Oct 072015

September’s Uimhir a Cúig, The Poets’ House, Portmuck, featured the poetry of the late James (Jimmy) Simmons  – a senior Irish poet, literary critic and songwriter – and his wife Janice Fitzpatrick-Simmmons.  To date no video has been available of this great Irish writer and singer/songwriter until early this week when 15 minutes of video, James Simmons – The Lost Footage, turned up unexpectedly on YouTube! It is an extraordinary find and a wonderful memory. The video ends fittingly and memorably with Jimmy and Janice singing together. Have a look below and enjoy. Beneath that you’ll find a recording of Jimmy singing The Ballad of Claudy, a beautiful and tragic lyric account of the bombing of the small town of Claudy in County Derry on the 31st of July 1972 resulting in the deaths of nine people including an 8 year old girl.



—Gerard Beirne

  5 Responses to “Lost Video Footage of the Late Irish Poet James Simmons Turns Up Unexpectedly”

  1. What a pleasant surprise! Jimmy Simmons was a gifted artist and a warm human being. Thirty years ago, Helen Vendler tried to arrange a switch for a year. Jimmy would come to Le Moyne, I would go to Queens College, Belfast. Unfortunately, I imagined that I was in love with someone at the time, and was reluctant to make any changes. It was a mistake, all round. It’s good to once again see and hear James Simmons.

  2. Yeah, I know that youthful folly of blowing opportunities for “loves” that, at least in my case, tended to disintegrate within weeks of the squander.Too soon old, too late smart. But I had the pleasure of publishing Simmons severally back in the early days of NEW ENGLAND REVIEW. Wish I’d had a chance to meet him.

  3. A talented man and a sweet one. You would have liked him. Thanks for putting up the video and the song. .

  4. A humanist, master-poet, whose mission was to create a consciousness of self-reflectiive writing in a new Ulster generation, underpinned by a socialist honesty aimed at sectarianism. His style is earthy – he eschewed poetic postures of intellectualism. Much of his work is superior to much of Heaney’s. His late volumes Mainstream, and The Company of Children escaped the attention of the literati, being overshadowed by Heaney’s hero-worship, and await recognition.

  5. The song Claudy is a heart rending succinct ballad of the horror of what we so euphemistically called and still call the Troubles. My memory of hearing this song sung by the poet for the first time was in the early seventies, it was on BBC TV I think, it was a hazy black and white footage, it certainly is now a distant memory, but the song still retains the immediacy of the haunting bloody mutilated horror of that day. Simmons is a very fine poet who should get more recognition and inclusion in anthologies.
    I discovered the poet in the early seventies, a northern poet amongst so many that appeared periodically in the Honest Ulsterman that I would buy. James Simmons stood out for his searing honesty in describing what seemed mundane ordinary folks’ lives, their semi detached relationships…
    “imaginative reconstruction shed
    Some light upon a vanished way of life.
    I cannot live like them. They are dead.”
    The poet here speaks of his own self ten years earlier and of an outing with a girl in the “cold wind off the Atlantic rattling metal in the amusement park”. They are projections of his own mind, a reel of film blinking on a wall, their own youthful figures no more.
    I have rummaged and unearthed two editions of the Honest Ulsterman and they treasures I will hold onto though they yellow and turn to dust.

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