As Brian Friel’s funeral cortege left Greencastle earlier today, a group of villagers gathered at St. Mary’s Hall to applaud Brian en route to his resting place at Glenties. People gathered for up to an hour prior to the arrival. During that hour I met and chatted to local folk who all remember Brian and his family during their long years in Muff with great fondness.
Ladies talked about their time in school with Brians daughters. Men talked about how they had never appreciated a literary figure before Brian Friel. One man told me that he was made read ‘Philaelphia Here I Come’ in school. He hated literature and on his reading of the said piece, he not only acquired a love of Brian Friel’s work but literature in general. Such is the power of Brian’s words and language.
One local lady remembers getting a lift to school in Derry with Brian. Another recalls her lift down Ardmore Brae with the playwright. A former employee of the Friel family said that she has so many fond memories of Brian and she’ll treasure them forever.
I shed a silent tear today in Muff as everyone talked and smiled at their individual memories of the great man who once lived among us.
An avid fan of Brian Friels writing, I will always treasure my meetings and conversations with the man. My bookshelves overflow at home with his work. Just recently I brought my mother and sister to a stage production of ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’. I recall bringing my young son, many years ago, to a production of ‘Making History’ in The Guildhall, Derry. He said after the show, ‘Mammy that was very long but I just learned so much about our history’.
Friel’s work is embedded with language. His love and passion for language was endless. He used language to convey so many important messages and explored various themes within.
Unlike many of Ireland’s great literary artists who left the homeland to write, Brian Friel remained very much rooted in his. He remained within his homeland and explored it continuously in his writing.
As Brian passed through Muff today on his final journey home, he was applauded for being one of us, for being one of the greatest playwrights Ireland, and indeed the world, has ever known. And he was applauded for just being Brian.
So Mr Friel, as you travel along the country roads to your final resting place in Ballybeg, your very own ‘little town’ of Glenties, rest assured that we folk in Muff will always carry a little piece of you in our hearts. We will always remember you from Ardmore Brae and we will continue to love and appreciate the legacy you left us in your amazing works.
Here’s hoping the big theatre in the sky appreciates that it is about to welcome Ireland’s greatest playwright and a very lovely soul.
From the people in Muff, we thank you Brian for an amazing legacy and we thank you for being you. Rest in peace our dear friend.