Brighidín Ban Mo Stoir (My fair young bride) is by local poet Edward Walsh (1805-1850), sung by the late Scottish singer Andy M. Steward which appeared in his album Fire in the Store (1985). The song is a tribute to his wife Brigid Ó Súilleabháin.
Edward Walsh spent about thirty years of his life around Millstreet. His education was received in that most primitive of Irish primary schools, the ‘hedge school’. When little more than a boy he showed great intellectual gifts, and in 1830 was private tutor in County Cork. Additionally tutored children of an Irish member of parliament. He was for a time in the 1830’s teacher of a school at Millstreet.
He went to reside in Dublin in 1843, and was befriended by Charles Gavan Duffy, who got him appointed sub-editor of the Monitor. His Irish Jacobite Poetry (1844) and his Irish Popular Songs (1847) gave unmistakable evidence of a genuine poet. Yet he was forced to fight against poverty, and, in 1848, he accepted the post of schoolmaster to the junior convicts of Spike Island.
There he visited John Mitchel, on his way to penal servitude, who vividly describes in his Jail Journal his meeting with Walsh. He was fired for his meeting, and not long afterwards, he secured the schoolmastership of Cork work-house, but died within twelve months. A fine monument, with an epitaph in Irish and English, was erected to his memory in the Father Mathew Cemetery at Cork. Among his lyrics Mo Chragibhin Cno, Brighidin ban mo stor, and O’Donovan’s Daughter are in most Irish anthologies, while his translations from the Irish are both faithful and musical.
Come boys pledge a toast in a bumper most bright,
To the men who lie fettered in prison to-night.
Condemned by packed juries and perjurers base,
But there is one beyond all who is worthy of praise.
He who spoke through his rifle wherever he went,
That renowned legislator for lowering the rent.
For moral force theories could never accord,
With the noble desires of this patriot Bard.
Near the Muskerry mountains he first drew his breath,
And imbibed the pure air of his dear native heath.
And e’er he had grown to the age of a man,
To battle for freedom he bravely began.
Though England’s proud warriors may boast of their skill,
Their fleets and their armies, discipline and drill.
Far dearer to me was the Volunteer Guard,
That obeyed the command of the Muskerry Bard.
He defeated for years, all the limbs of the law,
And for daring and pluck struck each deepest with awe.
And the threat of his name spoken ever so tender,
Had made the most mean-hearted grabber surrender.
Twenty five times at least in the dock did he stand,
And was never betrayed by his brave hearted band.
Though often was offered a bounteous reward,
For a member to swear on this chivalrous Bard [read more …] “The Muskerry Bard”
Once more the Summer decks the hills round dear old Millstreet town
The breezes waft the scent from flowers of green Duhallow down
The sunshine chases shadows fleet o’er Muskery’s meadows wide
And light and shade guild every glade by sweet Blackwater’s side
Sweet it is when Clara hill is clad in sunset glow
And happy lovers shyly meet in many a vale below
They breathe the balmy Irish air and roam the meadows through
Where Finnow witching waters join the far famed Avondhu
Oh. Avondhu by many a field your shadowed waters glide
Where I have life[s golden hours your restful banks beside
Now scattered afar the comrades all my careless boyhood knew
Alas we’ll never meet again beside sweet Avondhu
Some sleep beside that grand old stream in the graveyard on the hill
They closed their eyes in dreamless death while life seemed pleasant still
Light lay the sod upon their clay may heaven’s sweetest dew
For ever bless each comrade’s grave beside sweet Avondhu
The fairest land on earth art thou Oh Ireland grá mo chroí
Your Exiles brave in every land are wrath to make you free
Their dearest hope that yet some day in Freedoms light they’ll view
Their Native hills that sleep for aye beside sweet Avondhu
It is cold, wet and windy today near the Town of Millstreet
Near where Finnow the white river and the Blackwater meet
No cattle in the bare fields they are in farmyard sheds eating silage or hay
On the dying days of Autumn on this November day
Brown storm water flowing fast in every field drain
And old Clara half cloaked in the grey fogs of rain
Strong gales from the Boggeraghs howling in the bare trees
And the weather temperature just above zero degrees
With Summer just a memory and Winter quite near
November in Duhallow is a cold and wet time of year
A lot of overcast sky and little sunshine
And a weather temperature average of just above zero to nine [read more …] “In November In Millstreet”
John Sing used to say that Clara Mountain would outlive the Seasons of time
That it was a very ancient landmark when Fionn mac Cumhaill was in his prime
Sing was such a marvellous character in mood one i never see down
Will there ever again be one like him in Duhallow’s old Millstreet Town?
