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Local Songs

The Hillside of Beenvane

Collected by Mrs Mary Haran from Miko Guthrie who composed it.

This poem finds Miko in contemplative mood as he ponders on some ancient potato ridges and the folk who dug them. Such abandoned ridges can still be seen in the most desolate and hostile pieces of land throughout the west of Ireland. They are mute witness to a time in which a greatly expanding population was frantic to utilise any scrap of ground which would grow the tuber on which their lives depended. The tragic results of this dependence we know only too well.

corcán: pot. crúiscín lán: a full jug. feadóigín stáin: tin whistle

Oh! my back it breaks, God I think ’twill break,
On that hillside here in Beenvane.
I’ll have nothing to eat until half past eight,
When she’ll come with a cruiscín lán
Of fresh goat’s milk and a few big spuds,
Which she boiled in the cracked corcán.

Oh! the keep is as tough as an old puck’s hide,
And the palms of my hands are red.
This is my tenth day here on the hill,
And the spade is as heavy as lead.
But its bound to lighten as time goes on.
I’ve a lot to do, I’ve to sow for Tim Pat
Who gave me this plot,
And to sow for his brothers too.

That’s my houseen down there in the bog,
I built it out of an old ruin.
It isn’t great but it shelters myself,
My wife and our three gorsoons,
I got a site on the plot from old Tim Pat
On my wedding day,
On conditions that I would do his work,
For three years without pay.

Oh! the times are tough and the going is rough,
But God knows I shouldn’t moan.
We have our health which is worth countless wealth,
And my plot of ground I’ve sown.
We’ve turf in the bog which makes a good fire,
And two goats to give us milk.
And I wouldn’t exchange my darling wife,
For a lady in satin or silk.

And when the day’s time is over,
And when our time is free,
Mary and myself will sit by the fire,
With our children round our knee.
And she’ll take down her old Dad’s fiddle,
And I’ll get my feadóigín stáin
And the lovely music will ring out,
O’er the hillside of Beenvane.

And when ’tis time to retire,
We’ll all kneel down and pray,
And we’ll say a prayer for the homeless ones,
Who roam the road today.
That God my keep their stomachs filled,
And give them a place to stay,
Until the cowardly landlord sees,
The error of his ways.

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