To those who think this country is no longer the land of saints and scholars - read on.
50-year-old Kevin Daly, a construction worker from Ballyagran, Co. Limerick told The Irish Post just exactly what inspired him to write his heart-breaking poem, 'Martin'.
The short answer is it’s not about any one person but a mixture of a lot of what I’ve seen and experienced in life. As a Limerick man who lived and worked in London from 1985 to 1991 as a carpenter and labourer, I experienced all sorts. The drinking culture was huge at that stage and I met and spoke to many ‘Martins’.
I suppose Martin is a combination all of those. Mr Daly went on to say how he hopes this poem raises awareness and adds a “human face” to what many people see as statistics. London, Dublin, Limerick and Cork are full of guys like Martin who had dreams and family, but who for one reason or another ended up this way.
What I tried to give in this poem was a way to give people a chance to live in Martin’s mind for a little while, so maybe creating a more human face to what many see as a number.
There’s a mist rising over Brandon,
Snow is falling softy to the ground,
A Christmas light flickers in a cottage far away,
and Martin is woken with a sound.
‘Get up Paddy what you doing here,
Go and make a nuisance back at home,
We don’t need a tramp in our shop doorway,’
Martin, he is feeling so alone.
Alone at Christmas time in London,
While families together laugh and play,
Kids holding hands, excited thoughts of Santa Clause,
To Martin it is just another day.
He thinks back to the foot of Brandon Hill
When he left his father and his kin.
The argument they had and now he feels so bad
‘Cause he knows he won’t see Brandon Hill again.
A small child stops and stares at Martin,
As he gathers up his bedding and his booze.
She says, ‘Mam look over to that pavement,
That man he isn’t wearing any shoes.’
It hadn’t always been this way, he thought to himself.
I used to have a very different life.
When I first arrived in Shepherds Bush in ‘63
I met the darling lady of my life.
She passed away so tragically, in ‘65
The year of love and peace and hair.
We were London flower kids, way back then.
The darling couple of Sloane Square.
Where are all his friends from that time in his life?
Tonight will he ever find a bed?
Everyday just brings more trouble and more strife,
In his mind’s eye he sees Slea Head.
The nights as a young man spent in Dingle town,
The music in his soul and in his toes,
The banjo the whistle and the mandolin,
The feeling of loneliness just grows.
Then from behind him he hears a child
running with her mother by her side.
‘Happy Christmas mister,’ Martin hears from them
His eyes they were welling up inside.
She handed him a brand new pair of walking shoes
No booze, a cup of warm soup instead.
‘Just in case Santa couldn’t find you sir,
we knew you didn’t have a bed.’
With tears on cheek he thanked them then they walked away,
He stared at their backs till out of sight,
T’was the first time in years it was Christmas time for Martin,
As he rolled out his bedsheet for the night.
When Martin’s eyes finally closed that night,
He walked up Brandon Hill in his new shoes,
By his side his father smiling back at him,
Martin left this earth that night his body blue.
The December cold had claimed its latest casualty,
Another nameless soul upon the street,
‘I wonder when they came from,’ was the remark
When they removed the shoes from off his feet.
So this Christmas time in London or New York or Cork
In Dublin in Limerick or in Rome,
Spare a thought for those poor souls like Martin,
Who are on the streets and have no place called home.
The cold and the old,
And the ones who are all alone.
Because everybody deserves a Christmas.
Our hearts just broke a little, and then a lot.
What an incredible talent, and a really important cause.