Then & Now: Herbert’s poems from the parish born in Loughill in 1946

Tom Aherne

Reporter:

Tom Aherne

Then & Now: Herbert’s poems from the parish born in Loughill in 1946

Community spirit: The recent opening of the new playground in Loughill is a welcome addition to the area

LOUGHILL VILLAGE has been in the news recently following the opening of their new playground and park which is attracting large crowds from the area and from passing motorists.

It is a wonderful facility for all age groups and great credit is due to all involved in its construction. The Irish name is Leamhchoill which means Elm Wood. This elm wood of the distant past was part of the great primeval forest that, even as late as the 16th century, still covered a large part of Ireland.

The Owvaun or White River which flows into the Shannon at Loughill has inspired many poets to put pen to paper, including Gerald Griffin who lived for some time close to its banks. The parish of Loughill/Ballyhahill can lay claim to a lot of local writers and poets who have been moved in the past to honour in print its beautiful landscape. Their creations have been included in books magazines and journals which is a wonderful treasure for the community.

In the past month I have heard of another local person who has been hidden under the radar and writing away about his own parish. On Thursday last May 2, which was National Poetry Day I visited that person to hear his story. Michael Herbert was born in Loughill in 1946 to parents Mary O'Donnell from Rathkeale, and Mick Herbert from Athea. He had two brothers John, and the late Con, and one sister Mary. The family moved to Finnoe in Ballyhahill and Michael attended Monamohill School, where the teachers were Mary Aloysius Lane, and Mrs Kelly. He found it hard to learn, and retain facts, which was not helped by missing days, preferring to pursue other amusements. He was self taught after leaving school with the aid of Ireland's Own magazine.

Michael liked music and learned to play the accordion and over the years has gone out in the Wren with the Mohernagh group. He worked most of his life as a farm labourer, mainly with local farmers, and enjoyed the great outdoors. He would be rhyming poetry in his head as he went about his work, and when he was alone with his thoughts. His compositions were written on paper and other material available to him. A lot of his work was scattered and lost as he moved around from time to time. The following is a sample of his work:

Landmarks

The’re grand spots in these pages I’ve written

I’ll now recite some as recall

The first it is down by the river

The second is proud Whiskey Hall.

The first it is sweet Ballyhahill

Where footballing sport is the rule

For other things three they have plenty

An Alehouse, a Church and a School.

The second is where the green bushes

Are mounted by black bird and crow

Round the arable land of high praises

Where daffodils yellow do grow.

The third it is over just yonder

Tis a place where the lark doesn’t yawn

And the people all rise with the rooster

In that spot that is known as Gowerbawn.

Knockgowera likewise is enchanting

Its sweet history voices rings on

Where the young ones are all getting older

And the old ones are all dead and gone.

The fourth sure it was the last passage

It is where the white goats are no more

Or either the crake in the meadows

They’ve gone like the snows of before.

The next place is called Shanagolden

At the foot of the fair Kerryhill

Where the dance hall is now gone all Bingo

And dould creamery donkey stands still.

So now to conclude and to finish

I hope it is me ye don’t sue

For the places that all got a mention

-Was written above in Finnoe.

Wondering

As my thoughts today goes wandering back to the times now long ago

To that old mud whitewashed cabin and the places used to know

The horse’s car and tankards, the racer and the plough

The mowing-bar going brown with age, no more we see them now.

The corncrake has gone as well, the lark sings little more

Th’ould threshing mill, likewise, stands still, has faded into lore.

Ah but I was only dreaming my thoughts were far away

The old mud whitewashed cabin has now fell in to clay.

Ah, but my hand is getting weary now, my pen must put away

The crows have all come back to roost, the end of another day.

And now I gaze in hazy maze for, gone, alas, too soon

Those olden ways of bygone days beneath the harvest moon.

The Hooley

O’Brien has a great reputation he had

And I hope always will

For the hooley that takes place each summer

Two miles beyond Ballyhahill.

For the joy of the night it is pleasant

And the fresh summer breeze it is pure

That would bring all the weary to blossom

And present to their spirits a cure.

For the singers and dancers are thrilling

Their sweet notes so equal in tune

As they take to the stage in a whirl

Neath the bright silvery light of the moon.

The platform is made of strong timber

Trademarked by the print of the heel

From the Lancers and Clare/Kerry polkas

Not to mention the jigs and the reel.

But the modern Rock has collided

With that grand ould tradition of yore

That’s now buried almost without mercy

Never to return no more.

So now to conclude and to finish

If it e’er went it would be a sad loss

What it gave us all great entertainment

That hooley at John O’Brien’s Cross.

Daffodils

Oh daffodils, Oh daffodils,

Oh, daffodils aglow

You gave us all employment

from our homesteads in Finnoe.

And all around the neighbouring towns

A spot they found as well

A ploughing through the muddy fields

Picking the daffodils.

And when they’re picked and bundled

And measured with good skill

They’ll bring them to the factory

At the top of Griffin’s Hill.

Tis there they’ll be both washed and cleaned

And packed by Kate and Nell

And then when Mag has sealed the knot

They’ll bid their fond farewell.

And when the trucks are loaded

And that without delay

They’ll bring em to an aircraft

Bound for the USA.

And when your bourne and ready

And reaching for the sky

We’ll sing your highest praises

Oh, daffodils goodbye

Oh, daffodil proud daffodil

My daffodil good Buy!

A Peaceful Place

The silence of the breeze tonight

Makes whisper in the trees

The peaceful sound of a sleeping mound

No homelier than these.

No beauty fair could scent the air

Like starlight bounty free

The mountain hare with speed so rare

Took little fright of me.

The feathered roost in their height above

Made safe from wayward prey

The bouncing sound of a cunning hound

Make easy as they play.

The moonlight’s bright this summer night

Like rays from Heaven’s beam

No rest could break this fragile wake

Or blight this mortal dream.

Michael aged 72 now lives in Shanagolden village, and he has a box full of his written material. He bought a typewriter a few years ago and he now types his poems. He would like to see his work over the years published and dreams of some day reading one of his poems in the Limerick Leader. It has been a rocky road for Michael, but he has overcome many obstacles to become a self-taught poet. There is talent within all people all it needs is nurturing and exposure. Thanks to Peg and Donal for introducing me to Michael, and I hope you readers will enjoy his compositions.