The Grave Of A Bard - 19th June 1948


The Grave Of A Bard: Text Version

19th June 1948


You all know – or should know – that tuneful song about the Spanish lady, which goes something like this:-

'And who should I meet but a Spanish lady,

Washing her feet by candle light'.

Well, shortly after my arrival in Rathkeale last Sunday I met a Spanish lady, olive-skinned, dark-eyed, with a red rose in her hair. I said 'Buenas tardes, Senorita', but the Senorita was shy and made no reply. A few minutes after she had passed by, what came down the street but two Arabs. Their graceful head cloths hung over the shoulders of their long white robes, which reached almost to the ground. The mysterious look of the desert was in their deep unfathomable eyes. One of them had a slung over his shoulder, and at the sight of it I felt glad I wasn't one of his people's enemies.


Another surprise was in store for me. Hard on the heels of the Arabs came two very tough looking individuals, whose appearances were not enhanced by what I judged to be at least a week's growth of beard. One of them peeped out from underneath the drooping peak of his cap in a challenging kind of way. 'Who are they?' someone near me asked. A voice replied: 'N. and L.' – naming two jail-breakers very much in the news. I am not spinning a yarn. I did see all these people in Rathkeale on Sunday, June 13th, and dozens of other interesting characters as well. So, too, did the hundreds of people who witnessed the children's fancy dress parade that opened the day's carnival programme.


For it is carnival time in Rathkeale, and will be until June 20th- the proceeds being in aid of a worthy local cause. Great credit is due to all the school children who paraded last Sunday. It was a good thought to give all the competitors, winners and losers, a free ride in the 'bumpers'. I didn't see the diver in his breath-taking dive from his dizzy perch into the small tank of water. But I saw him do it before, elsewhere, and marveled. And, suddenly, as I looked at the 70 foot high board I remembered a piece of dialogue I heard one morning.

'Did you hear what happened at the carnival last night?'

'No', 'What?'

'The diver missed the tank!'

'Ah, stop.' 'And what happened him?'

'He hit the water!!'


The recitation that I recently requested for a reader turned out to be Alfred Noyes's fine piece, 'The Highwayman' – 'with a bunch of lace at his throat'. Thanks to the Clare Sagart who so kindly wrote in the matter, and to Martin Hayes of Graigue, Patrickswell, who was good enough to send along the whole poem. Gura maith agaibh.


At last I am able to publish my final list of prize-winners in the ballad competition. Consolation book prizes go to the following:- P. J. Lonergan, Herbertstown; Brigid Corr, Foynes; Micheal O'Laighin, Sraith an Mhuchaidhe, Cluan Larach, Co. an Chlair; Patrick Young, Castleoliver, Glenosheen, Kilmallock; Micheal O'Dalaigh, 59, Sunnyhill Road, Streatham, London, S.W. 16; Edmond Burke, Darnstown, Kilmallock. When I announced this competition I said I'd give two prizes. Today's six, with four already awarded, make ten. So you see I've softened my heart. A few more almost won, and I regret that I was not able to lengthen my list to include them.


'Teampall Nua,' the song I give to-day is from the prize-winning collection of Mr. P. J. Lonergan, Herbertstown ( I should mention that this song was also forwarded by Miss Margaret T. O'Shea, of Grange). When I first read 'Teampall Nua,' I knew I had got something worth while. Teampall Nua, which means 'new church' is the name of the ruin that stands in the roadside churchyard at the south of historic Lough Gur. According to Mr. Lonergan, there lies in an unlettered tomb, at the north-eastern gable of Teampall Nua, none other than Thomas O'Connellan, the famous bard who hailed from Cloonmahon, Co. Sligo. Among the songs credited to O'Connellan is the very popular 'Fainne Geal an Lae' – 'the Dawning of the Day'.


It is only a few nights ago since I happened to hear from Radio Eireann a very enlightening talk on Irish song. The speaker was Donal O'Sullivan, and you can imagine how my interest was aroused when he mentioned this Thomas O'Connellan of Co. Sligo, who is supposed to sleep in silent Teampall Nua. O'Connellan flourished about 250 years ago. That beautiful air, 'Limerick's Lamentation' – known in Scotland as 'Lochaber no More', was composed by him. Another of his songs was made in praise of Molly St. George, and the following lines are from Mr. O'Sullivan's translation:-

'Dear Molly St. George,

Is a maid without peer,

So handsome, so modest,

So graceful, so dear'.


Mr. O'Sullivan went on to say that O'Connellan had visited Scotland, and that, according to tradition, he had died in Edinburgh. But what of a Limerick tradition that locates his grave near Lough Gur, and what about Owen Bresnan's lovely song that perpetuates that tradition around Teampall Nua. Owen Bresnan was a poet who lived close beside Lough Gur many years ago. Dominick Forde, Limerick, got me the music of this charming song from Mrs. R. Ryan, Lough Gur. To both my sincere thanks.


Oh! I long to see that churchyard

By Lough Gur's romantic shore,

Where the shamrock and the ivy ever grow;

Where the wild dove and the raven like protecting spirits soar

O'er the green graves of silent Teampall Nua.


O' sweet Teampall Nua, where our tears so freely flow,

O'er the graves of those who nursed us long ago;

May the heavens smile upon them,

And their choicest gifts bestow

Over the graves of thy loved sleepers, Teampall Nua

By that high and hoary gable which

Defies the rack of time,

Sleeps O'Connellan beside the shining wave;

Those who loved his Irish melodies

Entrancing and sublime,

Should lay a wreath of laurels o'er his grave.

Those ivy mantled castles over shadowing the wave,

Oft resounded with his melodies also;

But their halls are long deserted,

And their old defenders brave,

Slumber round him in silent Teampall Nua.

By the firesides of our fathers in the troubled days of yore,

He oft tuned the harp for Erin's songs of woe,

But that harp is mute forever and the minstrel is no more,

For he's sleeping in silent Teampall Nua.

Tradition says the banshee caoined a sad and lonely wail

With grief human bosom had never known,

As she paced those ancient ramparts towering o'er the sunny vale,

When they laid him in silent Teampall Nua.

May the clay press lightly o'er him

In his silent nameless grave,

Where the shamrock and the ivy ever bloom;

And those beech trees tall and shady

Overhead him gently wave,

Till the trumpet blast shall call him from the tomb.

This is a lovely song, surely. I wonder is there anything more known about O'Connellan and Owen Bresnan around Lough Gur?

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