Dining late with Wolf. (And the empty chair)

It may have been just an accident of a kind that led me to find

a few lines, that began 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,

as I scanned the stacked shelves lined with lost memories,

the feint remains of times, of days, of others hands and eyes

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.

And 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 yellowing page. And I could see the book had never been opened,

or rather had never been leafed through, 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 during that time with a friend in his old tumbledown cottage

overlooking Dunmanus Bay – and of the days finding fragments

of the racing boats, during our walks in the mornings gathering shore.

Thirty five years after Farrell’s unexplained death, a woman revealed 

the story of walking that night with her sons along the wind-blown edge.

She’d come across Farrell adrift in the towering waves of a sea in its rage,

and described the way 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 the certainty of his grave, as she’d wanted to do. And so leave

her boys 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.

At the supper table in Wolf’s house that night, talk would drift now and then.

In the lull’s quiet, heads would turn, listening keenly to the roar of the gale,

through the trees, and out on the hills. And now I write to let go of that feeling,

of that memory of you, of being haunted by you, and the storm that follows you.



James Gordon Farrell


(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.

Wolf Mankowitz

Script writer

7 November 1924 – 28th May1998

County Cork.