Aftermath (a ballad)

This text, a pastiche ballad with annotations, was written as a response to ‘Brokenland’, a project by artist and photographer Deirdre Power engaging with the abandoned site of a proposed retail park and the neighbouring estates in Limerick, Ireland.

 

Aftermath

(A ballad)

 

In the Reboge Meadows of fair Thomond,

where once herds of cattle grazed

giving tons of cream and butter,

now the waving grasses have been razed.

 

Crouched upon the wounded land

a broken edifice is seen

squatting in its monstrous hole,

the fragments of a dream.

 

A new symbol for this country

junking the grey round tower of old,

in this bulk of steel and concrete

a ruined future we behold.

 

Through the actions of the neighbours

and the hard work of young and old

can this barren waste be salvaged

and a new vision be unfurled?

 

So come all you good people

of Castletroy View and Chesterfield

by uniting against this eyesore

a new green field can be revealed.

 

 

Notes:

(title) The word ‘aftermath’ has its origins in agriculture, referring to the state of a meadow after mowing. It has thus come to be associated with the consequences of disaster and calamity, but it holds within it the possibility of new growth and the recovery of green shoots. (line 1) The first verse links to traditional ballads by using to the old name of Thomond, and locates the song firmly in a specific place. (lines 2-3)The development site in the Groody Basin was formerly grazing land, and located in North Munster an area famous for dairy production through the twentieth century. (line 4) Nostalgia for a lost pastoral utopia is suggested , and links to the community’s involvement in the Tidy Towns and the desire for a pleasant green space.

(lines 5-7) The language of the second verse is strongly negative, painting a picture of the abandoned development as a grotesque monstrosity, a hideous blot or a scar on the landscape. It raises the spectre of a horror film where a creature or monster, often the outcome of human pride or ambition, threatens a town or city. (line 8) This line refers to broken dreams of economic expansion, of unstoppable growth, and of an imagined glittering utopia. This was the ‘dream’ that powered the ‘Celtic Tiger’. It echoes the dreams of the future that filled 1950s comic books, where a world of flying cars and robot run homes was presented, a future that we have since left behind.

(lines 9-10) The round tower was one of a number of icons or symbols for Ireland that were popularised in the nineteenth century, and used within trademarks, advertising, government and church decoration to link to the past of Celtic Christianity and to a deep historical sense of an enduring nation occupying the island for centuries. The ballad suggests that such symbols (also including the wolfhound, harp, or fair colleen) were displaced by new symbols of glass office blocks, computer software or 4WD vehicles. (lines 11-12) This new ruin unlike the round tower or ancient church of mossy stones has gone from an imagined future to a desolate present without any period of use or inhabitation. Conjured up on a promotional video in 3D computer modelling the proposed landmark was to be populated by laughing shoppers, by joyful skaters, by good consumers. The economic model the vision was based on has been discovered to be hollow. Now, the real people who live in the area have less disposable income and have access to fewer resources following the bursting of the debt-fuelled bubble.

(lines 13-16) This verse asks a question of the listeners, bringing in a note of hope or opening up the narrative to a different future. The story does not have to end with the crashed juggernaut that is the failed Park Valley development. Is there something that can be done. The lines introduce terms that refer to the residents, and shift the focus away from the site to those who live in the area.

(lines 17-20) This verse uses conventions of the ballad form with the ‘come all ye’ mode of attracting the listeners’ attention, and in the use of specific local place names. The term ‘eyesore’ is borrowed from the resident commence, and emphasises how sight and vision are central to the feelings of neglect and loss experienced by the people of the neighbouring estates. It is their ‘view’ that has been obliterated, and their ’views’ that are not being given attention. The final line relates back to the opening image of ‘aftermath’ with a positive reading of the term as referring to new growth rather than the scene of disaster.