Cath Chéim an Fhia

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  • Teideal (Title): Cath Chéim an Fhia.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781503.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe Heaney: I was told, you see, that this song was- by an old man, O’Boyle his name was- that this song was not a battle between the Irish and the English, but a battle between two sets of tinkers.

JC: Was it like, clans? Family groups?

JH: Clans. Tinkers, you know. The travelling people. One clan against the other. That’s what I was told. Although, the point is, [the line] in the song that could have been: ‘Níor fhan fear, bean ná páiste i m’áitreabh na dtimpeall / na gártha goil a bhí acu ‘s na míle olagóin’ – The children and the women were crying and roaring and bawling, you know. It could have been, now, persecution by the [enemy? English?], but I’m not, I cannot be sure of what I’m saying, but that is what I heard.

Cois abhann Ghleanna an Chéama in Uíbh Laoire ‘sea bhímse
Mar a dtéann an fia san oíche chun síorchodladh só.
Ag machnamh seal liom féinig ag déanamh mo smaointe
Ag éisteacht go síoraí le binnghuth na n-eon
Nuair a chuala an cath a’ teacht aniar
Is glór na n-each ag teacht le sians
Le fuaim an airm, do chrith an sliabh
Is nár mhéin liom a nglór,
Tháinigdar na pánaigh mar a thiocfadh garda de chonaibh nimhe
Agus grá mo chroí na sárfhir d’fhágadar gan treo.

Níor fhan fear, bean ná páiste i m’áitreabh ‘na dtimpeall
Na gártha goil a bhí acu ‘s na míle olagóin
Ag faireadh ar an ngarda go láidir ina dtimpeall
Ag leagan is ag lámhadh ‘s ag scaoileadh ‘na dtreo.
An liú gur leath i bhfad i gcian
‘S é dúirt gach fear, nar mhaith leis triall
‘Gluaisígh go mear, tá an cath dhá riar
Agus téann muid ina gcomhair’
Tháinigdar na sárfhir, guidhim áthas ar chlanna Gaeil
Gur thiomáineadar na pánaigh le fánaidh gan seol.


I do be by the river of Glen Keim in Uíbh Laoire,
Where the deer go at night for sweet slumber,
Just thinking to myself
And listening to the sweet voices of the birds,
When I heard the battle coming from the west,
The noise of the stallions clamouring;
with the sound of the army the hillside shook,
and I did not like their voices.
They came, the greedy ones, like a troop of poisonous hounds,
And my heart’s love the great men whom they left directionless.

There remained no man, woman or child near me
Who was not shouting and crying and lamenting,
Looking at the soldiers surrounding them,
attacking and firing at them.
The cry went out from afar,
every man saying that he should have a try,
‘Move quickly! The battle is under way
and lets go and join it!’
They came, the great men, and I pray happiness on the children of the Gael,
who drove the fat cats away in disorder.


This Munster song, attributed to Cork poet Máire Bhúi Ní Laoghaire, describes a skirmish between Irish insurgents (the ‘White Boys’) and a force of loyalist yeomanry near Guagán Barra, in the Músgraí Uí Fhloínn district of County Cork, in January, 1822.

The Irish raided some loyalist houses in search of weapons, which they obtained, and were then pursued by a force of yeomanry. The insurgents gained the higher ground and drove the militia off by heaving rocks down upon the soldiers.

In light of this history, there would not appear to be any literal truth to Joe’s story of a faction-fight among traveller clans.