Thursday, 31 December 2015

A Prayer for the New Year

Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me;
Let me praise a little more;
Let me be, when I am weary,
Just a little bit more cheery—
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for.

Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver,
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be;
Let me be a little meeker
With the brother who is weaker,
Let me think more of my neighbour
And a little less of me.

Let me be a little sweeter—
Make my life a bit completer,
By doing what I should do
Every minute of the day.
Let me toil without complaining,
Not a humble task disdaining;
Let me face the summons calmly
When death beckons me away.

Reprinted from The Witness, 21st January 1916.

Good-Bye to Abdul

EARLY in December, 1915, it was stated in the House of Lords that a well-known General had recommended the evacuation of the British and French armies on Gallipoli. The statement was an extraordinary one to make public at such a time, and the soldiers were furious. But on second thoughts we said to ourselves: “Well, the Turks will never think we are going to abandon the expedition, because if we were we should not be such damned fools as to say so.” Even the Germans were misled into that idea.

The Berliner Tageblatt stated that the Dardanelles undertaking would have been abandoned long ago if it were as easy to get out of the jaws of the lion as to get into them.

Yet in a few weeks’ time we were off the Peninsula and enjoying our Christmas dinner far away from Gallipoli. The beast had been disappointed of his prey at Anzac. The jaws of the Turko-German lion had snapped ; but they had snapped a little too late. The story of how the enemy was outwitted is a fascinatingly interesting one; but it cannot even yet be told in detail. The joke of the whole thing, apparently, was that the Turks, instead of thinking we were evacuating, thought we were landing three new divisions to make another attack. But whatever happened, there can be not the least doubt that the Turkish commander was left lamenting the fact that he had at least failed to scupper our rearguard, and that he did not even capture one solitary machine gun.

The great thing from our point of view was to make it appear from day to day as if events were running their ordinary course. The cleverness and the resource with which this was accomplished will one day pass into history in detail. The final operation orders were a model of clear thinking and organization from the main principles down to the smallest detail of the Great Adventure. One and all, from the highest commands down to the privates in the trenches, carried them out with a loyal cooperation and enthusiasm worthy of the best traditions of our race. To a non-combatant on the Peninsula carefully watching events from day to day the position appeared to bristle with difficulties, some of which it seemed almost hopeless to surmount. To such an extent was this the case that the final triumphant success, when it did come, was a little difficult of realization.

Towards the close of the Great Adventure the humorists got to work, and it was no uncommon sight to see a comfortable dug-out bearing the notice — A Louer. Many of the men left messages for Abdul — “A Merry Christmas” and “Good wishes for the New Year.” One gunnery officer gathered together all the bottles he could find and piled them outside the mess. “The Turk,” he said, “will think our last strafe was the result of a great carousal.” One battery away on the right left its mess-table set with bully beef, a bottle of whisky, and some other odds and ends, “With compliments to the commander of ‘Beachy Bill.’” On the table in another dug-out there was left a gramophone, wound up and with the needle on the record ready to give out the tune. The air was “The Turkish Patrol.”

In our mess, however sad or serious we might be inwardly, we managed at least to maintain a cheerful exterior, extending mock sympathy to the “die-hards,” and chaffing each other as to the various capacities that we should presently be appearing in at Constantinople.

The idea was sedulously cultivated that the men were going into rest camps; but the intelligence of the colonial troops was too keen to permit of the continuance of this deception. A query to the O.C. Artillery as to when his second lot of guns were going into the “rest camp” elicited only a smile, and a suggestion that the guns were getting tired was an insult that rankled but could not be replied to.

In the dug-outs, in the trenches, and in the artillery observation posts various kindly messages, and even presents of food, were left for our gallant foes. One New Zealand artillery officer, whose skull was laid bare by a shell that came through the roof of his observation post, left a message for the Turkish gunners to say that the shell “did not get him.” That same officer carried on till his gun was withdrawn and safely placed on board an outgoing ship.

