CELT document E950004-030

Brigid of the Songs

Pádraic H. Pearse

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Brigid of the Songs was the most famous singer in Rossnageeragh, not only in my time but in my father's time. It's said that she could wile the song-thrush from the branch with the sweetness of the music that God gave her; and I would believe it, for it's often she wiled me and other lads besides from our dinner or our supper. I'd be a rich man to-day if I had a shilling for every time I stopped outside her door, on my way home from school, listening to her share of songs; and my father told me that it's often and often he did the same thing when he was a lad going to school. It was a tradition among the people that it was from Raftery himself that Brigid learned Conntae Mhuigheó (The County of Mayo), and isn't it with the Conntae Mhuigheó that she drew the big tears out of the eyes of John MacHale one time he was on a visit here, along with our own Bishop, a year exactly before I was born?

A thing that's no wonder, when we heard p.172 that there was to be a Feis in Moykeeran, we all settled in our minds that it's Brigid would have the prize for the singing, if she'd enter for it. There was no other person, neither men-singers nor women- singers, half as good as she was in the seven parishes. She couldn't be beaten, if right was to be done. She would put wonderment on the people of Moykeeran and on the grand folk would be in it out of Galway and out of Tuam. She would earn name and fame for Rossnageeragh. She would win the prize easy, and she would be sent to Dublin to sing a song at the Oireachtas. There was a sort of hesitation on Brigid at first. She was too old, she said. Her voice wasn't as good as it used be. She hadn't her wind. A share of her songs were going out of her memory. She didn't want a prize. Didn't the men of Ireland know that she was the best singer in Iar- Connacht? Didn't Raftery praise her, didn't Colm Wallace make a song in her honour, didn't she draw tears out of the eyes of John MacHale? Brigid said that much and seven times more; but it was plain, at the same time, that there was a p.173 wish on her to go to the Feis, and we all knew that she would go. To make a short story of it, we were at her until we took a promise out of her that she would go.

She went. It's well I remember the day of the Feis. The world of Ireland was there, you'd think. The house was overflowing with poor people and with rich people, with noble folk and with lowly folk, with strong, active youths, and with withered, done old people. There were priests and friars there from every art. There were doctors and lawyers there from Tuam and from Galway and from Uachtar Ard. There were newspaper people there from Dublin. There was a lord's son there from England. The full of people went up, singing songs. Brigid went up. We were at the back of the house, listening to her. She began. There was a little bashfulness on her at the start, and her voice was too low. But she came to herself in time, according as she was stirring out into the song, and she took tears out of the eyes of the gathering with the last verse. There was great cheering when she had finished, and she coming down. We p.174 put a shout out of us you'd think would crack the roof of the house. A young girl went up. Her voice was a long way better than Brigid's, but, we thought, there was not the same sadness nor sweetness in the song as there was in Brigid's. She came down. The people cheered again, but I didn't notice that anybody was crying. One of the judges got up. He praised Brigid greatly. He praised the young girl greatly, too. He was very tedious.

“Who won the prize?” says one of us at last, when our share of patience was exhausted.

“Oh, the prize!” says he. “Well, in regard to the prize, we are giving it to Nora Cassidy (the young girl), but we are considering the award of a special prize to Brígid ní Mhainí (our Brigid). Nora Cassidy will be sent to Dublin to sing a song at the Oireachtas.”

The Moykeeran people applauded, for it was out of Moykeeran that Nora Cassidy was. We didn't say anything. We looked over at Brigid. Her face was grey-white, and she trembling in every limb.

“What did you say, sir, please?” says p.175 she in a strange voice.“Is it I that have the prize?”

“We are considering the award of a special prize to you, my good woman, as you shaped so excellently—you did that—but it's to Nora Cassidy that the Feis prize is given.”

Brigid didn't speak a word; but it's how she rose up, and without looking either to the right hand or to the left, she went out the door. She took the road to Rossnageeragh, and she was before us when we reached the village late in the night.

