Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Round Tower at Waterloo

To the north of Cork City, just a few miles north of Blarney, up the valley between the Boggera and the Nagle Mountains, the Martin River flows down towards the River Lee. Fr. Mat Horgan was Parish Priest of Blarney in the 19th century. He was a man of many talents and a great supporter of Irish Catholic heritage. The name of this great Corkonian deserves to be better remembered. He gave a lecture in 1839 which included his own translation into Irish of an ode by Horace.

He was a historian and the author of many learned articles but only one book on the Tithe War of 1834 when a Protestant Minister called Ryder called out the English soldiers to collect contributions to the Protestant Church that were imposed by law even upon Catholics. 12 died and many were wounded to satisfy his greed.

Fr. Mat was known locally as "the man who built the Round Towers". In fact, he built two, one at Waterloo and another at Whitechurch both in the north of County Cork. There was great controversy among the antiquarians of the time regarding the true origins of Round Towers that dot the landscape of Ireland. Fr. Mat proposed the solution that seems so obvious now that they were bell towers and places of storage and refuge. To demonstrate his theory, he built the two towers. He died in 1849 at the age of 46 and was buried beneath the tower at Waterloo.

Across the gap along the road to Mallow you reach the River Clyda above which sat Castle Barrett or Castlemore that was once the stronghold of the Templar Knights of Mourne Abbey, who arrived around the year 1200. The Boggeras have a desolate appearance above Mourne Abbey. No wonder that they are the home place of "the man from God knows where".

Into our townland on a night of snow,
Rode a man from God knows where;
None of us bade him stay or go,
Nor deemed him friend, nor damned him foe,
But we stabled his big roan mare;
For in our townland we're decent folk,
And if he didn't speak, why none of us spoke,
And we sat till the fire burned low.

The River Clyda will be well-loved of all Cork people in exile in Dublin because, as you sit on the train from Dublin, it and the Blackwater are the first signs of the land of streams that announce that you are home again in dear old Cork.

[UPDATE] Since I posted this another great Irish poem has been brought to my attention. I was sitting down watching Darby O'Gill and the Little People and enjoying the nonsense when my Grandma started reciting the correct form of the poem quoted by Sean Connery incorrectly in the film. Instantly I realised that it would go well with my post on the Round Towers and I asked her to write what she could remember of it:

THE PILLAR TOWERS OF IRELAND
By D.F. McCarthy

I.
The pillar towers of Ireland, how wondrously they stand
By the lakes and rushing rivers through the valleys of our land;
In mystic file, through the isle, they lift their heads sublime,
These gray old pillar temples, these conquerors of time!

II.
Beside these gray old pillars, how perishing and weak
The Roman's arch of triumph, and the temple of the Greek,
And the gold domes of Byzantium, and the pointed Gothic spires,
All are gone, one by one, but the temples of our sires!

III.
The column, with its capital, is level with the dust,
And the proud halls of the mighty and the calm homes of the just;
For the proudest works of man, as certainly, but slower,
Pass like the grass at the sharp scythe of the mower!

IV.
But the grass grows again when in majesty and mirth,
On the wing of the spring, comes the Goddess of the Earth;
But for man in this world no springtide e'er returns
To the labours of his hands or the ashes of his urns!

V.
Two favourites hath Time--the pyramids of Nile,
And the old mystic temples of our own dear isle;
As the breeze o'er the seas, where the halcyon has its nest,
Thus Time o'er Egypt's tombs and the temples of the West!

VI.
The names of their founders have vanished in the gloom,
Like the dry branch in the fire or the body in the tomb;
But to-day, in the ray, their shadows still they cast
These temples of forgotten gods--these relics of the past!

VII.
Around these walls have wandered the Briton and the Dane
The captives of Armorica, the cavaliers of Spain
Phoenician and Milesian, and the plundering Norman Peers
And the swordsmen of brave Brian, and the chiefs of later years!

VIII.
How many different rites have these gray old temples known!
To the mind what dreams are written in these chronicles of stone!
What terror and what error, what gleams of love and truth,
Have flashed from these walls since the world was in its youth?

IX.
Here blazed the sacred fire, and, when the sun was gone,
As a star from afar to the traveller it shone;
And the warm blood of the victim have these gray old temples drunk,
And the death-song of the druid and the matin of the monk.

X.
Here was placed the holy chalice that held the sacred wine,
And the gold cross from the altar, and the relics from the shrine,
And the mitre shining brighter with its diamonds than the East,
And the crosier of the pontiff and the vestments of the priest.

XI.
Where blazed the sacred fire, rung out the vesper bell,
Where the fugitive found shelter, became the hermit's cell;
And hope hung out its symbol to the innocent and good,
For the cross o'er the moss of the pointed summit stood.

XII.
There may it stand for ever, while that symbol doth impart
To the mind one glorious vision, or one proud throb to the heart;
While the breast needeth rest may these gray old temples last,
Bright prophets of the future, as preachers of the past!

8 comments:

GrandmaK said...

I have so much to learn! Thank you! Cathy

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. I like the way you bring together several themes. It's a very down-to-earth approach to the subject.

PB

Anonymous said...

There are lots of round towers used for church bells around me. I just thought that it was a style. Thats v interesting

Auld Dubliner said...

I'm really enjoying your posts on the Catholic heritage of Cork. I hope there will be more. Will you be extending into other Counties?

Doc Hannon said...

Maeve,

A really good article! Well done!

Des

Semper Eadem said...

I liked this one too. Cork has given a great deal over the centuries. Looking forward to your next post.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic poem at the end. Where can I find more of this poet?

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of the finest poems that I've ever read. It runs so well.