The Two Donkeys

George Curtin

Another of George Curtin’s compositions, The Two Donkeys is about two drinking companions who, to relieve financial embarrassment during a drinking bout in Babe Murphy’s establishment in Macroom, exchanged a young and old donkey in a type of trade-in arrangement. All was well until the bargain was vetoed by their wives and one of the donkeys didn’t live up to the advertising that preceded the sale.

Foinse: The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin (Dáibhí Ó Cróinín)

I’ll tell you a comical story
‘Tis wonderful droll I declare.
And for fear I might bother or bore you
I’ll give it a sort of an air
How Mary gave Neilus a pounding,
And Thady got a trouncing from Liz.
So the case in detail I’m expounding,
Kind neighbours draw round, here it is.

Rye tooril aye ooril aye ooril
Rye tooril aye ooril aye eh
Rye tooril aye ooril aye ooril
Rye tooril aye ooril aye eh

How Neilus bought Thady’s young jennet,
And Thady purchased Neily’s old ass
‘Pray’, said Mary, ‘what gain is there in it? –
By Jaysus, not a hap’orth, but loss!
You had a fine stately young donkey,
You cast him away for 2 quid.
You made a queer deal with a Yankee,
Now didn’t you Thady, sure you did!’

‘Oh!’ said Thady ‘pray have patience a moment,
And don’t get so woefully cross!
Very soon I’ll procure you a motor,
Which will need neither hay, oats, nor grass.
It will glide o’er the road like a swallow,
Up and down hill it will fly.
We’ll be home after scaring through Mallow,
Ere those socks on the rack will be dry’.

Then who should jump in at that moment,
But Liz, as she gripped a big stick,
Saying ‘Thady though I daresay you’re busy,
Hop east for your jennet right quick!
Make haste, don’t be lazy, don’t linger,
Or my temper, I think will break loose’.
She kept aiming at Thady with her finger,
And giving him tinker’s abuse.

Then to add to this dreadful commotion,
Con stood before them right grim.
Well, boys, I’ve a kind of a notion
He’d fracture the most of poor Jim!
‘That poisonous firebrand you sold me
Has smashed the stall door into brus.
He’s not quite as mild as you thold me-
I’m telling you so to your puss!’

‘You’re a cheat, a cábóg and a rascal;
Of conscience you don’t own a bit.
And with the ciotóg he made for him
And such a falltóg as he hit!
He tumbled him over the table,
Knocking sliggers of ware in his fall;
And Mary gave Con with a cable
A dig, and the same made him squall.

There was hair of all shades flying in bunches.
Old Jemmy said – ‘Send for the police!’
It was like a day in the trenches,
And none of them looking for peace.
The row being by now complicated
And I can;t well relate how it went;
For I got a stray knock in the pate
And right under the grate I was sent


The Man Coming Home from Pretoria

George Curtin

Básadh aintín ag George Curtin i gCardiff na Breataine Bige agus d’fhág sí roinnt airgid aige. Bhí sé timpeall ar an mbliain 1900 le linn do Chogadh na mBórach. D’imigh George go Cardiff áit a d’ól sé an oidhreacht agus bhain sé ard-thaitneamh as. D’oibrigh sé  a phasáiste thar n-ais ar bád go Dún Dealgan. Dhein sé a bhóthar abhaile ar bád agus trí Baile Átha Cliath agus Cill Mhantáin ag obair d’fheirmeoirí anois ‘s arís comh maith le hamhránaíocht ag féiltíagus margaí. Ba mhór an díol suime Cogadh na mBórach do George an uair úd agus ina dhiaidh dó dhá bhliain a chaitheamh thar sáile, chúm sé an t-amhrán seo chun a scéal a mhíniú.

Foinse: The Maid of Ballingarry (John O’Connell)

Although I have travelled far over the seas
My rags they are raddled, they’re flowing with the breeze,
They got me entangled in brambles and trees
On my way coming home from Pretoria,
I thought in my heart when I was going away
That I’d strike some fine job and get wonderful pay,
But alas it is harder to act than to say
Said the man coming home from Pretoria.

