By Tom Aherne

The death has taken place of Mary Hanley Finnoe, Ballyhahill, peacefully, on  Wednesday, April 14 at Milford Hospice. Predeceased by her brother Tom. A private requiem Mass was celebrated  in the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation, Ballyhahill at 5pm, on Friday, April 16. Burial  took place afterwards  in Kilcolman Cemetery.  We extend our sympathy to  her cousins, relatives, kind neighbours and a large circle of friends. May she rest in Peace.

The workers on the Carrigkerry/Old Mill CE Scheme have resumed working since Monday last April 19. It is a timely return with a lot of outdoor work needing their attention. The scheme is of great benefit to both areas, which are maintained very well. Work has also commenced  this past week on the new playground in Carrigkerry village. It is an exciting time for all involved in seeing the project come to fruition despite all the planning issues.

The Cuckoo has arrived (right on time as in previous years) in our locality and has been heard calling since last Wednesday, April 14. The elder generation always looked forward to the arrival as it marked the end of the long winter and the promise of better weather ahead. The bird likes rural and remote areas, where it can remain unobserved by humans, with its distinctive call the only means of its whereabouts.

There is a lovely  5km loop walk from Carrigkerry village through Knocknagun and Glensharrold townlands  and back again which is very popular with walkers, even though the bog road stretch is full of potholes, and badly in need of attention. It takes over an hour to walk and  has lovely views of the Clare hills in the distance, and nature sounds  flourish especially at this time of year.  The one downturn is the amount of rubbish scattered along the way  on the roadside and inside ditches. Discarded soil, building rubble, hedge clippings, and farmyard waste is especially prominent, and a blight on the scenic landscape. It is good to see that Limerick City and County Council have placed warning signs there in recent weeks, but concealed cameras are the only way to catch people who dump rubbish around our beautiful countryside.

We welcome the arrival of a new Plant Hire business to Glendiheen, Ardagh. A large range of equipment is available to hire out, and a free delivery service  within 10km of Ardagh. Contact Darragh on 086-3606420, Email: [email protected] /Website: www.dmcsales.ie

The jockey abroad  the second placed horse Balko Des Flos in the Aintree Grand National, Aidan Coleman, from Cork, has Shanagolden connections. His mother is a member of the Guiney family. He won The Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 17 last riding Put the Kettle On.

Carrigkerry National School  commenced accepting applications for admission to the 2021/22 school year on Monday April 12. A copy of the school’s Admission Policy and the Application Form  is available as follows: By emailing [email protected] carrickerry.ie or writing to the Principal, Carrigkerry NS, Carrigkerry, Co. Limerick.

Kilcolman National School will hold a Monster Clothes Collection in aid of school funds on Wednesday, April 21. They will be pleased to accept clean clothes, bed linen, curtain’s, towels,  shoes, bags, belts and soft toys, but not duvets or pillows. Bags can be dropped in over the wall close to the shelter when it reopens for class on Monday, April 12. All support will be appreciated, and many thanks for the continued help and support.

The next Limerick GAA Club draw will be held on Saturday, April 24, during the Limerick Live Sports Show from 10-11am.   The top prizes each month are €10,000, 2nd prize €3,000, 3rd prize €2,000, 4th prize €1,000. The exclusive 5th star prize is A Weber Spirit 11 E 320 GBS Gas Barbecue  plus €250 worth of free utensils. There are  four prizes of €500, four prizes of €250, and 17 prizes of €100. Total prize money each month is €21,000. The Saint Kieran’s GAA Club would welcome new members, and subscription can be paid through the Clubforce App.

The Ardagh Development Association and Saint Kieran’s GAA joint weekly lottery draw took place on Monday, April 12. The numbers drawn were 2,5,6, and 24, and there was no winner of the €5,200 Jackpot.  Congratulations  to the five lucky dip winners who received €40 each:  Susan Moriarty, Liskileen Ardagh, Carmel Power, Kilscannell Ardagh, John Lynch, Carrigkerry, Michael Donovan, Ardagh c/o Eileen Collins and Dan Ryan, Coolacokera Ardagh. Next Monday night’s jackpot will be €5,300. People can play online using club force on the club’s Facebook page, with 6pm on Monday evening the deadline. The tickets are also on sale at the usual outlets, and all support will be appreciated. 

Creeves Celtic held their split the pot draw on Monday, April 12. Congratulations to Mary Flynn, who won €196. The weekly   entry fee is €2, with €1 going to the club and the other €1 to be paid out in prize money each week. The envelopes to place your two euro in plus details, are available at  Hanley’s Food Store Creeves,  and from committee members. People can also sign up by standing order for €9 per month. The  draws will be held on Monday nights, and all support will be appreciated.

The next 102fm Radio draw will be held on Friday, April 23, at 12.45 pm on the Exchange show. The tickets cost €2, and they are available from volunteers, in local shops, (including Moloney’s Carrigkerry, and Denis Greaney’s Shop Ardagh) or from the radio station. All support will be appreciated as finances are tight due to lack of fundraising. The radio station is off limits to members of the public at present, with only volunteers allowed access. When restrictions are lifted all will be very welcome to visit and get involved in programming. A number of exciting new programmes are in the pipeline for later in the year. The station can be contacted at 069-66200 if people have news of interest to the West Limerick area.

Sean McCarthy Songwriter        By Tom Aherne

SHANAGOLDEN IS one of Limerick’s best known songs and a day never passes without it being played on one of the local Radio Stations. It is also a standard number to be sung or danced to at any social gathering. The song has helped to make the village so well known all round the country and numerous artists have recorded the song including Margo and Brendan Bowyer

Oh! The cold wind from the mountains are calling soft to me

The smell of scented heather brings bitter memory

The wild and lonely eagle up in the summer sky

Flies high o’er Shanagolden where my young Willie lies.

