Skellig Lists, Bandon 1843, Ballydehob 1912, Celebration of Skellig Night, South Mall, Cork 1845.

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The Skellig
(2nd edition and supplement)


By John Thomas (Jack) Roycroft b. Jan. 2, 1889, son of Samuel James Roycroft and Martha Skuce

The closing night of Shrove is here
All dark and stormy wild and dear
While o’er the road to Skellig Rock
The lads and lasses are seen to flock
Alone I stand and view the scene
Well knowing what this march doth mean
An even number forth doth go
Forth to that rock for weal or woe,
I scan the figures as they pass,
Along o’er the heather and dewy grass,
I think I’ve counted about two score
Yet indeed there may have been many more.
Some faces look merry, some look grave,
While dresses flutter and tresses wave.
And the stars through the clouds peep merrily down
To see the procession leaving the town

That town tonight deserted seems
No youth of firing crackers dreams
For all must know the sergeant bold
Whose youthful fires are growing cold
Determined such nonsense he would put down
Nor a fire work he said should go off in the town
Thinking wisely, ‘twould make folk set out for the rock
And not linger his nervous system to shock
Oh would that my pen could describe the fond pains
With their boldness or shyness and coquettish airs
Whom do I see at the head of them all?
But John Willis so handsome and tall
Gracefully bending his head till he meet
That of Miss Jennie Swanton who’s smiling so sweet
Will you have me? He says to his dear little Jen
Oh yes, Darling John, you’re the dearest of men
So onward they pass with their billing and cooing
John proud of his lass and his excellent wooing

Here in the shadow of giraffe John,
Two dandy young pairs trips merrily on.
Young Florrie Coy is a stranger here
But from what we can see has been blessed with a dear
She being so sprightly when business is done
She’s on with her hat and away for a run
Herself and that other gay maiden Lizzie Young
Mrs Roycroft won’t keep Lizzie she knows beyond eight
How could cupid get on if lovers be late?
Mrs R was once a smart youngster herself
And doesn’t believe in any one being on the shelf
So up steps Willie Skuce to his Florrie, his own
Jamie Attridge claims Lizzie he wants her alone
Up the church road they’ll stroll ‘neath the moon’s kindly beam
Lost to the world in “Loves Young Dream”.
But the worst of it is George Swanton’s a fright
And Miss Coy must be in at 9.30 each night
But Lizzie’s an extra half hour don’t you know
So while Bill at the door his last kiss doth bestow
She’s off with her Jamie they haven’t much time
For soon he’ll set out for a far distant clime

Each minute in this case is precious and sweet
But alas they also so dreadfully fleet
So I wish you had seen those two dainty pair
So lively their gait and so loving their airs.
At the rate they are going I don’t think we need fear
They’ll be seen at the Skellig Rock this time next year
The young ones they come and the young they go
Lo here comes Miss Cha Donelan a pacing so slow
She’s not as light as she once has been
In her girlish days of sweet seventeen
Her face looks sad though passing fair
and she glances round with expectant air:
For hope dies hard in a maiden’s breast
And she thinks she’s still as fine as the rest
At last on seeing her all alone
A certain shy youth very bold has grown
He pities her plight in his manly heart
And bravely determines he’ll now do his part
It’s Constable Dillon all covered with blushes
As across to adoring Miss Donelan he rushes
And whispers Miss Charlotte will you join the Force
And she screams delighted “Of course, Pat; of course”
Then he takes her plump hand and encircles her waist
While onward they glide in no very great haste

“Tis age before Beauty” and ‘tis a good rule
Like “Ladies ‘fore Gentlemen” taught us in school
Here close behind them so handsome a pair
Come, no wonder the others all stand still and stare
Miss Barry so slender, dark-haired and serene
Dick Lyons with proud step and learned haughty mien
He’s as bold as a lion, determined he’ll win
The love of fair Cissie, she’s bound to give in
When wooed by such eloquence, learning and love
He vows he’ll be true as the bright stars above
“Do you know what, dear Cissie says brave “Couer de Lion”
A double-match is just the best thing we could try on
For here comes your brother and my sister Mag
Hurrah, teacher John, you did well not to lag
“Exchange is no robbery” and all of us four
Will I reckon be seen at the Skellig no more

Then young Barry he turns to his Marguerite fair
And begs she will sanction these plans then and there
Then follows some whispers the ladies consent
And onward they move on happiness bent
Oh my, what a grand sight those weddings will be
Let us hope you and I will be there then to see!

