Cursed in the Seven Languages!

There was a man once set out to market with a few bags of corn.  It was the early hours when the sun hadn’t riz yit and the dew clung to his eyelashes like cold rain.  As he came to the graveyard he saw two cats sitting facing each other on the wall.
‘That’s a damp breed o’ a mornin”, says one cat, stiffening the man with fear.
”Tis,’ he muttered trippingly.
‘Where are ye for?’ asked the other cat.
‘The town’, the man answered, stupefied and gawking at them both.
‘Well, turn back and tell your wife that Craw Luk is dead.’
Glad to escape from such unearthly cats the man turned his horse and galloped home.  His wife saw him coming so fast and ran out in dread.  He couldn’t answer her rush of questions.  He slumped into a chair in the room.
‘A.. a… drink.. of water’, he begged.
When he had drank he told her, in stumbled words, of the two cats, while his own black cat sat on the hob winking at the burning turf and gazing now and then at the man in drowsy glances.
‘An’ one cat told me to tell you… that Craw Luk is dead!’
‘Craw Luk!  Craw Luk!’ screeched his own cat.  ‘Me own grandfather!!’
And it instantly began to whine and cry.
The man realised at once that his own cat was no right animal.  Later he went to the master of the Big House who had a pack of hounds and told him the whole story.
‘I see,’ said the master.  ‘Well, let you put your cat in a bag saying you are taking it to the graveyard wall to meet the other cats – and that you’re afraid the neighbours might wonder why you’re fetching a cat, and that’s the reason for the bag.  I’ll be there with the hounds and we’ll soon see what sort of a cat you have.’
The man did as he was told.  As he came to the crossroads the hounds began to yelp and the cat in the bag scratched and whined.  In a human voice it said,
‘Tom, if you let the cat outta the bag, I’ll cut your bluddy throat!’
But the man dumped it out in the middle of the hounds and away goes the chase.  Crossing a ditch one of the hounds bit a piece out of the cat’s thigh but it escaped nevertheless and was seen to leap through the open window of an old house on the mountain-side.
And when the men reached the house, all they found was an old woman spinning. 
But there was blood on the floor beside her thigh. 
And they say she just cursed them in the Seven Languages.

Originally posted 2004-12-22 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Quit Nyamming


Fr Colum Wright this morning in his sermon, with a congregation ranging in age from four to eighty plus years, recounted how he had just returned from visiting Santa in Daisy Hill Hospital.    Really?  No, really?  Was he ill?


It was all the children ‘nyamming’ that put him there, he said, and it wasn’t at all certain that he’d recover soon enough to do his essential rounds this year.

Read moreQuit Nyamming

Originally posted 2006-12-25 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Everything You Want to Know about St. Patrick

St. Patrick is more than just a holiday where we celebrate being Irish and drink and have fun. In fact, St. Patrick was a real person and he had a huge impact on the history of Ireland as well as one of everyone’s favorite holidays!

St. Patrick is known as a patron saint of Ireland and is one of the most recognized figures in the Christian religion. Although he is widely celebrated, we do not actually know a lot about how he lived his life whenever he was alive. There are tons of stories that you can locate that are going to be associated with St. Patrick which include things such as him banishing snakes from Ireland, but sadly, most of these are nothing more than fairy tales that have been made up by expert storytellers.

St. Patrick was born in Britain sometime around the fourth century to a set of wealthy parents. His death is rumored to have occurred sometime on March 17th in 460 AD.

Patrick’s father was a Christian deacon but people believe that this role was taken because of all of the incentives that he got on his taxes due to the fact that there are no signs that point to the fact that Patrick’s family was one of religion.

St. Patrick Captured by the Irish

Whenever Patrick was sixteen, a group of Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate and took him prisoner, sending Patrick to Ireland where he would be held in captivity for around six years. It is hard to say exactly where Patrick was held during this captivity, there are some people who believe that he was in Mount Slemish while others believe it was County Mayo.

Nevertheless, while Patrick was being held in captivity, he worked outdoors as a shepherd and was not allowed to be near people most likely for fear of him telling someone what had happened. It was during this time period when Patrick was alone and afraid of what his future held that Patrick finally turned to the religion in which he had known as a child which then lead him to become a devout Christian.

There is another rumor that states that Patrick actually dreams of converting people in Ireland to the Christian religion while he was being held in captivity, but there is no evidence of this that has been found.

