Mamo McDonald, a founding member of the Bealtaine Writers, has died. Her influence on Ireland is immeasurable as an activist, a feminist, and a champion for change.. I knew her as a lovely poet, a woman with a strong sense of justice, and with a wicked humour. She founded the festival for older people, Bealtaine, while she was the President of Age and Opportunity out of which came our group, the Bealtaine Writers. In an interview in 1998 Mamo said:
I've had three ambitions in my life -- that I wanted to do before I died: to build a house, to make a garden, and to write a book. So a few years ago I built a cottage. And while it is a modern cottage inside, we used where we could old materials, so it looks like an old cottage that's been restored. That gives me great satisfaction because I love that look. And I'm making the garden. And I started in 1977 to write a diary, and I've been keeping a journal ever since. So from those years I have a day to day book on my life. And from the pages of those books, I have the material for the great Irish novel and all kinds of other things besides! So if I have the time I'm going to write those, too. I'm also writing quite a bit a of poetry and getting a great amount of satisfaction from that.There's all kinds of things I still want to do. I maintain that when I turn up my toes, that they'll write as my epitaph, Dammit, she tried.
Arlen House published her book of poetry, Circles, in 2015. Here are two poems, the first by Mamo, called Roadside Crosses, which was included in the group’s Second Anthology in 2013. The second poem, Mamo’s Haboo, is a tribute poem by Rosy Wilson, another founding member of the group and long-time friend of Mamo’s.
We will miss our great poet friend and at the same time we were honoured to know her.
Ashley and Gary and Barry,Mamo McDonald
Brian and Brenda and Joe.
A five-mile stretch,
a ten-year toll.
All young and full of life,
all gone before their time.
O Lord look kindly on
the ones who mourn.
Old friend you welcome me into your roomRosy Wilson
present me with a crocheted shawl, consolation
after my long stay in a hospital ward.
You call this gift Haboo, your name
for the childhood comforter you held close
when you felt fearful or alone.
I hold it in my arms, colours like flowers
form lines: baby pink, scarlet, sparkling blue,
light yellow centre, trace these tracks
find love in the weaving, happiness
in receiving, reassurance, cast aside care
when I wrap it around my shoulders.
I bury my face in the shawl
savour the feel of soft wool.