Hark, whose voice is that which now falls on the ear
Well the teachers are strong at the Skellig this year
‘Tis Miss Woodhouse indeed, but what brings her here
Oh, let her alone, she’s a handsome excuse
For isn’t she linked with Mr Paul Skuce?
In dull sea-side Bantry he finds now no charm
The joy of his life is what leans on his arm
His courage beats high, thinks he “never or now”
Determination is writ on that tailors fine brow
With one mighty effort his fate he will test
Unburden the secret that weighs on his breast
Thus bravely begins he “Miss Woodhouse, my dear
I hope you and I won’t be seen here next year
Come over to Bantry, in my cottage rule
And give up that terrible noisy old school”
Then he stops and his fate seems to hang by a thread
And his brave manly heart is filled with great dread
Oh this fair, clever creature he cannot let go
But what will he do if by she chance say “No”
But she didn’t say that and his life is now blest
And they both move happily on with the rest
He whispering what a lovely new costume he’ll make
And the good time they’ll have when his name she will take

Here comes another loving couple
One nice and plump, one young and supple
Tess Donelan and her long-loved Matt
Tess in her hurry forgot her hat
So her raven locks fly loose on the wind
as onward she hurries ne’er looking behind
She knows this place well, she was here oft before
T’wont be her own fault if she comes any more
His arm she hugs fondly, his arm she holds tight
That’s the last can be seen as they pass out of sight
Fast on their heels a jaunty pair
Come stepping with a lively air
They talk so low and keep so near
‘Tis evident they to each are dear
‘Tis Ursula Salter tall and fair
And Kingston (Dick) who serves hardware
In love they have been many a day
Don’t think they’ll come again this way
And close behind them comes another
It seems to me ‘tis Ursulas brother
‘Tis Bill sure enough, and by his side
Trotting to match his haughty stride
Is Sadie Johnson of golden hair
Indeed they are a well-matched pair

And here’s a chatty pair indeed
Come pacing slowly o’er the mead
Maggie MacDermott with coal black curls
Sure Dick Dungan, he thinks her the nicest of girls
But she’s fond of life and fun don’t you know
And now he is striving his best to bring low
Those spirits of hers, to his own sober tastes
Still feeling the whole time that he must make haste
For long has he looked here, there, everywhere
For someone his love and his fortune to share
And oft to the Skellig he took his lone way
And looked all the night till the break of day
From a hill near the path, ne’er one could he find
Who seemed handsome and clever enough to his mind
He long wooed the teachers who came and who went
In gaining their favours his life’s morn was spent
One smile from the damsels made Eden for Dick
He was sure of the lot he could have his pick
But his many rebuffs made him heart-sick and sore
And he thinks he’ll leave school-misses alone any more
On all other girls he seemed to look down
But Miss Woodhouse soon settled him off with a frown
Now he has a nice girl, but if he doesn’t take care
She’ll find one more lively ere this time next year

Up steps Georgie Jennings all smiling and bland
Thinking May Connell the pick of the land
In Dublin, no doubt some fine girls may be seen
But he prefers those between here and Skibbereen
He must talk to her father on next pig-fair day
Lets hope that he’ll give him his fair daughter May
And up close behind her stalks big brother Ned
His looks they are shy, for his face it is red
But wee Louie Young looks as proud as a queen
I’m sure that on these rocks they’ll no more be seen
Who are those wandering on dangerous ledge?
Oh, love must be blind for they’re too near to the edge
Joe Young’s military swagger no one could mistake
And a right charming picture the pair of them make
For on this side of Joe walks who but Miss Mae
As nice a young lady as any could see,
Well done Mr Young though far did she fly
You still kept upon her your minds loving eye
Now don’t mind your dear Daddy, nor all sisters three
Let them live on forever ‘neath the same old roof tree
Sure if they don’t marry they’ll never be old,
But they’ll some be doing that if all true that one’s told
So you’ll be alright in the first and the last
Just nail your opinions on to the mast
And whatever come or goes “hold your own” hard and fast

