At the Feis - 29th June 1946


At the Feis: Text Version

29th June 1946


Last Sunday week I found myself in Castleconnell for the famous Three-County Feis. The three counties in question are Limerick, Clare and Tipperary. The day was bright and sunny, and that was all one could hope for. All along the road from Limerick we had passed throngs of people on bicycles, in traps, side-cars and long cars. Motor cars were in short supply, as most of them had taken loads to Cork that day for the Munster Championship matches. From all directions people were converging on Castleconnell, for the Three-County Feis is certainly the event of the year there. It made one happy to see the ordinary people taking such an interest in the affairs of Irish language and ure, for on them depends the realization of the great goal -– an Ireland free and Gaelic.


Castleconnell itself is a lovely place, perched on the bank of the Shannon, with leafy woods hemming it in all round. From the Military Field, where the Feis was held, one caught glimpses of the noble river, glistening silvery where the sunbeams danced on its waters, flowing dark and mysterious where the great trees hung down overhead. From bank to bank extended the ancient eel weir that had many people wondering as to what it was during the day. The people of Castleconnell are lucky in many things, one of them being the situation of their village. It is a place of beauty and interest, and a stronghold of Irish games and ure. The home of the O'Conaings and De Burghos was indeed an ideal hosting place for the enthusiasts of the Three-County Feis.


Once it used to be said that Castleconnell was a little bit Gallda -– a little bit more interested in the affairs of the Gaels' masters than in the Gaels themselves. It can no longer be said. Castleconnell is now justly proud of the most energetic branch of the Gaelic League in Limerick –- in Ireland perhaps. But the good example was set long ago. I don't think you'd find many farmer's homes in county Limerick where Irish is the spoken tongue of parents and children. You will find one such home in the vicinity of Castleconnell, where Sean O h-Eidhin agus a bhean have raised an Irish speaking family that is a credit to themselves, their county and their country. And the young people of the district are whole-heartedly behind the work of the Gaelic reconquest. It was gladdening to see them on Feis day. One came away refreshed and confident for the future.


Castleconnell branch of the Gaelic League has really come before the public. They have travelled around and staged plays for the people; they have given concerts; they have re-opened the famous spa for which the place was once celebrated; they have started a lending library, and have secured a Sunday bus service to the place. On the week preceeding the Feis they organized a Rural Week, with turf cutting and home craft competitions, etc. The result of all their activities is that they have won the people over completely, and all are in sympathy with them and their aspirations. Old and young, rich and poor, priests and people, are proud of what has been done. As people of Ireland they take an interest in the language of Ireland, and all an outsider can say is 'Well done, Castleconnell.'


One of the most tireless workers in the cause is Mairtin Mac Caba, the local branch secretary of the Gaelic League. He has spared no pains to get the people interested in the language revival, and he has succeeded. Ever since his first visit to the Gaeltacht of Coolea he has been a stalwart in the revival movement. Even now he is planning ahead for next year's Feis and Rural Week, and would like to get helpful suggestions and recommendations. Micheal de Burca remarked that he was glad to see many of the local scholarship winners, whom he had seen some years ago in Coolea, actively helping the Feis that day. It was a pity that the same could not be said of scholarship winners in other places.


But what of the rest of Limerick? Why cannot they imitate Castleconnell? They all would like to share in the honour of a great task accomplished, but are not willing to do the work necessary for its accomplishment. How many a one has tried in later years to be recognised as a hero of Easter Week or the War of Independence, in order to share the glory and gratitude due to the brave few who risked all when the need was greatest? There are a number of bright spots with good language workers in the county, but not enough. There are many quarters where one looks to for a lead in the good work, but either through sheer indifference or laziness the lead is not forthcoming. In a short while now an organiser will be at work in the county, and then it is to be hoped that all friends of the native language will rally for the final drive to accomplish our great unrealised goal –

'An Ireland not free merely but Gaelic as well; not Gaelic merely but free as well'.


Most of you have heard of gallant Staker Wallace, who was publicly flogged and later hanged in Kilfinane, away back in the brave days of the United Men. The sad fate of Wallace is yet remembered in his native district. A lament of him was written – 'The lament for Staker Wallace.' I think the music is in the Roche collection. But what of the words of the lament? Someone told me they were published in some book. I wonder is that right? If there is any one among my readers who could supply the words I'd be very grateful.


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