CELT document E860001-004

The Welshmen of Tirawley


Introductory Note

Several Welsh Families, associates in the invasion of Strongbow, settled in the west of Ireland. Of these, the principal whose names have been preserved by the Irish antiquarians were the Walshes, Joyces, Heils (a quibus Mac Hale), Lawlesses, Tomlyns, Lynotts, and Barretts, which last draw their pedigree from Walynes, son of Guyndally, the Ard Maor, or High Steward of the Lordship of Camelot, and had their chief seats in the territory of the two Bacs, in the barony of Tirawley, and county of Mayo. Clochan-na-n'all,  p.18 i.e. "the Blind Men's Stepping-stones," are still pointed out on the Duvowen river, about four miles north of Crossmolina, in the townland of Garranard; and Tubber-na-Scorney, or "Scragg's Well," in the opposite townland of Carns, in the same barony.]

Samuel Ferguson

Whole text

    The Welshmen of Tirawley

  1. Scorna Boy, the Barretts' bailiff, lewd and lame,
    To lift the Lynotts' taxes when he came,
    Rudely drew a young maid to him;
    Then the Lynotts rose and slew him,
    And in Tubber-na-Scorney threw him—
    Small your blame,
    Sons of Lynott!
    Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  2. Then the Barretts to the Lynotts proposed a choice,
    Saying, "Hear, ye murderous brood, men and boys,
    For this deed to-day ye lose
    Sight or manhood: say and choose
    Which ye keep and which refuse;
    And rejoice
    That our mercy
    Leaves you living for a warning to Tirawley."
  3. Then the little boys of the Lynotts, weeping, said,
    "Only leave us our eyesight in our head."
    But the bearded Lynotts then
    Made answer back again,
    "Take our eyes, but leave us men,
    Alive or dead,
    Sons of Wattin!"
    Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  4.  p.19
  5. So the Barretts, with sewing-needles sharp and smooth,
    Let the light out of the eyes of every youth,
    And of every bearded man
    Of the broken Lynott clan;
    Then their darken'd faces wan
    Turning south
    To the river
    Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley!
  6. O'er the slippery stepping-stones of Clochan-na-n'all
    They drove them, laughing loud at every fall,
    As their wandering footsteps dark
    Fail'd to reach the slippery mark,
    And the swift stream swallow'd stark,
    One and all,
    As they stumbled
    From the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  7. Of all the blinded Lynotts one alone
    Walk'd erect from stepping-stone to stone:
    So back again they brought you,
    And a second time they wrought you
    With their needles; but never got you
    Once to groan,
    Emon Lynott,
    For the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  8. But with prompt-projected footstep sure as ever,
    Emon Lynott again cross'd the river,
    Though Duvowen was rising fast,
    And the shaking stones o'ercast
    By cold floods boiling past; p.20
    Yet you never,
    Emon Lynott,
    Faltered once before your foemen of Tirawley!
  9. But, turning on Ballintubber bank, you stood,
    And the Barretts thus bespoke o'er the flood
    "Oh, ye foolish sons of Wattin,
    Small amends are these you've gotten,
    For, while Scorna Boy lies rotten,
    I am good
    For vengeance!"
    Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  10. For 'tis neither in eye nor eyesight that a man
    Bears the fortunes of himself and his clan,
    But in the manly mind,
    And loins with vengeance lined,
    That your needles could never find
    Though they ran
    Through my heart-strings!"
    Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  11. "But, little your women's needles do I reck:
    For the night from heaven never fell so black,
    But Tirawley, and abroad
    From the Moy to Cuan-an-fod,
    I could walk it, every sod,
    Path and track,
    Ford and togher,
    Seeking vengeance on you, Barretts of Tirawley!
  12. "The night when Dathy O'Dowda broke your camp,
    What Barrett among you was it held the lamp p.21
    Show'd the way to those two feet,
    When through wintry wind and sleet,
    I guided your blind retreat
    In the swamp
    Of Beal-an-asa?
    O ye vengeance-destined ingrates of Tirawley!"
  13. So leaving loud-shriek-echoing Garranard,
    The Lynott like a red dog hunted hard,
    With his wife and children seven,
    'Mong the beasts and fowls of heaven