But underlying all this fun and frolic that is so well-recognized a trait of British character in the presence of extreme danger, there was a deeper feeling of sadness that we should be leaving, without a further struggle, the ground so dearly won — the ilex-covered valleys and hills, gained and held with the life's blood of so many of the noblest and best of New Zealand's and Australia’s sons. Somewhat poetically one of the New Zealand soldiers put this phase of thought to his Battalion Commander: “I hope, sir,” he said,” that those fellows who lie buried along the Dere will be soundly sleeping and not hear us as we march away.” The idea that his dead comrades might think the living were forsaking them seemed to have made a deep impression on his mind.

"The End of a Very Gallant Adventure" is the title given to his work by the naval officer from whose sketch the above diagrammatic drawing has been made. The whole movement was carried out so skilfully and secretly on the night of January 8th and 9th that the Turkish troops had little idea of what was actually taking place. The casualties on the British side were reported to be negligible. Drawn by S. Begg.
The spirit of the men towards the close was splendid. As the last days drew near the suspense grew greater. Did the Turks know that we were evacuating? Would they attack at the last moment our attenuated lines? These were questions that were ever uppermost in our minds; but even up to the last day we had a supreme confidence in our ability to repel any Turkish attack that might be launched upon us. The New Zealand General — now in command of the Army Corps — finally took all ranks into his confidence, and issued an order expressing his trust in their discretion and their high soldierly qualities to carry out a task the success of which would largely depend upon their individual efforts. In the case of an attack he expressed himself confident that the men who had to their credit such deeds as the original landing at Anzac, the repulse of the big Turkish attack on May 18, the capture of Lone Pine, the Apex, and Hill 60, would hold their ground with the same valour and steadfastness as heretofore, however small in numbers they might be. The splendid spirit of the men at the finish showed that this confidence was not misplaced.

On the Friday I went into the firing line on the Apex — the highest ground won in all the fighting — and found the New Zealanders, who still occupied that post of honour, tumbling over one another to be the last to leave. The Colonel commanding one battalion called for thirty volunteers from two companies. Every man in each company volunteered. Men were coming to their commanders and begging that they might be allowed to be in the last lot to go.

“Do let me stay,” said one man. “I was in the landing, and I should like to be one of the last to leave.”

It was just the same with the Australians—they all wanted to be in the “Diehards.” “Have you many volunteers for the ‘Die-hards’?” I asked one commander.

“Every mother’s son of them wants to be a ‘Diehard’!” he rephed.

And this, mind you, was at a time when we thought that most of the “Diehards ” would, for a certainty, be either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner — at a time when a little jumpiness and hesitation might very well have been expected. In one position on the left, when the last lot assembled at the cookhouse, it was found that there were two missing. One had gone back to the firing line for his pipe, the other for something he had left behind in his bivouac!

With such excellent organization on the part of the staff, and such brave and loyal co-operation and sang-froid on the part of the officers and men in the trenches, it is perhaps, after all, not to be wondered at that the Turks were busy shelling the vacant trenches and the deserted beaches a day after men, mules, and guns were already well across the Gulf of Saros, in the language of the official dispatch, “to be employed elsewhere.” They had triumphantly succeeded in one of the most difficult of operations — in a feat that is unique in the annals of warfare.

From Light and Shade in War by Captain Malcolm Ross and Noel Ross, 1916.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Conundrums

What does a stone become in water? Wet.

What is it that can kick without feet? A gun.

How can one best get along in the world? Walk.

When is a goat nearly dead? When it is all butt.

What is always behind time? The back of a watch.

Why is thought like the sea? It is a notion (an ocean).

What kind of vice do even bad people dislike? Ad-vice.

What do we often catch, but never see? A passing remark.

When has a man four hands? When he doubles his fists.

Why is a bootblack like the sun? Because he shines for all.

When is a cook like a barber? When she dresses hare (hair).

Why is a noisy man like a candle? Because he is often put out.

Why is sneezing like a waterfall? Because it is a catar(rh) act.

Why is a grain of wheat like an acorn? Because it is "a corn."

When is a lamp-post a lamp-lighter? When the lamp is taken off.

Why is necessity like a stupid lawyer? Because it knows no law.

When is water most liable to escape? Whew it's only half tide.

Why has a kiss two s's? Because it takes two to complete the spell.

When is an artist a dangerous person? When his designs are bad.

