Balllingeary, O’Riordan homeplace:


Raparees, Tories, Whiteboys, Anti-Tithers of Muskerry, The Mellifonts, First Boycott, Wife of the Bold Tenant Farmer, his cottage at Ballinascarty and Michael O’Riordan’s (Communist Party of Ireland) tribute to the Keohane Sisters Clonakilty, Co Cork.

Michael O’Riordan’s perents were from Ballingeary in the Barony of Muskerry presumably flúirseach sa Ghaeilge. West Cork is divided by a range of high hills rising from north west of Dunmanway which link up wiht the Caha Mountains north of Glengariff. The area to the south, the Baronies of Carbery, Bantry and Bere is bounded by the Atlantic and was heavily planted with English settlers from the early 17th century, pre famine it had one of the highest rural population densities in the world. The Barony of Muskerry is linked to the other areas by the Pass of keinemeagh and Cousane Gap built by Richard Griffith in the 1820s. It is topographically, linguistically and slightly culturally different. From the mid 17th century it plagued the area to the south there were numerous proclamations agains raparees, the Gentlemen, Yeomen and Militia from Bantry and Dunmanway going out after Whiteboys and other rebels. It is easy to see the personality type of Michael O’Riordan in this historical context.

Interestingly one of the names of Raparees i the 1680s is Mellifont from Ballingeary. Some of the famailu later conformed to the Church of Ireland as they appear as middle men oin the Bnatry and Kenmare Estates, Military Officers in the British Army. Barristers and significant property owners in Dublin’s Grafton Street.

In an address to the Labour Party in Cork, 2011, Michael O’Riordan the longest serving member of any political party in Ireland (36 years for The Communist Party of Ireland and its predecessors until 1983.) paid tribute to his wife, Kay and her sister Máire who had been secretary of the Irish Nurses Organisation in Cork. In the 1940s she was promoting a NHS style of health system. O’Riordan’s parents were natives of Ballingeary. He referred to the song ‘Wife of the bold tenant farmer from Clonakilty’. In this he was tapping into a long tradition, the song dates from the 1880s Land war, in the Clonakilty area before that there was Anti-Tithe activity and the scene of activity relating to the 1798 Rebellion.

Courtesy County Songs:

Wife of the bold tenant farmer




One evening of late as through Bandon I strayed
Bound for Clonakilty, I was making me way
At Balliniscarthy some time I delayed
To wet me auld whistle with porter

Well I spat in me fist and I raised up me stick
And down the coach road like a hare I then flit
I cared not for landlords, bailiffs or old Nick
And sang like a lark in the morning

Well I’d scarcely been travelling a mile of the road
When I heard a dispute in a farmer’s abode
‘Twas the son of the landlord, an ill looking toad
And the wife of the bold tenant farmer

He said what in the devil’s come over you all ?
Not one penny of rent at each time that I call
By next October I’ll settle you all
For you’ll have the high road to Dungarvan

‘A robber’ the bold tenants wife she replied
‘You’re as bad as your daddy on the other side
But the National Land League will put down your pride
For they’re able to bear every storm’

‘Its branches extend to the country and town
Protecting the tenants, their houses and ground
I owe you twelve months and I’ll give you one pound
If you clear our receipts in the morning’

When she spoke of the Land League, his lips they grew pale
Saying ‘What good have you done but be stuck into jail
And the rent that you owe, you must pay by next gale
And believe me, we’ll give you no quarter’

Your husband, I saw in the town just last night
Drinking and shouting for poor tenants right
By the month of October, we’ll put you to flight
To follow your friends o’er the water

If my husband was drinking, what has that to do ?
I’d rather he’d drink it than give it to you
You skinny ‘oul miser, you’re not worth a chew
And your mossy ‘oul land is no bargain

We all joined the Land League on last New Years Day
And I think in my heart, we’re not going astray
While the clergy are with us, we’ll carry the sway
Now marshalling all in good order

Here’s to Father O’Leary, the pride of our isle
He’s the boy that can title you ruffians in style
John Dillon and Davitt who rank in their file
Take care you don’t tread on their corns

I stepped out from behind of the bush where I lay
And as he passed by me, sure I heard him to say
‘I wish to my God I was ten miles away
From the wife of the bold tenant farmer’

Well I shouted “Hurray” and she shouted “Yoohoo”
And across the green fields like a hare I then flew
Saying ‘God save the Land League and old Ireland too
Agus fágaimíd siúd mar a tá sé’