    In the hollows of Glen Nephin,
    Made his dwelling,
    Planning vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.
  14. And ere the bright-orb'd year its course had run,
    On his brown round-knotted knee he nurs'd a son,
    A child of light, with eyes
    As clear as are the skies
    In summer, when sunrise
    Has begun;
    So the Lynott
    Nursed his vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.
  15. And, as ever the bright boy grew in strength and size,
    Made him perfect in each manly exercise,
    The salmon in the flood,
    The dun deer in the wood,
    The eagle in the cloud
    To surprise,
    On Ben Nephin,
    Far above the foggy fields of Tirawley.
  16.  p.22
  17. With the yellow-knotted spear-shaft, with the bow,
    With the steel, prompt to deal shot and blow,
    He taught him from year to year
    And train'd him, without a peer,
    For a perfect cavalier,
    Hoping so
    Far his forethought
    For vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.
  18. And, when mounted on his proud-bounding steed,
    Emon Oge sat a cavalier indeed;
    Like the ear upon the wheat
    When winds in Autumn beat
    On the bending stems, his seat;
    And the speed
    Of his courser
    Was the wind from Barna-na-gee o'er Tirawley!
  19. Now when fifteen sunny summers thus were spent,
    (He perfected in all accomplishment)
    The Lynott said, "My child,
    We are over long exiled
    From mankind in this wild
    Time we went
    Through the mountain
    To the countries lying over-against Tirawley."
  20. So, out over mountain-moors, and mosses brown,
    And green stream-gathering vales, they journey'd down;
    Till, shining like a star,
    Through the dusky gleams afar, p.23
    The bailey of Castlebar,
    And the town
    Of Mac William
    Rose bright before the wanderers of Tirawley.
  21. "Look southward, my boy, and tell me as we go,
    What seest thou by the loch-head below."
    "Oh, a stone-house strong and great,
    And a horse-host at the gate,
    And their captain in armour of plate
    Grand the show!
    Great the glancing!
    High the heroes of this land below Tirawley!
  22. "And a beautiful Woman-chief by his side,
    Yellow gold on all her gown-sleeves wide;
    And in her hand a pearl
    Of a young, little, fair-hair'd girl."
    Said the Lynott, "It is the Earl!
    Let us ride
    To his presence!"
    And before him came the exiles of Tirawley.
  23. "God save thee, Mac William," the Lynott thus began;
    "God save all here besides of this clan;
    For gossips dear to me
    Are all in company
    For in these four bones ye see
    A kindly man
    Of the Britons
    Emon Lynott of Garranard of Tirawley."
  24.  p.24
  25. "And hither, as kindly gossip-law allows,
    I come to claim a scion of thy house
    To foster; for thy race,
    Since William Conquer's days,
    Have ever been wont to place,
    With some spouse
    Of a Briton,
    A Mac William Oge, to foster in Tirawley."
  26. "And to show thee in what sort our youth are taught,
    I have hither to thy home of valour brought
    This one son of my age,
    For a sample and a pledge
    For the equal tutelage,
    In right thought,
    Word, and action,
    Of whatever son ye give into Tirawley."
  27. When Mac William beheld the brave boy ride and run,
    Saw the spear-shaft from his white shoulder spun
    With a sigh, and with a smile,
    He said, "I would give the spoil
    Of a county, that Tibbot Moyle,
    My own son,
    Were accomplish'd
    Like this branch of the kindly Britons of Tirawley."
  28. When the Lady Mac William she heard him speak,
    And saw the ruddy roses on his cheek,
    She said, "I would give a purse
    Of red gold to the nurse p.25
    That would rear my Tibbot no worse;
    But I seek
    Hitherto vainly
    Heaven grant that I now have found her in Tirawley!"
  29. So they said to the Lynott, "Here, take our bird!
    And as pledge for the keeping of thy word,
    Let this scion here remain
    Till thou comest back again:
    Meanwhile the fitting train
    Of a lord
    Shall attend thee
    With the lordly heir of Connaught into Tirawley."
  30. So back to strong-throng-gathering Garranard,
    Like a lord of the country with his guard,
    Came the Lynott, before them all.
    Once again over Clochan-na-n'all,
    Steady-striding, erect, and tall,
    And his ward
    On his shoulders;
