Moybologue Moat & Dance



These verses (see below) entitled “The Moat of Moybologue” and “The Moybologue Dance” were submitted by Peter McCabe, formerly of Tierworker and now living in a suburb of Dublin. Peter and his brothers and sisters have deep roots in Tierworker.

As a former neighbour and close friend of the McCabes when I was a child living in the adjoining townland of Greaghnadarragh from 1935 to 1947, I have very clear memories of hearing Peter’s father, the late Ted McCabe, reciting these verses during his regular visits to our house almost every Wednesday evening. He would sometimes be joined by another neighbour, Andy Meleady, although Andy’s regular time for a visit was Sunday nights from about 7:00 p.m. to midnight.

Reciting verses such as these from memory was just one of the pass-times enjoyed by people in the ceidhle houses before the arrival of electrification, cars, and radios to rural Ireland. It was part of what is called nowadays the “oral traditions”. (A rough translation ofceidhle, pronounced kayley, is “visiting”).

Below are photos of two of the people mentioned in the poems.

countryman mattmelady
Jem Farrelly of Blackhills, nicknamed The Countryman Matt Meleady of Copponagh, c1950

These particular “poems” are witty social commentary and gentle satire on the people of the neighbourhood. They were probably composed in the 1920s. I have included a column offering some explanations of the verses and the references. For this, I am indebted to Teddy and Peter McCabe and to Richard Barber. Our interpretations may not all be correct, and they are certainly incomplete.

I invite anybody with better knowledge of the stories of Tierworker to please add to what I have written and help fill in the blanks in our understanding of these two “epics” – “The Moat of Moybologue” and “The Moybologue Dance”.






Author believed to be Peter (Peetie) McConnon of Coppanagh



Commentary by Philip Donnelly


(with contributions by Teddy and Peter McCabe and Richard Barber)

Verse 1

‘Tis said when St. Patrick first blessed our land

On the moat of Moybologue our saint took his stand;

He blessed Relaghbeg and likewise Relaghmore,

He looked on Blackhills, said he 'd bless no more;

And turning his features towards heaven he cried

"Shall I bless such a place? I don't think I will”

And weeping he turned away from the hill.

The title “The Moat of Moybologue” and the introductory verses give the audience no clue that this story is about that night when Jemmy Mitchell and Jack Flanagan had an encounter with the Devil Himself (Beelzebub). The punch-line is that Beelzebub turns out to be Jemmy Mitchell’s long-horned buck goat that fights off the midnight intrusion of Jack Flanagan into the kitchen of Jemmy Mitchell who is in bed suffering from The Flu, also known as The Hen, or The Spanish Flu of 1919.  St. Patrick may have chased the snakes from Ireland, but he drew the line at extending his blessing to the forlorn townland of Blackhills.

Verse 2

The sun never shines on that spot from on high.

And the wind rushes on with a moan and a sigh.

And the streams and the rivers flow on at a pace

Showing clearly they’re eager to fly from the place.

Where nothing is heard but the croak of a frog,

Or the bray of a donkey tied down in the bog.

And there the song bird never twitters a note,

Save the long snouted snipe as he mbaa’s like a goat.


Relaghbeg, Relaghmore, and Blackhills are a few of the townlands around the ancient Cemetery and the Moat of Moybologue.


The snipe is a bird with a very long beak and frequents marshy places.

Verse 3

The people who live here are set in their ways

They all work for their living in various ways.

One is a cooper who has managed to learn

How to bottom a bucket, a tub or a churn.

There's another, a slater, a slater with straw

And one a botch carpenter, minus his saw,

But while carefully using the hammer and knife

He can nicely maintain for himself and his wife.

The Cooper was Tom Gilsenan who lived in Tullynaskeagh. Richard Barber’s aunt, Mary, was married to Tom’s brother, Johnny Flanagan, who lived near Edingora (Breakey) School. Members of the Gilsenan family continue to carry the “cooper” nickname. A cooper is a maker of wooden barrels. The slater with straw (thatcher) was Owenie Clarke of Blackhills, and the botch carpenter was his brother Jack Clarke, also of Blackhills

Verse 4

There’s one there that’s more cute than the rest

He can do all sorts of labour and he works to the test;

Of swift running hounds he's possessed of a pair

That can easily run down a rabbit or a hare.

He’s content when enough for today has been caught,

For tomorrow will never cost him a thought.

The cute (i.e. cunning) one was The Countryman, Jem (James) Farrelly, who lived in Blackhills on the old road from Ballynamona School to Tierworker. He was one of the best players of handball, and his team-mates from the town of Bailieborough nicknamed him The Countryman. He liked to hunt with his pair of greyhounds.