Why is a cracker like death? Because it is a debt o' natur' (detonator).

Why is a sovereign gained like a guinea? Because it is one pound won.

What is the least valuable thing a man can have in his pocket? A hole.

Why is your nose like V in civility? Because it is between two eyes.

What flower becomes liquid when you take off its head? The pink (ink).

What is that which is invisible, yet never out of sight? The letter "s."

Why is an obliging man like an old story? Because he is affable (a fable).

Which king, known to the Prophet Samuel, would prevent speech? A-gag.

Why is ploughed ground like a riotous mob? Because it is arable (a rabble).

Why is a dead dog like a shipwreck? Because it is a bark (barque) lost.

Why is a tight shoe like a hot summer? Because it makes the corn grow.

Why has a greedy man a short memory? Because he is always for-getting.

Why are well-darned stockings like dead men? Because they are men-ded.

Long and lank – thin and tail – spits fire and kills all. What is it? A gun.

What is it we often tell others to do and can't do ourselves? Stop a minute.

What county in Ireland reminds you of a candle nearly burnt out? Wick-low.

Why is a punctual man like the letter "m"? Because it is always in time.

What kind of field is older than you are? One that is pasturage (past your age).

Why is the letter P like the most cruel Roman? Because it to near O (Nero).

When did the cock crow so that all the world heard it? When it was in the Ark.

What four letters spell the Russian Ambassador's title? X L N C (Excellency).

Why is a wise man like a nail? Because his head prevents him from going to far.

What fruit may Noah be supposed to have chiefly laid up in the Ark? Pears (pairs).

What is the most difficult train to catch? All about the same, if the train gets the start.

What creatures took money into the Ark? The duck took a bill, and the skunk a (s)cent.

Why is attar of roses like a letter from Australia? Because it is sent (scent) from afar.

Why is a selfish man like the letter P? Because he is the first to pay and the last in help.

Why is a cat catching its tail like a good housekeeper? Because it makes both ends meet.

What to the most remarkable animal in the world? The pig, because it is first killed, then cured.

What grows less tired the more it works? A carriage wheel grows less tyred the more it works.

Why is a horse a curious feeder? Because he eats best when he has not a bit in his mouth.

Why is a loaf which has fallen overboard like a lobster? Because it is bread (bred) in the sea.

How is it Dutch people come into the world ready dressed? Because they are born in Holland.

There is a word of five letters from which two can be taken, and only one left. What is it? Stone.

Why should not the number 283 be mentioned in polite society? Because it is two (too) gross.

Why are people born deaf always good? Because they have never erred (heard) in their lives.

What is that which, while we feel but cannot see, which is easily swallowed, but never eaten? Flattery.

What is that which, while it belongs entirely to yourself, is used more by others than you? Your name.

Why is a doctor out of temper like a woman out of temper? Because he has lost his patients (patience).

What is the difference between a fowl with two wings and a fowl with only one? Merely a matter of a pinion.

Why are blacksmiths the most discontented of mechanics? Because they are always on the strike for more pay.

Why as a young lady looking at a sign-post like a letter with a wrong address? Because she is miss-directed.

Why is it probable that Charles I. consented to be executed? Because they "axed" him whether he would or not.

Why is a rude fishmonger likely to get more business than a civil one? Because his sells fish, and gives sauce with it.

If all the letters in the alphabet were to run a race which letter would be sure to be the first in starting? The letter S.

What is the difference between a cabinet-maker and a crockery dealer? One makes tea-sets, the other makes set-tees.

What is that which a lady never had, and never can have, and yet she has it in her power to present to another? A wife.

Why is coal the most contradictory thing known to commerce? Because, when bought, instead of going to the buyer it goes to the cellar.

Why should an ill-fitting pair of trousers remind you of two French ports? Because they may be too long and too loose (Toulon and Toulouse).

What force or strength cannot get through, I, with a gentle touch, can do; and many in the street would stand, were I not as a friend at hand? A key.

Who can drink the most coffee on an empty stomach, a large man or a small man? Neither, for after the first swallow, the stomach is no longer empty.

