I was in Crete when Paddy finally succumbed to his illness. I have known this man for almost twenty years now. We had great times together, as we hiked the hills and trails of Ireland. Paddy hailed from Birr in Offaly but spent most of his life in California and as an activist in the Sierra Club, somehow when we last rambled together around his home near La Honda, last year,I felt that it might be the last time. So it was, jovial, witty, carefree with his time and company, he was a giant among men, ni bheig a leithid ann arais.
Though Paddy was not what you would call religious, he was a deep feeling person, his humour…. crude at times hid that sensitivity.
Perhaps he would enjoy the irony of my choice of poem for his valedictory, I choose Gerald Manly Hopkin’s poem Felix Randal: Just see Patrick Colgan for Felix and I think you will understand, this is from all of us in Ireland who loved this man.
FELIX Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?
Sickness broke him. Impatient he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!
This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;
How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!