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The Woods and Grandma

by Dead Lady

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Act I. Coole 01:07
A. we were born and bred, bred and born, at Coole and for all our early life, grandma was really the center of our lives, wasn't she C. yes she was A. completely. she wasn't just grandmother really I mean she was a sort of mother as well wasn't she C. oh absolutely. absolutely.
A. well this of course was absolute heaven, as you can imagine the beginning of the nut wood and of course the paths weren't solid like this they may have been solid but not like nowadays they were mossy C. and of course there were far more big trees then A. yes they were very C. I don't say it was thick forest standing but they were big trees I say against this rather A. well there was none of these masses of growth here C. scratchy stuff A. they used to um, quite incredible they used to bring trees from abroad didn't they C. yeahp A. a lot of the trees they bought were from abroad brought in and planted and they all seem to have liked this climate but they certainly did very well
A. we used to do it every day cos if we went out in the woods we had to have something to eat I mean you couldn't go out for a couple of hours and have nothing to eat so we used to take apples with us and if we did we went and picked them of course picked them up out here and we carried them in our knickers we had knickers with elastic round the knees and it was a wonderful way of carrying… bzz bzz it was a bit duck-like, walking but I can remember vividly, they came out one day out here, out this gate and mum and, uh, john, augustus john were coming up from the yard and mum stopped -- I can remember the look of absolute horror with us walking with our feet rather far apart and she was saying, what on earth's the matter with you children? what's wrong with you? and I think we were rather nervous we said "oh it's the apples you see" "what apples" and augustus john was absolutely frisking his sides with laughing at the sight of us // C. it must have been a damn sight stronger or else we were much lighter A. but Catherine, remember, it's about sixty years old it's been bearing itself up sixty or seventy years since we climbed it for heavens sake it'd make a difference we used to climb up C. more than sixty, we weren't twenty when we were going up it A. oh shush Cat, keep quiet seventy years -- seventy three years since we climbed it A. yeah mm
A. no it was a wonderful life, absolutely marvelous oh -- GBS yes, bernard shaw, every time he was wonderful he obviously liked children, I think, because he was a natural, he really was he used to -- mind you, mind you he used to play hunt the thimble with us, and he cheated he used to look and we were desperately upset when we found he was cheating C. one visit which was during the first war hehe we weren't allowed bread with jam AND butter you could have jam OR butter -- wartime and GBS asked for jam grandma looked at him and said "but you've got butter on your bread you can't have both" oh so the next thing we spotted was he sort of held up his plate to grandma and said look that's only a slice of dry bread now can I have jam please and she said yes, of course but we'd seen him turn the slice of bread over, and the butter was on the underside A. we were horrified C. and we were horrified A. I think -- and we were probably thinking, why on earth didn't WE think of that C. absolutely, very envious anyhow, we were all upset about this and also he was ill I think afterwards but anyhow we were upset about it and grandma said, well you know he was very hurt that you thought he was cheating so we'll -- you must send him some apples, some of your special apples so we sent him off some apples and we had a most marvelous poem which he sent as thank you and it was written in his own handwriting on post on the back of postcards which have pictures on one side and it um it started GBS. two ladies of Galway called Catherine and Anna whom some call Acushla and some call Alanna on finding the gate of the fruit garden undone stole grandma's apples and sent them to London and grandma said the poor village schoolchildren were better behaved than the well-brought-up Coole children and threatened them with the most merciless whippings if ever again they laid hand on her pippins in vain they explained that the man who was battening on grandma's apples would die without fattening she seized the piano and threw it at Anna and shrieking at Catherine, “just let me catch you” she walloped her hard with the drawing-room statue god save us, herself has gone crazy, cried Marian is that how a lady of title should carry on? if you dare to address me like that, shouted granny goodbye to your wages, you shan't have a penny go back to your pots and your pans and your canisters with that she threw Marian over the banisters and now, declared granny, I feel so much better that I'll write Mr Shaw a most beautiful letter and tell him how happy our lives are at Coole under grandmama darling's beneficent rule A. it was absolutely wonderful getting that absolute C. wasn't it marvelous A. it was absolutely terrific he was wonderful but there you are long time ago
