It’s more than ten years since Michael Quinn staged his one-man parody show “Eejit’s Guide to Early Ireland” and still you’ll meet people who remember it fondly. It’s a stage show and doesn’t readily translate to the written word. Despite this, Michael has given us permission to reproduce here his copyright material.
THE EEJIT’S GUIDE TO EARLY IRELAND
Mickey Quinn 12th Sept 1999
THE DANCE OF WEE IRELAND INTO SHAPE
[ Picture yourself in the Arts Centre Auditorium … house lights out … stage lit .. cue singer/guitarist]
Air: Bard of Armagh
O list to the lays of a poor Irish balladeer
A man who has travelled both near and afar
His pockets are empty, his needs they are plenty
The poor Mickey Bocht, he’s the Bard of Armagh
(Enter from steps)
I hope yis all have pens and notebooks to learn all about the dance if Irish history.
You see, a lot i’ people doesn’t know much about Early Ireland – I mean very Early Ireland – from the year Dot till the comin’ of the Celts.
There’s boys comes up to me an’ they say,
‘Sure what do you know about it? You don’t even know when the year Dot was!’
An’ you see, I do know…
I can tell yous exactly when the year Dot begun – it was a Wednesday.
Do you mind in your Bible? The whole world covered wi’ water and then, the third day – Wednesday! – God says, “Let the dry Land appear,” and up it bubbles out o’ the water. But the jewel of this dry land, the shinin’ emerald in God’s eyes, was this lovely wee green island shaped like a Teddy Bear. And God called the island Ireland and saw that it was good and was very very pleased…
Which amazes me because it was very, very damp, even when it wasn’t rainin’. But I suppose God must a thought it was good because he could see intill the future and could see all the brilliant things that was goin’ to happen – I mean, I don’t read poetry an that kind a stuff, but imagine one wee island like Ireland winning the Nobel Prize for World Literature, I dunno, isn’t it about twenty times?
And the Eurovision Song Contest – it must be eighty or ninety times. And the Nobel Peace Prize buckets o’ times (and we’ll probably win it loads more times by the looks of things).
Now you won’t understand this next bit, for I don’t understand it, but Ireland is on a thing they call a plate on the earth that moves around, an’ so is America, an’ poor wee Ireland is in the middle as Europe an America push together millions a years ago, squeezin’ and crushin’ till Ireland gets joined on to Europe and then the Irish mountains buckles up. And that’s where we got our mountains.
So now we have damp and mountains.
Then life appears – grass, trees, mushrooms, parsnips, rhubarb, ah, lots a things – but mostly dockins an’ nettles an’ thistles an’ briars an’ whin bushes. (sigh) And then after a while they all go rotten in the damp, and turn into bog. So now we’ve damp an’ mountains an’ bog.
Next comes animal life… Midges. Millions an’ millions if midges. Did you ever walk near trees on a summer evenin’ an’ hours after you went to bed you were still scratchin’ an’ tearin’ at your hair? Them’s the midges.
So that’s damp an mountains and bog an midges.
An’ then comes more animal life, rats an’ bats an’ spiders an’ wasps an’ fleas an’ big giant blue-bottle flies that love landin’ on cows’ clap an’ suckin’ it up, an’ wolves an’ bears an’ big elk three times the size o’ reindeers, an’ killer gorillas. It’s funny a lot o’ people wants to keep our wild life, but I tell you the God’s honest truth, I’d be kind a glad if more of it would die out. Especially the midges.
Then, a bit o’ good news. Ireland turns tropical. It goes from damp till a kind a holiday resort – now, mostly for dinosaurs in them days.
But it’s lovely – you’ve dinosaurs runnin’ round in the springtime looking for mates, and then a few years later, they’re running around looking for their childer, and next thing they’re tryin’ to stop their grannies and grandads from wanderin’ roun’ an’ dodderin’ off the Cliffs o’ Moher.
Them was golden days in Ireland.
But it doesn’t last. Ireland gets damp again. An’ coul’. And couler an’ couler, till it gets covered up in ice an’ glaziers an’ all the animals die off. An then about 12,000 BC (that means Before Cuchullainn), doesn’t the ice begin to melt, an’ rivers spring up to take the icy water away (but not the damp, funny thing – it stays damp). Anyway, there’s that much icy water flowin’ into the sea that the blinkin’ sea begins risin’ an’ we have our own Irish Sea then for the first time, cuttin’ us off from England an’ the rest o’ Europe. I think the English people was grief struck, they missed us a lot, for they were to come back again lookin’ for us!’
