Newpark in the 1960’s was isolated on the periphery of Kilkenny City. A plethora of young families
settled on the newly constructed estate. This dynamic helped to change the neighbourhood into
bustling community. Freedom of movement allowed youthful enthusiasms to flourish as children
made their way in a relaxed, friendly and safe environment.
Central to the new estate was an area of marshland known colloquially as ‘The Bog’. This place
became the private domain of children. Adults equated it with trouble and ‘gurriers’. This cry of the
older generation never changed ‘Stay away from the bloody bog!’. For the most part, this exhortation
was ignored, with all youth’s disdain.
Like many civilisations. The Bog and its denizens had a rite of passage. Successful initiation required
the ability to cross the marsh by leaping from sod to sod to sod. Falling into the murky depths was
not only a sign of inferior capability; it was a reason to treated with scorn a far worse condemnation,
within youth’s hierarchy.
The uncrowned King of the Bog was Jamesy. While many of us, after much trial and error, learned to
traverse its length, King Jamesy knew its reaches intimately and could navigate it in countless ways.
His subjects trailed in his wake, awestruck at the flexibility and co-ordination, his innate abilities.
King Jamesy was at the ease in The Bog. He knew its flora and fauna, its inhabitants, could name the
myriad array of bog life. The monarch was a master of bog craft. He could build tents, conjure
flaming torches, construct rafts from accumulated debris.
King Jamesy was a leader who insisted on a strict adherence to his code. Failure got dealt with
summarily and harshly. Immersion in The Bog ended up the punishment for sundry offences.
Exclusion from the group (temporarily at least) was another deterrent.
Given a choice we chose immersion Muck and smelly grunge seemed preferable to the awful
separation from peers.
King Jamesy reigned during my formative years. He was an ever-present figure. But he began,
without realizing it, a gradual abdication. It seems Jamesy had discovered other diversions, had
discovered the pictures, smoking, drinking and (much to the disgust of his young male cohort) girls.
There were even rumours of him being observed kissing one of these creatures at the local meeting
point, ‘The Three Trees’ and so, with little fanfare, King Jamesy departed, leaving behind a disillusioned coterie. His reign
done, the followers quickly dispersed. I like to think a new group soon formed, that a younger
generation discovered imaginative freedom in frolics around The Bog and environs.
Today, our erstwhile leader, a father and grandfather, is called Seamus. He is a highly respected
member of the community, with his advice and knowledge much sought after. When we meet, we
acknowledge each other with a smile, nod grey heads and indulge in polite meaningless words. For
fleeting moments, though, I am transported back to halcyon days.
Once more I am a callow youth, Newpark is my playground and Seamus is Jamesy ‘King of the Bog’.
Originally Written by Frank Cody as part of the 2018 Publication “I’ll Learn Yah! “Newpark Memories
which printed with the support of Kilkenny Leader Partnership.