St. Patrick’s Visions

Sometime during his captivity Patrick finally managed to escape. In what has been found of St. Patrick’s writing, he states that a voice told him that it was time for him to leave Ireland and that Patrick believed that it was God telling him this.

However, in order to escape, Patrick had to walk around two hundred miles from where he was being held to the coast. Once he made it to the coast, Patrick found his way back to Britain. After he had made it back to his homeland, another vision came to Patrick that to him that he needed to return to Ireland, but as a missionary this time.

It was after this vision that Patrick took up religion training for about fifteen years where he earned his ordination as a priest. Once he was ordained, Patrick now returned to Ireland with two things in mind. One was to minister to the Christians that were already residing in Ireland. The other was to try and convert the Irish that did not believe in Christianity. Strangely enough, what Patrick was sent to do is different than what many believe and that St. Patrick is actually the one who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the first place.

Crosses and bonfires

Being that Patrick was already familiar with the culture and the language in Ireland, Patrick used this to his advantage and started to incorporate the rituals that the Irish did into the lessons that he taught on Christianity. This was his way of trying not to get rid of the beliefs of those who lived in Ireland completely.

One example of how he did this was that he had bonfires lit on Easter being that the Irish honored many of their gods with a fire. A sun was also placed onto the Christian cross so that it became a new kind of cross, one of which we know as the Celtic cross. This was done so that it seemed more natural for the Irish to be okay with such a Christian symbol thus making their worship and transition to Christianity as painless as possible.

This was not to say that there were not already Christians that lived in Ireland whenever Patrick first arrived as a priest, but a great majority of the island was more nature-based pagans.

Since the Irish culture is very rich on telling their myths and legends, it is easy to see how St. Patrick’s life became grander than it actually was.

The Many Legends of St. Patrick

There are plenty of legends that surround Saint Patrick, and here are just a few of the ones that are passed down amongst those in Ireland.

St. Patrick and The Shamrock

It is said that Saint Patrick taught the Irish about the Christian ideal of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost forming a holy trinity by using a shamrock as a way to show that God was three people in one God. You can first locate this story being told in 1726 although it is very possible that it is older than that. Ever since this story, the shamrock has been the single biggest icon of St. Patrick’s Day.

Back in the days when Ireland was still primarily pagan, there were a lot of them that believed in triple deities which may have helped Patrick in trying to teach them the Christian views he had been sent to preach.

Researchers say that little to no evidence exists that the Pagans help the shamrock as some sort of spiritual object. But, another researcher states that it may have been used to represent the powers of nature that were regenerative and when Patrick used it to describe the holy trinity is, it became a Christian icon.

Many pictures show Patrick with a shamrock in one of his hands and a cross being held in his other. Roger Homan wrote:

“We can perhaps see St Patrick Drawing upon the visual concepts of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the trinity.”

St. Patrick Banishing The Snakes

Due to the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland, many people believe that Patrick banished them all from the island, casting them off into the waters after attacking him during one of his prolonged fasts. The inspiration behind this legend comes from the story of Moses that can be found in the Bible when Moses and his brother Aaron used their staffs to fight against the sorcerers that worked with Pharaoh their staffs morphing into snakes and consuming all the other snakes that were in the area.

But as is explained in a later section, there have never been any snakes in Ireland. As a result, there wasn’t anything for Patrick to rid the island of, in the first place.

Patricks’ Walking Stick

A few of the legends that you find in Ireland involve the Copog Phadraig, the Caoranach, and the Oillipheist. While Patrick was spreading the word of God in Ireland, it is said that he carried a staff that was made of ash wood. This stick would be thrust into the ground when he was preaching.

Today, it is said that at Aspatria (Ash of Patrick) the message that he was preaching took so long that by the time he was done, his stick had grown roots and had begun to sprout into a tree.

The Ancient Ancestors and Patrick Speak

A work from the 1100s called Acallam na Senorach gives the reader the story of how Patrick met with two of Ireland’s ancient warriors while he was on his mission to convert the pagans. It is unsure of how these two warriors survived to make it to the time that Patrick was there, nevertheless, Patrick took the time to try and convert the warriors to his religion all the while they defended their religion of paganism.

Saint Patrick’s Cross

Patrick has two crosses that are commonly associated with him. One is the cross pattee while the other is the saltire. The pattee is the cross that you will find associated with Patrick. The saltire can be dated back to 1783 and is often associated with the order of St. Patrick.

