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What I am Reading and More

Aras an Phiarsaigh in January 2024

What I’m Reading

I found this treasure in the St. Vincent de Paul shop. It is an old fashioned story of love and loss, beautifully written.

I’m not reading this one. I’m listening to it being read to me. This is a modern book, long drawn out with modern themes and full of today’s dialogue and today’s events.

Give me the old fashioned one any day.

Mo Cheol Thú

Sunday mornings in our house used to always be filled with the sound of the mellow voice of Ciarán MacMathúna introducing his weekly Mo Cheol Thú. The Lark in the Clear Air was the signature tune.

This lovely programme rarely played any new music or poetry. Part of its appeal was listening to the same familiar tunes and words over and over. Neasa Ní Annracháin read the poems. Here is one of my favourites.

Caoch O’Leary by John Keegan 1809-1849

One winter’s day, long, long ago,
When I was a little fellow,
A piper wandered to our door,
Grey-headed, blind and yellow;
And, how glad was my young heart
Though earth and sky looked dreary,
To see the stranger and his dog –
Poor Pinch and Caoch O’Leary.

And when he stowed away his bag,
Cross-barred with green and yellow,
I thought and said, “In Ireland’s ground
There’s not so fine a fellow.”
And Fineen Burke, and Shaun Magee,
And Eily, Kate and Mary,
Rushed in with panting haste to see
And welcome Caoch O’Leary.

O God be with those happy times
O God be with my childhood.
When I bareheaded roamed all day
Bird nesting in the wildwood
I’ll not forget those sunny hours
However years may vary.
I’ll not forget my early friends
Nor honest Caoch O’Leary.

Poor Caoch and Pinch slept well that night,
And in the morning early
He called me up to hear him play
“The wind that shakes the barley:”
And then he stroked my flaxen hair
And cried, “God mark my deary”
And how I wept when he said “Farewell,
And think of Caoch O’Leary.”

And seasons came and went, and still
Old Caoch was not forgotten,
Although we thought him dead and gone
And in the cold grave rotten:
And often when I walked and talked
With Eily, Kate or Mary,
We thought of childhood’s rosy hours
And prayed for Caoch O’Leary.

Well twenty summers had gone past,
And June’s red sun was sinking,
When I, a man, sat by my door,
Of twenty sad things thinking.
A little dog came up the way,
His gait was slow and weary,
And at his tail a lame man limped –
‘Twas Pinch and Caoch O’Leary.

Old Caoch, but O how woebegone!
His form is bowed and bending,
His fleshless hands are stiff and wan,
Ay, time is even blending
The colours on his threadbare bag;
And Pinch is twice as hairy
And thinspare as when first I saw
Himself and Caoch O’Leary.

“God’s blessing here!” the wanderer cried,
“Far, far be hell’s black viper:
Does anybody hereabouts
Remember Caoch the Piper?”
With swelling heart I grasped his hand,
The old man murmured. “Dreary,
Are you the silky-headed child
That loved poor Caoch O’Leary?”

“Yes, yes,” I said—the wanderer wept
As if his heart was breaking—
“And where, avic-machree,” he sobbed,
“Is all the merry-making
I found here twenty years ago
“My tale,” I sighed, “mighty weary:
Enough to say there’s none but me
To welcome Caoch O’Leary.”

“Vo, vo, vo!” the old man cried
And wrung his hands in sorrow:
“Pray let me in, astore machree,
And I’ll go home tomorrow.
My peace is made, I’ll calmly leave
This world so cold and dreary;
And you shall keep my pipes and dog, And pray for Caoch O’Leary.”

With Pinch I watched his bed that night,
Next day his wish was granted,
He died and Father James was brought,
And the Requiem Mass was chanted.
The neighbours came, to dig his grave
Near Eily, Kate and Mary.
And there he sleeps his last final sleep—
God rest you, Caoch O’Leary.

Postcards from An Post

Remember these?

Kerry Sentinel 1878-1916, Wednesday, 21 November, 1894; Page: 3

BALLYDONOGHUE RACES. Liselton, Monday. A meeting of the above race committee was held on yesterday. Mr. J. BEHANE (chairman) presided. Others present—Messrs. John Walsh, hon. sec.; D. O’Sullivan, treasurer; R. Kissane, M. Coughlan, Maurice Murphy, P. Kennelly, and P. Molyneaux. The Chairman said that this meeting was convened for the purpose of getting up races at Ballydonoghue, which had lain dormant for the past four years. As you are all aware, gentlemen, for the few times we established our races we can say they were fairly successful. Therefore, I think now that if we combine together and apply ourselves with vigour to the duties we have laid before us, that this year’s meeting will be also a success. You have seen the course—a very suitable one—kindly given, gratis by our esteemed and worthy friend Mr. Denis O’Sullivan, and in addition to this Mr. O’Sullivan will also give a plate for the local horses within a radius of four miles. We cannot give sufficient thanks to Mr. O’Sullivan for his kindness in this matter, but we will do everything in our power to convey to him the depth of our gratitude for his liberality on this occasion. We will hold the races on the first week of February, and the stakes will be—£12, £7, .£5 and  £5. Also, as I have said before, a plate will be given by Mr. O’Sullivan for local horses. Your business now is to appoint collectors for the various towns and villages.

Mr. O’Sullivan said he had not words at will to express his most sincere thanks to the assembled committee, and more especially to the promoters—Mr. John Walsh, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Boland for their kindness to him on this occasion. In conclusion he hoped that their races would be a success. Collectors having been appointed, A vote of thanks proposed by P. Mr. Kennelly, and seconded by Mr. Maurice Murphy brought the proceedings to a close.

A Man of Vision

Photo and text from Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue

Earlier this month Frank O Connor retired from Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue having spent 37 years serving the community.

Frank was one of the original members who attended the first meeting back in 1986 and he held various positions including PRO and Chairman during his service. Instrumental in the development of our first aid side of the service, Frank secured the first two defibrillators for the town back in 2005 for use by us.

When we build, we build on the shoulders of those that came before us. And to this end, Frankie was made an Honorary member immediately upon his retirement to acknowledge the tremendous time, effort and service he has put into the organisation since its inception.

A Fact

An owl doesn’t have eyeballs. that is why he turns his whole head from side to side.



Changes in January 2024


Early Lartigue Project


  1. Patrick Corridan

    Hello Mary,
    I am an old pupil and was inspired by your husband Jim. We got on very well in his very early years in Listowel. I think he would be very pleased to hear that I kept up with the Science and have recently retired after a long career as an Eye Surgeon in the UK. I am originally from the Square and my sister Veronica still lives in the house where we were brought up.
    Just a small point about the owl. He does have eyeballs. Quite big ones in fact but he doesn’t have the muscles around his eyes to move them like humans can. Hence the big neck rotation ability.

    I love your blog and your photos and updates. Very grateful for what you are doing.

    Kind regards

    Patrick Corridan

  2. Mary, I enjoyed reading about the old fashioned music. Did you ever listen to Delia Murphy, I wonder? The theatre company, I work with – Aris – is performing “Goodnight Delia” written by John Murphy and Simon Gibney, in April here in Atlanta. It’s the story of her remarkable life and will be a North American premier.

  3. Mary Hanlon

    Morning Mary. Loved the poem today!
    Take care

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