The Sports in Shanaglish

Many thanks to Vincent Keehan for passing on the lyrics to his wonderful new song "The Sports in Shanaglish". Some great reminders of the "sports" days. These lyrics are set to the tune of the song "The Bould Thady Quill", the attached video sung by Tim Browne..

You may speak of the Greeks
And the great Hercules
And on Mount Olympus where the first games began
We’re told by historians that a cook from Korobus
Was the first man to win a big race on the flat
He was said to be nimble
As thin as a thimble
And as fast as the horse and chariots could run
But he’d be duly tested
And most likely bested
If he came to Shanaglish to join in the fun.

In the month of July
Be it raining or dry
This festive occasion would yearly commence.
There was bunting and streamers
And car horns beeping
From Keane’s Cross to Lough ‘Cuter’
To Whelan’s sports field

And if you were willing to part with two shilling
A day’s entertainment then you’ll have in store
The crowds and the fashion
Sure, the ladies looked smashing
As they stream to Shanaglish to join in the sports.

There were hawkers and gawkers
And fairly sweet talkers
Who came in their droves from the town of Rathkeel
Lemonade and choc-ices
And all sorts of choices
And for six pence you could
Get a spin of the wheel
With races beginning
With the losing and winning
Gold medals and trophies and prizes galore
And if you’re in a hurry
Then call on Mike Murray
He’ll give you the sceal about what’s in store.

Willie Kean from West Clare
Sure, he always was there
With pace and endurance had nothing to fear-
And our own Iggy Landers
He never would flounder
On the long distance races he’d rarely be beat.

The Mannions I’ll mention
For cycling distinction
And cyclists from Cookstown in County Tyrone
You'd high jumps and sprinters, pole-vaulters,
long jumpers, donkey derbies and relays
And the three legged race.

In the one-mile confined
It still sticks in my mind
Of many the battles when the locals compete
There were Gantleys and Deelys
The Divineys and Healys
And Joyces from Fiddane
Who were light on their feet.
And from Kil be canty came Corless and Bunny
Who swore that their equals had never been seen
There were Hallorans and Keehans
Nellys and Sheehans
And the great Mikey Whelan
With movement so sweet.

But it wasn’t all running and leppin’ and jumping
With major commotion far side of the field
The crowds were aghast
And the cheering did last
When Tom Neylon from Killeen
Was tossing the sheaf

And on a bit further
There’d be holy murder
With the great Gerry Connell who came from Crusheen
He delighted all comers
When he tossed the half hundred
And beat all pretenders
By three or four feet

There’d be talk of the weather
When the boys got together
The price of a yearling
Or how much for a sheep
You could sing to an air
With the bould Des Mulcair
Or dance a half-set if you weren’t yet beat.

As the sun it was setting
You won’t be forgetting
As ‘Staffie’ reminded us later that night
The sports dance would begin
All the women and men
With the reeling and wheeling and fooling about

The famed Tulla Band
Sure, the best in the land
Would lash out the jigs and the reels by the score
With the waltz, the set dances
And all sorts of prances
With the patrons all screaming and shouting for more

And on the right section
You could get fresh confection
Mary Cummins ham sandwich and nice cup of tea
And Angie would bake
Some fine currant cakes
Unlike we have seen
From that famous French Queen

It was not my intention
If I failed for to mention
Of many more heroes down through the years
There was Matt Rosingrave
And the great Martin Egan
Who won five Irish titles, I’m told of his ease.

And much be the pity
If I left out the committee
For sheer dedication no equal was theirs.
They will long be remembered
From July to December
As they planned out the course of the Shanaglish Sports.

And now many years later
As I finish this caper
I remembered those days growing up as a boy
With anticipation
All ‘round the nation-
For that magical Sunday in the month of July
I think of those heroes
Both gallant and fearless
Now many have gone to that place in the sky.
So let’s give them three cheers
And we’ll raise up our beers
To the Sports in Shanaglish
That never will die.

© Vincent Keehan 2015

Diary - George Staines

george staines emily durtnall mary egan dermot carroll joe keehanThere is a time of magic. There are still places of magic, where an enchantment holds which defies twenty first century logic, the cut and thrust of cities, the hurly burly of the mundane, the everyday that stops up the human spirit and masks other worlds and other realities.

A house on a hill in the deep rural borders of the County Clare and west Galway.There is an ancient, gnarled apple tree in the garden, variety unknown, laden with apples, one of its branches touching the ground so that it seems to be resting. Below, the ground slopes away into woodland, beech, alder, birch and oak and then the landfalls, down to a river, the murmur of which can be heard in the distance. There is a gentle rain falling.

And from the house floats the sound of two instruments, concertina and mandolin. Inside are two men, one older, silver maned, intense, the other younger, dark haired, passionate. Their faces are locked in keen concentration as they play, sitting at a large oval table cluttered with musicians’ accoutrements, cases, sheets on which arewritten the hieroglyhics of the tunes they are playing, cups of coffee and discarded newspapers. Their playing is precise and accurate, Irish traditional melodies, new and old, with a superb touch and a lightness that fills the room with, well, a hint of magic. They finish a set of tunes – the younger man sets his concertina on the table, picks up a pencil, marks something on the score in front of him, says something to his companion in a low voice and the other responds by playing a phrase on the mandolin. “Yes, like that, that’s it.”

Then, as ever, the moment passes – a car pulls up, a woman comes into the house, the instruments are put away, tea is made, a second car arrrives, wheels crunching on the gravel, another man comes in, then suddenly the kitchen in this house on a hill seems full of conversation and teenagers and family and anticipation and a sense of excitement. All is gathered up, the cars are filled with bodies and equipment and itis off, down that hill, through winding lanes and boreens, until the two-car convoy reaches the small town of Gort.

The party, for that is what it must now be called, meets up with more people waiting in a pretty restaurant-cum-art gallery. Another car stops outside, coming in from Limerick with friends; a slim young man and a girl with smiling eyes, who has just flown in from London, come in. There are warm greetings, acknowlegements, taps on the shoulder, hugs and introductions. A dozen or so people sit down to lunch, there are conversations and discussions and the gradual feeling of a team spirit emerging. Often that’s the way magic works.

And in a while, food eaten, a sense of urgency gathers – there’s work to be done and so more vehicles are filled with lots more people and the whole circus, for that is now what it is, heads back out into the country and fairly soon they all come to a village, so small and hidden that it has escaped the probing eyes in the sky, the satellites that map our world and reduce the mystery of geography to the click of a mouse. There is a pub, looking like a caricature of the Irish picture post-card tourist haunt. But this is no ersatz creation, this is the real place, wooden bar, high, photographs of Gaelic teams on the walls, fireplace, cups of tea, pints of stout and the bustle begins.

george-staines-mary-noonan-mary-egan-larry-egan-dermot-carroll-colie-moran-joe-keehan-emily-durtnallThe recording engineer sets up – microphones, mixing desk, laptop, speakers, stands,chairs. The photographer comes in, starts to get shots of the participants, some formal, some shot on the run. The girl with the smiling eyes takes out a sketch-book and begins to draw, catching expressions unawares, looks and moments.

And then and then, all is prepared and the man with the mandolin and the one with the concertina commence to play – and play they do, all a long August afternoon, one set of tunes segueing into another, it feels almost without stop. The woman from the house sings, a fourth musician with banjo and guitar joins them and this little corner of the Earth is filled with music.

~ George Staines © 2012