The Curfew Tower Fragments is a response to an artists residency in Bill Drummond’s Curfew Tower, Cushendall, County Antrim. Musician Paul Simpson of Wild Swans and Skyray legend and I worked in the Tower from July 20th to July 25th 2012.
The piece below was made by Martin Heslop and myself.

We sit like lighthouse keepers, removed from plague waters.

Drunks roaring on Bridge Street, panic in the gutters.

As if I were dead, I haunt narrow stairways, red eyed with whisky.

As cigar smoke fogs the tower, he says ‘Papa Hemingway’.

Corvids flying to their rookery, like scattered, black ashes.

Stately, plump, Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead…

‘Man desires eternity, but all he can get is its imitation: the instant of ecstasy.’ M.Kundera

A boy like a bullfighter falls onto the bonnet of a boy racer’s motor.

Buzzards, rooks, crows, herons, wagtails, kestrels.

‘The raw material of everyone’s life is chaotic. The trick, as Nietzsche wrote is to organise this chaos.’ Laird Easton.

A memorial to murdered men on the gable of the funeral directors.

‘If an Englishman or Protestant had been in there, I reckon he’d be lucky to get out alive.’ Zippy Kearney

‘A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air.’

‘He went out of the faded barracks building and immediately made out on the other side of the grating, on the sidewalk, a kind of sea monster of faces, bodies, and hands that was quivering, waiting for them in the ashen noontime…’ Antonio Lobo Antunes

Lichen on gravestones, grief etched on granite, the ruins of the friary beneath a red sky.

Black, Gothic ocean where U Boats skulked.

When I wake up, the ceiling is pressing down on me, reddish brown like dried blood.

English: The Curfew Tower

English: The Curfew Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kinski, Herzog, Scott, Oates, Steadman, Thompson, Horsley, Drummond, Mindwarp, Simpson, Young.

‘Video showed thick black smoke billowing over the buildings. Locals had painted walls with symbols of revolution.’ News report, 22nd July

‘…in crumpled clothes and bare feet as if woken from hangovers…’

‘They look at the stone harbour where a small girl with tumbling hair stands, still, ghostly looking towards them.’ Ornithology

A steam train on a cargo ship…

Esther the mute sprite, flitting wisp, tapping and scratching Morse code with her fingers.

Peat fire burning, swaddling songs in glimmering, ember light.

Blaring horns; a truck pulling a trailer on which, rope tied like Christ on a crucifix a filth covered, wild eyed man, hair full of shit and ashes.

Big dipper, ghost train, dodgems, penny arcades; Portrush , Sunday.

Chaucer, Dante, Bosch, Hogarth, Celine, Breughel, Joyce.

‘It’s hard to know if you’re getting paranoid…’

At the crossroads, in this tower, locked in, listening to the cacophony of Cushendall at dusk.

‘The seething cauldron of ideas, where everything is fizzling in a state of bewildering activity…’ William James

‘The hot, metallic smell of recently performed magic…’ P Simpson

Invisible geometries, psychic radio waves, disturbed space, vertical history…

Compiling the last bestiary, written in ink blood, apocalypse of insects.

Wild flowers in gin bottle on the kitchen table, mildew stench.

Rorsasch audio, abstract weather, lyrical delinquency…

Mercury rising.

For generations they have fallen drunk in these gutters, spitting out the rosary.

Shamanic ritual, fetish and totem, aching body, dark memory of urinating blood.

Bad wisdom taints tobacco-smoked shadows; violence echoes through the open window.

Catholic heaven ruptures above the curfew tower, hawks fall on vermin.

Constellations fleck the night – sky like the Aurora Borealis – hallucinatory and livid.

Her very soul is in her eyes…

Sinatra singing ‘September Of My Years’ in the darkness: perfume of cigar smoke, burning peat.

Rites of passage…

Memories of teenage kissing.

He tells of Silver Blades Ice Rink, the echo of pop music, the taste of girls lips.

Every night a black dog walks past the tower carrying a take away.

Lighthouse keepers in the tower: 11 O Clock. The Plague Journal is open and the dark is in our eyes.


Woke in the morning. First thing I remember is a man tied to a flat bed truck like a mad, stained Christ, surrendering to torment.

Terry RileyPersian Surgery Dervishes’ pulsating in the writing room; open window, rain.

American composer Terry Riley Interview at Lin...

American composer Terry Riley Interview at Lincoln Center, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slept deep, drugged nightmare, blood red ceiling enclosing me, like an ugly womb.

‘Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust…’

Beauty and danger.

Shrouded in mist, lashed by rain, the curfew tower enfolds us. A wooden room, pipe smoke: Debussy playing, low as a murmur.

Renegade dreams rupture my thoughts, seep into the story; a mangle-boned sacrifice bobs in ocean shallows, blind eyes, milk white, breathing.

Two buzzards in mist beneath Lurigethan: a requiem.

