22 August 2020

A tribute to Edward Buckingham
in the ‘Limerick Leader’ last week

Colonel Edward Buckingham on his last Sunday in Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert

Patrick Comerford

I was referring on Thursday to Tom Aherne’s feature in this week’s Limerick Leader [22 August 2020] on the Tarbert drowning tragedy, which is illustrated with one of my photographs.

However, I missed reporting last week on Tom Aherne’s tribute to Edward Buckingham in the Limerick Leader the previous week [15 August 2020] as part of the ‘Ardagh-Carrigkerry Notes.’

He wrote:

Edward Buckingham

The departure of Edward Buckingham from Glenastar Lodge brings an end to the family involvement there since the mid-1970s. He is returning to his native England following a very successful career that covered several professions in many parts of the world. His background was in the military, and he was an engineer who made his own model engines.

Edward will be remembered for many things over his long lifetime, including his time in the British Army, serving overseas where he met his wife Kate Lee, a nurse in a hospital in Germany.

He generated his own electricity from Yielding’s Waterfall during his early years in Glenastar Lodge. He was a past administrator of the Rathfredagh Cheshire Home for ten years, and often pushed a wheelchair during the annual walk. He was a very fast walker, no doubt due to his army training.

He was a committee member of the Carrigkerry/Old Mill Community Employment Scheme.

Edward made national news in 1995 when he sailed solo around Ireland. It took him 26 days to cover the 917 nautical miles and he pulled into 27 different points along the way.

A presentation was made to Edward at St Brendan’s Church of Ireland, Tarbert, on Sunday August 2. The Rev Patrick Comerford, Rathkeale, made the presentation and warm wishes were extended to Edward for the next chapter of his life.

Best wishes and good health to Edward in the future, and may the wind be always at his back.

‘Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to your beauty
with a burning violin’

Leonard Cohen’s ‘Dance me to the end of love’ arose from a photograph of death camp musicians

Patrick Comerford

I have long decided the hymns I want to hear at my own funeral – later, rather than sooner, hopefully. I am not being morbid in any way, needless to say, but I think the hymns and readings at my funeral should reflect my own theological and spiritual journey through life.

1, Opening hymn: ‘Thine be the glory’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 288) is filled with hope of the Resurrection, and was first written in French and later translated into English. It became popular after it was sung at the Jerusalem Conference in 1928 and then at 1948 assembly of the World Conference of Churches in Amsterdam. The hymn was written to be sung to the tune in the chorus in Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus.

2, Gradual: ‘Lead kindly light’ (ICH, 653) was written by John Henry Newman in 1832, during a time of spiritual turmoil in his own life. On the Sunday after writing this poem, he heard John Keble preach his influential ‘Assize Sermon’ in Oxford. Newman did not imagine at the time that his poem would become a hymn. The tune is by John Bacchus Dykes, Precentor of Durham Cathedral, and this later became Gandhi’s favourite hymn.

3, Offertory: ‘How shall I sing that majesty’ (ICH, 468), written by John Mason in the 17th century, is also a resurrection hymn. The tune ‘Coe Fen’ by Kenneth Naylor is outstanding, and also evokes memories long summer walks by the Backs in Cambridge. But I want all four verses of the hymn sung, and not just the three verses found in the Irish Church Hymnal.

4, Post-Communion hymn: ‘Abide with me’ (ICH, 62) by Henry Francis Lyte is known to every football fan, but also has strong Wexford connections. Lyte served his curacy in Taghmon, Co Wexford, and his experience there inspired many of the themes in this hymn, although he wrote it later in life, when he was acutely aware of his own impending death.

But I also want to hear two songs by Leonard Cohen at my funeral: ‘If it be your will’ when I am being brought into the church; and his ‘Dance me to the end of love’ as I am being brought out.

‘If it be your will’ seems so appropriate a hymn for any writer who has to accept that our time has come and that it is God’s will that we should become silent:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will

On the other hand, ‘Dance me to the end of love’ seemed, for so long, to be an appropriate way of saying that love continues after death, that death does not bring an end to love.

I also want this song because of its Greek inspiration: it follows a typical Greek Hasapiko dance path, inspired perhaps by Cohen’s long-lasting links with Greece and the island of Hydra.

So, I was taken aback earlier this week to learn from Allan Showalter’s blog that this song was inspired by a photograph Leonard Cohen had seen in his childhood of musicians in a death camp.

In a posting last year [29 March 2019], Allan Showalter quoted Leonard Cohen saying as he introduced the song at his concert in Koln on 10 April 1988, ‘This is a song that arose from a photograph that I saw when I was a child of some people in striped pyjamas prison uniforms with violins playing beside a smoke stack and the smoke was made out of gypsies and children, and this song arose out of that photograph: Dance Me To The End Of Love.’

The photograph Allan Showalter used to illustrate his posting shows prisoners in the death camp in Mauthausen, although it is only one of several such images, and he admits it ‘is unlikely to be the specific photo that inspired Leonard Cohen’s Dance me to the end of love.’

In an interview with CBC radio 25 years ago, on 26 August 1995, Cohen was asked about the origins of ‘Dance me to the end of love.’ Cohen said it ‘came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, ‘Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,’ meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation.’

He continued, ‘But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song – it’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.’

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh, let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Further reading:Play, Or Die. The Orchestras of Auschwitz,’ by Shannon Quinn

(Dance Me to the End of Love lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)