Sigerson Clifford (1913 – 1985) was an Irish Poet, Playwright and Civil Servant.
Sigerson Clifford was born at No.11 Dean St, Cork City and was christened Edward Bernard Clifford. His parents, Michael Clifford and Mary Anne Sigerson were from Kerry and they returned there the following year, to Caherciveen where Sigerson was to be raised.
At the age of six he went to live with his paternal grandfather, “Ned” Clifford, on the Old Road in the town. A gifted storyteller, Ned's influence encouraged his grandson to write poems and stories while at school. Here his essays and poems won praise. He never forgot his grandfather's stories of weird and ghostly happenings, told to him around the fireplace when the winter nights were gathering in. Later Sigerson would remember them in a poem Where The Old Men Thatched Their Dreams With Adjectives.
As a writer, young Edward Clifford adopted the first name Sigerson in honour of his maternal family, although he continued to be known as “Eddie” to family and friends. At the age of nineteen, after finishing secondary school he joined the Civil Service, where he was quoted as saying 'they chained my bones to an office stool and my soul to a clock's cold hands'. Sigerson worked for several years in unemployment exchanges in Cork and Kerry. In 1943 he moved to Dublin.
In 1945 Sigerson married Marie Eady who was a native of Cork. Clifford continued to write, however he stayed with the Civil Service until his retirement in 1973..
Death & legacy
Sigerson Clifford died in Glenageary, Co. Dublin on 1 January 1985, aged 71. He was interred in Kilnavarnogue Cemetery in his native Cahersiveen, with a graveside oration by his fellow Kerry author and playwright, John B. Keane. A monument in memory of Sigerson Clifford is located in Cahersiveen.
Clifford wrote a number of poems and plays, including The Great Pacificator, which was staged at the Abbey Theatre in 1947. Clifford is best remembered for his poem, The Boys of Barr na Sráide, which was named after a street in Cahersiveen. The poem recalls the life of his boyhood friends starting from when they were young children through to the Black and Tan period and up to the Civil War. The poem speaks of the Irish tradition of “hunting for the wran” (wren), a small bird on St. Stephen's Day. Later set to music, the song has been recorded by numerous traditional and folk singers including Christy Moore and Tim Dennehy.
On 17 July 2010, a verse of his poem The Ballad of the Tinker's Son was unveiled on a limestone plaque as part of the Puck Poets Project in Killorglin, as a memory of his poetic contribution to the town of Killorglin. Also a verse from his poem The Ghost Train From Croke Park can be found on the railway monument outside Fexco. Sigerson Clifford wrote the following inscription for his headstone in October 1984;
I take my sleep in these green fields,
The place I grew a man,
With the Boys of Barr na Sraide,
Who hunted for the wran.
The grave of Sigerson Clifford.
Monument to Sigerson Clifford, Caherciveen.
Puck Poet's Monument.