The Welshmen of Tirawley|
Old Irish Poem

This is an old Irish verse concerning a nasty feud between The Barretts and the Lynotts--Glenn Barrett Weiser  Back to Glenn's Home Page

THE WELSHMEN OF TIRAWLEY.
BY SAMUEL FERGUSON, LL.D., M.R.I.A.
[Several Welsh families, associates in the invasion of Strongbow, settled in the west of Ireland. Of these, the principal, whose names have been preserved by the Irish antiquarians, were the Walshes, Joyces, Heils (a quibus MacHale), Lawlesses, Tolmyns, Lynotts, and Barretts, which last draw their pedigree from Walynes, son of Guyndally, the Ard Maor, or High Steward of the Lordship of Camelot, and had their chief seats in the territory of the two Bacs, in the barony of Tirawley, and county of Mayo. Clochan-na-n'all, i.e., "The Blind Men's Steppingstones," are still pointed out on the Duvowen river, about four miles north of Crossmolina, in the townland of Garranard; and Tubber-na-Scorney, or "Scrags Well," in the opposite townland of Carns, in the same barony. For a curious terrier or applotment of the MacWilliam's revenue, as acquired under the circumstances stated in the legend preserved by MacFirbis, see Dr. O'Donovan's highly-learned and interesting "Genealogies, &c. of Hy Fiachrach," in the publications of the Irish Archśological Society--a great monument of antiquarian and topographical erudition.]

Scorney Bwee, the Barretts' bailiff, lewd and lame,
To lift the Lynott's taxes when he came,
Rudely drew a young maid to him;
Then the Lynotts rose and slew him,
And in Tubber-na-Scorney threw him--
Small your blame,
Sons of Lynott!
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

Then the Barretts to the Lynotts gave a choice,
Saying, "Hear, ye murderous brood, men and boys,
Choose ye now, without delay,
Will ye lose your eyesight, say,
Or your manhoods here to-day?"
Sad your choice,
Sons of Lynott!
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

Then the little boys of the Lynotts, weeping, said,
"Only leave us our eyesight in our head."
But the bearded Lynotts then
Quickly answered back again,
"Take our eyes, but leave us men,
Alive or dead,
Sons of Wattin!"
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

So the Barretts, with sewing-needles sharp and smooth,
Let the light out of the eyes of every youth,
And of every bearded man,
Of the broken Lynott clan;
Turning south
To the river--
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

O'er the slippery stepping-stones of Clochan-na-n'all
They drove them, laughing loud at every fall,
As their wandering footsteps dark
Failed to reach the slippery mark,
And the swift stream swallowed stark,
One and all,
As they stumbled--
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

Out of all the blinded Lynotts, one alone
Walked erect from stepping-stone to stone;
So back again they brought you,
And a second time they wrought you
With their needles; but never got you
Once to groan,
Emon Lynott,
For the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

But with promt-projected footsteps sure as ever,
Emon Lynott again crossed the river,
Though Duvowen was rising fast,
And the shaking stones o'ercast
By cold floods boiling past;
Yet you never,
Emon Lynott,
Faltered once before your foemen of Tirawley;

But, turning on Ballintubber bank, you stood,
And the Barretts thus bespoke o'er the flood--
"Oh, ye foolish sons of Wattin,
Small amends are these you've gotten,
For, while Scorney Bwee lies rotten,
I am good
For vengeance!"
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

"For 'tis neither in eye nor eyesight that a man
Bears the fortunes of himself or of his clan;
But in the manly mind
And in loins with vengeance lined,
That your needles could never find,
Though they ran
Through my heartstrings!"
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

"But, little your women's needles do I reck;
For the night from heaven never so black,
But Tirawley, and abroad
From the Moy to Cuan-an-fod,
I could walk it every sod,
Path and track,
Ford and togher,
Seeking vengeance on you, Barretts of Tirawley?

"The night when Dathy O'Dowda broke your camp,
What Barrett among you was it held the lamp--
Showed the way to those two feet,
When through wintry wind and sleet,
I guided your blind retreat
In the swamp
Of Bešl-an-asa?
O ye vengeance-destined ingrates of Tirawley!"

So leaving loud-shriek-echoing Garranard,
The Lynott like a red dog hunted hard,
With his wife and children seve,
'Mong the beasts and fowls of heaven
In the hollows of Glen Nephin,
Light-debarred,
Made his dwelling,
Planning vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.