From The Witness, 3rd December 1915

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Lore of Christmas

EXTENDING into the mists of antiquity far behind Christianity, lie the beginnings of religion, a natural movement of the human spirit towards the Divine: far behind every Festival of the Christian year, woven into the historical circumstance of each, lie similar occasions when men rejoiced and worshipped. Thus our great Festivals are native to humanity from ever there was man, and the Christian celebrates them as purified in the baptism of Christian thought and sentiment. So it is with Christmas, the supreme occasion when we set aside all that forbids the mingling of joy with worship.

The name “Christmas” sets the tone of the occasion, for Christmas is The Christ Mass or Feast, a Holiday in His honour. We shall find as we look at the customs of the Festival that this idea of holiday for His sake is either the origin of each custom or has submerged within itself earlier and pre-Christian elements.

Christmas without its decorations would be foreign to sentiment. Taking pride of place is our use of Holly, Mistletoe and the Christmas Tree. Seasonable significance attaches to each.

HOLLY, by tradition The Holy Tree. In pre-Christian Roman times Holly was used in the Saturnalia. Many a god and goddess was believed to lurk in the groves and woods of the Ancient World, and, being humanly imagined, was thought to feel the rigours of the winter. Evergreens were therefore brought indoor to home and Temple at Saturnalia in the belief that god and goddess, sheltering in the foliage, would thus come to sojourn under a human roof-tree until the burgeoning of Spring. In this old custom lies the origin of our use of sprays and festoons of greenery at Christmas. Later a Christian significance attaches to the use. The Crown of Thorns was claimed to have been Holly, and it was the blood shed at Calvary which dyed the berry scarlet. Thus the Holly, symbolically, linked the Birth with the Atoning Death.

Alongside this lies the old Legend that the ROBIN in compassion sought to peck the torturing thorns from Christ’s brow and so became stained in his breast with the evidence of Nature’s care for her Noblest Son.

Similarly the use of THE MISTLETOE is pre-Christian and Druidic. The Ancient Celt held the Oak sacred and believed that when the oak tree slept in winter, its spirit came to reside in the Mistletoe which was parasitic to the oak and evergreen. To gather and hang it indoors meant the importing to a household of the mighty spirit of the oak and with it, good fortune. Here no subsequent Christian legend grew up; we retain a simple usage of the childhood of our race.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE is to the British people a newcomer. Its introduction is usually ascribed to Prince Albert who set one up at Windsor in 1841; but as a matter of history Princess Lieven actually forestalled him by several years, and so can claim the authorship of a gracious custom.

The use of the Tree is therefore of Teutonic origin and an old German Legend gives it grace. A forester and his family were seated before the fire one wild winter night when a knock came to the door. Answering, the forester was surprised to see a child cold, tired, and hungry. The child was brought in, fed and put to sleep in the bed of Hans, the son of the house who slept that night on the floor. In the morning the forester awoke to the music of some celestial choir, as it were at his door. Looking at his little guest he saw His face dazzling in its brightness. It was the Christ-child Himself. Departing, He took a bough of Norway spruce and planting it firmly in the ground. He thanked the forester and told him that “the Tree” would always bring him abundance in the depth of winter.

The decorating of the Tree is also Teutonic, and in Germany, when lighted up, the Tree is
always placed in the window. The custom of placing a decorated and illuminated Tree in a town street or city square is also part of the tradition, as is the placing of a Silver Star at the top — the Star of Bethlehem. Owing to the deep religious significance of the custom only presents which bring joy and pleasure are hung on the Tree. Utilitarian gifts are grouped at the foot, as in the days of yore.
“And now the fir tree . . .
 Acclaimed, by eager blue-eyed girls and boys,
 Bursts into tinsel fruit and glittering toys.
 And turns into a pyramid of light”.

                      (Eugene Lee-Hamilton).

THE CHRISTMAS CARD is a modern custom, and the traditional picture with its white winter scene, its waits and its stage-coach or Santa Claus owes much to the marriage of the sentiments of Washington Irving in America to those of Charles Dickens here, Christmas, of course, in the British Isles, generally coincides with a mild spell of weather, but the conceit is pleasing.