Ah me, but De Wett gave us something to do,
I remember him well and I think so should you,
At the sight of him Kitchener turned quite blue
Said the man who came home from Pretoria.
The long hours in ambush whilst dodging the Boers,
In anguish we languished while patching our sores,
Sure three of those men were a match for three score
Of the English force in Pretoria,

I worked like a bugger to come back again
On board an oul lugger midst tots of rain,
And the roar of the surges near drove me insane
Said the man coming home from Pretoria.
After forty days sailing we came to Dundalk
My limbs they were aching I scarcely could walk,
And the peelers they gazed with the eye of a hawk
On the man coming home from Pretoria,

There was one with a squint, he insisted to know
My name and my way of existing also,
And he said you’ve the gimp and identical go
Of a man coming home from Pretoria.
Besides, you’ve no visible means of support,
Your movements are strange since you came into port
I will have you detained to explain it in court,
Why you’re tramping it back from Pretoria

I haven’t a rap in the sack I allow,
I broke into no shop and I started no row,
I stole no gold watch, no clock, or a cow,
While tramping it home from Pretoria.
I prayed and protested with tears in my eyes,
For the sake of his dead that had fled to the skies,
Not to arrest me but let me pass by,
On my way coming home from Pretoria,

I was then marched away like a horse going to pound,
With two other stragglers strapped and well bound,
Sure, I’d rather be swallowed red hot through the ground,
Or shot by the Boers in Pretoria.
I’ll tell you where was it they locked me that night,
‘Twas a dreary stone closet set out from the light,
Where the bugs in battalions were having a fight,
For the man coming home from Pretoria.

It was early next morning a raw boned J.P.,
Suggested the law for to stop hounding me,
And he said there’s no harm at all that I see,
In this man coming home from Pretoria,
Now I’m back in Stuicín with my friends in the fall,
‘Tis the neatest of places that ever you saw,
And the sportiest spot from auld Coome to Gougane,
There I’ll sleep till my whiskers are hoary.

Mike Sullivan’s Clock

George Curtin

Bhí seana chlog bhreá ag comharsan le George Curtin, Mike Sullivan. Nuair a briseadh an clog tháinig gruaim ar Mike agus d’iarr sé comhairle a chomharsain chun é a dheisiú. Ní fhéadfadh George é a sheachaint mar ábhar d’amhrán agus bhuail an clog an 24 uair sa lae chomh maith le Mike féin!

Foinse: The Maid of Ballingarry (John O’Connell)

This clock of Mike Sullivan’s down at the bog,
It gave up keeping time when it turned at grog,
It had a bad habit of drinking strong wine
Sure it often struck eight when it should have been nine
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

It often struck nine when it was only eight,
It often struck twelve when it was not so late.
It often broke out at the dead hour of night
And held hammering away till the clear morning light
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

When it went to the divil old Mick took it down,
He hitched up the pony to take it to town,
To have it repaired by a man from Tralee,
But that very same day he was out on the spree
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

He got it fixed up by a smith in Pound Lane,
When bringing it up it went nearly insane,
It then fell at hammering all that it met,
And I’m told it hammered old Micil Arthur to death
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

It stopped one fine day, ’twas the month of July
And anyone that saw it they could not tell why.
But those that lived near it they said that it hopped
By the flag of the fireplace and suddenly stopped
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

When Dan heard it stopped he came home that same night,
He caught it and wound it up terrible tight,
He brushed out the dust and he straightened the hands
And he tightened the screws with the paw of the tongs
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

As soon as he left it it opened itself,
And it struck fifty four and it jumped off the shelf,
It jumped on the flag and it struck forty eight,
And it hopped on the dresser and knocked off a plate
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

He sent up for Mike Twomey and told him come down,
And said if he’d mend it he’d give him a crown,
Mike stood it up straight and he opened it out,
And he said that it got too much knocking about
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

He then hung it up on a sixpenny nail
To smash it with something they call it a flail.
When I came for to stop him he told me look out,
And he said he would break it without any doubt
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

Saying “I’ll have it repaired by no more spreallairí
But I’ll smash it and break it into smidiríns”
Said the clock “then you hoorey, old reffin, come on”
Well it struck half a score and it struck, Micil ran
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

Mick called out to Tom and he shouted aloud,
To gather some neighbours or some kind of crowd,
And those that had weapons, bring arms and sticks,
And those that hadn’t could break it with kicks
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

Mick sent back to Healy and told him to come,
To go up for John-O and bring down the gun,
Healy came on with a pike in his hand,
And he met him at Laha and told him to stand
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

But the clock hopped the ditch and it made for Cnoc Buí,
And there it jumped up in a hawthorn tree,
Mick came to the tree with a stick and a frown,
And he called to the clock, and he told it come down
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

The crowd soon thickened and the tree up they tore,
There were some of them cursing and more of them swore,
The clock tumbled down and fell into the water,
And I never heard what had happened it after
Rally fol the dal arel ay dar el ay dee

My Pup Came Home From Claedach

George Curtin

George Curtin a chum an t-amhrán seo. Bhí slua breá bailithe i dtigh agus iad ag trácht ar choileán a dhein a shlí abhaile ó Chlaedach. Cé go raibh cuma ar George go raibh sé ina chodladh, d’éirigh sé aniar amach as an oíche agus dúirt sé an t-amhrán a bhí díreach cumtha aige ina cheann. Amhrán macarónach é seo go bhfuil leath gach véarsa i nGaoluinn agus i mBéarla.