There is no real reason that can be found as to why the cross pattee is associated with Patrick. One theory is that the bishops are oftentimes shown associated with them. Patrick is one of the founding bishops of the Church in Ireland, so this is how this symbol may have become associated with Patrick. Many pictures that show St. Patrick show him with in a bishop’s clothing, all of which decorated with the cross pattée.

Even today the cross pattee can be associated with Patrick because it appears on the arms of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh along with the Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Armagh. This is often believed to be done because Patrick was the first diocese in Armagh. The Down District Council also uses it on their headquarters in Downpatrick which is considered to be the place where Patrick was buried.

The Saltire of Patrick is red on a white field and is normally used to represent the order of St. Patrick which was founded in 1783.  The Acts of Union that happened in 1800 caused the Saltire to be combined with the Cross of England, the cross of Scotland, and thus the union flag was formed.  This is the flag that is commonly associated with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, the saltire has no references to St. Patrick.

Saint Patrick’s Bell

In the national museum of Ireland sits a bell that is known as St Patrick’s bell. The first mention of this bell dates all the way back to 552.

The bell is considered to be a relic that was removed from Patrick’s tomb about sixty years after he died. The bell is said to be the Bell of the Testament which is one of the most precious relics that Ireland has.

St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone knows about St. Patrick’s Day. Going also by the name “the Feast of Saint Patrick”, the day is known as a religious and cultural celebration that is traditionally held on the seventeenth of March when it is said that St. Patrick died.

It was not until the early seventeenth century that the Christians and Catholic’s began to observe the holiday. It is considered to be the day that Christianity was brought over to Ireland by St. Patrick; it also celebrates the culture and heritage of the Irish.

Those who celebrate St. Patrick’s day in a more religious manner as it was intended to be, it is they spend the day for spiritual renewal and prayers often offered up for the missionaries that are spreading the gospel worldwide.

Snakes in Ireland

This is a myth that came around about St. Patrick is that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. There are no snakes that actually live in Ireland because of the waters being too frigid around the island, therefore, it makes it to where it is too cold for any snake to actually live on the island. However, it is common that this may just be a metaphor for getting rid of the pagan ways of those who called Ireland home.

Partying On St. Patricks Day

Up until 1970, St. Patrick’s Day did not involve a lot of partying. Instead, it was mainly focused on the religious aspects of the holiday. However, when the 70’s came around, the restrictions on people eating meat, dancing, and drinking were lifted for the day.

When the Irish came to America, that was when the party started. It is uncertain when the first parade actually took place, but the earliest that we can trace back the celebrations is to Boston in 1737 as well as New York 1762. Each year that passed and more Irish immigrants came to the US.

Some of the major parties that everyone around the world knows about is the parade that happens in New York and Chicago always dying their river green in celebration.

Ireland and The Color Green

Many people believe that if you do not wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, you are going to get pinched. However, why is this? A lot of the connection to the color green comes from the fact that there is a lot of green in Ireland when spring comes around, plus there is green in

the Irish flag. Oh, and let’s not forget that the island of Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle. One more thing that brings about the wearing of green is the fact that if you do not wear green, then a leprechaun is going to see you and pinch you.

Shamrocks It is said that Patrick used a shamrock as a way to explain the holy trinity when he was spreading Christianity. But, the shamrocks did not become a thing until the seventeenth century.


Leprechauns are not real, but they do come from popular Irish folklore. These small people were the shoemakers who took what they made from making shoes and put them in a pot at the end of a rainbow. People often times look for leprechauns to try and get them to give away a piece of gold, but also because leprechauns are supposed to be good luck!

Corned beef and cabbage

This is a meal that is traditionally served on St. Patrick’s day. Corned beef was chosen because cows were not usually slaughtered for meat in Ireland but were used for milk as well as the strength they provided. But, once again, corned beef and cabbage came from America going back to the Irish immigrants that were living in New York. These immigrants were buying their meat from butchers that were kosher as to not let go of their roots.

The corned beef and cabbage are more of a Jewish tradition where the corned beef and cabbage is put into a pot with potatoes and carrots. In Ireland, the corned beef is typically lamb or bacon.

Originally posted 2020-05-05 14:51:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Submitted poems : reflections


Of these three submitted poems, two (namely ‘McParland’s Elder’ and ‘McGinn’) are character based poetic fictionalisations of various characters in and around the town (McParland and McGinn being two distinctly local surnames). ‘McParland’s Elder’ is an ode to the elderly of the city whilst ‘McGinn’ is the story of a man observing his own wake and funeral (not very cheery, granted, but very Irish in it’s outlook nonetheless).