The Oireachtas was to be in Dublin the week after. We were a sad crowd, remembering that Brigid of the Songs wouldn't be there. We were full sure that fair play wasn't done her in Moykeeran, and we thought that if she'd go to Dublin she'd get satisfaction. But alas! we had no money to send her there, and if we had itself we knew that she wouldn't take it from us. We were arguing the question one evening at the gable of the Boatman's house, when who should come up but little Martin Connolly, at a full run, and he said to us p.176 that Brigid of the Songs was gone, the lock on the door, and no tale or tidings to be got of her.

We didn't know what happened her until a fortnight's time after that. Here's how it fell out. When she heard that the Oireachtas was to be in Dublin on such a day, she said to herself that she would be there if she lived. She didn't let on to anyone, but went off with herself in the night-time, walking. She had only a florin piece in her pocket. She didn't know where Dublin was, nor how far it was away. She followed her nose, it's like, asking the road of the people she met, tramping always, until she'd left behind her Cashlagh, and Spiddal, and Galway, and Oranmore, and Athenry, and Kilconnell, and Ballinasloe, and Athlone, and Mullingar, and Maynooth, until at last she saw from her the houses of Dublin. It's like that her share of money was spent long before that, and nobody will ever know how the creature lived on that long, lonesome journey. But one evening when the Oireachtas was in full swing in the big hall in Dublin, a country- woman was seen coming in the door, her p.177 feet cut and bleeding with the hard stones of the road, her share of clothes speckled with dust and dirt, and she weary, worn-out and exhausted.

She sat down. People were singing in the old style. Brígid ní Mhainí from Rossnageeragh was called on (for we had entered her name in hopes that we'd be able to send her). The old woman rose, went up, and started Conntae Mhuigheó.

When she finished the house was in one ree-raw with shouts, it was that fine. She was told to sing another song. She began on the Sail Og Ruadh (The Red Willow). She had only the first line of the second verse said when there came some wandering in her head. She stopped and she began again. The wandering came on her a second time, then a trembling, and she fell in a faint on the stage. She was carried out of the hall. A doctor came to examine her.

“She is dying from the hunger and the hardship,” says he.

While that was going on, great shouts were heard inside the hall. One of the judges came out in a hurry.


“You have won the first prize!” says he. “You did”—. He stopped suddenly.

A priest was on his knees bending over Brigid. He raised his hand and he gave the absolution.

“She has won a greater reward than the first prize,” says he.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Brigid of the Songs

Author: Pádraic H. Pearse

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Pádraig Bambury

Funded by: University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

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Proof corrections by: Pádraig Bambury

Extent: 3376 words

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

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

Date: 1998

Date: 2010

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

CELT document ID: E950004-030

Availability: The text has been made available with kind permission of the copyright holder of the English translation.Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Notes statement

This text is a translation from Irish.

