Kilkeel, Kilkeel

A few weeks ago, I blogged a little piece about Kilkeel and some of the sectarian tension that exsits in the town. There was a range of responses from people, ranging from outright denial from the annual outdoor barbeque brigade to weary acceptance from others.

Dave Wood spent Saturday morning in Kilkeel Library and coincidentally, there was a children’s story telling session on. Dave spoke to the kids and he wrote a poem about Kilkeel with them. The words are solely those of the children, sometimes prompted by Dave, but really there was a rush to get words out and on the paper. They were aged about 5 to 9 years old.

The Librarian turned sadly to us as we left and said ‘You always hope the children don’t know what’s going on, but they do really’. This poem should give us all reason to stop and ponder our attitudes to Northern Ireland and one another. I’ve reproduced the poem here, and as I mentioned in the previous entry on Dave, it will be in the published work in September.

fish factory in and of kilkeel

smelly – like fish

you stink
you stink too
you stink worse

it’s a good poem now

kilkeel kilkeel
everybody fights
on saturday nights

they go to the pub to get a drink
of beer and wine

when they come out –
they have a big fight

when they caught
the fish – they started to stink

who’s the stinkiest one?

(i don’t know)

the fish!

fish stinks like smells

in an ideal place
they’d get on in
kilkeel fish factory
and have stinks
and fish fights

(young people at kilkeel library story telling session)

  • Peking

    More than the fish stinks, I’m afraid.
    That ‘poem’ is so way beyond bad, it’s painful.

  • Miss Fitz

    Well, it depends on your judgement and the context in which it was written. This is part of a conflict resolution project, and it is more a way of capturing a stream of consciousness than an effort to become Poet Laureate.

    But, Peking, you’ve read all the links and other information so you know that, right?

  • esmereldavillalobos

    Very depressing that. Don’t threaten me with a dead fish..

  • Pete Baker

    Well I can see the value in the children’s story telling session, getting them to think about language, how to use it, and abuse it, engaging in a creative process.

    The conflict resolution part, I’m not entirely convinced of.. it seems more a handy tag to aid the funding application.. and how could that element be quantified anyway?

    The resulting poem [and I use the word advisedly]… not so much.

  • Rory

    What did you guys expect from the collective efforts of a group of children, Yeats or Shelley?

    If the exercise was for the children to construct a poem reflecting their observations of their own home town and these are the observations that sprung up then the poem has integrity. The perfections of scansion and metre can be acquired in due course. It is preferable that they learn to enjoy the literary form before they are taxed and discouraged by too early an insistence on the technicalaties of writing that form which may be yet too difficult to grasp.

    Had they been taken to the Lake District and asked to compose a poem based on their observations there, who knows, they might have knocked old Wordsworth of his perch.

  • martin

    we the norn iorn folk should learn to use everything to our advantage nomatter how small ie,. the next time those lithuanian thugs come spoiling for a row while we beat the crap outa them with dead fish we could then scare the shit clean outa them by quoting the above poem that will teach them

  • Crataegus


    That ‘poem’ is so way beyond bad, it’s painful.

    Visit Tate modern and you you may start to believe that it is up there with the rest.

  • martin

    Crataegus is spot on I have a pile-o-shit ,I am willing to sell to the Tate for the modest sum of £20,000000.

  • Miss Fitz

    Here’s the deal

    We were in a library in Kilkeel and there were about 15 little kids.

    Dave got a big piece of paper and asked them to talk openly and randomly about Kilkeel: he asked the first word that came to their minds when he said Kilkeel and most of them shouted out Smelly, then Stink

    Ok, are y’all still with me here?

    He then goes on and asks them, who stinks, and each side said the other side stinks.

    Then he asked, well what can you do in Kilkeel: the kids said, fight and drink
    To finish it he asked them, in an ideal world, where would these fish get on with each other, and they said the fish factory.

    Now, I know it’s Sunday, but Lord lads, keep up.

    A bunch of wee kids were asked to give free impression about where they live and all they know is stink, smell, drink and fight?

    And the only place to get on is the fish factory. (where all the fish are killed/does this mean the only hope is when we are all dead?)

    Sorry, i dont know, I was a wee bit taken aback by the visuality and negativity from such wee kids.

    Out of the mouths of babes

  • Miss Fitz

    I am just curious here, you are making this judgement on the validity of the project as a reconcilation process on what grounds?

