mind
As he chose to give his own life for hers, those boys.
And it is that thought that stays of the unselfishness
Of his act of sacrifice, his readiness to let go and slip away.
These memories and stories prompted by the pristine,
Untouched pages, contained one within another,
For reasons unknown, the portent of a story
That may never be heard and may never to be told.
And so I write to let go of that feeling
Of being haunted by you
And the storm that follows you.
James Gordon Farrell Novelist.
(1935-01-25)25 January 1935 – 11 August 1979(1979-08-11) (aged 44)
Bantry Bay, County Cork, Ireland.
Ronald Stuart Thomas
29 March 1913 – 25 September 2000
Pentrefelin near Criccieth.