“Rock ‘n Roll”

wwpeter-cavanaugh-fulton CHAPTER SEVENTY-TWO ROCK ‘N ROLL 1992 was the 100th Anniversary of my Great-Grandfather’s death. He had left Ireland during The Famine Years in 1848 and had crossed the North Atlantic to the green fields of America. He was buried under a fine Celtic Cross in a little churchyard just north of Syracuse. His name is engraved in sharp and bold lettering, still clearly distinct with a century gone: PETER   CAVANAUGH My namesake’s handwriting appears in an old, worn book on Irish History which was passed down to me by my Uncle Vince. It was all Peter left us in memory. Cavanaugh Diocese of Fern County of Leinster Town of Ballyoughter Irish Nobility Evicted By The English And Abandoned By God I had left broadcasting after thirty-six uninterrupted years. I knew where to go. Eileen and I drove to Detroit and caught a flight to Dublin. We rented a car and traveled the land without itinerary or agenda. There was no need. There were spirits everywhere. We were led. Peter is listed as the son of James and Margaret Cavanaugh, born in the summer of 1816 in Ballyoughter. The town has disappeared. It was located east of Enniscorthy, just south of Dublin in the Wicklow Mountains near the Irish Sea. Peter was baptized July 15th of that year, according to parish records now miraculously preserved on microfilm at the Library of Ireland in Dublin. The fancy spelling of the family name “Kavanagh” with a “C” and a superfluous “u” can be attributed to the transcribing priest, who wrote in a most graceful and elegant hand. Before and after his stewardship of some thirty years, the whole bunch were “Kavanaghs”. The priest had faithfully noted births, marriages and deaths in the small community during his whole time of tenure. It is a ledger covered with silent tears. There are five pages per year before “The Famine” and five years per page thereafter. Many in our family died of hunger. Peter made it to America. He was unmarried and in his early thirties. He found an Irish bride in the States. Their son John, my Grandfather, was born in 1854. It was John’s son, Donald, who died on the radio. Our direct Cavanaugh (Kavanagh) line is traced to the middle of the Twelfth Century and one Donal Kavanagh, who had become very disenchanted with his father, Dermod Mac Murrough, King of Leinster. Dermod was the Irish King who first “let in the English” to help extended his power and control over the entire island. He is described as: “No hero, but a large, lustful, blustering, hoarse-voiced man, whose name had an evil sound in the ears of the Irish. He was the bad son of a bad father, one who chose rather to be feared than loved”. In honor of his friend, King Henry II of England, Dermod thought he’d take an English wife. King MacMurrough wasn’t much for courtship. He kidnapped “Chelsea of the Willows”, a beautiful English noblewoman, and dragged her back to Ireland in chains. He married her and impregnation eventually followed. The lovely Chelsea wasn’t a withering willow. She introduced further disrepute into the family picture by poisoning Dermod and burning him alive on their First Wedding Anniversary. She torched him with a flaming log, revenge with phallic overtones.  She told King Henry she was sorry and built an Abbey for penance. She was royalty. She cut a good deal. Eileen and I walked the ruins of the Abbey at sunset. Only the crows cried welcome.