    To the wonder of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  31. Then a diligent foster-father you would deem
    The Lynott, teaching Tibbot, by mead and stream,
    To cast the spear, to ride,
    To stem the rushing tide,
    With what feats of body beside,
    Might beseem
    A Mac William,
    Foster'd free among the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  32.  p.26
  33. But the lesson of hell he taught him in heart and mind;
    For to what desire soever he inclined,
    Of anger, lust, or pride,
    He had it gratified,
    Till he ranged the circle wide
    Of a blind
    Ere he came to youthful manhood in Tirawley.
  34. Then, even as when a hunter slips a hound,
    Lynott loosed him God's leashes all unbound
    In the pride of power and station,
    And the strength of youthful passion,
    On the daughters of thy nation,
    All around,
    Wattin Barrett!
    Oh! the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley!
  35. Bitter grief and burning anger, rage and shame,
    Fill'd the houses of the Barretts where'er he came;
    Till the young men of the Back
    Drew by night upon his track,
    And slew him at Cornassack
    Small your blame,
    Sons of Wattin!
    Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
  36. Said the Lynott, "The day of my vengeance is drawing near,
    The day for which, through many a long dark year,
    I have toil'd through grief and sin
    Call ye now the Brehons in,
    And let the plea begin p.27
    Over the bier
    Of Mac William,
    For an eric upon the Barretts of Tirawley."
  37. Then the Brehons to Mac William Burk decreed
    An eric upon Clan Barrett for the deed;
    And the Lynott's share of the fine,
    As foster-father, was nine
    Ploughlands and nine score kine;
    But no need
    Had the Lynott,
    Neither care, for land or cattle in Tirawley.
  38. But rising, while all sat silent on the spot,
    He said, "The law says—doth it not?—
    If the foster-sire elect
    His portion to reject,
    He may then the right exact
    To applot
    The short eric."
    "'Tis the law," replied the Brehons of Tirawley.
  39. Said the Lynott, "I once before had a choice
    Proposed me, wherein law had little voice;
    But now I choose, and say,
    As lawfully I may,
    I applot the mulct to-day;
    So rejoice
    In your ploughlands
    And your cattle which I renounce throughout Tirawley."
  40. "And thus I applot the mulct: I divide
    The land throughout Clan Barrett on every side p.28
    Equally, that no place
    May be without the face
    Of a foe of Wattin's race
    That the pride
    Of the Barretts
    May be humbled hence for ever throughout Tirawley."
  41. "I adjudge a seat in every Barrett's hall
    To Mac William: in every stable I give a stall
    To Mac William: and, beside,
    Whenever a Burke shall ride
    Through Tirawley, I provide
    At his call
    Needful grooming,
    Without charge from any hosteler of Tirawley."
  42. "Thus lawfully I avenge me for the throes
    Ye lawlessly caused me and caused those
    Unhappy shamefaced ones,
    Who, their mothers expected once,
    Would have been the sires of sons
    O'er whose woes
    Often weeping,
    I have groan'd in my exile from Tirawley."
  43. "I demand not of you your manhood; but I take
    For the Burkes will take it your Freedom! for the sake
    Of which all manhood's given,
    And all good under heaven,
    And, without which, better even p.29
    Ye should make
    Yourselves barren,
    Than see your children slaves throughout Tirawley!"
  44. "Neither take I your eyesight from you; as you took
    Mine and ours: I would have you daily look
    On one another's eyes,
    When the strangers tyrannize
    By your hearths, and blushes arise.
    That ye brook,
    Without vengeance,
    The insults of troops of Tibbots throughout Tirawley!"
  45. "The vengeance I design'd, now is done,
    And the days of me and mine nearly run
    For, for this, I have broken faith,
    Teaching him who lies beneath
    This pall, to merit death;
    And my son
    To his father
    Stands pledged for other teaching in Tirawley."
  46. Said Mac William "Father and son, hang them high!"
    And the Lynott they hang'd speedily;
    But across the salt sea water,
    To Scotland, with the daughter
    Of Mac William well you got her!
    Did you fly,
    Edmund Lindsay,
    The gentlest of all the Welshmen of Tirawley!

