Under The Fox by Kevin Lee

Introduction to Under The Fox

Shortly after 6 p.m., on Wednesday 29 December 2020, Taoiseach Micheál Martin delivered a state of the nation address on RTE. He strode, grim faced, down the ornate staircase in Merrion Square’s Government Buildings. Behind Mr Martin, the landing was adorned with a priceless Evie Hone stained glass window. The stairs was covered with a plush beige-coloured carpet. As he approached the awaiting microphone social media wags compared the scene to one from the final hours of the ill-fated ‘Titanic’. In his address an Taoiseach gave us all the dreaded, even if expected, news that, from the following day, the nation was going into level 5 lockdown. The lockdown would last until 31 January 2021 at the earliest. Unfolding events would dictate that the lockdown would continue well into the month of April.

During the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, our community found some solace in our daily postings relating to the history, heritage and folklore of our community. It was now time to dust down the laptop, reopen the local history files and scan long past editions of the Wicklow People and Wicklow Newsletter. The time to restart the daily posting had arrived. One felt like the pied piper of Hamlin as the thousands of followers from earlier in the year flocked back to ‘like’, ‘comment’ on and ‘share’ the diversions offered. There was still an appetite for the lore and the legends, for the history and heroics of our close knit South Wicklow community.

When we published the Facebook postings from the first lockdown we could not, in our wildest dreams, have envisaged the success which the book enjoy. We called it The Liars’ Bench. It derived its name from a piece of old street furniture which once proudly adorned Carnew’s Woolgreen. It was more than any old seat – it had a special place in the heritage of the border village. This book is a sequel to The Liars Bench. We have called it Under the Fox. It derives its title from a humble weather vane, in the shape of a fox, which sits atop Shillelagh’s Courthouse, or Town Hall as it was once grandiosely called. The Carnew Bench and the Shillelagh Fox are much more than simple artifacts. They are both iconic and symbolic of a much changed society. The Fox brings to mind days spent chasing Reynard through the fields of South Wicklow. It is a reminder of the days when, at the annual hunt ball, the establishment and the lower gentry ate, drank and danced the night away. It also brings memories of the days when pride prevented people from divulging that they had been summoned to appear in court. There was a little refinement in stating that you had been requested to attend ‘under the fox’.

Much of the symbolism surrounding the Fox has been captured in this poem, Under the Fox, penned by our talented follower, Colm Southern.

From days now long past,
This sign of old power,
The free running Fox,
Astride the Clock Tower

Where under the Fox,
Judgement was made,
Sentences handed,
Verdicts conveyed,

But neither huntsman nor hound,
Are fit to give chase,
Or flush cunning Reynard
From his high vantage place

Still he watches comings and goings
And over sad passing’s too,
Shillelagh’s wily old fox,
Atop his weather vane pew

Kevin Lee

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