Charles McGlinchey, The Last of the Name, with an Introduction by Brian Friel (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1986), 144pp.

Contents : Introduction: Important places [1-4]; 1. The family [7]; 2. The home [15]; 3. The land [23]; 4. Poteen [31]; 5. Spinning and weaving [35]; 6. Emigration [43]; 7. The fair at Pollan [51]; 8. Poets, publicans and pilgrimages [59]; 9. The parish [67]; 10. Cures and spells [83]; 11. Landlords and tenants [95]; 12. Factions [103]; 13. Education [107; 14. The exploits of Eoin O’Kerrigan [113]; 15. The Famine [119]; 16. Pastimes [123]; 17. Set nights [133]; 18. Epilogue [141.]

Introduction (by Brian Friel)

The manuscript that Master Kavanagh’s son, Desmond, gave to me to edit was frequently meandering and repetitive, and one of the many rigours I imposed on it to give it its present shape was to fragment that flowing, conversational speech into chapters and to give those chapters titles. (Imposing a literary shape on material that derives its character and vigour from a different form is an uncertain enterprise. It can be justified, I hope, in that it makes material like this available to a general public.) McGlinchey, reared on the stories of Fionn and Oisin and the Fianna - “stories so long that they wouldn’t be finished at bedtime, so the old man would carry on the next night where he left off” - lives uneasily under that kind of regimentation; his remembering style resists such external structuring; a conversation has a right to be meandering and repetitive - maybe for emphasis, maybe for the music of the speech, maybe just because the old man is forgetful.

But despite my formal disciplining there are some themes that keep recurring throughout the text. Religion is a preoccupation, and the behaviour of Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, and the mixed marriage of the old pagan practices with the new Christian dogmas, and the power of the shaman's curse. McGlichey was a Catholic but his Catholicism is closer to the eighteenth century than to the twentieth. He likes the mendicant friars with their raucous drinking and their “breezy” ways and their open hearts. He is less happy with Father Shiels who in 1820 built a big house for himself, and “in order to make up the farm seven families had to be evicted. He helped at the evicting himself, too. I heard that he evicted one family after he had said Mass and before he took his breakfast; and he even carried out a cradle with an infant in it and left it on the street. The old people didn't want to talk about out it.” The story is told in a flat voice, the same tone he uses to describe the death in 1703 of Colonel McNeill, the notorious landlord - landlords are another preoccupation - “Things got so bad ... till he died” - as infra.]’ (p.3.)

Chapter 7: The Fair at Pollan (pp.51-56)

Long ago there was a great fair held on Pollan Green twice a year, the twenty-ninth of June and the tenth of October. The last fair was held there on St Peter and Paul’s Day in the year of 1812. Before that it had been going on for hundreds of years maybe. It was going strong in the time of the Bráthair na Dumhcha [a famous local friar] and he died in 1784; and I heard accounts of Colonel McNeill attending the fair of Pollan and he died in 1709. From all accounts it must have been the greatest fair, maybe, in the whole north of Ireland . The people gathered from all airts and parts, and the green was black with people and standings and play-actors of all kinds. It was a cattle, horse and sheep fair, but there was great drinking and dancing and singing carried on, too. All the mentioned girls of the three parishes were there, and many a match and wedding was settled at the same fair of Pollan.

The cow-park was down at a place still called Garraí an Chladaigh, and the sheep were kept in a field behind that called Áit an Aonaigh. I often heard of a man who used to come with a horse and cart with sweets and things, and on his way he kept shouting and singing: “Tá mé ag teacht, tá mé ag teacht go h-Aonach na bPollan [I’m coming, I’m coming to the fair of Poilan]"

All the old people had a song, too, about a boy who promised his mother he’d do all the turns about the house, if she’d let him go to the fair of Pollan:

Bhéarfaidh mé cnuasach chugat ón trá,
Crúbáin, creanach, duileasc breá;
Snífidh mé iarna achan lá,
Ó a mhámaí lig mé chun aonaigh.
Cuirfidh mé an t-iarna ar an chrois,
Bogfaidh mé an cliabhádn le mo chois,
Dheanfaidh mé garaíoch fríd an tí.
Ó a mhámaí lig me chun aonaigh.

[I will bring you a hoard of food from the strand
Crabs, shell dulse, sweet dulse;
I will spin a hank of yarn every day,
O, mammy, let me go to the fair.
I’ll put the hank on the cross,
I’ll rock the cradle with my foot,
I’ll do all the wee jobs about the house.
O, mammy, let me go to the fair.]

Colonel McNeill was a bad man who lived at Binnion. He was a Scotsman. He died in 1709. He likely got Binnion after the Reformation or after the Battle of the Boyne . I heard my father saying it was people by the name of Toland who were driven out of Binnion when it was taken over by McNeill. My father was at Cam fair one cold day in winter, and there was an old Malin fisherman taking shelter from a shower beside him. So my father remarked to him that this was a day for a topcoat. The old man said if his people had their rights, it wasn’t one but two or three topcoats he could have, for it was his people who owned Binnion in the old days. He was the name of Toland from Ardmalin.

This Colonel McNeill had a very bad name and always kept a band of henchmen or yeomen about him, who helped him to evict tenants and seize girls and persecute the people. Some of them were from Crossconnell, and some from Binnion.

There was an old woman called Máiread Dhubh who lived in a sod house in Bunacrick moss with her four children. She caught salmon during the summer-time to make a living and always went into the river and caught them with her hands. One day she was in the river down at Clochwan when McNeill and his men came on her, and with their swords and bayonets they kept her in the water till she was drowned. A Tanderagee [52] man was going home from the Keelogs mill with a load of meal, and Máiread Dhubh called on him to save her but he drove on, and they say that Máiread cursed him and said the day would come when there wouldn’t be one of his name in Tanderagee.