A. he wasn't interested in children actually, why should he be uh, he wasn't rude or anything, I mean he's C. he just ignored one, really A. he'd say hello, he'd take a morning C. well I mean you know the story of A. yes you don't C. meeting the small boy coming down the stairs in his own house when yeats was going up he actually said oh hello young man, I don't know you, do I it was his own son A. yes, michael! haha michael told us that C. yep A. of course you must remember, you know, while we're talking about Yeats and all these people we were children, they were grown ups we had no idea they were important people in any way as far as we were concerned they were just adults C. just adults A. rather boring C. just friends of grandma's
C. when you look at photos of her she was like a queen Victoria in a sense you know, she was always in black I suppose in a way, looked rather gloomy she wasn't she had the most tremendous sense of humor A. but she had a terrific sense of humor C. she wasn't a prude in any way A. oh no, that wonderful story well, Cat, you -- you talk, and you say it better than I do talking remember about the lamb C. yes, I was just going to say ah, at that time, instead of having a question time from just out of the blue there were books, uh, of questions we used to spend quite a few evenings having these questions one of the questions was, why in public places -- this would be England of course -- does the water at drinking troughs, at stations and places, always come out of the mouth of a lion? dead silence from all of us then suddenly Grandma said well it'd look awful coming out the other end she then realized what she said, and she'd laugh and she -- she couldn't stop laughing A. no C. nor could we of course A. no C. it was -- it was absolutely ga ti ih A. I could still see her mopping her eyes from the tears streaming down her face from laughing
A. well the two mantelpieces, one here and one in the sitting room opposite they were put together and made by our father and and also Augustus John, together they used to build they had a great time building them out on the sand and we were told as children that you know they'd been made and we used to look at them and we used to look and see if we could find anything slightly crooked among one of the ricks or one of the things if there was something a bit awry we used to be very loyal and say oh dada couldn't have done that 'gustus Mr John must have done that and made a mistake but aren't they lovely
Airman 01:58
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, W.B. Yeats I know that I shall meet my fate, Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love; My country is Kiltartan Cross, My countrymen Kiltartan's poor, No likely end could bring them loss Or leave them happier than before. Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds; I balanced all, brought all to mind, The years to come seemed waste of breath, A waste of breath the years behind In balance with this life, this death.
Six and four 02:16
A. I was six and you were four C. yes A. so we were young I mean but I actually both of us can remember it very vividly C. yes A. um horrifying really seeing grandma crying C. it was oh yes A. you know, dreadful and then um course mum was in the with godmother I came out and I think Cat saw all of us crying and she didn't really know why and she began crying to be in the swoon, you know C. yes I remember mum saying 'stop it, cos you don't know what you're crying for'
A. just ignored one really C. he didn't do it on purpose he just was out of this world half the time humming away A. yes he hummed a lot C. it sounded actually more like moaning, doesn't it A. it did, yes well it was the mmmmmmmm mm that sort of noise cht! (ha) I don't know then it was a, one of the times he'd been humming I can't think what sort of meter he was humming in but this was -- I was sent up to the room he was sitting in we used to have a sitting room upstairs and told Mr Yeats wanted to see me and I thought dear heavens what's happening now and I went in and he said sit down and then he suddenly began reading you know your poem about yellow hair [To Anne Gregory] Yeats. “never shall a young man thrown into despair by those great honey-colored ramparts at your ear love you for yourself alone and not your yellow hair” “but I can get a hair dye and set such color there brown or black or carrot that young men in despair may love me for myself alone and not my yellow hair” “I heard an old religious man but yesterday declare that he had found a text to prove that only God, my dear, could love you for yourself alone and not your yellow hair” A. I was very embarrassed, I thought it was awful you know doggerel anyway, you know, I sort of said Oh marvelous Mr Yeats read it again um which of course he that was splendid and then I rushed out saying something stupid like I must go and wash my hair or something but not very long after that um Mr Yeats was um broadcasting from Belfast I think it was and um this was on and Mr Yeats comes on and he says and this is a poem to the daughter of my old friend Lady Gregory and she has hair like a cornfield in the sun, or words to this effect and then he did this 'never shall a young man' thing well next morning we come down and there's a envelope by my plate um from this Austrian, Goulding, who was my boyfriend at the time and I thought well this is absolutely marvelous and opened it -- a poem and I thought wonderful, made it at last and the poem read "if I was alone on an island and only Anne with me there I'd make myself cushions and bolsters by stuffing her skin with her hair" end of a lovely romance! C. yes, you and your admirers, um ha ha