Last century schoolboys were made to write and decorate an essay before they left Grammar School or Public School for the Christmas holiday. These essays were taken home as evidence of progress — a pleasing variation to the usual school report which could not fail at times to be condemnatory of ill-spent time during term. Proud parents displayed the fruits of youthful genius on the mantelpiece for all to see, and later an eager father decided to be a genius himself and sent the proof of his abilities round his friends. So arose the private greeting card with its seasonable appearance and message. Those who maintain the tradition in its happy freshness still make their own cards. Here commercialism is the foe of the Christmas spirit as elsewhere.

Christmas is a FEAST, Hence the association of a rich table with the occasion. In Britain at first a BOAR’S HEAD and the BARON of BEEF: our forefathers were doughty trenchermen. The Boar’s Head had an apple or a lemon in its mouth and its ears were decorated with sprigs of Rosemary.
“The Boar’s Head, in hand bear I,
 Bedecked with bay and rosemary:
 And I pray you, my masters, be merry.
         I bear the Boar’s Head,
         Rendering praise to the Lord”.

As a later gift from America came the TURKEY, now universally the Christmas Dish.

THE PLUM PUDDING, originally Frumenty, a stewed wheat dish. As ingredients were added it became Plum Porridge and so Plum Pudding. Traditionally it was beef or mutton broth thickened with brown bread, raisins, currants, prunes (the “plums”), spices and ginger-bread.

THE MINCE PIE was originally a real pie of chopped hare, pheasant, capon or partridge. Later it became a sweetmeat of raisins, orange, sugar and spices. By tradition each pie eaten in silence brings happiness for one month in the New Year, but nobody has ever solved the problem of the schoolboy who ate seventeen in silence and then wondered how many he might be allowed that day twelvemonths.

Bringing in the YULE LOG, the wood for the Christmas evening fire, was itself a ceremony involving singing, dancing and general hilarity. By custom the Log was not burnt out but a portion saved to light the Log of the next Christmas.

MUMMING AND WASSAILING. In mediaeval times young men dressed up and visited the houses of town and countryside, acting, singing, and dancing. Healths were drunk and good cheer abounded. The custom, now all but dead, is the remnant of the ancient Yule Festival in honour of ODIN, the Yule Father. This custom brought into our Christmas customs a Norse strand.

To the mediaeval period also belongs the PANTOMIME, originally a Play in Dumb Show. Eater, singing and the use of masks were introduced as well as the Ballet. Later still it became the special Christmas Variety Entertainment built up loosely around a Fairy Tale.

THE CAROL goes back to the period when in the mediaeval Church singing and dancing were part of the Festival. With the disappearance of dancing from the Church the Carol came to signify a merry song suggestive of joy and with the lilt of dancing in its notes — a happy song to celebrate the Nativity. The Carol proper dates to the disciples of St. Francis of Assisi (12th Century) and spread from Italy. Its value as a vehicle for the collection of alms fixed it firmly among the customs of the European Christmas.

BOXING DAY. Almsgiving at Christmas found its climax in the opening of the alms boxes after the Christmas Day Service. The distribution however, was reserved for St. Stephen’s Day, which thus became known as Boxing Day. The day had, however, another significance. It was for apprentices and servants a holiday from morning to night and The WREN BOY and many another traditional figure toured from house to house, singing, acting, dancing and seeking alms. It is interesting to us that both the whole holiday for servants and the early morning visit of The Wren Boy are features of the St. Stephen’s Day of Connacht and other parts of Ireland.

And so to SANTA CLAUS. St. Nicholas was the Patron Saint of Russia, of children, sailors and travellers. In the Dutch, San Nicholas: if you say it quickly enough often enough you will learn how the name slurred into the affectionate Santa Claus.

In Myra in ancient Lycia there lived a poor man with his three daughters. They were without fine clothes and had little to eat, but like all girls, they used to dream of their future. For them the dreams were about happy marriage and comfortable homes. None however would marry them who had no dowry.

In the same town lived Nicholas, wealthy and generous of spirit. He had discovered the joy of causing pleasure in the hearts of others, and was happiest if he did good by stealth. One night, from outside their open window, he discovered the plight of the three girls, and the very next night he lightly tossed three purses of gold into the room at their feet and slipped away. Three purses of gold! The meaning was clear, there was one for each, and before long each girl had realised her dream and was happy. Nicholas continued his habit, especially in gifts for children, and the dark days of winter were his happiest. In due course he was found out, and his name speedily became a legend. The Church canonised him, with perhaps more wisdom than in other cases, and so he lives for ever as St. Nicholas — evidence to us of the blessing of the Church on kindness done by stealth.