Foinse: Bruach na Carraige Báine (Diarmuidín Ó Súilleabháin)

And my pup came home from Claedach today and I am glad of it,
Con Carty did not trate him as daecent as he promised it.
Do bhíodh sé moch is déanach ag aeracht na seascaithe,
‘S do thinneadar a mhéarannta ‘s a ghéaga, bhoga, bhascadar,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

If you were to see him ‘twas really astonishing
What little time a sheepdog without feeding would be vanishing.
Ní raibh siúil na slí ann, a chroí na chliabh ‘ bhí ataithe,
A chosa ‘ bhí tanaí is a phíb siúd ‘ bhí greadaithe,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

He was so very homesick the bones were poking through his skin,
And this being somewhat torn, it could do no more than hold them in.
Do bhí sé tuirseach tnáite, gan áthas ná dúil i meidhir,
Is ba dhobhar do ‘ bheith báite is é ‘ gabháil trí átha Chúm a’ Ghadhair,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

He was so very lonesome his throat got sore with sadness.
One morning ‘ere they woke, his chain he broke with madness.
Do ghearr sé trí sna cóngair, le breóiteacht do chneadach sé,
Trí ghleanntaibh is trí mór-chnoic, ba dhó’ leat ná stadadh sé,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

His feeding whilst out there was small praties mixed in stirabout,
He could run all over Claedach with forty of them in his mouth.
Bhí bacach darbh ainm Páinnseach, nuair a dhearcaigh se an seiceadúir,
Ó d’árdaigh suas a mhálaí agus as go brách go Cnoic an Iúir,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

He would leave no rat or mouse in the house but he’d surely maul,
And if he would break loose he’d go bouncing through a double wall.
Bhí slabhara ó Ínse Chóir air ná raibh dóite ná cnagaithe,
Ní raibh casadh san éagóir ann ná órlach de siúd lagaithe,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

Those blake and barren ranges of Claedach, sure they’re horrible.
There’s a vast three thousand acres but scarce an acre arable.
Níl ann ach aiteann Gaelach, fraoch agus portaithe,
‘S dá mbeifeá ‘mu ann déanach, ba bhaolach duit ‘ bheith gortaithe,
‘S nach mé ‘ bhí go mórálach nuair a tháinig sé abhaile chugham.

Na Cleaganna

George Curtin

Foinse: Amhránaíocht Pheáití Ó Tuama agus Sheán Ó Liatháin

An bhfeacair-se Seán ó bharr a’chnoic
‘ S é ‘r leic a’tinteáin ‘s é ‘rince jig
Do dheineadh sé gleo le cleaganna nua
A tháinig an treo seo ó Cheann Toirc
Agus ó bhean a’tí, cad é n’bhuairt sin ort.

Do bhíodar ‘na mbróga gleoite deas’
Go cluthar compórdach, thar meoin le teas
Níorbh fhearra dhuit clúmh mar cneastacht faoi d’bhonn
Ná péire breá cúmtha ‘cú siúd a bheidh ort,
Agus ó bhean a’tí, cad é n’bhuairt sin ort.

Bhí leigheas na mílte aicíd iontu
Do scaipfeadh gan mhoill liathbhuí nó triuch
Do chuirfeadh chun fáin crampaí ‘gus fuachtáin
Is mórán eile gearáin ná h-áirím díbh
Agus ó bhean a’tí, cad é n’bhuairt sin ort.

Ní cuileann ná draighean a bhí na’mbonn
Ach píosa breá deil a bhí éadrom úr
Bhí teanga bhreá shleamhain de chraiceann óg gamhain
Nár gearradh ró ghann, sé mo leon nach liom iad
Agus ó bhean a’tí, cad é n’bhuairt sin ort.

Ní craiceann cearc naos a bhí iontu
Ní raibh siad poll-péisteach ná méiscreach briosc
Bhí búclaí óir a bhí greanta ‘na gcóir
Go bhfeicfeá do chló gan stró iontu
Agus ó bhean a’tí, cad é n’bhuairt sin ort.

Bhí péire ‘cú siúd ag Fionn fadó
‘ S mó cnoc is sliabh cúm do shiúlaig leo
Is mó cathair do thóg le buille dá bhróig
Do chuirfeadh chun sceoin na slóite fear
Agus ó bhean a’tí, cad é n’bhuairt sin ort.

