The very modern shopfront of Mobi4U in Main Street
Vincent Carmody remembers Listowel Ballads and Balladmakers
(This is the final Instalment)
While I was doing research for the book Listowel and the G.A.A. in the
early 1980’s, I asked Greenville native and well-known balladeer Sean McCarthy
to write a piece, he did so, and included in it wrote a lovely poem of younger
days, when he recalled playing a game with a homemade ball of cloth and string.
The Ragged Ball,
Yes, I remember the lazy days, and the love light in your eye,
The scent of heather on the breeze that graced the summer sky,
The dusty lane, with twisted names, soft twilight stealing through,
Leaping tall, for the ragged ball, in a meadow kissed by dew.
The smell of pandy on the wind, as the night came closing down,
A maple tree, where birds sang free, bedecked in crimson gown,
The ragged ball, by the turf shed wall, it’s playing life near done,
With cloth and string, it will rise again, to soar in the morning sun.
Yes, I remember the drowsy eves, when youth was on the wing,
A thrush at play in the mown hay, a church bell’s lonely ring,
The haughty pose, of a wild red rose, that burst into autumn flame,
And the hillside green, where we picked the team to play the football
In his piece for the book, Sean recalled memories of an uncle, his
mother’s brother, James (Salmon) Roche. Salmon, by which he was known, was
fondly remembered for his witty sayings and was well regarded as a local
balladeer, unfortunately with the passage of time most of which have lost. The
following are some of Sean’s memories of his uncle.
My father’s (Ned McCarthy) livestock, consisting of one hungry goat,
didn’t escape the Salmon’s caustic pen either:
Arise up Ned McCarthy and sell that hungry goat,
Then buy yourself a fancy cap and a yellow swagger coat;
Brave Sandes Bog is on the march from Sweeney’s to Gurtreen,
To cheer the men from field and glen, the gallant Greenville team.
Joe Stack’s cow and his lazy hens figured in the Salmon’s odes too, to
the delight of the ramblers.
Come on Joe Stack, get off your back, the boys are set to play,
Forget about your pregnant cow and your hen that will not lay,
The Greenville team are on the green, so strap the ass and car,
And we’ll drink a toast to victory in the snug of Scanlon’s bar.
Then there was his ode to Tadeen (Finucane) who hated referees and
regaled them from the sidelines.
Tade Finucane, he roared out, “I will shoot the referee,
The Boro goalie fouled poor Moss, sure ‘twas plain to see,
Come on my Greenville Grenadiers and play it nice and cool,
And kick their arse on this sacred grass and to hell with Queensbury
Salmon’s first verse of his 1937 tribute to Boro and An Gleann final
As I sit and write this poem, my thoughts they steal away,
To a night in June in ’37 for an hour I let them stray,
An hour of thrills, an hour of spills, a battle for the crown,
The vanquished were the Boro and the victors were the Gleann.
There were others too that put pen to paper, much of which has been
lost. The work of two more, Sean Ashe and Patrick O Connor from Kilsynan, thankfully,
were at the time either published in local newspapers or on Ballad sheets.
A Convent Street man, Sean Ashe, was a local reporter for the then,
Kerry Champion newspaper, Sean loved his native street, An Gleann, and has left
some lovely pieces written in memory of the street and the footballers who
represented the street in the local town league, his street memory, of 12
verses was called, ‘The place we call, The Gleann’, here we recall the first
I now retrace the path of years
And see a picture bright.
No faltering step or memory lapse
Can dim that pleasing sight.
No wind of change can disarrange
The thoughts I first penned down
Of happy days and boyhood ways
In the place we call ‘The Gleann’
Ah! There’s the lengthy line of homes
Along the riverside
Across the roadway many more
Line up with equal pride
The white washed wall of one and all
And the thatch of light-hued brown
Bring picturesqueness to the scene
In the place we call ‘The Gleann’
Two of Ashe’s football ballads would be regarded as classics. The first of
8 verses, his recall of the 1935 Town League final, between Boro Rovers and The
Gleann, is sung to the air of “She lives beside the Anner”
The world and his wife were there to see the contest played
The ploughman left his horses and the tradesman left his trade
Excitement spread, like lightning flash through every house in town
The night the Boro’ Rovers met in combat with The Gleann.
The father and the mother, yes, the husband wife and child
Were there in great profusion and went mad careering wild
Said the young wife to her husband “Sure I’ll pawn my shawl and gown”
And I’ll bet my last brown penny on the fortunes of The Gleann.
In 1953, again between Boro
Rovers and The Gleann, Ashe had a beautiful 5 verse tribute, the first two
T’was the thirteenth of August and the year was fifty-three
And the bustle and excitement filled expectant hearts with glee
So, we all stepped off together to the field above the town
To see those faultless finalists, Boro’ Rovers and The Gleann
The game began at nick of time, the ref was Jackie Lyne
The whistle held in master hands was an inspiring sign
It was a hectic struggle and to history ‘twill go down
An eventful, epic final twixt the Boro and the Gleann.
Patrick O Connor from Kilsynan who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘PC’ was
a regular contributor of poems/songs/ballads to several local papers in the
1930s. He later contributed material to the Meath Chronicle when he was
domiciled in that part of the country.
By profession he was employed as a groom at various stables. He worked
in the employ of the world-famous horse trainer Vincent O Brien when he had
stables in Collinstown. I included his piece (8 verses) Camogie at Listowel,
1934 in ‘Listowel and the G.A.A.’, the following verse, the first of eight I
Camogie at Listowel (1934)
Listowel v Tralee
Listowel’s Brilliant Victory.
In glorious sheen, the white and green, the colours we hold dear,
Shone brightly through a game of skills, the greatest of the year,
For victory in the balance hung, for fifty minutes strong,
But then Listowel, from goal to goal, to victory swept along,
And as I heard their camans clash, and watched them chase the ball,
Old scenes, old fights, came screaming back, what games I could recall,
My heart was beating loud and fast, my thoughts were gone amok,
I’m normal now, so I’ll review the winners’ dash and pluck.
The Bad Old Days
This photo from Denis Quille shows the Black and Tans arriving into town. They are motoring down Church St.
End of an Era on William Street
Photo and caption from Healyracing
“Today marks the end of an era for our great friends, The Browne Family with their selling of “Browne Bookmakers Shop” to Boylesports. Pictured outside shop on last day of trading are Mary & Eric with son Berkie and his children Daithi & Darragh. Fair play to ye lads….”
Generosity of the Choctaw Nation acknowledged
This is your blogger at the Choctaw memorial in Midleton. On his St. Patrick’s Day visit to the U.S. our taoiseach visited the Choctaw nation in person to say thanks for all their help during Irelands darkest hour, The Great Famine of 1845 to 1852.