Source description

Select editions

  1. P.H. Pearse, An sgoil: a direct method course in Irish (Dublin: Maunsel, 1913).
  2. P.H. Pearse, How does she stand?: three addresses (The Bodenstown series no. 1) (Dublin: Irish Freedom Press, 1915).
  3. P.H. Pearse, From a hermitage (The Bodenstown series no. 2)(Dublin: Irish Freedom Press, 1915).
  4. P.H. Pearse, The murder machine (The Bodenstown series no. 3) (Dublin: Whelan, 1916). Repr. U.C.C.: Department of Education, 1959.
  5. P.H. Pearse, Ghosts (Tracts for the Times) (Dublin: Whelan, 1916.
  6. P.H. Pearse, The Spiritual Nation (Tracts for the Times) (Dublin: Whelan, 1916.
  7. P.H. Pearse, The Sovereign People (Tracts for the Times) (Dublin: Whelan, 1916.
  8. P.H. Pearse, The Separatist Idea (Tracts for the Times) (Dublin: Whelan, 1916.
  9. Pádraic Colum, E.J. Harrington O'Brien (ed), Poems of the Irish revolutionary brotherhood, Thomas MacDonagh, P.H. Pearse (Pádraic MacPiarais), Joseph Mary Plunkett, Sir Roger Casement. (New and enl. ed.) (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1916). First edition, July, 1916; second edition, enlarged, September, 1916.
  10. Michael Henry Gaffney, The stories of Pádraic Pearse (Dublin [etc.]: The Talbot Press Ltd. 1935). Contains ten plays by M.H. Gaffney based upon stories by Pádraic Pearse, and three plays by Pádraic Pearse edited by M.H. Gaffney.
  11. Proinsias Mac Aonghusa, Liam Ó Reagain (ed), The best of Pearse (1967).
  12. Seamus Ó Buachalla (ed), The literary writings of Patrick Pearse: writings in English (Dublin: Mercier, 1979).
  13. Seamus Ó Buachalla, A significant Irish educationalist: the educational writings of P.H. Pearse (Dublin: Mercier, 1980).
  14. Seamus Ó Buachalla (ed), The letters of P. H. Pearse (Gerrards Cross, Bucks.: Smythe, 1980).
  15. Pádraic Mac Piarais (ed), Bodach an chóta lachtna (Baile Átha Cliath: Chonnradh na Gaedhilge, 1906).
  16. Pádraic Mac Piarais, Bruidhean chaorthainn: sgéal Fiannaídheachta (Baile Átha Cliath: Chonnradh na Gaedhilge, 1912).
  17. Pádraic Pearse, Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse (Dublin: Phoenix Publishing Co. ? 1910 1919). 4 vols. v. 1. Political writings and speeches. —v. 2. Plays, stories, poems. —v. 3. Songs of the Irish rebels and specimens from an Irish anthology. Some aspects of Irish literature. Three lectures on Gaelic topics. —v. 4. The story of a success, edited by Desmond Ryan, and The man called Pearse, by Desmond Ryan.
  18. Pádraic Pearse, Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse (Dublin; Belfast: Phoenix, ? 1916 1917). 5 vols. [v. 1] Plays, stories, poems.—[v. 2.] Political writings and speeches.—[v. 3] Story of a success. Man called Pearse.—[v. 4] Songs of the Irish rebels. Specimens from an Irish anthology. Some aspects of irish literature.—[v. 5] Scrivinni.
  19. Pádraic Pearse, Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse … (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company 1917). 3rd ed. Translated by Joseph Campbell, introduction by Patrick Browne.
  20. Pádraic Pearse, Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse. 6th ed. (Dublin: Phoenix, 1924 1917) v. 1. Political writings and speeches — v. 2. Plays, stories, poems.
