"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
WITH A pencil in his breast pocket, a book of poetry close to his heart, and heather, furze and daffodils at his feet, writer John Arden was “waked” in a wicker casket at his Galway home over the weekend.
“I’ve always wanted to be known as a teller of tales, rather than a playwright or a novelist,” he had told his son, Finn, in a documentary, and so some of those stories were remembered by the many who called to his terraced house.
Families from the Hidden Valley, as the city neighbourhood is known, were among the first to express sympathies to Arden’s wife, Margaretta D’Arcy, and their sons, as music was played, sean-nós was sung, and recitations were delivered into the small hours of yesterday morning.
Friends from Galway’s artistic community, including writers Patricia Burke Brogan and Fred Johnston, artists Jay Murphy and Brian Bourke, and film-maker Lelia Doolan, paid their respects, as did fellow campaigners from Shannon Watch, Shell to Sea and the Free Gaza Movement.
Retired schoolteacher Micheál Ó Seighin of the Rossport Five, his wife Caitlín and daughter Bríd, Mary Corduff, Terence Conway and fisherman Pat O’Donnell travelled from north Co Mayo.
Also present were former death-row prisoners and social justice activists Peter Pringle and Sunny Jacobs.
President Michael D Higgins has already led tributes to Arden, who died late last week after a long illness at the age of 81.
Describing him as “one of the giants of modern literature”, Mr Higgins said his writing “drew from, and continued, a great dissident and critical tradition”.
Arden, a member of Aosdána, fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Booker Prize nominee, had long admired the work of 16th-century “rhymer” John Skelton, also known as Shelton. Ms D’Arcy had placed the Tudor writer’s collection of poetry on her late husband’s chest.
A celebration of Arden’s life will take place at his cremation in Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, this afternoon at 3pm.