Here comes another chap “holding his own”
As o’er the hard rock they come clambering down
Evelyn Evans and Jack Levis a curious young pair
Jack says that Evelyn should put up her hair
But he gets a smart smack on his poll for his pains
That just for the moment near addles his brains
But he soon waxes eloquent, learned and devout
Talks of Latin and Greek and a sermon doth spout
His gaze on the stars, lo, when he looks round
Not a trace of Evelyn is to be found;
Let him search for her now and find if he can
When he’s got her he’ll be a much wiser man

Paul Kingston, like the “busy bee” improves each shining hour
Sips honey sweet where’er he goes from each tempting flower
When lips that he loves are far away, makes love to lips that are near,
And Fanny Attridge bright and gay is the one he has brought here.
But I think ere she has done with him she’ll make him sadly rue,
His bargain, and twixt you and me, he’ll only get his due.
With a youthful step and in modest style
Keeping an eye on lively Fanny the while
Trips her Aunt Fanny Anne still heart whole and free
Which all should agree is the best way to be
What brings her out on a night like this
This maiden who leans toward single bliss?
Does Fanny need her watchful care?
Or does she love the sweet night air?
You each can make your own surmises
Say nothing tell not truth nor lies
One thing is sure that Miss Fanny Anne
With her neat little shop are well worth a man.

Georgie Wolfe with a proud and lion like frown
Leads his chosen, Miss Dukelow from fair Durrus town
When Miss Salter got married his heart it seemed broke
But now he is gradually recovering the stroke
Let up hope the sweet fathers’ too fond of his boy
To prevent him from marrying and we all wish him joy.
Oh, here’s another young pair from the West
Tis soon they are thinking of building a nest!
Sarah Wolfe and Jim Sweetnam, chirp away my sweet chicks
I wonder how soon you will tire of your tricks
Sal’s brother Bill comes next in the row
With his black bowler hat he makes a fine show
And fair Bella Beamish he leads with great pride
And gaily they laugh as the lone maiden sighed
Sal Young and Tom Ferguson now moved to the ridge
And talk of good times round Rathravane Bridge
If her father, he thunders, won’t give her away
He vows by his nose, there’ll be suicide next day
Tis time Joe got tied up and Tom too, he said
They’ll have a fine chance when you take the lead.

Who comes this flying like the wind
And who is pelting far behind?
May Jennings and Bob Salter I declare!
Indeed they are a comical pair!
He’s reached her, no she’s gone again
Though Bob, he runs with might and main
The others all turn round to stare
The antics of this lively pair
May surely thinks it is good fun
And came to Skellig for a run
The other takes too slow a pace
Tis grand, a breezy, midnight race!
No visit made she there before
While others round have made a score
Poor Bob, though I fear has got no chance
May leads him far too mad a dance

Miss Kingston’s a lady of goodness and grace
Her brother won’t easily find one for her place
When Sam Connell from Skibbereen takes her off some fine day
Tis well he got sense ‘ere his hair turned grey
Though last but not least on this list comes a name
Through all the wide country has gone forth its fame
He now comes along with a reverend air
Leading proudly a lady so shy and so fair
With a wild-rose complexion and bright golden hair
Tis Rev J Boardman as sure as a gun
And Miss Emily Swanton the very one.
Well done Mr Boardman we all wish you joy
May your future felicity nothing alloy!

Oh sorry am I that lonely appear
The bachelors names who are doing nothing this year
Oh shame to them all in country or town
They shouldn’t be classed with those names of renown.
There’s Mr Joe Roycroft of fair Dreenlomane
And Joe Young and Tom Young of sweet Rathravane
Then most of the Attridges about half a dozen
Brothers and nephew and Uncle and cousin
Then Mr Dick Willis from near Kilbronogue
For all these matrimony isn’t in vogue
There now I’m afraid I must finish my rhyme
I am sure that you will say that its just about time
This is the supplement long looked for and sought
Our first Bally list was so sweet and so short.