  21. Pádraic Pearse, Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse (Dublin: Phoenix Pub. Co., 1924). 5 vols. [v. 1] Songs of the Irish rebels and specimens from an Irish anthology. Some aspects of Irish literature. Three lectures on Gaelic topics. — [v. 2] Plays, stories, poems. — [v. 3] Scríbinní. — [v. 4] The story of a success [being a record of St. Enda's College] The man called Pearse / by Desmond Ryan. — [v. 5] Political writings and speeches.
  22. Pádraic Pearse, Short stories of Pádraic Pearse (Cork: Mercier Press, 1968 1976 1989). (Iosagan, Eoineen of the birds, The roads, The black chafer, The keening woman).
  23. Pádraic Pearse, Political writing and speeches (Irish prose writings, 20) (Tokyo: Hon-no-tomosha, 1992). Originally published: Dublin: Maunsel & Roberts, 1922.
  24. Pádraic Pearse, Political writings and speeches (Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse) (Dublin and London: Maunsel & Roberts Ltd., 1922).
  25. Pádraic Pearse, Political writings and Speeches (Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse) (Dublin: Phoenix 1916). 6th ed. (Dublin [etc.]: Phoenix, 1924).
  26. Pádraic Pearse, Plays Stories Poems (Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse) (Dublin, London: Maunsel & Company Ltd., 1917). 5th ed. 1922. Also pubd. by Talbot Press, Dublin, 1917, repr. 1966. Repr. New York: AMS Press, 1978.
  27. Pádraic Pearse, Filíocht Ghaeilge Pádraig Mhic Phiarais (Áth Cliath: Clóchomhar, 1981) Leabhair thaighde; an 35u iml.
  28. Pádraic Pearse, Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse (New York: Stokes, 1918). Contains The Singer, The King, The Master, Íosagán.
  29. Pádraic Pearse, Songs of the Irish rebels and specimens from an Irish anthology: some aspects of Irish literature: three lectures on Gaelic topics (Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse) (Dublin: The Phoenix Publishing Co. 1910).
  30. Pádraic Pearse, Songs of the Irish rebels (Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse) (Dublin: Phoenix Pub. Co., 1917).
  31. Pádraic Pearse, Songs of the Irish rebels, and Specimens from an Irish anthology (Collected works of Pádraic H. Pearse) (Dublin: Maunsel, 1918).
  32. Pádraic Pearse, The story of a success (The complete works of P. H. Pearse) (Dublin: Phoenix Pub. Co., 1917) .
  33. Pádraic Pearse, Scríbinní (The complete works of P. H. Pearse) (Dublin: Phoenix Pub. Co., 1917).
  34. Julius Pokorny, Die Seele Irlands: Novellen und Gedichte aus dem Irisch-Galischen des Patrick Henry Pearse und Anderer zum ersten Male ins Deutsche übertragen (Halle a. S.: Max Niemeyer 1922)
  35. James Simmons, Ten Irish poets: an anthology of poems by George Buchanan, John Hewitt, Pádraic Fiacc, Pearse Hutchinson, James Simmons, Michael Hartnett, Eilean Ní Chuilleanáin, Michael Foley, Frank Ormsby & Tom Mathews (Cheadle: Carcanet Press, 1974).
  36. Cathal Ó hAinle (ed), Gearrscéalta an Phiarsaigh (Dublin: Helicon, 1979).
  37. Ciarán Ó Coigligh (ed), Filíocht Ghaeilge: Phádraig Mhic Phiarais (Baile Átha Cliath: Clóchomhar, 1981).
  38. Pádraig Mac Piarais, et al., Une île et d'autres îles: poèmes gaeliques XXeme siècle (Quimper: Calligrammes, 1984).