    Dave was introduced to streams of people from all sides of the community and none, and posed various questions about ideas on reconciliation and conflict. It may prove to be a valuable snpashot of how to go forward in a shared space

    Now, is your argument about that, or what exactly is it about?

    Is it the form of the poem that offends you? Even given that the kids were about an average age of 6?

    Seriously, I think that this is a criticism too far.

  • Pete Baker

    “I was a wee bit taken aback by the visuality and negativity from such wee kids.”

    Which is why, Miss Fitz, as I pointed out, there is value in engaging them in a creative process.

    The fish factory seems to be the most prominent building they have encountered so far. Which probably explains the references to smelly, stink, and the later appearance – perhaps not quite the fatalistic image suggested.

    And my other points remain.

    Still with me? 😉

  • Miss Fitz

    “The conflict resolution part, I’m not entirely convinced of.. it seems more a handy tag to aid the funding application.. and how could that element be quantified anyway?

    The resulting poem [and I use the word advisedly]… not so much. ”

    Nope, not with you at all Pete, and I’m not sleepy, so I will keep debating the points. I think your implication that this project was done solely to draw done funding is cynical and misplaced. Both Mairead White and Dave Woods have been involved in various strands of peace building for many years, and indeed the Challenge of Change specifically asked people to look at innovative ideas for change.

    Dave has done work for little or no pay in the past, indeed, he has taken on menial jobs to help pay for his travels in Ireland.

    To reduce this project to a funding bid is trite and mean spirited.

    Still against me:O

  • martin

    has anyone thought that just maybe the KIDS poem was a cry for help, now if that is the case, what is the cause of such misery, perhaps methinks the answer is Kilkeel itself, then if this be so I suggest we nuke the place,not the plaice, and Iam not coding.

  • Pete Baker

    Miss Fitz

    By leaving out my first point, where I pointed to the clear value of the project, you mis-represent my point on the funding.

    I did not, as you say “reduce this project to a funding bid”.. what I suggested was that the conflict resolution title aids the funding application.

    As I said there is clear value in engaging the children in a creative process.. that’s the important element, and I think that placing it within a conflict resolution programme adds little to the benefit from that engagement.

    It’s not a for or against thing ;p


    Don’t threaten me with a dead fish..

    esmereldavillalobos you terrible c**t !

  • lib2016

    Miss Fitz,

    The really depressing thing is, as you’ve pointed out, that these kids were so young and have already got these negative attitudes about their hometown. Moreover I would expect that the kids one is likely to meet in a library would tend to be those from more stable backgrounds.

    Why are so many people in denial about the state of society here? Is it that both communities find it hard to admit that we are failing the next generation?

  • Miss Fitz

    Thank you Lib, I thought it was all quite clear, and could open a debate on the state of our society.

    Instead we’ve ended up with an amazing array of messers and begrudgers.

    Maybe that says it all…..

  • Pete Baker

    My apologies if you’ve mis-intrepreted my comments as messing or begrudery, Miss Fitz.. that was not my intention.

    I was attempting to highlight the benefit of such projects to the children involved.. while including some, imo, valid criticisms.

  • martin

    Iwas,nt messing either Ms Fitz, nuke Kilkeel is not such a bad idea ,we need the parking space

  • jim

    Good post, miss fitz. It’s sad that some people continue to studiously miss the point.

  • esmereldavillalobos


    It’s a sad day indeed if it doesn’t contain at least one Withnailism 😉

    Seriously though, if that’s the experience of under 9s in NI I’m glad I ran away to live, work and breed elsewhere. Then again this may be less a problem with society in general and more in keeping with society in Kilkeel.

    Everybody fights on Saturday nights?? I think Elton John sang a similar thing but camply and with more panache.

  • Rory

    “How could that be quantified any way?” asks Pete Baker, referring (I think) to the value, in monetary terms, of any “added value” to the “conflict resolution” process. Would that be right, Pete, do I undersatand you correctly?

  • Pete Baker

    No Rory

    I did not mean in monetary terms.

    Quantify means to measure or express as a quantity or, in logic, to define the application of – in this case, I meant how to assess the success, or failure, of such a project in terms of conflict resolution.

  • Maybe time to put the kids in charge. Too much drinking by the layabouts, whose sense of fun is a bar room brawl.
    I have to agree with earlier posts that this initiative looks dodgy: an MI5 agent trying to cash in by turning little kids against their culture?
    Also I was amazed Sesame Street got $1 million to do something on the 6 cos. Why bring a gang of profit making Yannks in? Can they not make neough money in America without exporting their Barbie doll type vacuousness to the ends of the earth? Maybe they should make a movie about GI Joe setting Shiite against Sunni?A community of layabouts and drunkards such as exists east of the bann does not need American or English scammers.

