The song of Slawmin-a-wool

I walk the roads of Erris, Tirawley, Burrishoole.

Irish is my native tongue and it wasn’t learnt at school.

My feet are clad in hobnailed boots which squelch among the rushes,

I frighten dogs and children when I shelter in the bushes.

 

I always dress in widow’s black with a shawl around my shoulder

And throw a sack across my back to carry bread and porter.

I know each woman of the house from Elly Bay to Rinn,

Which woman’s heart is full of grace and which is full of sin.

 

Bad cess to those who drove me out with only what I carry

Without a roof above my head or a warm place to tarry.

I join the curlew and the snipe in living off the land

On the edge of the Atlantic, twixt mountain, bog and strand.

 

I gather summer berries from the briars along the way

And pick the milky mushrooms at the breaking of the day.

Dillisk, slauk and crannach from the rocks by balmy seas

And carrageen to cure the cough and nettles for my knees.

 

From Glenamoy to Behy I am blown by northwest gales

Past Ceide cliffs where fuming surf, sends up salty veils.

In welcoming Glenurla, I sleep by the fire’s glow,

The cricket sings and chimney rings from the force of the winters blow.

 

I like a drop of poteen, with sugar and hot water

I can batter out a tinker’s dance like a tinker’s daughter.

May God forgive me for my sins, as when my words offend

And Blessed Mary take me home, when I reach my end.

 

I walk the roads of Erris, Tirawley, Burrishoole.

Irish is my native tongue and it wasn’t learnt at school.

My feet are clad in hobnailed boots which squelch among the rushes,

I frighten dogs and children when I shelter in the bushes.

 

In memory of Sarah Fallon.

Slawmin-a-wool: a handful of wool which she collected in a pillowcase for barter.                      Cess: luck. Dillisk, slauk and crannach: edible seaweed.

Comments about this page

  • Wonderful poem Michael…like Paraic Colum’s ‘The Old Woman of the Roads’

    By Noelene Beckett Crowe (10/11/2021)

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