Donal was born after Dermod’s fiery demise. There was an image problem. Although the family name was later fully redeemed with great honor by Donal’s son Art MacMurrough/Kavanaugh several generations down the road, with a traitor for a father and murderess-mom, Donal felt major disassociation would be highly appropriate and refused to be called a “Mac Murrough”. He chose “Kavanagh” as a new surname in honor of his counselor and close friend “Cavan” (which curiously is historically spelled with a “C”), a prominent Irish priest and confessor. “Cavan” was eventually sainted by the Church. Discussing “DNA” genetics and what have you, it is striking to note that Dermod and Chelsea’s genes undoubtedly enjoyed constant and particular reinforcement in a most unique manner all the way through to “The Great Hunger” and Peter’s passage to America. Ballyoughter was less than five miles away from Fern, the ancient Irish capital from which Dermod and his fierce warriors ruled and plundered. Our particular tribal branch, as verified by those parish records in Dublin, thus never seriously strayed away from home for over seven hundred years between Dermod’s smoldering remains and Peter’s farewell to the groves of shillelagh and shamrock. Dermod and Chelsea have just kept on sharing each other, all forgiven. It’s never been otherwise. Dermod and Chelsea had arrived late in the true Irish sense of things. The village of Slane is forty-five miles northwest of Dublin. On its ancient castle grounds have played The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springstein, Bob Dylan and U-2. On the Hill of Slane, Saint Patrick proclaimed Ireland to be Christian in 433 A.D. by lighting a paschal fire. The burial chamber at Newgrange is on the banks of the River Boyne a few miles to the east. It is over five thousand years old. The Newgrange chamber is a huge, circular, man-made mound of white and black boulders, largely covered with earth and grass. It measures two-hundred and forty feet across and is forty-four feet high. An entrance overlooks a broad bend in the river. A narrow tunnel leads seventy feet down into the earth. Passage is slow. A central chamber contains three rooms, all openly facing into the center. Water has never penetrated into the surrounding rocks. Construction was by master architects. It was built for the ages. The spiral markings are everywhere. Their meaning is unclear. A small opening over the entrance is aligned so that the sun’s rays penetrate and illuminate the chamber with a fiery red glow only once each year at the exact point of the Winter Solstice. It is seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The effect lasts less than twenty minutes. Newgrange was not erected as a tomb. It is a womb. It is two thousand years older than Stonehenge. IT IS PERSPECTIVE. Eileen and I spent some time in England and visited Stonehenge too. We went through the Tower of London and saw where Henry had his heads hacked and IRA men spent many long, last years. The British Museum was overwhelming. All the heroes were warriors and kings. There were spoils from many lands. We climbed to the top of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and spent hours at Westminister Abbey. We went to Toussaud’s “Rock Circus” on Pickadilly. All the rock stars are in wax. Eileen had her picture taken with Freddy Mercury. He’d been dead for months. There were “security alerts” on the London Underground all the time. We stayed at the Copthorne Tara in Kensington. We returned to Perrysburg in late October. There was no question as to my immediate intent. Ireland had shown the way. There was only one thing I would do for a year. Nothing. My oldest daughter Laurie and her wonderful husband Paul presented us with our first grandchild on December 20th. Her name is Katherine Noelle Thome. I wrote her a letter on her first Saint Patrick’s Day and told her all about Peter. All of the daughters were home for Christmas and Easter in Perrysburg. Over Labor Day Weekend, the whole family was assembled again in Syracuse, where we celebrated my mother Isabelle’s 90th Birthday. All my women were all home again for New Year’s Eve 1992 and wouldn’t let me watch Howard Stern. Other than the above, all I did for the entire year was perfect the art of effortless existence. It was lovely. I’m quite rested. I’m five thousand years younger than Newgrange. I still stay in touch with Sister Cecilia from the old Cathedral days. An indication of her lasting influence came during a 25th year High School Reunion in 1984. It was the first time the Class of ’59 had ever assembled since graduation. It had been then we boys were told to “never again darken the doors of the school” following a brief alcoholic misadventure. Sister Cecilia had driven herself to Syracuse for the event from the “Mother House” in Maryland. It was evident that the passage of time had changed her only in small ways. I was delighted to discover for the first time that her last name was Connolly. Such things had not been shared in earlier times. Also in attendance was Army Major Thomas Gibbons. Tom had entered the service and  qualified for special assignment. He had successfully completed officer training as a Green Beret. Tom had repeated several tours in Viet Nam and had volunteered for each and every one. He had flown helicopters as a combat pilot. He had commited his life to the military. I saw him coming in the front entrance and greeted him with a hug.  I excitedly told him Sister Cecilia was in the next room. Tom thought he could use a drink. After three double-scotches, Tom moved into the staging area and greeted Sister. She hugged him too. In Viet Nam, the closely encountered enemy had been clearly unfeared. Sister Cecilia was something else. Sister Cecilia had been most emphatic back in the Fifties that Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Platters, the Diamonds, the Del Vikings, Bo Diddley, Duane Eddy, Georgia Gibbs, Jody Reynolds, Ronnie Hawkins, Fats Domino and the the rest of those “bold, brazen things” were “Occasions of Sin”. She knew this to be true because Father Shannon told her so and he heard confession. Sister Cecilia Connolly had lived in the convent next to Cathedral school with other Sisters of Charity. They were only allowed to watch  Bishop Fulton J. Sheen on television.  Collective exposure to the newly emerging world of visual communication had been thus limited to thirty minutes each Tuesday night at eight. A brilliant woman, trusting with ferocious determination the tenets of her Church, Sister Cecilia saw nothing but dangerous rebellion in the new music of youth. I chose to believe in Rock ‘n Roll. On the surface, this indigenously American music seems all about a completely uncomplicated, essentially ageless desire to “feel good”. It’s a natural sort of thing. It’s like sex. Looking at it from a purely mechanical perspective, sex seems silly. It’s ecstasy by embarassment. What a contradiction. We fulfill the most important obligation demanded by Natural Order and are rewarded handsomely for following our instinctive inclinations. Only in unqualified surrender do we gain ultimate pleasure. Should we not yield,  future existence ends. So might the enjoyment of certain sounds emerging in particular patterns featuring specific combinations of varying frequencies at subjectively pleasant amplitude offer suspect satisfaction, but only to the physiologically uninitiated. Not if it’s in the blood! It has been my experience that Rock ‘n Roll Music and personal liberty are inseparable. Those who oppose one will invariably oppose both. I also find that many of us who would purport to cherish individual freedom actually find it a terrifying notion. Seen God lately? Feel that fright? Get what I mean? The majority of our species want others in charge. That’s not by chance. It’s in the program. Letting someone else do the important thinking is much more than intellectual torpor. Such abrogation is in the flesh, another manifestation of inherent genetic predisposition. It is a critical legacy. Upon it, human survival depends. We can’t all lead.  Most must follow. Too many directions bring confusion and anarchy. Or regicide and separation. Or foreign domination. And famine. We all must both lead and follow with measured balance within respective spirals. We individually learn our destined path. None is better or worse. But only that which is truly yours is best. There are some destined to utter grace. They are the ones who listen to the music. And hear. Some even play. They seek to give us faith. They would assure that we are not alone. The Beatles had it right. Life flows on within us. And without us. “Tomorrow Never Knows” Because? It never is? Perhaps there is no past or future. Consider there is only presence. Imagine we are masters of illusion. Pretend we are magic. Envision we are locked in eternal embrace. If everything is now? Then Kurt Vonnegut was correct. “All Music is Sacred”. The first draft of “Local DJ” was completed on June 6, 1994. The 50th Anniversary of D-Day. Brian McNeill sold WIOT/WCWA. He came out millions ahead. God love him. Frazier Reams picked up some cash on the deal as his family name disappeared from broadcasting after nearly sixty years. God love him too. And God love you. Thank you for letting me share my little stories. All of them are true. Trust yourself. Any time you choose. Be Rock ‘n Roll!!!!