The above poem was composed in 1910 by Jack Roycroft (John Thomas Roycroft b. Jan. 2, 1889, son of Samuel James Roycroft and Martha Skuce)

At the time of this list Shrove Tuesday was a night of great celebration, fun and feasting (a bit like Mardi Gras in Rio) as during Lent there was no dancing, parties etc. and most importantly no marriages in either the Protestant or R.C. churches. However the monks on Skellig for a very long time refused to abide by the agreed date for Easter and their Easter, and therefore Lent, was eleven days later each year. This gave rise to Skellig lists as a party piece to make fun of unmarried couples by suggesting that they should go to Skellig forthwith.

This list was made up by Jack Roycroft, (son of Martha Skuse), and would have been performed at the big annual parish party on Shrove Tuesday evening. As it was for such a polite gathering it is very mild in its suggestions. The lists around the town and pubs would have been very different and more than a little bawdy in the suggestions, especially when referring to some of the older spinsters of the area as you can imagine.

The archive of the Dept of Irish Folklore in University College Dublin has a whole collection of Skellig Lists.

The Skellig itself is well worth a visit, you can get a boat trip each day in summer months from Port Magee near Valentia. There are something over 600 steps to climb up to the monastery and the views etc are fantastic. also the sea birds, tens of thousands of Gannets and you can take a rest half way up and sit down five or six feet from a Puffin, they nest all over the place.


Cork Examiner 28/1/1846 – DUNMANWAY AMATEUR BAND – TO THE EDITOR OF THE CORK EXAMINER – SIR, Perhaps you will allow me through your Journal to contradict some statements in ‘Non Repealer’s’ letter, published in the Examiner of this day, relative to the Amateur Band of this town. The writer of that letter have also grossly misrepresented the entire proceedings of the ‘Soiree’ therein alluded to.

It would appear to a reader of that letter, that the Members of the Band went to the Soiree on free tickets. The Leader was also presented to the public as soliciting subscriptions from the persons present, to purchase clothing for his musical colleagues. In reply to the first of these misrepresentations, I need only say, that though having been very politely offered tickets gratis by the Committee, – they unanimously refused to accept them unless on the same terms as the other persons who attended. The second statement is equally groundless; and in this I ..eality would need not reply, as it is too well known that unless for the purchase of instruments no other subscription is applied for, – no – not even for music or instruction, as the Leader very kindly gives both gratis, beside that he with the other members of the band, have subscribed as liberally for the purchase of the instruments as many of the other subscribers – as to all the ‘hems’ and ‘haws’ attributed to him, I can tell your readers, that he can express himself in public or in private, infinitely better than his traducers.

We subjected ourselves to their shower of calumny, by having found it our duty to discard from our musical society, two members for non-compliance with its rules, and for other misconducts. The after dealing of these ex-members gave us no cause to repent having expelled them. They refused to surrender the instruments for the use of the band although fully aware they were purchased by subscription for that purpose.

But Sir, these worthies could not of themselves produce such an epistle as that alluded to – they applied to a third person, (one who in this town is rather celebrated for his ‘Skellig List’ genius), who was the only one of the Trio who attended at the Soiree – each supplied his part. One provided the scandal, another made himself useful as an amanuensis – the third person (above noticed) supplied the burlesque speeches, which were equalled by the appropriate airs selected by him for the toasts – the names of which he learned from his namesake – an itinerant catgut scraper, from whom he learned to scratch a few tunes on a violin, to the great annoyance of the neighbourhood in which he resides.

For our credit as musicians, suffice it to say, that the gentleman who presided over the meeting (General Shuldham) who is far above duplicity or reporting to flattery, after complimenting the members of the band for the pleasure which they afforded the meeting that evening – and anxious for the unity of the members of the association – he said – ‘He hoped that the harmony of the band  would be emblematic of the harmony that would exist between the members of the Dunmanway Conservative Association.’

As an antidote to the poison circulated by these discarded members of our calumniated society, I hope you will insert this letter, I am, Sir, your obedient servant, WILLIAM WAGNER, Member of the Dunmanway Amateur Band, Dunmanway, Jan. 21, 1826