Paddy O’Keeffe’s Bog

One fine Summer’s evening when passing by Togher
I stood, and enraptured, I gazed all around.
The peaceable scenes of my long vanished childhood
No more on the slopes of this mountain I found.
The sheep and the cattle that grazed on the hillside
Recalling to memory the plains of Royal Meath
Had now disappeared and their places were taken
By men who were digging for ‘gold’ underneath.

Those bogs which for centuries lay sorely neglected
Were now utilised by each true Irishman
To make his dear Motherland more independent
Of England’s support since this cruel war began.
From town and from city they rallied to Togher
Such scenes of industry I ne’er saw before
For hundreds and thousands in shirt-sleeves were digging
And when they had done, they went looking for more.

To make the acquaintance of all those young workmen
I walked right along till I met Paddy Keeffe.
Oh, Paddy was beaming and smiling all over
And graciously told me that I had his leave
To travel, if weather and time would permit me,
The turf-covered heights of his far-flung domain
And see for myself how each workman was faring,
Find out all about him and, of course, get his name.

I ascended the mountain and soon I was talking
To men who had come from the banks of the Lee.
They said ’twas a pleasure to work in the country
But what work they had done, oh, it failed me to see.
I said “My dear fellows, your time you are wasting,
The cash of your masters you have flung in the air.”
But their foreman, Dan Connell, said “Make your mind easy,
The Sunbeam and Wolsey have money to spare.”

While Dan was explaining the whys and the wherefores
Of wet turf and dry turf and black turf and brown
And of all the sweet colleens he knew through the country
And the fair one he brought out each weekend from town—
I spied Janey Rourke and I went on towards him—
Right into the middle of trouble I walked
Such a talkative fellow I ne’er in my life met
When time came for parting, the more Janey talked.

At last, near exhausted, I tore myself from him
And entered the camp of the Cronin’s abode.
They welcomed me kindly and bade me be seated
Saying “Wisha, you craytur, you’re killed from the road.’5
But little I suspected that me they were fooling
‘Til Maggie slipped out and away she did go
On top of my bicycle straightaway for Hansy’s
As fast as the breezes that o’er Mushera blow.

Whilst hoping the ‘Prodigal’ soon would return,
I went on my journey and came to Jack Browne.
Where I heard Janey Cooley conversing with Katie
And saying that all other boys she should let down
Though lorries of turf they could count by the dozen,
Michael Twomey, Matt Leary and of course, Con Lehane,
Yet he was the one who would be her adorer
And sing loud her praises in lovely Rylane.

Having found that a romance was here being enacted,
My progress I halted and turned away
To where the two Rourkes were in deep conversation
Den Desmond, beside them, was filled with dismay.
Her said he would leave all his turf go to blazes
If darling Johanna’s young heart he could gain,
Whilst Annie, with outlook pessimistic and gloomy
Said “Den, I’m afraid that tomorrow will rain.”

On the distant horizon the blue smoke was curling
From the red camp that sheltered Jeremiah and Eugene
‘Twas a landmark for thousands that dwelt all around
From the borders of Nadd to the heights of Seefein.
As I was approaching, Jeremiah came to meet me,
With an accent not learned in Ballinagree,
He said “To my domicile, sir, you are welcome.
Come in and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.”

We talked of the war, De Valera and Stalin,
Then fashions and marriages and love we discussed,
The progress of Ireland’s young sons and brave daughters,
Or if they had their manners left rot in the dust.
When lo! to our ears, by the gentle winds wafted,
The name of Napoleon came over the air.
My steps I directed towards the voice singing
And what do you think—Neilus Connor was there.

Oh! Neilus is always most kind and obliging
If you ask him to sing, you won’t have long to wait.
But for modern numbers he’ll never be summoned
His songs are for centuries gone out of date.
Still, gaping young rustics knelt around him adoring,
While Neilus’s song rang o’er valley and glen.
Paddy Andy, a sportsman, in deep voice sonorous,
Said “Where is Mike Matt? Tell him fill ’em again “

When the crowd was dispersing, I met Paddy Cotter,
Saw Jerry drawing out with a donkey and cart.
He was so unaccustomed to driving a sulker
That the lazy old fellow had near broke his heart.
In contrast so striking to what I was viewing,
Paddy Keeffe came on horseback with gun and with dog.
As he rode o’er the mountain, you’d swear he was flying
As he sought for the culprit who burned his bog

O’er sweet Knoppogue, where the red cliffs are rising,
I saw poor Jack Hallissey straighten his back
And I thought as I viewed him “What use are inventions
When one for the footing there still is a lack.”
The Twomeys, determined, were working beside him,
Coakleys were out for more money to make.
Said Councillor Lucey, from old Carrigthomas,
“I assure you, dear people, the weather will break.”

