Are there any storytellers in your family tree – maybe even an Irish Bard? In this letter, we will visit with a modern day Bard, or storyteller, whose role in society is similar to the role Bards played in the history of Ireland for hundreds of years, that of keeper of the stories and poems, and entertainer of the community.
Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to your Letter from Ireland for this week. How are things going in your part of the world today? It’s a bit of a mixed package here in County Cork at the moment – nice and warm most of the time but with plenty of excuses for an umbrella on your excursions.
I’m having a nice cup of Lyon’s Tea as I write – and I do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.
Over the past weeks on this Letter, I’ve mentioned specific family surnames that were associated with old Celtic professions. Among the names mentioned we had “Ward” and “Shields”, both old Irish Bardic surnames in days gone by. These Bards underwent seven years of intensive training – and were in great demand from the Irish Chieftains of the time. They recited the events of the day in verse – these epic poems delivered in front of a live audience at the court of the Chieftain. The poems both praised and pilloried many of the people present – and commented on great battles, marriages and births. In those days before mass print, TV and social media – these Bards and storytellers must have performed a very necessary service – recording these significant events in a manner both entertaining and memorable.
Well, the other day I met a modern day Bard who carries on this tradition – and you might be surprised to hear that he is still very much in demand in a particular setting.
Do you know many Irish boys’ names? Maybe you have a Patrick, Brendan, Kevin or Kieran in your family? These are all old Irish saints’ names – and still much in use around the world today.
Another name, although rarely seen outside Ireland is “Cormac”. This was a name used by many ancient Kings of Ireland – and generally translates as “son of the charioteer”. So, a nice fighting name then! The Bard I wish to introduce to you has this first name of Cormac.
Now, let’s move on to his surname. There is a whole class of Irish surnames beginning with “Mull” – such as Mullowney, Mullhall, Mullholland – and Mullally. Maybe you have a name like this in your family tree?
Last week, I met up with this modern-day Bard with the name of Cormac Lally (a shortened version of Mullally). We asked Cormac to compose a poem in honour of our upcoming Green Room gathering in Skibbereen, County Cork. Like any good Bard, he wanted names, places, as well as a few things that might mildly embarrass a some of the attendees!
What I found interesting, is that Cormac has uncovered a new avenue of work for a modern-day Irish Bard. He is in great demand to compose Best Man speeches in verse for weddings! Now, there’s a way of maintaining the demand for our traditional arts!
So, for the rest of this letter – I will ask Cormac to introduce himself – and then share one of his poems:
“I was born in Tullamore in 1979. I was raised in Church St. in the heart of the town. We played on the street between the white rails of the old library and the black rails of the Methodist church and in each others gardens.
Timmy Smollens bus took us to Ballinamere National School where Larry Fleming taught us the important things in life. Poetry, theatre, history, sport, kindness and open mindedness.”
Thanks for that Cormac. Dear reader, you might notice how Cormac has that way of mentioning people and places in his writing – this was always an essential part of Bardic entertainment.
The thing I notice about modern-day Irish bards – is that they love to express the “beauty of the everyday” – the universal truths that surround us, and the neverending circle of life, love and death. Here, Cormac shares a poem about his mother – but maybe this is also a poem about your own mother?
Carried me in your belly through seventy-eight
Delivered in January, an Aquarian date.
You nourished me, filled me
Taught me and skilled me
Dressed me, impressed me
Tried Hard not to kill me!!
Cajoled me, consoled me
With oak spoon you’d scold me
Stories of Grandad at bedtime you told me
Tore my knees running
You’d arms they’s enfold me
Communed me, confessed me
Confirmed me and blessed me
For Junior and Leaving cert tests
You rehearsed me
All the times I was lost
You searched till you found me
Flying too high, you’d catch me and ground me
If you knock up a girl
Your father will pound thee!!
To thine own self be true
Your advice it was soundly
Now Mam I’m a Dad, my life has been blessed
Your words channel through me
Like I am possessed
I keep baby, like cards, so close to my chest
There is none like you mother
You brought out my best.”
(Taken from “Scribbles, Dribbles and Home Grown Nibbles”.)
So, we are very much looking forward to Cormac’s composition being “unleashed” during our Green Room Hooley this June – and we’ll share it with all of our Letter from Ireland readers shortly afterwards.
Many thanks to Cormac for allowing us to share those words, you can find out more about Cormac by clicking here.
Also, if you would like to HEAR Cormac being interviewed and reciting some of his poetry – you can click on this podcast episode where we captured him in full flight!
How about you? Do you have any poems or rhymes that were composed about your family, or Irish experience, over the years? Do leave your comments below and let me know – we’d love to hear them!
Slán for now,
Mike & Carina.
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Where Did The Irish Come From? The Origins of the Irish.
The Shopkeeper and the Irish Saint – My Grandfather’s Hidden History (#309)
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