I heard that story told another way, where a man called Dochartach Mór na dTulcha was said to have killed Máiread Dhubh and that it wasn’t McNeill at all.

Another time there was a funeral of some young woman who hadn’t pleased Colonel McNeill. When they were carrying the coffin round Teampall Deas, McNeill and his men held up the funeral and took the lid off the coffin and put their swords through her. There was a girl about Crossconnell, too, and one night McNeill’s men came to seize her, but she got out of bed and made up the side of Rachtan and got away on them.

Some of the women who had children to him got a rood of ground for their support. There was one of these roods in Cortnahinson, and some about Ballyliffin and different parts of the parish. The Ballyliffin Hotel is built on one of McNeill’s roods. Some of his descendants were known in my young days, but I think they are all died out by now.

It was a common thing for women from the lower side of the parish to gather on the Binnion and Annagh hills and curse McNeill.

McNeill used to attend the fair of Pollan with,his henchmen and pick out the best looking girl at the fair and carry her off to Binnion. One June fair they were taking a girl over the hill to Binnion, and when they were crossing behind Ardagh, Séimí Airis McCole heard her screaming and calling for help. Séimí was a mentioned man with the stick. He was hanging on a pot of potatoes at the time, so he called: ‘Cá bhfuil mo bhataigín [Where is my baton]?’ and grabbed his stick and made out and jumped hedges and ditches till he overtook them about Mullach and fell to them with the stick till the girl got away.

Another fair of Pollan, a fine looking girl from Urris came in with her three brothers over through Annagh. When McNeill and his men went to seize the girl, she blew a birler, a kind of a [53] whistle she carried, and it was heard all over the green. The brothers knew their sister’s whistle and came to the rescue in time to save her. I heard, too, of a girl from Meentiagh Glen who went there for the first time. McNeill got his eye on her and arranged with her to meet him at six o’clock and that he’d leave her home on horseback. Some friends of hers warned her about the sort of a man he was and advised her to leave the fair at once and get home as hard as she could. She cut up through Tornabratly and over the side of Crockaughrim and got away home that way.

Things got so bad at the finish-up that some of the Ardagh men attacked McNeill one night at a place called Gallach in Annagh Hill, and felled him with a stone on the head, and Eoin Airis McCole castrated him with an old hook. His henchmen carried him home, and he lay for days before he died. The doctor maintained he would have recovered only for the blow on the head. I heard that the night he died he tore the side wall out of the house when the devil took him. The old people always said he was buried in the house at Binnion standing up, and that the corner where he is buried is built up. But there is a tombstone in the old churchyard at the corner facing Binnion with his name on it.

All the old people round this parish had a song about Pollan fair called “Pléaráca na bPollan [Pollan Revels]”. Many a time I heard it sung. It was made by a brother of Dean O’Donnell. He was Denis O’Donnell and died in 1778. Dean O’Donnell was parish priest here about two hundred years ago, before the Bráthair na Dumhcha. This is the song as far as I remember.

Éireoidh mé ar maidin is rachaidh mé chun aonaigh,
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Ligfidh mé le bradóg go bhfuil mé ar na daoraidh,
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Níl seascan bog baite ni dit a bhfuil póg ann,
Aniar ó Bhéal Trá go h -Ard na Cuileann Trá
Nach mbímse seal sínte ar maos is mé ag ionfairt ann,
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.

Ag pilleadh aníos as Aonach na bpollan dom
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Le héiri na gealaí is le glaise na maidne,
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Cluinfear mo cheol mo ghlór is mo challán ann,
Carna mionna mór ar nós mar bhéadh dragan ann,
Chá dtéann tost ar mo scóig, ach ag ól, go rabh maidin ann,
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.

Ag dul thar an droichead ar dhéire mo phóiteacht,
Tá mé mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Fágfar céad crapán i mullach mo mhullaigh,
Tá mé’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Béidh mo hata’s mo chóta síos liom ‘na luideoga,
Mo charbhat is mo léine as a chéile ‘na ribíní,
Is gur duibhe ná’n súiche mo ghuailne le greadóga
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.

Ag teach bealach an tobair dom le stiúcadh mo scóige,
Tá mé mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.
Dheánfaidh mé scíste i dti Shéamuis Ui Dhochartaigh,
Tá mé ’mo chodiadh is ná dúisitear mi.
Chan fhágfaidh mé aon deor i soitheach a dearn cupaire,
Ó thoigh Bhillí Bháin go teach Éamoinn Chonnachtaigh,
Caithfidh mé an oiche le h-
É amonn i gClocharna.
Tá mé ’mo chodladh is ná dúisitear mé.

[I’ll rise in the morning and go to the fair,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
I’ll pretend to the girl that I’m in a mad fit,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
There’s not a marsh or a swamp or a bog-hole,
Across from Beltra to the height of Cullentree,
That I won’t be steeped in and footering in,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.

On returning up from the fair of Pollan,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
With the rise of the moon and the breaking of dawn, [55]
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
My singing and shouting and noise will be heard there,
Heaps of big curses as if ’twas a dragon,
My throat will not silence, except while drinking, till the morning,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.

Going over the bridge at the end of my spree,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
There will be hundreds of lumps on the top of my head,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
My hat and my coat will be around me in tatters,
My scarf and my shirt will be sundered in ribbons
And my shoulders black as soot with batterings and blows,
I’m alseep and don’t waken me.

Coming over past the well, and my throat parching,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
I will rest a while with Seamus O’Doherty,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.
I won’t leave a drop in any vessel ever a cooper made,
From Billy Ban’s house to the tent of Éamonn the Connachtman,
Then I’ll spend the night with Eamonn in Cloghema,
I’m asleep and don’t waken me.]

[End of chap.]

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