George Curtin

The Life and Times of George Curtin le Pat Kelleher. Tógtha as ‘A Time that Was in Clondrohid, Macroom, Millstreet, Kilnamartyra and Ballyvourney’.

Leacht cuimhneacháin sa Doire Liath gar don áit a mhair George.

George Curtin was born the year of the Fenian Insurrection, 1867. His home was just a few hundred yards from that of An t-Athair Peadar Ó Laoghaire Gael and Land Leaguer. In Mo Scéal Féin, an tAthair Peadar describes the hunger and starvation that surrounded the countryside in which he was born. It was against this background that George Curtin grew up. His education was the sum total of one day in Carriganima National School. When asked how he got on there, George replied: “I learned how little I knew”. Later on, he attended Irish classes, which were held in Barney O’Leary’s house, these classes were held during winter nights and organised by an t-Athair Peadar.

George’s mother was semi-invalided and when George was small the only income which she derived was from knitting. Nevertheless, the neighbours were always kind to her. It was difficult for George, therefore, to receive any education since at the age of nine, he had to provide the livelihood for the home.. They were always good to him, giving him milk, butter and potatoes.

George’s house straddled two townlands, Curraleigh and Derryleigh. It was but a house of 2 rooms, mud walls and a thatch roof. George was often heard to describe his house in the following lines –

George Curtin – Curtins’ Hotel,
He lives in a long low thatch house,
lived inside with cobwebs, soot and paper,
Plenty water for irrigation but no place to irrigate

It is difficult to establish when George composed his first song. What we do know is that at a card play at Barney’s where the Parish Priest, Father Aherne attended, I was given the following extract – when the cards were dealt, the priest said “have you anything George?” He replied: “With all your theology, poetry and wit, the priest and the poet are not getting a bit”. Fr Aherne was PP of Clondrohid 1883-1893.

George Curtin’s first language was Irish and his first songs for a number of years were composed in Irish, some say he wrote better songs in Irish than in English

Na Cleaganna
An Gandal
My Pup Came Home from Claedach
Mike Sullivan’s Clock
Jerh Foley’s Boat
The Two Donkeys
Thade Shea’s Cow
Patsy and Tim
The Man that came home from Pretoria
The Threshing Engine
Creedon the Runner

When one writes about the life and times of George Curtin, I cannot help feeling a little envious of the type of lifestyle that George and his neighbours had, every incident was a song; Curtin had hundreds of friends. Wherever he went, people gathered to meet him, his closest friends were Creedon the Miler and Thade Sweeney. Thade and George worked together for Mick Herlihy, George was an expert at closing drains.

George Curtin’s real name was Michael Twomey. Why he took the name George Curtin, nobody can figure out. He was a confirmed bachelor. So also was Barney O’Leary and Jack Murphy (Seán ó Bharr a’Chnoic). George composed about them-

Jack Murphy lives on the hilltop high
Where the snow drifts up to meet the sky
He’d want a wife this winter stormy
He’d want a wife as much as Barney.

Barney Leary has his mother
And whilst he has her,
He’ll get no other!

In 1913 tragedy struck George Curtin’s family. His first cousin, Jack Walsh, know as The Rover, shot dead a neighbour called Mick Leigh. It happened in the Ballyvourney/Coolea area and owing to the sensitivity of the case, I will not go into detail. It took Mick O’Leary’s Victoria Cross to save The Rover from the gallows. He served 16 year in Portlaoise prison and was released on the condition the he stay so many miles from the original house. For a few years, The Rover worked around the country in various places, most of the year he stayed in Ullanes. He and two other from the Ballyvourney area were the last Spailpíní Fánacha. Every September, they walked to Millstreet station with three spades, took the train to Tipperary town and worked their way around Cashel and Thurles, arriving home at Christmas on the train to Millstreet.

Mick Herlihy was a very progressive farmer and George always said to Thade that he was starved for the world, in order not to be wasting Mick sometimes brought out a pot of gruel to George and Thade, and George composed a few lines-

Long fasting in drains
It plagued those men
The blood in their veins
Grew pale and thin
That bill posting paste
That we eat in haste
And it made us sick

Mick Herlihy bought a farm in Ballygiblin and sold his own in Derryleigh. On the day he was going fifteen horses lined up to remove him.

Their goods included hens, pigs, sheep, straw, hay, oats, turnips and furniture. The convoy stopped at Banteer for a few drinks and purchased a half tearse if porter to celebrate the night in Mick’s new house. When they got there, they unloaded their produce and Mick proceeded to tap the barrel. With the rattling on the road the barrel blew up, the porter hit the ceiling and ran out the door and the lads were left looking after it, with their throats dry and their mouths open.