The other poem ‘Going to my Hometown’, is a sonnet written in dedication to the city and was inspired by many of the landmarks dotted around the place (namely, the old red-brick of the Hibernian Club on the Mall and the medieval church up on High St.)

Going to my Hometown

Parading a musty clop along the mall;

Redbrick and granite should glimmer in their boast.

Razing a glint in bier-garten toast,

I’m jealous – their sip, lip-locked – I’m enthralled.

The chivalrous sweat in musical droves,

Saluting the weather with world-weary wink.

The steeples, serene, without rain to drink:

A clan wry, a-flowing – a city of mauve.

Borderline bubble I love you so well.

I source you for boredom, ‘tis true, ‘tis true,

For dryness can seem here the hottest of hells

But I would be dead if ‘twas not for you –

A cynic. A liar. A lover. A son –

A soul wracked to bone mass from valley-sought glue.


Thespian legion of repute and rogue
Wherefore to season my home with your lease?
Cast without shadow and latent in vogue
Celestial yearnings burn without cease.

For human endeavour seems that of beast
When repertoire years are draping the squelch;
No requiem breast nor angel nor priest
In scant distillation can prove what I felt.

And though there were eve’nings in spite of myself,
Where lingered my spoils ‘pon high in the din,
I sired the void, alive and in health,
To slump down, a coward, and die with my sins.

“What friends, indeed, can be said of McGinn?”
Seized up from the swell then through shuffling slits.
‘twas one from my past, though not of my kin,
Who’d shamble my bygones in idler twist.

“Well, let my retort reveal to you this”
Responded my sibling, eye on my corpse,
“He was my brother and though he be missed,
They’ll ravage his ghost with sulphur and scorch;

They’ll send for his passions, singed like a torch,
Drink them to blackness and pluck him from thought.
Heathen of helix and harlequin sport,
Hath thou no inkling, the havoc you wrought?

A bold moment-muse of what we all sought?
Wanting our brother, or what for the word
Could heal you of stealing the years we had brought.
For all that was owed us: a man of the world.”

Only ‘twas then that time, stuck, unfurled
And eve’ning careered t’ward morning, t’ward fate.
When bones hold to dust by death, that old churl, 
My years be reduced to scripture and slate.

For I have been poisoned by seasons in wait –
Weights worth the farthings they stuck to my eyes;
Sliding through epochs that harboured the great
And mock the mere mortals of meaning deprived.

‘tis that, as I laboured ‘mong mirrors they hide,
Residing in pine with beads in their coil,
That creased up and burned my thoughts ‘fore the guide
Of sinner McGinn to a patch in the soil.

My screed reads no softer after such toil,
No smoother a tale to be taught at your teat.
That my soul had not descended to boil,
Nor had I with saints or skivvies to speak.

‘twas in my cortege ‘midst eyes without weep
And great sweeping haloes of droves in their drear
Where I’d come to shamble in rambling grief;
My infinite seal – a death without peer.

The chapel then, ceding in vaulted veneer,
Seemed placid, indiff’rent; a tomb without taste,
And I, of the asinine angular weird,
Sat nursing my years in debt and disgrace;

Though steadfast my legion not to make haste –
Not for the glibness nor gallons nor grime;
Nor e’en for wallowing Whitsuns of waste
Which, woven, made whimsical dust of my time.

No, friends! My kin were not even inclined
To whisper a shudder in lieu of myself;
Their benches, distended in line upon line
Had last term to conjuring sobs where they knelt.

And I, a poor reckoner, dumbfound and welt,
Who picked at his scars with bottle and beak,
Have culled from my friv’lous happ’nings health
And smile that my bygones weren’t utterly bleak.

The service, now ended, spilled out to the street;
The heat of the noon scald shapes and disrobe.
Of courage without, I slunk in the speak
And pictured my corpse garrulous and in globe.

With words said and skies pulled the hollow was lowed,
And dignified drops of a soil were dispensed,
And after the shapes had shuffled their shoad,
I stood for awhile to invite forth the hence.

I stood for a decade in sin recompense,
And pleaded with weathering debris and silt;
I stood for my penance, for death to commence,
Though condemned am I to be held by the hilt.