John Sing used to say Millstreet is in the Diocese of Kerry and we live in the County of Cork
And that many he grew up with migrated to big Cities like London and New York
And though we may feel quite important on the map of the World we are small
Not many beyond the shores of Hibernia would have heard of Millstreet at all [read more …] “John Sing Used To Say”
In the Poetry Programme on 3rd November 2019, at 7:30 pm on RTÉ Radio 1, presenter Olivia O’Leary is joined by poets Bernard O’Donoghue and Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh.
In July 2019, Bernard O’Donoghue and Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh took part in an event recorded before an audience in Doneraile Court in County Cork, one of the Heart of Summer series of events organised by Poetry Ireland and the Office of Public Works.
From Europe and Asia and Africa and places near and far away
They came to the Parish of Millstreet to stay
Nowadays different races of black, white and brown
You are likely to meet in and near Millstreet Town
And a difference to Millstreet with them they did bring
And this in itself is a wonderful thing
Their music, song and dance things refreshening and new
Of multiculturalism the good things are more than a few
The Millstreet of the past was a monocultural place
A Town and Parish of only one race
But time does bring change as the wise one does say
And great changes are happening in Duhallow today
And change for the better good things only add
And for any community cannot be bad
And those who oppose change for the better in their thinking all wrong
Nobody owns any Country since to a Country you belong [read more …] “Changes In Millstreet”
Now I am bound for a far foreign shore
Farewell to the schoolmates I left in Rathmore
Like wise Nohovil that was once dear to me, and my fond relations is sweet Knocknagree.
Farewell and adieu to each smiling lass with whom I had many a pint and a glass, it is on them I’d ponder wherever I roam and my heart it will wander far back to my home.
Farewell to Millstreet that neat little town of honour, and beauty, of fame, and renown, of pleasure, and pastime and sweet unity, and those distant fond objects remind me of thee
Farewell to the groves round sweet Coomlegane
the pond and the castle to the East lies Drishane
Charming Mount Leader with its murmuring rills,
and its tapering heather grows tall o’er the hills.
Farewell to Kilmeedy that romantic maze that stood so attractive to the travellers gaze
With its gigantic walls that were built in days of yore, by that once proud chieftain called McCarthy Mor
In the West Clara Mountain comes next in my view where from each crystal fountain its source did persue
Where the verdure of Spring and the heather flowers grow and the bright milk maid singing in that valley below,
Its down by that Mountain by each cooling shade by Clara and Mt Leader right oft times I strayed and its heathery slopes where I once laid my brow and its castles and cascades of the banks of Finnow
From where she first looked on the bright lamp of day
The Pride of Kilcorney she lives far away
She lived in the house by the silver tongued rill
Babbling down from the high fields by Mushera Hill
With shoulder length wavy raven hair and chestnut brown eyes
Such beauty that to songs and stories gives rise
One young man in Kilcorney for lost love does grieve
That she will return to Kilcorney he no longer believe
She left Kilcorney some eight years ago
And he has not heard from her for five years or so
Rumor has it in Australia she is a mother and wife
And quite happy and content in her new way of life
A young man in Kilcorney thinks of her every day
But then such is life as some are known to say.
As the train pulls out of the station
There’s another crashing through my heart
Across a sea of every kind of nation
I feel the sleepers pulling us apart
Through darkened Streets, I followed my feet
And I made my way through the dark.