His sleigh, built, of course, in Fairy Land so as to travel through the air, and his reindeer are a Nordic idea and the final beautifying with legendary detail of the central custom of Christmas.

Christmas was not always celebrated on 25th December, but in the earliest times was twelve days later. The 6th of January is still called “Little Christmas”, and in many a part of Ireland you will still find it kept with lighted candles in the window for welcome and a door on the latch all night to let the Christ-Child in. A countryside so lighted is a blessed sight on “Twelfth Night” in parts of Connacht and Munster.

Behind all the richness of legend and custom lies the single impulse of joy and worship:— “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”



Reprinted from the Presbyterian Herald December 1949


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Notes on the Ulster Scot

In Queen Elizabeth’s day, by an Act passed in the eleventh year of her reign, Ulster was declared to be “the most perilous place in all the isle.” This statement is not surprising, for the northern province was then the most distinctively Irish portion of the country. The native race in it was purer than that in the other three provinces. Of course the term purity can only be applied relatively to any portion of Ireland, as Huxley’s famous essay clearly demonstrated. The variety of races which constitute Ulster nationality is truly astonishing. “Saxon, or Norman, or Dane are we,” sang Tennyson. Doubtless considerations of space and metre prevented him from giving an exhaustive list. For the men of the northern province not only are Saxons, Normans and Danes; they are also Irish, Scots, French and German. The Irish were everywhere; so too were the Scots. There are no more than twenty miles of sea separating County Antrim from Argyll at one point. The Council in Dublin surveyed in the year 1533 the arrival of the Macdonnells with disapproval, declaring that “the Scots also inhabit now busily a great part of Ulster, which is the King’s inheritance; and it is greatly to be feared, unless that in short time they be driven from the same, that they, bringing in more number daily, will, by little and little, so far encroach in acquiring and winning the possessions there, with the aid of the King’s disobedient Irish rebels, who do now aid them therein after such manner, that at length they will put and expel the King from his whole seigniory there.”

 In his excellent book on the Ulster Scot the Rev. J. B. Woodburn investigates the beginnings of this remarkable race. Of course the author admits that his genesis is in part to be found in Scotland, but he is careful to point out that the Ulsterman is as Celtic as a native of Munster. It is not a question of racial distinctions: the Ulster Scot is as Celtic as the Connaughtman. The M'Crea-Magee College in Londonderry, now an affiliated college of the University of Dublin, has had about a thousand students since 1865, when it was opened. The names of 146 of those students begin with Mac, and if the disguised Macs (such as Magill) are included we have a total of 200, or twenty per cent., bearing a single Celtic cognomen. One-seventh of the names of the ministers of the Irish Presbyterian Church at the present moment have names which begin with the same prefix. Here are some of the facts which Mr. Woodburn emphasises to prove that the Ulstermen are
      Kindly Irish of the Irish,
      Neither Saxons nor Italians.

The late Rev. Dr. Kane, the Grand Master of the Orangemen, was a typical Ulsterman, and he maintained that he never could forget he was also an O’Cahan.

Mr. Woodburn raises the extremely interesting question as to why the North differs from the South so much. It is plain that climate will not explain the differences, for the Donegal man is quite different from the Antrim man. Physical reasons, in this sense, are not sufficient. We think that the isolation of the northern province is no small cause, and in its explanation we reproduce what we have written elsewhere. A glance at the map will show that Ulster is surrounded on three sides by the sea; and that the fourth side has for its land frontier a line drawn from Dundalk to Bally-shannon. The waters of Lough Erne occupy the western half of this line, forming a complete defence from Ballyshannon to Belturbet, a distance of nearly fifty miles. The Eastern half is bounded by the chain of the Fews mountains, rising in front of Dundalk, long the outmost post of the English Pale. The centre of the line was protected by the counties of Monaghan and Cavan, interlaced with a perfect network of bogs and lakes. Through these there was only one road, that by Carrickmacross in the Barony of Farney. This pass was the Killiecrankie of Ulster, and was appropriately designated “The Gap of the North.”