I cornered my prayers then, my flowers in wilt;
I threatened the heavens with nothing to stake –
But, reader, my anguish is always my guilt.
Is this script appendage enough for my sake?

Originally posted 2019-07-11 10:08:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Mummers


The poem of John Hewitt reproduced below is particularly poignant for me, because my mother remembers the Christmas Rhymers at Sheetrim in the very same time period, that is, c.1941, and the fictional, often historical characters they played out.  There will be more on the Mummers, as they also were called, later, and the script of their dramas.


For now, enough to congratulate Pat Maginn of Bessbrook who revived the custom and has a Rhymers Group, and the Armagh Rhymers, who are excellent and whose costumes are highly impressive – perhaps just a little too polished!  Hewitt called his poem


The Christmas Rhymers, Ballynure, 1941: an old woman remembers


The Christmas Rhymers came again last year,

wee boys with blackened faces at the door,

not like those strapping lads that would appear,

dressed for the mummers’ parts in times before,

to act the old play on the kitchen floor;

at warwork now or fighting overseas,

my neighbours sons; there’s hardly one of these

that will be coming back here any more.


I gave them coppers, bid them turn and go;

and as I watched that rueful regiment

head for the road, I felt that with them went

those songs we sang, the rhymes we used to know,

heartsore imagining the years without

The Doctor, Darkie and Wee Divil Doubt.


In case you’re labouring under the misconception that there is no Ulster-Scots culture or tradition, let me inform you that John Hewitt is right there, to the forefront, and one of my favourite poets!

Originally posted 2004-06-19 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Civil ‘tinkers’

Sam Woods of Ballinalack was on his way home from Newry one time in his horse and cart when he came upon an old woman lying as dead in the middle of the road.  It was Mary Kelly.

Some locals helped him to unhook a nearby barn door and she was carried into the home of the Savages and laid out in front of the kitchen stove.  They managed to revive her and so prove she had not died.  She was fed a little warm milk.  Soon she was able to sit up at the table and eat a meal.  After having warmed herself at the stove a while she refused all offers of a bed for the night and insisted she must ‘push on’.  
Before she left she pressed a penny into the palm of the child of the house.  With nods and frowns behind backs the child was warned to accept with grace.  This was her way of retrieving her dignity and self-worth.

I was often as a youth called a tinker by adults and teachers alike, a term then denoting mischievous behaviour.  But tinkers were travelling people who made a living by mending pots and pans.
Nailey Rice was really a tinker by trade.  He still carried solder and a soldering iron.  He was a very lean, old man who at one time had had a wife and a house but had lost one and left the other.  People kept damaged buckets and pots against Nailey’s return. 
He had a very loud voice and once distressed a feeble-minded old man of the house he was working at.  The girl of the house cautioned him to lower his voice as ‘it annoys my father’s head’.
Nailey gave a lep into the middle of the road and bate the tin with the soldering iron!
‘What wud he do if there was thunder?’ he bellowed.

Gypsy woman called for alms to our doors in the Estates of the Sixties.
‘Missus, can ye spare a few coppers, for the love of God?’
They got a very mixed reception generally.  I remember them as clean and well-spoken usually, if over-obsequious.  They were always treated kindly at our home.  But my mother was reared ‘in the country’!
This was back when their encampment was on the Fathom Road near Drumalane.  A friend of mine who was their neighbour still speaks very highly of them.  They just got ‘a bad press’.

Originally posted 2005-01-03 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Pulling the Flax Plant

‘There wasn’t a lot of flax-growing in Fathom those days. 

It’s a very stalky plant, dark green at first, turning light green.  It produces a lovely blue flower.  It was the phloem – inside – of the plant that was valuable as linen thread.  Harvesters pulled it physically out of the ground.  It was gathered in bunches -beets, they were called – sheaves about two feet in diameter.  There were twelve beets to a stook, the twelfth laid crosswise over the others, to determine the dozen.  It was a hard pull, especially from clay soil that hardened in the summer time. 

Read morePulling the Flax Plant

Originally posted 2004-02-10 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Gaelic Words in our Speech

Seamus Heany Book review W B Yeats Poems

We will soon resume our Dictionary of Fews Dialect.  First, here is a small extracted selection to illustrate how so many of these words came to us from the ancient Gaelic language.

Amadan, amadan  fool
Avic,  a mhic  son [‘old pal’]
Areesh, ar

Originally posted 2004-03-25 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Newry Journal