A marker buoy, like a drowned church steeple.

A story of a kitchen falling into the sea, full of servants, drowning.

‘On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.’

Potent rain-smell evocative of childhood, the slightly damp chill summoning my mother, caravan holiday, 1963.

In bed I can feel my blood flowing through my neck, my heartbeat in the pillow.

Malarial dreams, fevered agitation: and then a kind of half-death with car horns blaring in the broken night.

Compass points, crossroads, ley line, portal, curfew tower, lodestone.

The Curfew Tower, Cushendall -

The Curfew Tower, Cushendall – – 239367 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A blind diabetic woman playing a tin whistle in the pub at midnight…

‘Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship.’

The river swollen, voluptuous, rushing, over fat rocks, writhing, serpentine…

Candlelight flicker.

‘Cold oils slid along his veins, chilling his blood: age crusting him with a salt cloak.’

Sitting in the dark, damp of Curfew Tower, waiting for a night-bird to bring the gift of alphabets.

Memory of dissecting a black bird, hoping to find gold trinkets in its guts: like slicing into an old ladies purse and finding only earthworms.

Music box tinkling in the tower: an old book of psalms folded into origami shapes.

A sudden image of clockwork tin soldiers, falling down the staircase.


Fear and loathing in Cushendall: a slight feeling of decay and mental uncertainty: taking my own photograph and deleting it, appalled by my grey skin.

Did Dedalus and Mulligan in the Martello Tower have radio-active, day-glo skulls painted on their bedroom walls..?

My 4.48 psychosis attack turns out to be a drunk on the river bridge shouting ‘Fuck you, fuck you!’ over and over again. What has the river done to him to warrant such vitriolic contempt?

Dust-webbed nooks, shadowed murk. Red paint like a consumptives death warrant spat, spattered on the stairwell.

Pale shamrock, trampled under boots: an old man like a mortuary attendant bent over the river bridge, spitting milky phlegm.

My belly has changed shape. When did this happen? I look at my body, lit by a cheap lamp- shade and I am suddenly ancient.

Memorials of death in battle and drowning at sea.

A cormorant drying it’s wings on jagged rocks near ruined boat houses.

Seven imaginary horses waiting for the girl. She chooses a different horse each day to carry her to strange-lands.

Magic lantern phantasms flicker on nicotine walls in the gloaming hour.


Bird tremor, bird boned, birdy winged, bird lore: the folklore of skull and talon, feather and beak.

A gravestone marking the burial place of Bud “C.U” Platt, Wizard of Zigton.

In the night a knife disappears.

Doom-bells, lead dull: a dream of wrecked submarines.

Pagan stained sky over the dead volcano.

Bred in the bone, dark energy: the visionary child still visible in his eyes.

We are here to do something dangerous and beautiful with our lives.

Muttering a heathen prayer, palms full of river water.

‘Foxes are just children playing.’ A mongrel studies us from a rock. Nearby a bonfire stacked like a hermit’s hut waits to be ignited.

‘What makes them what they are, is precisely those attributes that make strangers of them, that makes exiles and transgressors of them. So that, at the end of the drama, the characters are left naked and alone and at a beginning.’ David Rudkin.

Ritual magic, totem, fetish, token, touchstone…

Inherited memories – the hemorrhaging horse, the river flooded cellar, the dead birds in the fireplace – how did they become part of my consciousness, passed on from my mother through her blood?

Mist shrouds the cliff path, erasing the ocean.

A basket full of bird eggs and mineral samples in canvas pouches: dust of some kind of ore on my fingers. I taste it and it reminds me of childhood wounds.

Cadence of murmur, undercurrents of memory: riverine debris of pop bottle, crisp bag, chicken-bone.

A fissure in fire embers, gold, blue and silver: a miniature inferno.

Fado Cushendall: the melancholic stagger of the drunkard’s walk.

Stench of wild fennel and mud ooze; sap of decomposing matter, glut of flood bog seeping under cracked boots.

Music from somewhere, haunting, haunted…

The shade of Robert Johnson walks through the crossroads, black hellhound on his trail carrying a pizza box.

Dusk is the daylight gate where nighttime begins. Outside the Central Bar, boys hands hover over car horns waiting to bruise the night.

We go through the night gate into dark anarchy, like opening a leather bound grimoire and unleashing daemons.
Pandaemonium – the place of all demons, disorder and confusion…

At my window, watching women at their windows, cradling babies, vanishing in headlight beams.

I make a telescope of my fingers and look for the moon; the secrets of the cosmos are shrouded in rain cloud.

The geometry of Cushendall: the X, the plus sign, the compass, the cross hairs; the crucifix.

Drinking Guinness in Johnny Joe’s waiting for Zippy the flesher. He doesn’t arrive ; I spill out my life story.
An electric shock numbs Paul’s fingers…

I dream of astronomers.

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