Long after the other three provinces had been reduced to submission, chiefs such as the O’Nials retained a large measure of independence. Their aim was to keep their tribesmen faithful to the pastoral ideal of life; and this aim they achieved. They felt that such a life was best fitted to enable them to retain their authority and to preserve their followers from adopting English customs. Fynes Moryson showed that “plenty of grass makes the Irish have infinite multitudes of cattle, and in the heat of the last rebellion the very vagabond rebels had great multitudes of cows which they still (like the nomads) drove with them whithersoever themselves were driven, and fought for them as for their altars and families.” These nomads were the creaghts. When James I. endeavoured to give a system of administration to Ireland, he met with the greatest difficulty from this pastoral population, accustomed to wander about without any fixed habitation. Fynes Moryson describes their dwellings as made of wattles or boughs, covered with long turves or sods of grass, which they could easily remove and put up as they roved from place to place in search of pasture. North and West of Lough Neagh, it seems that the whole population was formed of creaghts, living this wild and nomadic life. At this period, there was not, according to Sir John Davies, one fixed village in County Fermanagh.

With the Ulster Plantation, 1608, appeared the definite appropriation of the lands among the new settlers, and with it disappeared the custom of creaght. The disappearance took time, for, so late as the year 1690, John Stevens records in his remarkable “Journal” (p. 161) meeting the creaghts, “which are much like the Tartar hordes, being a number of people some more some less, men, women, and children, under a chief or head of the name or family, who range about the country with their flocks or herds and all the goods they have in the world, without any settled habitation, building huts wherever they find pasture for their cattle and removing as they find occasion.” The fact is that the old form of society persisted longer in Ulster than in the other three provinces. Con O’Niall cursed all his posterity in case they learned the English language, sowed wheat, or built them houses. Speed explains Con’s reasons: “Lest the first should breed conversation, the second commerce of sustenance, and with the last they should speed as the crow that buildeth her nest to be beaten out by the hawk.”

Reprinted from the Church of Ireland Gazette of 8th May 1914.

Sunday, 6 December 2015


Rain and wreckage around me,
   Home desolated and waste;
One cruel blow has left me
   Memories I ne'er can efface.

I sigh for a touch of kindness,
   And voices I hear no more;
Those who are left to befriend me
   Stand at the open door.

Humble and bare was our shelter.
   Contented and happy my lot:
Ah! why should a human earthquake
   Crumble and shatter the spot.

I, even I, left behind them,
   Why bemoan their sad loss;
Them who protect'st the friendless,
   Help me to bear the cross.

Vengeance, thou useless weapon;
   Jesus has said unto me,
Suffer the sad and the weary
   Ever to come unto Me.

Drumskelt House, 5/10/'15.

This poem appeared in The Witness of 12th November 1915 with the preamble:-- "Elizabeth is the victim of a recent Zeppelin raid. She was rescued from the ruins, dazed, but unhurt. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, all were completely wiped out. She is now in Dr. Barnardo's Homes."

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Notes on the Rock of Cashel

In O'Hanlon's "Life of St. Mochoemoc of Liath Mor," in the Diocese of Cashel, some curious particulars, from which the following is selected, are given concerning the Rock of Cashel:–

"Again was the same king (Failbhe) visited by St. Mochoemoc and by St. Colman, son of Dare. Failbhe spoke haughtily to both, but he was reproved by our saint, who declared that the bishop, his companion, on account of his nobility, relationship, and virtues, at least ought to receive some courtesy from the monarch, while Mochoemoc also announced that the Demon of Pride and the Demon of Lust held sway over him. Sensible of his crimes, the king felt sorrowful, and Mochoemoc then cried out to the Demon of Pride, 'Thou seed-sower of vices, take flight, and sit on yonder stone until joined by your companion, when I shall speak to you.' Next was the Demon of Lust banished from the king, and he went to keep company with the other wicked spirit. Then said the saint to both, 'Depart you two seducers to the north side of Cashel Tor, where we have not to travel, and may you do little mischief until the Day of Judgment.' The mediaeval legend pointed out the place of their captivity, where their moans and wailings were frequently heard." I think that the place of the captivity has been quarried away, so that the Demons of Lust and Pride are no longer imprisoned in the Rock.

