O Blithe New-Comer! - 3rd May 1947

O Blithe New-Comer!: Text Version

3rd May 1947


Last Sunday, I saw the first swallow of the season. Two days before that I had heard the cuckoo. Like everything else in this strange year, they were late in making their appearance. I never hear the cuckoo without remembering Wordsworth's lines, half learned at school:-

'O blithe new-comer! I have heard,

I hear thee and rejoice:

O cuckoo shall I call thee Bird,

Or but a wandering Voice?

The same whom in my school-boy days

I listen'd to; that cry

Which made me look a thousand ways

In bush, and tree, and sky.

O bless'd Bird! the earth we pace

Again appears to be,

An unsubstantial, fairy place,

That is fit home for Thee!


I am greatly afraid that that part of the earth which we inhabit is scarcely fit home for the cuckoo nowadays. What with wind and rain and storms, he must have cause to regret the day he ever left the sunny African climes to visit green, but cold, Hibernia -– the country that the ancient Romans, as if foreseeing the days to come so aptly named 'the land of winter'. According to 'Radio Digest', when Englishmen, working in the fields, hear the first cuckoo, they down tools and treat the rest of the day as a holiday, adjourning to the nearest tavern to drink the health of the bird out of foaming tankards of ale. April 14th was, I think, set aside as 'Cuckoo Day' – the day on which he was most likely to make his appearance.



The cuckoo's story with us has been summed up very briefly in the following lines:-

'The cuckoo comes in April,

He sings his song in May;

He plays a tune in the middle of June,

And then he flies away.'

Young cuckoos, however, do not fly away in June; they wait until September before departing. And, as we all know young cuckoos are brought up by a foster mother; their own mother, being too lazy to bother about rearing a family, lays her eggs in another bird's nest, and when her young are hatched out they promptly evict the young of the bird in whose nest they find themselves, in order to have all the care and attention showered on themselves, the shameless usurpers.


My notes on Castletown Mac Eniry drew an interesting letter from a learned reader in Dromcollogher. He noted that, according to the account, the church in the former place was destroyed in the war in 1302. What strikes him as being not a little curious is that an identical fate is said to have befallen Dromcollogher church. My correspondent once received a letter from Mr. Westropp -– in whose book the information about Castletown is set down -– in which the writer stated – 'I notice you live in Dromcollogher, which, with its church, was destroyed in the war of 1302.' My Dromcollogher reader was anxious to know more about the war in question. So far I have failed to find any other reference to it. The 'Annals' have nothing to say about it.


In case anyone in Dromcollogher would like to know what Westropp notes about the place, I have copied his remarks from 'Ancient Churches of Limerick'. Here is what he says:-

' Dromcolliher, Parish in Connello Upper, Drumcolleachaellor, 1201; Drucolthill, destroyed in war 1302; Drumcolluchir, 1410; Capella. Dromcolkylle in Corcomohid, 1418; Dromcollacair, or Dromcolcoille 'hazlewood ridge' (O'Donovan).

Dedicated to St. Bartholomew, Fabric 55 feet of the sides, with the east gable remain. The church was 21 feet wide. The east window had round-headed splay and pointed lights; the mullion gone in 1840.'

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