In the last years of his life, George seemed to fade and keep more to himself. On the day before he died, he went to the doctor in Millstreet and his last confession. He came to Thade Sweeney’s house that night and the last person he talked to was Mary Jane, Thade’s wife. He told her he was not feeling well, and that he had been to the doctor. She asked him what was wrong and he said “I think it is my head”. On Sunday morning, Bina Lehane saw George on the roadway at Danganasillagh. He paused for a while on the roadway and disappeared behind Corkery’s new cowhouse, which he himself had helped to build. The following morning which was Monday, John Concubhar and John Connell were on their way to Patrick Lehane’s threshing. On crossing the river from the Ardeen side, they found George’s body in the wate.

The countryside were shocked by the discovery. That evening, the remains were removed to an old out house opposite Connell’s pub in Ballyvourney. The following day, he was buried in St. Gobnait’s cemetery in an unmarked grave. There were no elaborate nuptials in the church. Suicide and murders were treated as outcasts by the church. Before I conclude this article, there are a number of questions which spring to mind – George’s real name was Michael Twomey – why did he take the name George Curtin? His funeral expense were payed for by Seán Dubh. Seán was from Millstreet, he went around his local area with a jennet car and a barrel for killing pigs. Some people say that he was a brother of George’s. In an t-Athair Peadar’s Mo Scéal Féin, there was a Michael Dubh that took to the road from his cabin at Derryleigh. Or did George Curtin return to that same cabin with his mother, when George was born in 1867? As I said, George Curtin rests in peace overlooking the mountains and valleys and the people he loved so well. For almost 50 years, he provided them with poetic entertainment.

The valley where George worked all his life has changed considerably since the famine, the mud cabins have been replaced by neat houses, slatted units dot the landscape. Every arable acre is cared for with meticulous attention.

Buried in St. Gobnait’s cemetery with George are many great men and women. But the two most frequently mentioned are Seán Ó Riada and Seán Ó Ríordáin. Their graves are marked with neat headstones. It is now time we did the same for Georfe Curtin.

Reilig Ghobnatan
Reilig Ghobnatan

An Gandal

George Curtin

B’é Mícheál Ó Tuama, nó George Curtin mar ab fhearr aithne air a scríobh an t-amhrán seo. Rugadh i Lios Carragáin é i bparóiste Chluain Droichead agus chum sé amhráin i nGaoluinn, i mBéarla agus roinnt amhráin sa dá theanga. Seo an chéad amhrán a scríobh sé, de réir dealraimh. Tuilleadh mar gheall ar George anseo

Foinse: Ceol & Cibeal Chúil Aodha (fé stiúir Pheadar Uí Riada)

Um thráthnóna iné isea chualas-sa scéal
Ar scafaire glégeal gandail,
D’imigh thar caol in imeall móinfhéir
‘S do thugadh roinnt féir ‘na chabhail leis.
Tá fear ar an mbaile is céilfidh mé a ainm
Gur ghearraigh sé madra donn leis
Ba thrua libh a dhearcadh nuair a shíneadh é marbh
Is dóigh liom gur stracadh an ceann de.

Is é dúirt Tomás nuair a airigh sé a thásc
Cirrbhadh air, níor ghá dhó an scanradh
I dtaobh aon saghas fáis ní raibh sé le fáil
Mura raghadh sé ag snámh ná ag damhas ann
Ní raibh ins an áit ach tuinneacha báite
Ní stadfadh préachán ná seabhac ann
Go ndeintear é bháthadh, é chrochadh ná lámhach
An té a thug anabhás dom ghandal.

Do bhí sé scafánta, cumasach, láidir
Chuirfeadh sé bláth ar ghéanaibh
An té chífeadh gach lá é ag taisteal na mbánta
Chuirfeadh sé áthas cléibh air
Osna mo chroí, mar tá gam le hinsint
Go bhfuil sé gan bhrí, lag, traochta
Táim creachta gan puinn de shaibhreas an tsaoil
‘S is baolach, dá dhroim, go n-éagfad.

Gura madra i bpéin, treascartha faonlag
Eascaine géana an domhain air
A theanga ‘na bhéal go gcrapaidh ‘na chraos
‘Na anghaid go gcaochtar dall é
Mar bharr ar a thubaist, é thitim sa tine
Go loisctear a fionnadh’s a dhrandal
Gach chámh leis a mhilleadh do chráfadh é tuilleadh
As bás chuige in uireaspa an snamhaire