Mary Cannon
Máire Cannon’s public house in Annagry, now Caisleáin Óir Hotel. Máire’s daughter Mary is in the doorway.

 

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The men who drank in Máire’s, fifty years ago

and talked the lamplit hours away across the firelight glow,

proud men, strong men, the stock of mountain soil,

they never priced a favour, or were sparing in their toil.

We shall not see their like again, wherever we may go.

The men who drank in Máire’s, fifty years ago.

 

They never courted honours, their simple life was shared a

trust in god’s forgiveness, when sins were humbly heard,

and if, at times, the will was weak to bend the knee and pray,

they knew that god was patient for the things they had to say.

The fears that haunt the scholars, were not for them to know the men who drank in Máire’s, fifty years ago.

 

They drove their cattle to the fair and haggled all the day

for prices that were double what a prudent man would pay.

and then, by stages, slowly, as the jobbers understand,

they’d take the best on offer, and slap the proffered hand.

the deal was sealed in whisky when the evening sun was low

by the men who drank in Máire’s, fifty years ago.

 

They tilled their stony acres with a pride unknown today,

for they were ozone friendly ere the world had lost its way,

and life had simple blessings, like children growing tall;

a harvest in the haggard and a turf stack by the wall.

Ecology was not a word one needed then to know-

The men who drank in Máire’s, fifty years ago.

 

Till, one by one, the children left to lands across the sea,

to follow life’s ambition, or.some fortune yet to be,

and soon the nights grew longer for those they left behind a

silence in the lamplight where a lonesome mother pined.

And men would watch the clock and leave the fire burning low,

and walk the miles to Máire’s, fifty years ago.

 

The postman’s welcome visit brought a letter now and then

to tell that life was bountyful- and pounds by five or ten,

and news to give the neighbours, of meeting Pat or Joe,

and things of no account at all, unless you want to know.

But best of all, the promise, that by Lammas they would go

and toast their friends in Máire’s, fifty years ago.

 

But man being merely mortal, the reaper comes in time,

to harvest all of humankind to·haggards more sublime.

And one by one they left us to their blessings and reward,

to fill their wonted places as the neighbours of the lord.

But oh, to have them back again to tell us all they know-

The men who drank in Máire’s, fifty years ago.

By Dinny Duffy (Annagry West & Letterkenny)

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