Nestled amid the trees and fields of County Meath sits St Columba’s Church. It must have been thrilled this weekend to be one of the venues for the Hay Festival in Kells. I doubt it’s seen so much traffic in donkey’s years. Or do I mean dog’s years. Which is longer?
Standing on the steps of the church with the other volunteers, it was a joy to see crowds show up for the various discussions. The ancient venue seemed appropriate to the topics under discussion: Limerick and the historical accuracy of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, the JFK assassination, and the First World War. We also got to hear some poetry as well as a discussion on the joys of working in a minority language. You could spend a fortune in a major university and not receive the variety nor the depth of the education we received this weekend.
All the speakers were erudite, charming and insightful. They were experts in their fields, willing to share their knowledge, and happy to be here in Kells in the little church.
The visitors, too, seemed happy to be in the town and the welcome they received. Between events, they wandered around the grounds, taking pictures of the tower and the ancient tombstones, and generally enjoyed themselves.
The good humour blew through Kells like a zephyr, unruffling the frowns of people who came from Trim, from Dublin, and from the UK, bringing smiles to the faces of everyone it touched. If the people I spoke to are anything to go by, they’ll be back next year. Sure, can you blame them?