Now she’s gone I have to learn to function
It’s like the blind leading the blind
Like two roads meeting at a junction
One was hers the other was mine
Down Claragh Road the wind did now
As it tore her from my sight
As the days turn into weeks,
I see reflections of a face i used to know
All the tears that rolled down our cheeks,
are still there but covered by the snow.
As the train pulls into Millstreet station
I feel myself moving to a beat
Like an island amid so many nations
I take her hand and hold onto these two weeks
When i was a boy he was in his physical prime
But this is going back many decades in time
With words he was one who did have a way
And many of his poems and songs are living today
Beyond the green borders of the Duhallow countryside
John Twomey The Poet Of Ivale was known far and wide
In song and verse Duhallow and it’s people by him glorified
To know of a poet of his stature to many was a sense of pride [read more …] “John Twomey The Poet Of Ivale”
It has been many years ago since her hair was chestnut brown
Since she pedalled on her bicycle on the streets of Millstreet Town
She left the Town in view of Clara Hill a few years short of her life’s prime
More than half of a century from then to now she is showing the wear of time
A seventy six years old widowed grandmother she has known of a better day
All she has left are the memories of her first home far away
Where she attended the convent school and into a beautiful young woman grew
One of the great beauties of the town her equals only few
In Millstreet in Duhallow when i was a young boy
John Joe Daly told the stories of Ireland’s tears and joy
He told stories of the black and tans and civil war and of Tubrid Well
He was an old pipe smoking bloke with yarns in galore for to tell
He told of how Paddy McCarthy a warrior rebel of renown
Died on a bleak night in November in Millview Lane in Millstreet Town
Out numbered by the black and tans he died under gunfire
Stories of such acts of bravery others to take up arms does inspire [read more …] “John Joe Daly”
Clara the old hill that ever looks down
On Duhallow and Sliabh Luachra and Millstreet Town
Inspired long deceased writers over decades of time
To idolize it in their stories and rhyme
Long before the first people to Hibernia came
Clara the old hill was without a name
Bracken and heather on it’s face did grow
Just like the Clara today that we know
In the prime of Summer in sunny July
When larks over Clara do sing in the sky
People climb the old hill whortleberries to eat
The tiny blue berries to the taste buds a treat [read more …] “Clara The Old Hill”
Good memories live in me as a source of joy
Of the happy times i spend in green Lisnaboy
On Summer school holidays in the farm of aunt Mary and uncle Dan
Going back some six decades in time quite a span
In the sunlit meadows of a sunlit day
In July and August i helped them with the hay
With the sweet scents of Nature wafting in the breeze
And the young birds chirping on the bushes and trees [read more …] “Summer In Lisnaboy”
What if i never see Millstreet Town or Claraghatlea again
Or walk in the old fields in the winds of rain
When the hawthorns are cloaked in their blooms of white to gray
And the nesting birds are singing in the prime of the May
It was my love of adventure that brought me far south
Of the fields of the badger and the waterways of the brown trout
To the coastal countryside of emu, koala and gray kangaroo
And white long billed corella and dark brown yellow tailed black cockatoo [read more …] “What If I Never”
The Winters were cold and windy and wet
And the fields often gray with frost something i remember yet
And cattle in the farmyard sheds often bellowing for silage or hay
In the place i was raised in from here far away
But i loved Claraghatlea then and i always will
That green old Town-land in view of Clara Hill
Where i would be a stranger to many today
But love of place until death with me will stay [read more …] “I Loved Claraghatlea Then”
Far north of this countryside near Warrnambool
In the mid to late fifties in Millstreet Town i went to primary school
Years later one who would prove himself a man among men
Humphrey Kelleher was the strong boy of the schoolyard back then
Humphrey as a young teenager full of youthful elan
As a boy tall and sturdy and as strong as a man
Not gentle or shy but not a bully in any way
Yet any boy who tested his might had some price for to pay [read more …] “The Strong Boy Of The Schoolyard”
A long time ago and from here far away
In Johnny Hickey’s grove in Inchaleigh children’s games we did play
As primary school-goers long before our lives prime
This is going back the years more than six decades in time
Only memories of them with me now do stay
The friends of my childhood where are they today?