Dante ("The Vision of Hell," Canto i.) has represented Lust, Pride, and Avarice by the leopard, lion, and she-wolf, and in Canto xxxiv. the three winds produced by the wings of Lucifer are lust, pride, and avarice. It was a commonplace of mediaeval ethics that lust, pride, and avarice were the roots of all the sins of the world.

According to the "Chronicum Scotorum," Failbhe died A.D. 636, and Mochoemoc A.D. 646. But according to the Irish hagiologists, Colman of Derrymore, a few miles east of Liath Mor, was son of Aengus, King of Cashel, who, according to the "Chronicum Scotorum," was slain A.D. 487. Dare, mother of Colman, is stated to be sister of St. Enda of Arranmore, and daughter of Conall derg, son of Daimen, King of Oriel, whose chief fort, Raith mor, was near the Cathedral of Clogher, in the demesne of the old bishops of Clogher. Adamnan in his "Life of St. Columba " makes mention of "Clocherum filiorum Daimeni," or "Clogher of the sons of Daimen," who was father of Conall derg, who endeavoured to prevent St. Molasius from taking possession of Devenish, in Lough Erne, which belonged to the kings of Oriel. Conall derg launched his boat on Linn an tairb ("the pool of the bull"), beside Portora (corrupted from the Irish, Port an tairbh), and set sail for Devenish, but the saint proved too many for the king of Oriel. It appears to me that Colman of Derrymore could not possibly be son of Aengus and Dare, but it is not easy to discover his real parentage owing to lack of particulars, but he may be identical with Colman of Bruis (Cluain Bruices) and Doon (Dun Blesce), in the Diocese of Emly.

O'Clery, in the "Donegal Martyrology," has made Colman of Cluain Bruices, son of Nathfraoch, and brother of Aengus, king of Cashel. No light is cast on this Colman of Cluain Bruices by the editors of Donegal Martyrology, Drs. Todd and Reeves, who do not even identify Cluain Bruices, but this I was enabled to do some years ago by means of the entry in the "Calendar of Aengus," p.167, concerning Colman, who therein is stated to have been the founder of the monasteries of Dun Blesce and Cluain Bruices, and I published this discovery, which after all was not very much in itself, being so easily attained, in one of our archaeological journals. There the matter for some time rested, but afterwards I was enabled to carry it further, when I found that Colman, or Columb, the founder of these old monasteries at Doon and Bruis, was the Colman or Columb, son of Eochaid and Aiglenn, who founded the monastery of Snamh Luthir, and this item is now for the first time published. Adamnan ("Life of St. Columba," ii., 43) refers to "Columbanus, son of Eochaid, a holy man, founder of that monastery which in the Irish tongue is called Snamluthir, who acted as guide in the same ear with St. Columba." Bishop Reeves identified Snamluthir as Slanore, in the County Cavan.

Years ago an old man told me that the Rock of Linfield, near Pallas Grean, was, in Irish, named Carraig Coluim Chille, or the "Rock of St. Columb Cille," and that the well and the old church on this rock were named Tobar Coluim Chille and Cill Coluim Chille. These particulars were also published, but at the same time I thought that the name Columb Cille had in the local tradition superseded the less well known Columb or Colman of Doon and Bruis, and, moreover, Lewis in his article on Grean Parish names this old church on Linfield Rock, Kilcolman, and states that it was founded in the seventh century. Thus it is likely that the monastery on Linfield Rock, like those at Doon and Bruis, was founded by Columbanus, the friend of Columb Cille, and hence we have opened a new chapter in the early ecclesiastical history of the Diocese of Emly, and probably also of Cashel, if Columb, son of Eochaid and Aiglenn, be identical with the Columb, who, according to the legend, accompanied Mochoemoc to the Rock of Cashel.

J. F. Lynch

This article, written by J. F. Lynch, appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 6th March 1914.
Image: Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary by Elizabeth O'Kane.