No history would be complete without reference to Seamus O’Dudghaill (James Doyle) or as was known under the pen – name Beirt Fhear. James Doyle was born in Cooleaning.
He attended Cullina National School and succeeded in passing the entrance examination to the Civil Service directly from the National School and was posted to London.
At that time when James Doyle was a youth 1870 – 1890 the majority of the people had a fairly good knowledge of the spoken Irish Language and hence the Seamus himself was fairly well versed in the nice racy and most expressive language of his forefathers. Shortly after arriving in London he joined the Gaelic League, A Society founded in 1893 by Dr. Douglas Hyde “to keep the Irish Language spoken in Ireland.” Books in the Irish Language were very scarce and so many people who had any taste for writing were awarded prizes for any literary productions they could produce in the Irish Language and so Seamus entered the essay in 1902under the pen – name “Beirt Fhear.”
His first attempt was a short story about a blacksmith whom he had known as a young lad and whose forge was on the side of the road near the eastern end of the Giddagh Bridge. The story was published by the Gaelic League under the name of Tadhg Galba. It was a great success as it described in simple but precise language the work and meanderings of the blacksmith, whose real name, I believe was Seán O’Duna. He describes so well the interest young people had in watching from the forge door the Smith and his assistant at work and often though on a great hurry to school, had time to spend to see the sparks flying from the Smith’s anvil or to inhale for a few seconds the odour from the horses hooves as the Smith put the red hot shoe on the hoof to fit it. The story reminds one of the grand old poem “Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands”.
He also describes the Smith’s journey to Killarney or Killorglin at regular intervals “to buy nails” and as everyone knows smithwork is very “thirsty” work and so poor Seán was always “sugach go leór” on his return journeys.
He kept very strict holidays during the year, Pattern Day, 11th February and Puck Fair Day, 11th August and nobody dare approach the forge on those days no matter how essential or urgent the work might be.
People enjoyed reading his story as it was so typical of many a forge and blacksmith in the country which also are to be seen no longer. Many more books followed from his hand in 1903 – 1904 namely “Bearlin Luachra,” “Cleibhin Mona,” “Pratai Mhicil Thaidg,” “Cathair Chonnrai” and perhaps his best “Muintir na Tuatha,”
In this he gives an account of his life, particularly in reference to his native parish and to its people and characters.
He begins his life as a schoolboy in Cullina National School and the ups and downs and adventures of a schoolboy. He goes on to describe the way of living and the joys and hardships of the people of the parish. He describes the different types of work in the farm during the year, setting and digging potatoes, saving hay and the harvest, he also speaks of wakes and funerals, and landlords. In general a description of the everyday life of a rural community.
It enables in many ways Goldsmith’s Deserted Village, eventhough it is in prose and contains more detail. I think it is a book that any Parish of Tough person should read.
Unfortunately all his work is now out of print, but still some copies of Muintir na Tuatha should be lying about as it was used as a text in National Schools in the 1940’s.
A copy of each book is available for reference in Muckross House, which I presented in 1964.
Maidin bhrea earraig a bhí ann agus dinn ag deanamh ar scoil. Ní rabhamar ach direach ag sean – theampall Cill Lochain nuair a chonnacamar ná fiadaithe agus ná gadhair fiadaig ag gabhail chuainn anóir ó Dromlochain. Siúd chun siúil sinn ar steallach agus núair a shroiceamar Crios Ceathrú ná hUmhan (Leary’s Cross) sé an áit ina raibh siad ná ag Tig an tSagairt (Tig Jimmy Clifford’s anois).
D’fhanamar ag an gCrios chun go dtandar, bhí seisear nó mór sheisear de dhaoine uaisle agus aon bhean usual amháin ann agus an bóithrín siar leó go dtí an Geadach. Leanamr go léir an fiodach.
Maidin laé ar na mharach.
Bá maith liom dá mbeadh aon leath-sceal agam chun gan dul ar scoil teachaireacht go dtí Cillorglan nó aon leath-sceal eile, ach ní raibh. B’eigin dom bailiu liom go mall reidh troma, chroidheach ar scoil.
Bhí Seán Thaidgin is Diarmuid Óg ag feitheam liom. Bhiomar anois in aice Cáisleán an Chórraig agus shocraiomar an congar (short-cut) a ghabhail tre Dromlochain agus tre Ceapadh an Fhinn.
Bhiomar in ám go leór ar scoil. Bhí an máistir romhainn ag geata na scoile. Bhí slaitin righin taithfheilinn (woodbine) ina lámh aice. Níor labhair sé focal linn ach bhí a fhios againn agus an fuineamh a bhí air ag casadh ná slaite narbh aon dea-fbudar a bhí fé.
Chuamar isteach. “Ná buachaillí a lean an fiadhach inde, tagaidis amach ar an úrlár tá rud eigin agam lé rá leo I dtaobh lae an Fhiadhaig” ar seisean. Leis sin bualadh cnag ar an doras agus cé bhí ann ach fear uasal an lae inde. Shabhail siad sinn”.
Note: At that time the O’Connell’s of Grenagh kept a pack of hounds and sometimes the “hunt” riders and hounds came into this parish for a days hunting. They generally hunted a fox or more often a hare. When the huntsmen appeared everybody downed everything and set off after the hunt even it is said a ploughman left his pair of horses standing in the field to run to get a good view of everybody. Of course for school children it was a wonderful day, but not the following day as recorded in the book. Beirt Fhear gives a description of the hunt with the fortunes of the riders, hounds, quarry and spectators.
In 1860 ninety per cent of the people spoke Irish. The reason for the fall was chiefly emigration and Irish was not spoken in schools, as parents wanted their children to be well versed in English as it was the language spoken in the countries to which they would emigrate when they grew up, America, Australia, New Zealand, and England. About 50 % of the people understood Irish as well as English but about 1920 Irish had almost completely disappeared. Even at that time it had become a subject in the National School Curriculum.
Today we, to our shame, hear very little Irish spoken in every day dealings even by those of us who have a fairly good knowledge of the spoken word.