Vol. 8: Cullen, L. M.

Type: Article

Cullen, L. M. ‘The Contemporary and later politics of Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoire’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 8 (1993), Pp 7-38..

This article discusses an important eighteenth-century poem in Irish, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoire, a lament for young Art O’Leary, shot dead because he would not sell his horse to a protestant. The poem is attributed to his widow Eileen Dubh Ní Chonaill, but little is known about her and the poem has not been located in any manuscript contemporary to the events it records; thus some doubt must arise about its true origin. Cullen, after asserting that the poem is normally regarded as one “made known and saved by folk tradition”, notes that it only “acquired a large audience in the decades of the national and language revival from the 1890s” and in the twentieth century, and explores some of its literary conventions. He then goes, in some detail, into the facts surrounding the death of O’Leary and other Catholics killed in the 1770s, including James Cotter, Morty Oge O’Sullivan, and Nicholas and Edmund Sheehy, and considers the laments for these men, seeing them as part of a strongly political, rather than a naive folk tradition. “Collectively these laments, running from Cotter, through O’Sullivan and the Sheehys, to Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoire, provide a unique corpus of comment on a series of highly politicised tragedies in an entire county (Co. Cork) and its borders over half a century”.