4 Responses to ““Rock ‘n Roll””

  1. catherine duffy Says:

    we seem to be related as last weekend i just visited peter and mary cavanaugh’s grave. i am from lawrence cavanaugh’s line. his son edward was my grandfather. we never heard much about the family so it was interesting reading your account. edward and anna cavanaugh had 4 daughters, who had 28 kids between them. we are having a family reunion at my cousin pat’s place near trenton, nj this weekend and i can’t wait to tell them about you. i’m going back up to fulton next month hopefully to find out more, could you give me any more info. thank you,casie duffy

  2. Scott Smith Says:

    Dear Peter,

    Having visited your site on more than a few occasions I was dismayed to read your comment regading Dr. Michael Savage. That freedom of speach and expression is denegrated by people like yourself who have done nothing to earn it yet use the gift each and every day is yet another sign that “supposed” open minded folks such as yourself define freedom as that which prescribes to only your high-minded (slight twist of words eh) bigoted definition. Anyone who knows Doctor Savage has no doubts that although often abrasive, rude and arrogant he is not a “hater”. For that Peter I would first look in your own mirror. Shame on you. Smoking can harm the firing sequence of your brain cells. Give the gift of free speech to someone whos opinions you stgrongly disagree with and save the hater label for those who deserve it. Look into that mirror again and see the true reflection. It should disappoint you. My apologies to the person whose thread I inserted this comment into. Scott

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Your “Doctor” Savage is a loud mouth lout with the intellectual depth of a frozen bird bath. You’re welcome to him, Scott. And you’re always welcome here. This is my thread, so no apologies are necessary.

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