So that’s it. The stage is set for history, ready for action. No people has arrived yet, virgin country. Wee Ireland will never be an Empire like Rome, we won’t be the fashion centre of the world like France, we’ll never design new cars like the Japs, nor make the best Italian pizzas like the Americans, nor even the best fish an chips like England.
But we’ll export linen hankies an teatowels, an’ monks an’ missionaries, an’ pints o Guinness, an’ American Presidents like no other country in the world, an’ everybody’ll have to take their hats off to wee Ireland for the way it changed the world.
So who are these people that come to Ireland? Simple. The Early Stone Age People. The Middle Stone Age People. The Late Stone Age People. An’ then the Celts.
So the first is the Early Stone Age People, they’re called the Messolithics – they come over in wee coracle boats from Scotland to hunt an’ fish, but they had no fixed abode – what they call nowadays the travellin’ community.
Now that’s a problem, because as you know, the settled community doesn’t love the travellers, an’ that’s exactly what happened – a second tribe o’ people comes, the Middle Stone Age People, an’ they were farmers.
(nasal, polite gay-ish accent) – “Make way for the Middle Stone Age People,” they says, “It’s time to settle down an’ keep cows an’ sows an grow parsley an build stone walls an’ forts and raths to keep youse travellers out. No more fun – it’s time for work.”
This crowd was very serious an’.. ah, a bit too practical an’ boring –
I have wrote a wee song about all this but I just left them out o’ me song, the Middle Stone Age People.
Then a third tribe comes. The Megalithic folks.
(priestly, preachy, Irish accent) “This is the Late Stone Age now. So any long stones you find, stand them up on one end an’ carve a little squiggle on them. An’ you will have good fortune.’
They were dead right – a cousin a mine took down one o them standin’ stones on his farm last year an’ he had no end a bad luck – first of all, half his hens stopped layin’ an’ then he had a cow died – the vet come an’ scratched his head an says he,
“Joe,” he says, “This has me bate.
I doubt you may put back up the standin’ stone.”
He put back up the stone, an’ dammit, didn’t the hens start layin’ again, though the bloody cow never come back. But that’s the Megalithic folks for you.
“We’re top class builders,” they says, “So stop throwing kings and queens into the rivers when they die. Royalty needs to be burnt in big stone urns, an’ their ashes put by druids into great burial chambers or you will have double bad fortune.” Sure, that was the start a religion in this country – we’d be nowhere only for the Megalithic folks.
An’ last but not least comes the Celts. Waves an’ waves o them, comin’ wi’ flint weapons.
(Dundalkish accent) “We’ll give ourselves new names each time,” they says, “To confuse the enemy. First, we’ll call ourselves Bolg Women an’ Bolg Men, after the God Bolg – it’s nice bein’ called after a God. Though I bet you some historian bollox will come along in the future and just call us the Fir Bolg, the Bolg men, not women, forgettin’ that we had Bolg babies and bloody good Bolg sex.
Yes, an’ then we’ll call ourselves the Eireany, an’ I bet you de Valera’ll call the country Eire after us in years to come – it’s nice havin’ a country called after you. An’ then we’ll call ourselves the O’Neills, an’ we’ll rule the top half of Ireland from Grianan Ailleach in Co. Donegal. An we’ll call ourselves highkings an highqueens of all Ireland to make sure an keep wars goin, sure we’ll never be out of a job.”
Anyway, that’s the Celts. Big boney, hard-workin’ women with unlucky red hair. An big lazy grizzly fellas that were a bit show-offy wi’ spears an’ axes, an’ loved fightin’.
“We’ll go to war,” the boys used to say till their wives, “While youse mind the childer and make flint weapons for us.”
Do you know a funny thing about the Celts – they used to take off all their clothes goin’ into battle. Starkers. “Take off all your clothes, boys,” they’d say, “Even your underpants. An’ we’ll scare the shit out o the enemy.”
Och it’s a great wee country and a powerful tradition we have. I’m goin’ to sing a wee song about it all. But first I’d like yis to do the wee war dance with me that the Celts used to do before battle.
I’m goin’ to keep on my clothes but youse can suit yourselves.
(Teach OO-LA taught, music first.)
There’s a man up there is not doin’ it.
Right arm up from the elbow. Louder! Left arm down from the elbow
I think we’re ready now for our song…
… more later …