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Title (uniform): The Welshmen of Tirawley

Author: Samuel Ferguson

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Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 2970 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2016

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E860001-004

Availability: The works by Sir Samuel Ferguson are in the public domain. This electronic text is available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of private or academic research and teaching.

Notes statement

Source description

Life and Work of Sir Samuel Ferguson

  1. Mary Catherine Guinness Ferguson, Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of his Day (Edinburgh/London 1896).
  2. Arthur Deering, Sir Samuel Ferguson, Poet and Antiquarian (Philadelphia 1931).
  3. Malcolm Brown, Sir Samuel Ferguson (Lewisburg) 1973.
  4. Robert O'Driscoll, An ascendancy of the heart: Ferguson and the beginnings of modern Irish literature in English (Dublin 1976).
  5. Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the idea of Irish nationality, its development and literay expression prior to the nineteenth century (Amsterdam/Philadelphia 1986).
  6. Terence Brown and Barbara Hayley (eds), Samuel Ferguson: a centenary tribute (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy 1987).
  7. Maurice Harmon, The Enigma of Samuel Ferguson, in: O. Komesu, M. Sekine (eds), Irish writers and politics (Irish Literary Studies 36) (Gerrards Cross 1989) 62–79.
  8. Peter Denman, Samuel Ferguson: the literary achievement (Gerrards Cross, Bucks. 1990).
  9. Eve Patten, 'Samuel Ferguson: a tourist in Antrim', in: Gerald Dawe and John Wilson Foster, (eds), The poet's place: Ulster literature and society: essays in honour of John Hewitt, 1907–87 (Belfast: Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1991).
  10. Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Samuel Ferguson: Beatha agus Saothar (Baile Átha Cliath [=Dublin] 1993).
  11. Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886), in: Eamon Phoenix (ed), A century of northern life: The Irish News and 100 years of Ulster history, 1890s–1990s (Belfast 1995) 182–186.
  12. Sean Ryder, 'The politics of landscape and region in nineteenth-century poetry', in: Leon Litvack, Glenn Hooper (eds), Ireland in the nineteenth century: regional identity (Dublin 2000).
  13. Eve Patten, Samuel Ferguson and the culture of nineteenth-century Ireland (Dublin 2004).
  14. Peter Denman, William Carleton and Samuel Ferguson: lives and contacts, in: Gordon Brand (ed), William Carleton, the authentic voice (Gerard's Cross 2006) 360–377.
  15. Eve Patten, Samuel Ferguson's Hibernian Nights' Entertainments, in: James H. Murphy (ed), The Irish book in English, 1800–1891. The Oxford History of the Irish Book, 4 (Oxford: 2011).
  16. Matthew Campbell, 'Samuel Ferguson's Maudlin Jumble', in: Kirstie Blair, Mina Gorji (eds), Class and the canon: constructing labouring-class poetry and poetics, 1780–1900 (Basingstoke 2013).


  • Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson are available on www.archive.org.

The edition used in the digital edition

Ferguson, Samuel (1918). ‘The Welshmen of Tirawley’. In: Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson‍. Ed. by Alfred Perceval Graves. Dublin: Talbot Press, pp. 17–29.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {Samuel Ferguson},
  title 	 = {The Welshmen of Tirawley},
  editor 	 = {Alfred Perceval Graves},
  booktitle 	 = {Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson},
  publisher 	 = {Talbot Press},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  date 	 = {1918},
  pages 	 = {17–29}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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Creation: 1858–1864

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  • The poem is in English. (en)

Keywords: Welsh families; Tirawley; poetry; Celtic revival; 19c

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2016-06-10: Text and Introductory note captured. (data capture Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-06-14: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2014-06-13: File proofed (1, 2); structural markup applied according to CELT practice; bibliographic details added; file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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