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Finding Meaning in Dublin

October 11, 2012

Finding Meaning in Dublin

by Kenneth Weene

As a student at an all male boarding school, I wanted as much contact with girls as I could get. One of the few social opportunities that my alma mater offered was the glee club. So for three years I tried out. Each year was the same. Art Sager, the music director, would ask me to sing Sweet Molly Malone. Then he would hit a note on the Steinway that dominated the great room in which the auditions were held.

I would start: “In Dublin’s fair city, where—.”

“No,” Mr. Sager would interrupt.“No, no, no!” His bass voice would grow louder. The wattles of his neck would shake with his intensity. “Start again, Weene,” he would command and again sound that starting note.

Another attempt and then a preemptory, “Next.”

Three years. Of course I had known from the first that I would never make the cut. After all, my music teacher in junior high had promised me an A if I just didn’t sing—not an A for participating but for keeping silent. Still, the dances held after each concert beckoned. In desperation I sang that song over and over in my head. Oh, I so wanted to hit the right notes. I never did, but the words lingered.

No wonder that many years later, when I first visited Dublin, I had wanted to see fishmongers in the streets, and I had wanted to sing that song:

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

“Alive, alive, oh,

Alive, alive, oh”,

Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

My wife and I were admiring the Georgian doorways in FitzWilliam Square when I started to sing. To my horror, she didn’t laugh; she didn’t say something witty; she just said, “Stop.”

Crushed, I did. One of my dreams of Ireland down in flames.

I had another dream for our time in Dublin, going to the Abbey Theatre. What lover of literature could resist that pilgrimage?

I only prayed that a play would be on the boards. There was. It was a play about Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe. Kolbe, a Polish priest, gave refuge to many Jews during World War II. Arrested, he was eventually sent to Auschwitz. One day the guards were picking people to be killed—it was a regular event, a way of keeping the inmates cowed. They picked one man. The man pled for his life; he had a family and wanted so desperately to stay alive. Kolbe tried to intervene. He was offered the choice of taking that man’s place. Kolbe did. He did so even though he knew that it was a pointless gesture—that it was unlikely the man would survive for long. Still Kolbe did it.

We were quiet riding back to our hotel. I don’t know about my wife, but I tossed and turned that night. Early in the morning, unable to shake the magnificence of Kolbe’s actions from my mind, I took a walk.

Wandering for a while, I eventually came to the Hapenny Bridge. Halfway across the Liffey, I stopped to watch the river flow beneath. Suddenly, I knew that I had to. I sang that song.

Now her ghost wheels her barrow,

Through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

It is not so much that we do things well. It is certainly not that our actions will change the world. But still must we not—each in our own times and ways, no matter how great or small—no matter how meaningless the action might be—bear witness to who we are?


Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil.

A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Ken is a teacher, psychologist and pastoral counselor by education. He is a writer by passion.

You can sample Ken’s writing and check out his novels at

Those novels are available in print, Kindle, and Nook. Ken’s Amazon page is

A very special thank you to Ken Weene for his contribution and fine story. I hope he certainly comes again with one of his creative memories.

Many Blessings and Happy Traveling!

Rosemary “Mamie” Adkins



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  1. How wonderful that he was able to achieve the goal of singing his song. I sang out loud once …in the car forgetting for a brief moment my 3 yr old grandson was in the backseat until he said with hands over his ears”grammie don’t sing, don’t sing” now I lip sync my favorite hymns! 🙂

    • I’m so sorry your Grandson has not learned even at age 3 that singing is just another way of expression. You should keep on singing out loud-I am sure it makes you feel good-and I bet you have a great voice-get him to sing with you! When our daughter was about three, I taught her scream therapy for release and then singing. Feels so good!

      • lenwilliamscarver permalink

        Oh yes, I still call on my “primal scream” quite often here lately LOL I do sing as I clean or as tonight I have Sirrus radio on as I do this. It is only in church or with others in the car I don’t. although I have been told a few times when I forgot at church and “made a joyful noise” that I wasn’t to bad. I took that to mean ‘not choir quality’ lol I don’t really mind I just love to sing…not if at 61 i could get these ol bones to move freely I would like to dance hmmmmm…

  2. linniescorner permalink

    Great story Ken! We all have different talents and you have many, so who says that you have to know how to sing? So there!

  3. Agreed! We all love to sing but not all meant to sing-so what!
    We love Ken as he is-and I bet he can sing just fine.

  4. I love it!! Twist and Shout! If you remember the song you know the words. Thanks for having such a great sense of humor and visiting again. Please come again!

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