Lick The Pencil

In a sequence that ultimately reveals a deep, underlying sorrow two shades are recalled: Heaney’s father, Patrick, and Colmcille. The pencil and its marks come to symbolise things that do not fade with time. there was a pre-war habit in Britain of licking pencils before using them possibly because it helped darken the script. In the 1940’s and 50’s there existed pencils, also licked, that produced purplish, more permanent markings and were referred to as ‘indelible’ pencils. i Providing his father with a nickname derived from his quirky ways and his farming skills leaves Heaney with a dilemma. He recalls three fitting images of the man he knew. The first, ‘Lick the pencil’ was very apt: so quick and deft was his father’s action to wet the […]