I met him in the winter time when snow was on the ground

The Irish hills were peaceful, and love was all around

Scarcely twenty one years old a young man in his prime

We were married, darling Willie, by the Eve of Christmas time.

Do you remember darling we walked the moonlit road?

I held you in my arms love; I would never let you go

Our hands they were entwined my love all in the pale moonlight

By the fields of Shanagolden on a lonely winter’s night.

It was the death of Capt., Tim Madigan, Clashgannife, Shanagolden who died for the cause of Irish Freedom on December 28, 1920 that inspired Sean Mc Carthy from Finuge to compose the very popular song. Tim Madigan who was one of Shanagolden’s favourite sons was involved in the War of Independence which came into being following the 1916 Easter Rising. He was only 23 years old when he was shot by the Black and Tans close to his home.

Sean was a very talented singer/songwriter and wordsmith who passed from this world on November 1, 1990. He was a man so full of life, of joy, sympathy, understanding of human weakness, and so full of appreciation of the gifts of God all round us. He left a deep and bright imprint on the folk scene, and he had a very deep insight into the heart and soul of Ireland. Sean was a man of great humour who offered the hand of friendship and encouragement to aspiring songwriters, and he had his own column Mc McCarthy’s Women in the Kerryman.

Many of his ballads like Red Haired Mary, In Shame Love, In Shame, Step it out Mary, Mountain Tae, Highland Paddy, Red Bloomers, Where Wild Wind Blows, and My Kerry Hill have stood the test of time. There is warmth about his songs and the wild music of the Lark and Snipe entered early into his blood. He sang the sad love songs of the Gael in the language of the Invader, but the soul and spirit of the unconquered people throb proudly in every line.

The story of how Sean wrote Shanagolden in his own words from the Book Rhymes and Reasons goes as follows. William Sweeney wanted to be a soldier on horseback, and Sean wanted to be a soldier too, but he wasn’t too worried about the horse just as long as he got a nice uniform with shiny buttons and boots that didn’t leak. We grew up together near Sande’s bog Finuge where food was scarce, song plentiful, money non-existent but where love grew and flourished like reeds in a mountain stream. When we were around 15 years old, we ran away to join the Army and our destination was Limerick City. The road from Listowel to Newcastle West was long and lonely with dark shadows, strange noises, and whispering ghosts especially around midnight. The little pub on the edge of town was open late, and the dilapidated lorry parked in the forecourt looked very inviting.

We fell asleep soon after our bodies touched the loose hay, and the bright sunshine awoke us the next morning in a field outside Shanagolden. Larry the tipsy driver was a blacksmith with a problem which, he said only two fine Kerry boys could solve. He had a half-acre of potatoes ready for digging and no one to help him. He was a noted rogue but a kindly one with a fund of stories told in an alcoholic haze, punctuated with frequent spits of tobacco into an open fire.

We dug his potatoes, and it was the happiest four days that I could remember. One evening as twilight stole across the mighty Shannon; our tipsy friend strolled with us across a quiet meadow to a place where souls rest in peace. There was no inscription on the modest cross, but Larry stood and gazed at it for a long time. Just before he turned away, he spoke softly to himself, sleep well Willy, sleep well.

With the brashness and ignorance of youth I asked him who was Willy. Larry’s eyes foggy for the most part, blazed with anger. He pointed to a distant hill beyond the meadow and said: Willy died up there my young Bucko. He died fighting so that you and your pal could walk this land and walk it free.

That night when the three of us were sitting before the warm turf fire he staggered to an old wooden dresser and rummaged around until he found a small shiny snapshot. His voice still with a hint of anger in it, grated on my young ears. He shoved the snapshot towards me saying: Well my Kerry friend, There’s Willy and his family, and now you know, don’t you?

I knew that it was a combination of drink, grief and anger talking, but I took the photo and looked at it. Willy stood tall and proud as he gazed into the camera lens. It was the girl who took my breath away. Her face even in the badly taken photo, shone like an angel’s smile as she pressed the small baby to her breast. Long hair reaching her waist made me think of maidens bathing in a Grecian pool by moonlight. I wanted to shake him out of his alcoholic haze and demand her address. But when I moved close, I could see he was crying. Before we left for the City the next morning, he told me everything.

The Army turned us down. Too young they said. It was 25 years later in an apartment high above Upper Manhattan that I wrote down Willy’s story. I wrote it in song, and I called it Shanagolden.

Then came the call to arms love and the hills they were aflame

Down from the silent mountains the Saxon strangers came

I held you in my arms then my young heart wild with fear

By the fields of Shanagolden in the springtime of the year.

You fought them darling Willie all through the summer days

I heard the rifles firing in the mountains far away

I held you in my arms then our blood ran free and bright

And you died in Shanagolden on a lonely summer’s night

Oh! But that was long ago my love and your son grows fine and tall

The hills they are at peace again, the Saxon strangers gone

We’ll place a red rose on your grave by the silvery pale moonlight

And we’ll think of Shanagolden on a lonely winter’s night.

Sean McCarthy scattered songs in his wake with the same enthusiasm as he smoked his crooked pipe. Wherever he went he was wreathed in smoke and surrounded by fragments of melodies and wisps of words. While the smoke dissipated the songs did not and we are all the richer for that. The people of Ireland owe a lot to the late Sean for preserving so much of our story’s history lore and heritage in song.