Since we all had to follow our lives destiny
Though i often do wonder where today they might be
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.
We hoped he would, he didn’t expect it himself, but in the end Bernard O’Donoghue didn’t win the top poetry prize in this part of the world for his book The Seasons of Cullen Church. The T.S.Eliot prize for 2016 went to Jacob Polley for his bookJackself. But the T. S. Eliot Prize Shortlist Readings took place on the eve of the prize. It was an evening of poetry, dinner and music, and all nominated poets attended. The audio of Bernard’s introduction and reading from the night have been published online, and you can listen to it below:
At the awards ceremony itself, the Chair of the Judges, Ruth Padel, had this to say of Bernard’s book:
“Bernard O’Donoghue’s The Seasons of Cullen Church combines an elegantly wry tone, deceptively easy flow, intimacy with the reader which seems effortless but is actually very original, with scholarly love of poetry down the ages. Many poems think with Dante, Virgil, Old English; many lines give you one more beat than you’d expect and, when you re-read, disclose one more layer of meaning too: very suddenly – just as, he says, the swifts arrive in Cullen, like unexplained gifts on Christmas morning.” [from tseliot.com]
The very best of luck to Bernard O’Donoghue who has been nominated for the 2016 T.S. Eliot poetry prize for his new collection of poems The Seasons of Cullen Church. “This collection of expert lyric poems movingly animates the characters of his childhood in County Cork; it confirm O’Donoghue’s place as one of the most approachable and agile voices in contemporary Irish and British poetry.”
Among the theses in the book are: “a schoolboy beaten so hard by his teacher that his bare feet jiggle on the floorboards, a wife disinherited when her husband dies suddenly, and medieval tales which echo to how we live now.”
It is Bernard’s second time nominated for the T.S. Eliot prize. In 2011 he was nominated for Farmers Cross. The winner will be announced on January 16th. Here is one poem from the book called The Will:
When they discovered that my grandfather was going, unexpectedly, to die young of meningitis, they naturally set about ensuring that his wife would not inherit the farm. They assembled a group of solid men – as they might have for the threshing: his brother who lived south on the mountain; a shrewd solicitor; and a man from Doon with a good hand who often testified to wills.
It hardly matters to me now if i was dunce of the primary school
Far north of the coastal countryside by Warrnambool
Or if in my life’s twilight years i cannot boast of a uni degree
Since time it does seem it has caught up on me
Since the years have left me wrinkled looking, bare headed and gray
And clearly i have known of a far better day
And though i am not one who has known of life’s success
I am not going into old age in a state of unhappiness
Though some things in life we would rather forget
No point in growing older with feelings of regret
Of mistakes we made and opportunities lost
Some of our lessons in life come to us at a cost [read more …] “It Hardly Matters To Me Now”
People from Aubane and other parts of Millstreet Parish on the morning of Christmas Day
Climb to the summit of Mushera Mountain quite a daunting task one has to say
For those who sponsor them for their favorite charity for this credit in heaps they are due
To climb Mushera in the depths of Winter to a cause one would have to be true
On Christmas morning no matter what the weather they scale the heights of Mushera hill
It may be frosty, raining or snowing or the gale force winds blowing a cold chill
The Mushera Christmas morning climbers some of them years ago were young
For their courage they are well worth admiring and their praises deserve to be sung [read more …] “The Mushera Christmas Morning Climbers”
Millstreet did not go to the World out there so the World out there came to Millstreet
In the Duhallow Town today people of many different nationalities you will meet
People of many cultures and creeds of Countries Worldwide and of skin colors black, white and brown
Live in view of old Clara Hill in and near to Millstreet Town
Millstreet did not go to the World out there it was a monocultural place
But change to it came from afar in latter years at a quick pace
And change for the better one might say as it brought with it people of the World out there
And change happening in view of Clara Hill as has been happening everywhere