  • Miss Fitz : ive been lead to belive that there is no fresh fish market in Kilkeel, just a load of ejits on phones selling the fish to China for processing. can you confirm ?

    fresh fish…. via beijing ?

  • Donnacha

    While the poem might not reach some critics’ standards of brilliance, I find it heartening that children this young are a) involved in a creative process; and b) involved in it TOGETHER. The together part is the only way to change the current situation. As regards the violent proclivities of Kilkeel residents, the same poem could be written about any small town anywhere in Ireland. Or the UK for that matter, so it is wrong to assume that it is a problem peculiar to Kilkeel.

  • m


    ‘MI5 agent’


  • Miss Fitz

    For a long time, you couldnt buy fresh fish in Kilkeel, although you could sit and watch it get loaded off the boats. Must be about 6 years ago, a community centre was built that had a gift shop, restaurant and fish shop.

    So, short answer, yes you can get your plaice, cod, lobster, monkfish and all other forms of fish fresh in Kilkeel. And not a trace of China among them, good proud Kilkeel fish.

  • Rory

    Thank you, Pete. I agree that it would be difficult indeed to quantify, that is, to employ your usage, to assess the success or failure of the project in terms of conflict resolution.That stands to reason. But are you then arguing that because such measurement cannot be made that no grant should be available for the project or that the project warrants funding solely on its merits as an arts and educational project? If the latter then I have no argument. I am fully in favour of state funding for bringing assistance towards artistic and literary expression to the children. We must after all cherish all the children of the land equally or we are in danger of the descent into barbarism.

    If however such funding can only be obtained if the state, unmindful of its obligation to our childrens’ welfare, refuses any funding other than that which can shelter under the umbrella of “conlict resolution” then any attempt to have a worthy project seek that protection seems justified to me. In applying for grant funding any organisation enters a world of piously imposed restrictions that are often honoured more in the breach. The trick is to find the right camoflage.

    If we had a commitment by government to funding education in the arts then perhaps such subterfuge would not be necessary. Would you agree?

  • circles

    On one hand I’m all for this kind of reconciliation project – as a kid its a good laugh and a real eye-opener to actually get close enough to touch the others withou getting a heavy object bounced off your head. So big thumbs up.

    But in my opinion people shouldn’t read too much into the poem. I mean check this out:

    He slowly cuts the azure moon
    Because the sharks run after the pink soldiers.
    Why do the bears scowl so brightly?
    How are the flowers?
    The soldiers run openly around a crimson sun.
    The beast falls.

    Whats that then? A cry for help? Social commentary on the bravery of gay rights campaigners? The early days of the peace process in prose?
    Well this one I got from here – check it out for yerselves.

  • Pete Baker


    If you read my very first comment on this thread you will see I started by acknowledging the real value of engaging children in this type of creative process.

    You can probably safely assume that means that I’m in favour of funding, from whatever source, on the project’s own merits.

  • “So, short answer, yes you can get your plaice, cod, lobster, monkfish and all other forms of fish fresh in Kilkeel. And not a trace of China among them, good proud Kilkeel fish.”

    thanks for that Mz Fitz
    now theres one good reason to visit Kilkeel.

  • Rory

    Thank you, Pete. That is clear. Seems we’re pretty much in agreement then. I shouldn’t let it get around.

  • Circles: Your quote shows the power/bad karma of bad poetry. I am still reeling from the “poem” of Bobby Sands Shore Road Resident bashed us with.

    I do feel a lot of thee projects are run for the artists/corporations, not for the kids involved. Sesame Street seems a case in point. The $1m they got would have paid for a good camogie pitch in Kilkeel.

  • Miss Fitz

    I don’t know, maybe if I type slower, it will become clearer.

    This was not a project aimed specifically at children, it was taken out to all sections and types of people within the community. In his time here, Dave was able to speak to a wide range of people and recorded their views and opinions on reconciliation and peace.

    And there is no question, you are all correct. There is no need for any us of to do anything. We can all just sit back and see our society continue to rot.

    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

  • An MI5 agent called Martin
    Began his career by meat cartin’
    But mentioning patriotic songs
    And human car bombs
    Will get fartin’ Martin startin’

    Do I get half a pound of macherel for this? One of the IRA guys who broke out of Derry jail in 1940 was from Kilkeel.