Sheep's eye 02:36
C. the only time I've ever been charged with dangerous driving or anything wrong on the road A. oh yes hahaha C. I was aged about fifteen and you kheeeeee got a sheep's eye from the butcher which you'd put into a um matchbox and you were posting to one of the gogherty's A. yes C. wasn't it? just through the post it had gone, the postman had taken it see, when he'd deliver the letters he'd take post out I was mean enough to tell mum and mum said Go into the post office and stop it get take it out of the post and I said well how do I get there mum said take the car it was a model T go quickly, because the post goes out in whatever it was twenty minutes and I drove FURIOUSLY through Gort and to the post office which is on the road out heh and I was caught for dangerous driving, what have you and eh I yes went to the post office and said look there's a registered letter in the post it's to be sent can we have it back please and blow me the post office DID I mean a registered thing, I mean to come out, just like that but uh, I was fined ten bob lot of money in those days A. and I was absolutely livid because I thought this was a wonderful answer to something rude that the chap had said and I was livid that it hadn't got there C. and all the trouble you'd been to A. to get one hehehe C. to get a sheep's eye from Finnegan the butcher
and that’s another thing she was very particular about the way you wore your shawl she would say to me you have never worn a shawl and I said, no well, she said, a shawl is a part of a countrywoman’s life now when she is happy she puts it slightly off her shoulders and her hands on her hips when she’s annoyed she flicks it over her shoulder and when she’s in sorrow she brings it straight across her forehead with two points down and just shows her face and the rest of her is covered now you must practice all these things when you do the various parts
Biddy Early 01:47
poor honest Biddy a fresh clean looking woman a medium-sized woman in a frilly white bonnet my mother was a next-door neighbor of Biddy I always heard her say that she was a good-living woman in her private life and that she used to have her rosary beads in her hands whenever she looked into the bottle neighbors frowned on the idea that a young girl should be heard humming and singing in the year after her mother’s death sure, she might be righter than what we are
C. we were very very lucky A. she really was quite fantastic C. and how incredible friendliness and nice outlook you know class or creed meant nothing to her A. absolutely no C. you know everyone was equal and it didn't matter if she was in the middle of doing her day's writing if someone came to the door wanting apples or can we go and gather some sticks or anything she'd come down and pass the time of day with them A. yep C. nothing-- A. no but you know, that was all the extraordinary thing um all that time that we were here being brought up and living here and having a wonderful life she was writing she was running the abbey theatre she was going up overnight, coming back again writing, writing and going over to London for fighting the Hugh Lane pictures but she always had time for us she never seemed, I mean you'd go in at any time it didn't matter whether she was in the middle of a play or anything you'd go in and say something perfectly silly, like you know, come and see we've found the blackbirds nest, or something but she was with you at once, wasn't she C. yep A. about anything C. yup always
C. she wanted um holy communion before she died and would the uh clergyman come out and John Diveney was sent in and the clergyman's wife haha, don't let the priests ever get married the clergyman's wife said oh well it he'd come out the following day cos she had him the clergyman planting her bulbs and poor grandma she was dead by the following day that was a shocking thing A. you know we weren't old for our age at all and we'd never really mixed with youngsters except school which you didn't stay at very long but we never had young people out here to play or anything C. there weren't any, really A. there weren't any C. was the answer A. but you never felt you wanted anything at all except what we had which was the woods and grandma C. yeah A. and so on it was a perfect life


a verbatim pop-opera about Lady Gregory
composed by Cal Folger Day

words from a 2002 RTÉ Doc on One interview
with Anne and Catherine Gregory goo.gl/ZzhPL5

winner of the Little Gem award at the 2017 Dublin Fringe Festival
N.B. click on individual tracks above for a transcribed libretto


released December 16, 2018

recorded live by Christopher Barry, Ailfionn, Dublin Ireland
mixed and mastered by Forest Christenson, Los Angeles

Cal Folger Day, keys & vocals (Anne)
Naoise Roo, vocals (Catherine)
Bob Gallagher, vocals (W.B. Yeats)
Phil Christie, keys & vocals (George Bernard Shaw)
Nick Boon, guitar
Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh, viola
Daniel Fox, bass
Ben Engel, percussion & mandolin

lady heads artwork by Isadora Epstein


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