And ere the bright-orb'd year its course had run,
On his brown round-knotted knee he nursed a son,
A child of light, with eyes
As clear as are the skies
In summer, when sunrise
Has begun;
So the Lynott
Nursed his vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.

And, as ever the bright boy grew in strength and size,
Made him perfect in each manly exercise,
The salmon in the flood,
The dun deer in the wood,
The eagle in the cloud,
To surprise,
On Ben Nephin,
Far above the foggy fields of Tirawley.

With the yellow-knotted spear-shaft, with the bow,
With the steel, prompt to deal shot and blow,
He taught him from year to year,
and trained him, without a peer,
For a perfect cavalier,
Hoping so--
Far his forethought--
For vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.

And, when mounted on his proud-bounding steed,
Emon Oge sat a cavalier indeed;
Like the ear upon the wheat
When winds in autumn beat
On the bending stems, his seat;
And the speed
Of his courser
Was the wind from Barna-na-gee o'er Tirawley!

Now when fifteen sunny summers thus were spent,
(He perfected in all accomplishment)--
The Lynott said, "My child,
We are over long exiled
From mankind in this wild--
Time we went
O'er the mountain
To the countries lying over-against Tirawley."

So out over mountain-moors, and mosses brown,
And green stream-gathering vales, they journeyed down;
Till, shining like a star,
Through the dusky gleams afar,
The bailey of Castlebar,
And the town
Of MacWilliam
Rose bright before the wanderers of Tirawley.

"Look sowthward, my boy, and tell me as we go,
What see'st thou by the loch-head below."
"Oh, a stone-house strong and gret,
And a horse-host at the gate,
And a captain in armour of plate--
Grand the show!
Great the glancing!
High the heroes of this land below Tirawley!

"And a beautiful Bantierna by his side,
Yellow gold on all her gown-sleeves wide;
And in her hand a pearl
Of a young, little, fair-haired girl--
Said the Lynott, "It is the Earl!
Let us ride
To his presence."
And before him came the exiles of Tirawley.

"God save thee, MacWilliam," the Lynott thus began;
"God save all here besides of this clan;
For gossips dear to me
Are all in company--
For in these four bones ye see
A kindly man
Of the Britons--
Emon Lynott of Garranard of Tirawley.

"And hither, as kindly gossip-law allows,
I come to claim a scion of thy house
To foster, for thy race,
Since William Conquer's [1] days,
Have ever been wont to place,
With some spouse
Of a Briton,
A MacWilliam Oge, to foster in Tirawley.

"And to show thee in what sort our youth are taught
I have hither to thy home of valour brought
This one son of my age,
For a sample and a pledge
For the equal tutelage,
In right thought,
Word, and action,
Of whatever son ye give into Tirawley."

Then MacWilliam beheld the brave boy ride and run,
Saw the spear-shaft from his white shoulder spun--
With a sigh, and with a smile,
He said,--"I would give the spoil
Of a county, that Tibbot Moyle,
My own son,
Were accomplished
Like this branch of the kindly Britons of Tirawley."

When the Lady MacWilliam she heard him speak,
And saw the ruddy roses on his cheek,
She said, "I would give a purse
Of red gold to the nurse
That would rear my Tibbot no worse;
But I seek
Hitherto vainly--
Heaven grant that I now have found her in Tirawley!"

So they said to the Lynott, "Here, take our bird!
And as pledge for the keeping of thy word,
Let this scion here remain
Till thou comest back again:
Meanwhile the fitting train
Of a lord
Shall attend thee
With the lordly heir of Connaught into Tirawley."

So back to strong-throng-gathering Garranard,
Like a lord of the country with his guard,
Came the Lynott, before them all,
Once again over Clochan-na-n'all,
Steady-striding, erect, and tall,
And his ward
On his shoulders;
To the wonder of the Welshman of Tirawley.

Then a diligent foster-father you would deem
The Lynott, teaching Tibbot, by mead and stream,
To cast the spear, to ride,
To stem the rushing tide,
With what feats of body beside,
Might beseem
A MacWilliam,
Fostered free among the Welshmen of Tirawley.

But the lesson of hell he taught him in heart and mind,
For to what desire soever he inclined,
Of anger, lust, or pride,
He had it gratified,
Till he ranged the circle wide
Of a blind
Self-indulgence,
Ere he came to youthful manhood in Tirawley.