When I met Dan Joe Cremin, he talked of the women
Whom he could have married, if they gave consent.
Paddy Pope said “You’re right, I agree with you surely.”
But Dan Joe was doubtful if that’s what he meant.
Batty Den was not troubled with ladies of fashion,
Jerry Darby the price of his hat would not tell
And “What will I do if the mountains fall over
For you know thum things happen” said poor Thady Kell.

On the south side of Togher where Mushera looks over
The men from Kilcorney, Aubane and Glenleigh
Were mingling with those of Duhallow and Millstreet
And working together with hearts light and free.
To the top of the Alps Willie Murphy ascended,
His black Kerry cows kept him company there,
But no cows or half-crowns hindered Huge and his missus
From working so late neath the sun’s reddening glare.

Not far from long Cashman I met Paddy Crowley,
He scarcely saluted as I was going by.
He had but one subject to claim his attention,
To get a good price for his turf, wet or dry.
“Be jay,” says Con Kelleher, “there’s no cause to grumble,
The bog will enable us to buy cigarettes.”
“And if I had the cash of my lorries,” says Matty
“On brave Scottish Welcome I’d place a few bets.”

Above on a hillock I saw Mickey Buckley,
Below I saw Dominic and Eugene Dineen,
And the two Murphy brothers away on the summit
Were nearer by far to the borders of Bweeing.
Dan Duggan was watching his boundary so closely
That once in my presence, he took out a rule,
But he soon left his anchor for, down in a gallop,
Came the wild and speedy young Tarrants from Coole.

In a nice shady hollow I spied Timmy Robert
With acres of turf all around him for sale.
He said “I’m in clover if ‘Nell O’ won’t find them,
But I think her supplies for this Winter won’t fail.
“The grey dawn had broke when I parted with Timmy,
The Sun shone in glory in lovely Seefein,
Realising the value of time spent in Togher,
Many stalwart young workers again could be seen.

And I thought as I walked o’er the sweet scented heather
Of the turf that’s found there is none but the best.
If you go to Kildare or the vast Bog of Allen,
You’ll quickly fly back to the famed Eagle’s Nest.
All around me the bogland in sunlight was bathed.
The turf-covered banks were like jewels at my feet.
Oh, ’twas easy to see their magnetic attraction
Had emptied the side-walks of Cork’s Patrick Street.

To supply the whole country with fuel for the Winter,
Some hundreds of lorries each day without fail
Are drawing to Fermoy to the Sunbeam and Wolsey,
Midleton, Cobh and the town of Kinsale.
Not a factory in Cork, in Macroom or in Mallow,
Not a chimney stack rising its head to the sky
But is puffing up smoke from the black turf of Togher
As if the imports of coal to defy.

What a change form the days when the cross-channel steamers
Conveyed their dark cargoes to Erin’s fair shore,
What a change from the days when the coffers of England
Got swelled while the coffers of Ireland got lower.
Thank God we have fuel to be found in abundance,
Thank God we have enough in our own Motherland,
Thank God we have Togher, thank God for its owner,
Thank God for the leaders of dear Ireland.

Paddy O’Keeffe’s Bog was written by John Twomey.

The poem featured in the book Aubane: Where in the World is it? – by the Aubane Historical Society (1998)

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John Twomey was from Ivale, Kilcorney (a brother of Matty “Thady Matty” Twomey). One of his poems that has survived is the following, sung to the air of Bould Thady Quill, written in 1944 during World War II when bogs, and Togher and Mauma in particular, were full of people cutting turf because of the shortage of coal. It was very popular, being all about local ‘characters’ and their oddities—as well as some foreigners from Cork city and such places.

1 thought on “Paddy O’Keeffe’s Bog”

  1. O’er sweet Knoppogue, where the red cliffs are rising,
    I saw poor Jack Hallissey straighten his back
    And I thought as I viewed him “What use are inventions
    When one for the footing there still is a lack.”
    The Twomeys, determined, were working beside him,
    Coakleys were out for more money to make.
    Said Councillor Lucey, from old Carrigthomas,
    “I assure you, dear people, the weather will break.”

    I located my gt grandmothers family on line today going back to her wedding in 1865, Mary Lucey Carrigthomas to Michel Sullivan
    Anyone explain Councillor Lucey from Carrigthomas? many thanks, roger o’sullivan, farran. Co.Cork

    [Marriage Register] – 25th April 1865 at Ballyvongane Chapel (Bealnamorrive)

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