Select bibliography

  1. Pádraic Mac Piarais: Pearse from documents (Dublin: Co-ordinating committee for Educational Services, 1979). Facsimile documents. National Library of Ireland. facsimile documents.
  2. Xavier Carty, In bloody protest—the tragedy of Patrick Pearse (Dublin: Able 1978).
  3. Helen Louise Clark, Pádraic Pearse: a Gaelic idealist (1933). (Thesis (M.A.)—Boston College, 1933).
  4. Mary Maguire Colum, St. Enda's School, Rathfarnham, Dublin. Founded by Pádraic H. Pearse. (New York: Save St. Enda's Committee 1917).
  5. Pádraic H. Pearse ([s.l.: s.n., C. F. Connolly) 1920).
  6. Elizabeth Katherine Cussen, Irish motherhood in the drama of William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, and Pádraic Pearse: a comparative study. (1934) Thesis (M.A.)—Boston College, 1934.
  7. Ruth Dudley Edwards, Patrick Pearse: the triumph of failure (London: Gollancz, 1977).
  8. Stefan Fodor, Douglas Hyde, Eoin MacNeill, and Pádraic Pearse of the Gaelic League: a study in Irish cultural nationalism and separatism, 1893-1916 (1986). Thesis (M.A.)—Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1986.
  9. James Hayes, Patrick H. Pearse, storyteller (Dublin: Talbot, 1920).
  10. John J. Horgan, Parnell to Pearse: some recollections and reflections (Dublin: Browne & Nolan, 1948).
  11. Louis N. Le Roux, La vie de Patrice Pearse (Rennes: Imprimerie Commerciale de Bretagne, 1932). Translated into English by Desmond Ryan (Dublin: Talbot, 1932).
  12. Proinsias Mac Aonghusa, Quotations from P.H. Pearse, (Dublin: Mercier, 1979).
  13. Mary Benecio McCarty (Sister), Pádraic Henry Pearse: an educator in the Gaelic tradition (1939) (Thesis (M.A.)—Marquette University, 1939).
  14. Hedley McCay, Pádraic Pearse; a new biography (Cork: Mercier Press, 1966).
  15. John Bernard Moran, Sacrifice as exemplified by the life and writings of Pádraic Pearse is true to the Christian and Irish ideals; that portrayed in the Irish plays of Sean O'Casey is futile (1939). Submitted to Dept. of English. Thesis (M.A.)—Boston College, 1939.
  16. Sean Farrell Moran, Patrick Pearse and the politics of redemption: the mind of the Easter rising, 1916 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1994).
  17. P.S. O'Hegarty, A bibliography of books written by P. H. Pearse (s.l.: 1931).
  18. Máiread O'Mahony, The political thought of Padraig H. Pearse: pragmatist or idealist (1994). Theses—M.A. (NUI, University College Cork).
  19. Daniel J. O'Neill, The Irish revolution and the cult of the leader: observations on Griffith, Moran, Pearse and Connolly (Boston: Northeastern U.P., 1988).
  20. Mary Brigid Pearse (ed), The home-life of Padraig Pearse as told by himself, his family and friends (Dublin: Browne & Nolan 1934). Repr. Cork, Mercier 1979.
  21. Maureen Quill, Pádraic H. Pearse—his philosophy of Irish education (1996). Theses—M.A. (NUI, University College Cork).
  22. Desmond Ryan, The man called Pearse (Dublin: Maunsel, 1919).
  23. Nicholas Joseph Wells, The meaning of love and patriotism as seen in the plays, poems, and stories of Pádraic Pearse (1931). (Thesis (M.A.)—Boston College, 1931).

The edition used in the digital edition

Pearse, Pádraic (1966). ‘Brigid of the Songs’. In: Plays Stories Poems‍. Dublin: Talbot Press, pp. 169–178.

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

  author 	 = {Pádraic Pearse},
  title 	 = {Brigid of the Songs},
  booktitle 	 = {Plays Stories Poems},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Talbot Press},
  date 	 = {1966},
  pages 	 = {169–178}


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Creation: By Pádraic H. Pearse (1879-1916).

Date: 1906

Language usage

  • The text is in English. (en)
  • Some words and phrases are in Irish. (ga)

Keywords: literary; prose; 20c

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2010-10-27: Header modified; conversion script run; new wordcount inserted, new SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2007-12-12: Note on translation/copyright inserted. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2005-08-25: Normalised language codes and edited langUsage for XML conversion (ed. Julianne Nyhan)
  4. 2005-08-04T14:44:53+0100: Converted to XML (ed. Peter Flynn)
  5. 1998-05-26: Text parsed using NSGMLS. (ed. Margaret Lantry)
  6. 1998-05-21: Text proofed (2). (ed. Pádraig Bambury)
  7. 1998-05-13: Header revised; text parsed using NSGMLS. (ed. Margaret Lantry)
  8. 1998-04-21: Text proofed (1); structural mark-up inserted. (ed. Pádraig Bambury)
  9. 1998-03-04: Text captured by scanning. (ed. Pádraig Bambury)
  10. 1998-02-19: Header created. (ed. Margaret Lantry)

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