Then, even as when a hunter slips a hound,
Lynott loosed him--God's leashes all unbound--
In pride of power and station,
And the strength of youthful passion,
On the daughters of thy nation,
All around
Wattin Barrett!
Oh! the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley!

Bitter grief and burning anger, rage and shame,
Filled the houses of the Barretts where'er he came;
Till the young men of the Bac
Drew by night upon his track,
And slew him at Cornassack--
Small your blame,
Sons of Wattin!
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.

Said the Lynott, "The day of my vengeance is drawing near,
The day for which, through many a long dark year,
I have toiled through grief and sin--
Call ye now the Brehons in,
And let the plea begin
Over the bier
Of MacWilliam,
For an eric upon the Barretts of Tirawley."

Then the Brehons to MacWilliam Burk decreed
An eric upon Clan Barrett for the deed;
And the Lynott's share of the fine,
As foster-father, was nine
Ploughlands and nine score kine;
But no need
Had the Lynott,
Neither care, for land or cattle in Tirawley.

But rising, while all sat silent on the spot,
He said, "The law says--doth it not?--
If the foster-sire elect
His portion to reject,
He may then the right exact
To applot
The short eric."
"'Tis the law," replied the Brehons of Tirawley.

Said the Lynott, "I once before had a choice
Proposed me, wherein law had little voice:
But now I choose, and say,
As lawfully I may,
I applot the mulct to-day;
So rejoice
In your ploughlands
And you cattle which I renounce throughout Tirawley.

"And thus I applot the mulct: I divide
The land throughout Clan Barrett on every side
Equally, that no place
May be without the face
Of a foe of Wattin's race--
That the pride
Of the Barretts
May be humbled hence for ever throughout Tirawley.

"I adjudge a seat in every Barrett's hall
To MacWilliam: in every stable I give a stall
To MacWilliam: and, beside,
Whenever a Burke shall ride
Through Tirawley, I provide
At his call
Needful grooming,
Without charge from any Brughaidh of Tirawley.

"Thus lawfully I avenge me for the throes
Ye lawlessly caused me and caused those
Unhappy shame-faced ones
Who, their mothers expected once,
Would have been the sires of sons--
O'er whose woes
Often weeping,
I have groaned in my exile from Tirawley.

"I demand not of you your manhoods, but I take--
For the Burks will take it--your Freedom! for the sake
Of which all manhood's given
And all good under heaven,
And, without which, better even
You should make
Yourselves barren,
Than see your children slaves throughout Tirawley!

"Neither take I your eyesight from you; as you took
Mine and ours: I would have you daily look
On one another's eyes
When the strangers tyrannize
By your hearths, and blushes arise,
That ye brook
Without vengeance
The insults of troops of Tibbots throughout Tirawley!

"The vengeance I designed, now is done,
And the days of me and mine nearly run--
For, for this, I have broken faith,
Teaching him who lies beneath
This pall, to merit death;
And my son
To his father
Stands pledged for other teaching in Tirawley."

Said MacWilliam--"Father and son, hang them high!"
And the Lynott they hanged speedily;
But across the salt-sea water,
To Scotland with the daughter
Of MacWilliam--well you got her!--
Did you fly,
Edmund Lindsay,
The gentlest of all the Welshmen of Tirawley!

'Tis thus the ancient Ollaves of Erin tell
How, through lewdness and revenge, it befel
That the sons of William Conquer
Came over the sons of Wattin,
Throughout all the bounds and borders
Of the land of Auley MacFiachra;
Till the Saxon Oliver Cromwell
And his valiant, Bible-guided,
Free heretics of Clan London
Coming in, in their succession,
Rooted out both Burk and Barrett,
And in their empty places
New stems of freedom planted,
With many a goodly sapling
Of manliness and virtue;
Which wile their children cherish
Kindly Irish of the Irish,
Neither Saxons nor Italians,
May the mighty God of Freedom
Speed them well,
Never taking
Further vengeance on his people of Tirawley!
[Note by the Editor, 1869: The author of this spirited Ballad in republishing The Welshmen of Tirawley in his "Lays of the Western Gael," p. 70, has changed several lines, some of them being among the most vigorous in the poem. For the purposes of comparison, I have thought it would be more interesting to give the ballad as it originally appeared.]

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