I first became aware of Pat Ingoldsby in the 1980s, through his TV shows Pat’s Pals, Pat’s Hat and Pat’s Chat. He stood out from the other presenters of the time – there was something so relatable and exciting about Pat – an honesty, freshness and energy. He had a surreal imagination, wonderful humour and very kind eyes. A few years later, a good friend, Kate O’ Rourke introduced me to his poetry. Over thirty years later, I still treasure that first copy of ‘How was it for you Doctor?’
Ingoldsby’s poems were ground breaking – he was years ahead of his time in terms of his honesty around mental health. This had a profound effect on those who read his work, a fact often under-appreciated by main stream literary commentators, but not by his many readers. ‘I have loved Pat Ingoldsby for as long as I can remember,’ says Kate O’ Rourke, ‘I love his madness, creativity, anger, humour and honesty. I was born into a house filled with madness, love, creativity, depression, alcoholism and laughter.’
Amanda Kelly, writer and founder of the Abbeyleix Power of Words Festival, was also a huge fan of Pat’s Hat and Pat’s Chat – ‘I was continually enthralled by his wild and wonderful imagination, his way of being with the children in the studio and the way he looked directly down the lens of the camera talking to each of us at home! He was magical in his words and ways.’
In the 90’s, Pat gave up television and concentrated on writing poetry. He doesn’t give media interviews; he lets the poems speak for themselves, and they do – ‘His poems are a mix of wit, wisdom, compassion and understanding of the human condition,’ says Amanda Kelly. ‘I love that he makes poetry so accessible. You can hear his own, unique voice in each of his poems. There is no pretence of grandeur only clever, witty and often poignant observations. I will always be found laughing, or crying, after reading his work.’
‘They taught me that it was OK to be angry at life and more importantly, that it was Ok to laugh at absurdity of it all.’
Ingoldsby set up his own publishing house, Willow Publications and sold his books in Westmoreland Street in Dublin. Kate O’ Rourke has very fond memories of meeting Pat there. ‘Me and my mam would occasionally escape to the city,’ remembers Kate. ‘We’d get the early train to Dublin, head straight to Bewley’s for a warm breakfast, sit for a while people watching and inventing stories about their lives, relationships and their reasons for escaping. We’d then head back into Westmoreland Street for a chat with Pat. He’d be standing in his usual spot, selling his wares and chatting with interested passers-by. My mam suffered from severe depression at times and spent a lot of my childhood in and out of the psychiatric hospital. Pat was always open with his own struggles with depression and I know my mam found great comfort talking to him about their shared experiences. Pat’s poems gave me great comfort in my teenager years. In a way, they normalised what I was feeling. They taught me that it was OK to be angry at life and more importantly, that it was Ok to laugh at absurdity of it all. I am 50 now and I still read the books I bought from him on Westmoreland Street in the 80’s and 90’s.’
Kate’s favourite book of Pat’s is Welcome to My Head, Please Remove your Boots. ‘It’s divided into three sections: Before Shock Treatment, During Shock Treatment and After Shock Treatment,’ explains Kate, ‘I love the poems God Bless Your Eyesight and Tonight they put the Cotsides Up. Click the links to read…
God Bless Your Eyesight… https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1530755193733220&id=321894844619267
Tonight They Put the Cot Sides Up…
Pat Ingoldsby spent over two decades selling poetry on the streets of Dublin. In recent years, he retired from Westmoreland Street but is still writing poetry. A wonderful Facebook page called My Poems Come out to Play was set up in 2013….
Bratislava Accord 1993
Amanda Kelly admires the fact that Pat ‘holds a healthy contempt for the ‘establishment.’ She goes on to remark, ’this may well stem from him being continually overlooked in the ‘Arts’ world. His inclusion of the note on each of his books that his work is protected by the ‘Bratislava Accord 1993, section 2 cre/009 manifest ’minsk’, which supposedly protects his books from being included in school textbooks, examinations, elocution classes and ‘anything with the word ‘Arts’ in it’ makes him all the more appealing to me and to a wider community of readers and writers.
Roundy Blue Plaques
In 2019, Amanda founded ‘The Power of Words Festival’ – a festival celebrating Words – written, acted, spoken and sung. She ‘instantly wanted to honour Pat and his work in some way.’ Amanda wanted to honour Pat in an event called ‘The Living Poets Society’… in which ‘two actors would interpret some of his writing for performance. We would also be presenting people with the opportunity to buy his books. Pat gave his blessing to the venture and when I asked him which poem he wanted to be read on his behalf, (given that he wasn’t in a position to join us in person due to health reasons) at the event, he said he wanted the poem ‘True for Me’ to be read. This poem reads almost like a Will, in which Pat expresses his desire, when he dies, for his work not to be broadcast on RTE radio or television and how journalists should never write about him or his work in any Irish magazine or newspaper. He also doesn’t want to have his name associated in any way with official Arts organisations. Instead, he would like a ‘roundy blue plaque’ which reads ‘Pat Ingoldsby was moved from here’ to be located in every single street in Dublin that he was moved on from! He maintains that the ‘ordinary’ person, living what he believes to be an ‘extraordinary’ life, would know where these places were and that it was the same ‘ordinary’ person that he would be well remembered fondly by and how that was enough for him. The Power of Words Festival team presented Pat with a ‘roundy blue plaque’ declaring how he had moved us!
Somewhere between the Night and the Morning…
‘Somewhere between the Night and the Morning’ is a poem that really resonates with Amanda. ‘I find the use of the image of Calvary particularly moving, as it seems to sum up the battle people have when dealing with long term mental ill-health/mental decline. The poem paints, with heart-breaking hilarity along the way, a desperately sad scene of the utter confusion, agitation and quiet despair that might be felt by someone experiencing mental health issues.
Set in the dim light of a mental hospital ward, it speaks of laughter which was really crying, of how the eyes of the three occupants of the ward, all looked the same; how with the help of an injection, one of them is sent ‘spinning away from his confusion’ and the last words of the poem how ‘nobody knew where tomorrow was’ chokes me up each time I imagine it.’
So, for me, that poem alone merits my complete admiration of Pat. His ability to capture all aspects of our humanity – from the sublime to the ridiculous, as they say, in each of his carefully crafted poems should make him one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets. I, along with so many others, will continue to celebrate him and his genius.’
To read Somewhere Between Night and Morning, click below….
Many, many, thanks to Amanda Kelly and Kate O’Rourke for their contributions to this tribute. Pat’s books can be bought from The Winding Staircase in Dublin, and Nolan’s Hardware in Clontarf. For more about Pat and his work, check out…
Facebook Page – My Poems Come Out to Play
By Niamh Boyce