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Peter Gilligan biography :

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Poems by Peter Gilligan :

THE Old Priest

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The Old Priest by Peter Gilligan

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The Old Priest by Peter Gilligan

Good Father John O'Hart
In penal days rode out
To a Shoneen who had free lands
And his own snipe and trout.
In trust took he John's lands;
Sleiveens were all his race;
And he gave them as dowers to his daughters.
And they married beyond their place.
But Father John went up,
And Father John went down;
And he wore small holes in his Shoes,
And he wore large holes in his gown.
All loved him, only the shoneen,
Whom the devils have by the hair,
From the wives, and the cats, and the children,
To the birds in the white of the air.
The birds, for he opened their cages
As he went up and down;
And he said with a smile, 'Have peace now';
And he went his way with a frown.
But if when anyone died
Came keeners hoarser than rooks,
He bade them give over their keening;
For he was a man of books.
And these were the works of John,
When, weeping score by score,
People came into Colooney;
For he'd died at ninety-four.
There was no human keening;
The birds from Knocknarea
And the world round Knocknashee
Came keening in that day.
The young birds and old birds
Came flying, heavy and sad;
Keening in from Tiraragh,
Keening from Ballinafad;
Keening from Inishmurray.
Nor stayed for bite or sup;
This way were all reproved
Who dig old customs up.