I Meet Roddy The Rover - 18th May 1946


I Meet Roddy The Rover: Text Version

18th May 1946


Last Sunday it was my privilege to meet Roddy the Rover, the universally popular columnist of the "Irish Press." He hand his beancheile had journeyed all the way from near Dundalk to Dunbui in West Cork. From the ruined castle of Dunbui they set out to follow the route of O Sullivan Beare's fighting retreat to Leitrim

There are few Irish people who do not know the story or that great retreat – "the most romantic and gallant achievement of the age," as Davis called it. Gaelic Ireland had been finally broken at Kinsale, and in a short while the valiant O Sullivan Beare found himself the only Irish chief bearing arms for his prostrate country. But faster and fiercer than wolves his foes gathered around him, determined to drag him down in the wild fastnesses of Glengarriff. The only place he could hope to find shelter was in the hospitable halls of O Rourke, Prince of Breffni, and that lay 200 miles away.


O Sullivan gathered his followers around him and, on the last day of December, 1602, the party set out for Leitrim. It was make up of 400 fighting men, and 600 non-combatants – men, women and children. They had to fight every inch of the way. Any man who allowed them to pass freely though his lands was to have those lands confiscated. As the weary and hapless fugitives reached the ford of Bellaghan, near Liscarroll, a savage attack was made on them by a party of cavalry under the brother of Viscount Barry.

They passed along at the northern slopes of the Ballyhouras, the unwounded men carring their wounded companions. They encamped that night at the foot of Ardpatrick hill. From there they journeyed on to Aherlow, and then north though Tipperary to the Shannon.

Here they had to kill their horses and skin them to make hide boats to cross the river. All along their way enemies swarmed on them from every side; night and day they were attacked unceasingly. Added to the miseries of mid-winter, were the pangs of hunger – they lived for the most part on herbs and water. But the gallant starving band marched and fought, and won through to Leitrim. But alas! At how great a cost. Of the 1,000 who had set out from Glengarriffe only 36 reached O Rourke's castle that day. Stragglers continued to arrive for a few days. Less than 100 survived; the rest had perished on the way.


It was the track of that great roid Roddy the Rover was following when he left O Sullivan's historic route to pay a flying visit to our part of County Limerick on Sunday. His car was half full of books, maps, and papers, in Irish, English, dealing with the retreat. Half hidden among them was his typewriter, with which he types his notes each evening.

Contrary to many expectations, he does not resemble the Roddy pictured in his column. He is well over six feet in height, and is well built. He is, indeed, a big man in every sense – fearmor, fear uasal. Both he and his wife are fine Irish speakers, and one easily sees that he loves the people and the ways and the language of the real Ireland. He speaks with a lovely northern accent, and one could spend a long time listening to all he has to say about the places he has seen and the people he has met. Now he talks of the Donegal Gaeltacht, now of Wicklow; now of holy Gougane Barra, now of orange Belfast. During the war he lived in the Six Counties, and it pained him very much to see this unredeemed part of Ireland occupied by foreign armies.


Roddy the Rover, or Aodh de Blacam, to give him his real name, is well known in the world of Irish letters. When the "Irish Press" was founded he became its first literary editor. Among his published works are "Gaelic Literature Surveyed," "Life of Wolfe Tone," "The Ship that Sailed too Soon," "Roddy the Rover," "The Black North," "Holy Romans," and "The Flying Cromlech," which was selected as a book of the month in America. He has also made translations from Irish, Spanish, and Latin works.

One of his books, "Gentle Ireland," was published in the Science and ure Series of St. Louis University in 1935. He has written a number of plays on religious themes – "The Golden Priest," a drama of Blessed Oliver, and "Ambassador of Christ," a Patrician play. His wife, Mary Mac Carvill, is also a writer, and is the author of "Rhymer's Wake," a splendid novel of the Irish countryside. Like her husband, she is a combination of many fine and rare qualities, that distinguish her as a great lady. She is all that one would expect Bean Aodha de Blacam to be.


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