Wait till Cork meet ye - 3rd July 1948


"Wait Till Cork Meet Ye": Text Version

3rd July 1948


Hilaire Belloc once said that the proper way to write a book was to begin at the end. I find myself doing something like that now; for tho' this is the top of the column, you may know that, it was the last piece to be written. In fact, it is being penned in Castleconnell, where a wonderful Gaelic Week is in progress. This evening I saw the lads and lasses of the district trip it "on the light fantastic tow" on a large platform or dancing deck beside the road. Do you know –- I often think that one of the greatest blows struck against rural Ireland was the of the cross-roads dance. It gave rise to a commercialised dance-hall, and left the countryside without a musician.


At the match, in Cork, last Sunday, I happened to be sitting in the middle of a bunch of very enthusiastic supporters of the rival teams. It is far better that the supporters are mixed like this than that one side of the field should be appropriated by, say, Limerick, and the other by Tipperary. The most vocal of the Tipperary followers were three fair maids. One of them had come armed with a flag, another with a cap on which was displayed a picture of the Tipperary team; and the third, for a reason that I cannot find out, carried a large road map of Ireland, a notebook and a fountain pen. As the score mounted against Tipp. In the first half they looked disappointed; and when Limerick scored still another goal, someone taunted them saying: "Why aren't ye waving the flag" Quickly one of the lasses turned and said: "Ah, wait till Cork meet ye!"


That was a threat that even the most optimistic Limerick supporter could not make little of. But coming home in the train I met a man who thought little of the Lee men. He opened our carriage door, stood there smiling blandly, and said: "Excuse me." "We beat them." He prepared to go saying: "Good-bye, now." He didn't go, though. He came back again.

"We'll beat them," he said again; and if we do I don't give a d-n what happens after -– Excuse me, missus" (this latter addressed to a lady in the carriage). "Well, good-bye now," he said for a second time. Did he go? Not a bit of it. He came back once more. Eleven times in all he said goodbye. Eleven times eleven he told us they'd beat Cork. Eleven times, eleven times eleven, he said: "Excuse me, missus," when carried away by sheer enthusiasm at the prospect of the defeat of Cork, he used what he considered to be strong language. He wouldn't have been overawed by the threat: "Ah, wait till Cork meet ye!"


In his notes "Tir is Tenaga," on June 19th, my friend, "An Cabac Rua," had something very interesting to tell. It was the story of his recent meeting in Knockaderry with a fine old Irishman, who might be described as a native Irish speaker from Limerick. An t-Uasal Mac Uaid spoke the Irish he had learned from his father in Ath an t-Sleibhe in West Limerick. When the first branch of the Gaelic League was formed in my native district, in 1907, it included among its first members a native Irish-speaker from this very district of Ath an t-Sleibhe or Athea. All this leads up to something I've long been pondering on: When did Irish die as a spoken language in County Limerick, and where in the county was it longest spoken?


My next competition will deal with this aspect of the story of the language in Limerick. These few remarks are by way of a preliminary announcement. Full particulars will be published later. In the meantime, you could get busy noting anything of interest: accounts of the last people who spoke Irish in your district, and how long ago that was; accounts of people who sang songs in Irish, or of churches where Irish sermons were preached. You might hear of houses where old books in Irish were kept, or of people who could read them – I don't mean books published since the founding of the Gaelic League. Collect the Irish words in every day use about you – amadan, oinsach, ciotog, buala-baisin, gabhairin rua, buachallan buidhe, etc. I have collected more than 300 words and phrases in my own locality. You'll know the kind of material that will be suitable. This should prove an interesting competition, and valuable prizes will go to the winners.


The song of the week comes from the prize-winning collection of Miss Brigid Corr, Foynes. It was also received from a kind reader in Ballygiltinan to whom I owe a letter – as I do to about a dozen more. Mea culpa! Mea culpa! It is a very interesting piece, and up to now was unknown to me. It is called:


My name is Mac Sheehy, from Feale's swelling flood,

A rapareerover by mountain and wood;

I have two trusty comrades to serve me at need,

This sword by my side, and my gallant grey steed.

Now where did I get them – my gallant grey steed,

And my sword, keen and trusty, to serve me at need?

This sword was my father's – in battle he died,

And I reared my bold Isgur by Feale's verdant side.

I've said it, and say it, and care not who hear,

Myself and grey Isgur have never known fear;

There's a dint in my helmet, a hole thro' his ear-

'Twas the same bullet made them at Limerick last year.

And the soldier who fired it was still ramming down,

When this long sword came right with a slash on his crown;

Dar Dhia! He will never fire musket again,

For his skull lies in two at the side of the glen.

When they caught us one day at the Castle of Brugh,

Our black-hearted foemen, a merciless crew,

Like a bolt from the thunder-cloud Isgur went through,

And my sword – ah, it gave them what long they may rue.

Together we sleep under rough crag or tree,

My soul! There were never such comrades as we,

I, Brian the Rover, and my two fiends at need –

This sword by my side, and my gallant grey steed.

Can any reader tell me who was this Brian Mac Sheehy, the raparee, or what is the story of the deeds recounted in the song?

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