Play recording: Johnny Seoighe
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- Teideal (Title): Johnny Seoighe.
- Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
- Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): 74:246-8.
- Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 1808.
- Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
- Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
- Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
- Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
- Catagóir (Category): song.
- Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Pádraic Ó hÉighnigh.
- Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó hÉighnigh.
- Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1932.
- Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
- Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
- Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
- Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.
Amhrán Sheán Uí Sheoighe1
A Sheáin Uí Sheoighe tuig mo ghlór is mé ag tigheacht le dóchas faoi do dhéint
Mar is tú an réalt eólais ba deise lóchrann dár dhearc mo shúil ariabh
Is tú bláth na h-óige is deise breághtha i dhearc mo shúil i d-Teampall Dé
Agus as ucht Chríost, tabhair dom relief go gcaithfear oidhche Nodlaig féin.
Lá ar na mháireach nuair i fuair mé an páipéar is mé a bhí sásta agus ghluais mé an siubhail
Ní bhfuair mé freagra ar bith an lá seo acht mé féin is mo pháistí amuigh faoi an drúcht
Tá mé caillte, bruighte, feannta, dóighte gearrtha ó neart an t-siúil
Agus i Mhister Joyce tá an Work-House lán agus ní glacfear ann isteach níos mó.
Nach mór an cliú do phoball Carna ó thosuigh an lánmhain seo ag dul thrid
Ba deise breághtha méin na mná ná an Morning Star nuair d’eirigheócha sí
Tá an Bhanríoghan tinn is i na luighe lag síos, deir na dochtúirí go bhfaoi sí bás
Sé fios m’údair go ndeir siad liomsa faoi nach bhfuil sí pósta ag Mr Joyce.
Seo amhrán eile a déanamh aimsir an droch shaoghail 1847. Rinne file é a dtugtaí Micheál Mharcuis, Micheál Mac Con Iomaire as Cárna, nuair a chuaidh sé ag iarraidh leath-chloch mine buidhe ar Sheán Seoighe, an fear nó an máighistir a bhí ar an min agus deite sé é. Nuair a chinn air rinne sé an cheathramhadh dheireanach den amhrán ag moladh na mná agus thug an bhean an leath-chloch dó.
Johnny Seoighe, hear my voice as I come to you in distress;
for you are the lodestar of truest light that my eye has ever beheld.
You are the flower of youth, the fairest I have ever seen in God’s temple;
and for Christ’s sake, give me relief until Christmas night is past.
The very next day I got the paper, and I was content as I walked away;
but I got no reply that day, with my children and myself out under the dew.
I am tormented, broken and flayed, burnt and gashed from all the walking;
and Mister Joyce, the workhouse is full and won’t accept any more.
Isn’t it a great compliment to the Carna district since this couple began to frequent its streets!
The woman’s countenance is fairer and kinder than the morning star when it rises!
The Queen is ill, lying weak in her bed, and the doctors say that she will die;
and the reason is, as the doctors tell me, that she’s not married to Mr Joyce.
Here’s another song that was composed during the Famine of 1847. A poet named Micheál Mharcuis, Micheál Mac Con Iomaire from Carna, composed it when he went looking for a half-stone of yellow meal from Seán Seoighe, the man, or the master, who controlled the meal, and he refused him2. When his appeal was denied, he composed the final stanza of the poem, praising the woman, and the woman gave him the half-stone.
1. The title is normally given nowadays as Johnny Seoighe. A number of non-standard spellings in this manuscript are preserved here. Not only was the scribe a schoolboy at the time but the text pre-dates the creation of the first official spelling standard for Irish by many years.
2. The poem is also attributed to another local poet, Tomás Shiúnach, who lived at the time of the Famine.
As far as can be discovered, Joe Heaney never sang this song, although — given that the version here was transcribed by Joe’s elder brother from the singing of their father — he must have known it. As one of the few songs in the Irish language known to have been composed during the Famine, it is an important artefact of that period. While the song has been recorded a number of times in recent years, there was previously — and this was true in Joe’s day — a considerable reluctance to sing it, owing to controversy surrounding the relieving officer, Johnny Seoighe, and the understanding that his female companion was not his lawful wife. At the same time, other people — the Heaneys among them, if the seanchas given above can be taken to represent their views — felt that the woman was more generous than ‘Mister Joyce’ himself.
Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Joe Heaney’s biographer, explains that ‘while Johnny Seoighe appears to be a sorrowful song… Carna lore has it that it was composed as a satire, because Johnny Seoighe was a playboy who abandoned his wife and family in Oughterard and ran off with Peggy (Pegsy) Barry, daughter of the bailiff who was in Carna at the time… It was reported that Johnny Seoighe had stolen the relief book from the Relieving Office, and that he started to share out the yellow meal as he saw fit. Tim Robinson, in his book Conamara: Listening to the Wind says ‘This cannot be quite right, as Joyce was in fact a relieving officer for Roundstone, but it is probably not far from the truth, as he was eventually dismissed for corruption…’ (Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Nár fhágha mé bás choíche, 118; also Tim Robinson, op. cit. 205-6.)
We are grateful to the National Folklore Collection, UCD, for allowing us to publish this item.