Verse 5

‘Twas the time th’influenza was sweeping the country

Taking a like to the poor and the gentry.

Jack Flanagan stole into town in October

He drank a few bottles, but still he was sober

He stuck in his pocket a bottle of rum

To be ready in case th’influenza might come

He strolled home again singing songs of green Eireann

And his shouts could be heard the far side of Cairn.


The Influenza, also known as The Hen or The Spanish Flu swept the land in 1919. Jack Flanagan lived in Blackhills in a house (now derelict) opposite The Countryman. The farm is still owned by a relative, Peter (Pee) Flanagan. The town that Jack stole into was probably Bailieborough, about 3 miles from “the scene”.


The Cairn is the highest point on the nearby Loughanleagh Mountain.

Verse 6

The night it grew dark and would you believe it

He passed his own turn and didn’t perceive it.

All the ditches he crossed he swore were passed counting.

Till he found himself climbing the side of the mountain.

When a light from a window attracted his eye

"What villain lives here?” our hero did cry.

He knocked and he shouted, to open the door;

When he got no response he kicked it in on the floor.


To the best of my knowledge, the cabin of Jemmy Mitchell was a short distance out the lane (i.e. south) from the homes of Ted McCabe and Owen McEntee. If this is right, then Jack did not have to climb very far up the mountain to reach Jemmy Mitchell’s. But poetic licence is OK.

Verse 7

And there was poor Mitchell sitting up in his bed

With a jar to his feet and a rag round his head

“Ara, how are you Jack? I'm glad you came in

For the past three weeks I've been down with the Hen.

And the devil a neighbour ever put in his head

To see if poor Mitchell was living or dead”.


Verse 8

Jack says to Jemmy: “You’re a horrible sight,

You would frighten a ghost in the dark of the night.

Didn 't you stay out all night card playing

When you should have been home in your old cabin praying?

And you lay in your bed till ten in the morn

When your cows were eating and tramping people’s corn.

Your stole Barney Weirns’ shirt and drawers too

And you sold them for nine pence to Brian the Blue.

Jemmy Mitchell probably didn’t have a reputation as a real go-getter!


Barney Gargan, nicknamed Barney Weirns, lived a short distance down another lane not far from Mitchell’s. I remember Barney Weirns. He had a scraggly white beard and longish curly hair, and a son named Mick.


Brian Donnelly and his brother Peter were the two sons of Biddy the Blue. The Blues were one of five families or related Donnellys who once lived in the townland of Greaghnadarragh.


Verse 9

It's the way nature built you, the fault’s not your own;

Jemmy, she gave you a heart like a stone.

The heart of a miser she placed in your breast;

Mitchell you couldn’t be much at your best.

You have a mind like a knitting needle narrow and long

It's taught you to do everything crooked and wrong.


Verse 10

Now, Jemmy, you’ll soon see Beelzebub here at your bed

With a map in his hand of the life that you led.

All your past deeds down your throat he 'II keep stuffing

Hell to your soul, t’was your cow was the roughin”

‘Twas said through the window ole Nick would go flying

Whenever Jack Flanagan called on the dying.


“your cow was the roughin” no doubt means that Mitchell’s cow was one of the roving kind with no respect for fences.


It is possible that “roughin” is the poet’s way of writing “ruffian”.



Verse 11

When Jack was going home, he bid him "good night";

From around the corner, what caught his sight

But a pair of long horns from behind an old chair;

Jack wasn’t long guessing the devil was there.

He took off his coat and threw it one side

And straight for the candlestick it happened to glide.

The candle and candlestick flew out of sight

And left the two lads in the dark of the night


Verse 12

At this point, poor Flanagan flew into a rage

"You have come here already your battle to wage

You can take Barney Weirns by the scruff of the neck

Or humpy Pat Andy to hell if you like

You can slip up to Rowntrees for Mussey or Pritchill

But damn it to hell if you 'II get Jimmy Mitchell”.

Jack roared at Jemmy to kindle the light

And he’d soon put an end to this one sided fight.

We have already been introduced to Barney Weirns. “humpy Pat Andy” was Pat Clarke who helped my father Jemmy Donnelly of Greaghnadarragh re-build the old Donnelly house (now owned by the Reilly family) when Jemmy returned from America in 1932. Pat lived down the lane from Donnelly’s on the way out to Tierworker.


Mussey or Pritchill were two deserters from the British army who lived and worked with John Rountree of Coppenagh for several years.

Verse 13

At this stage poor Mitchell got terribly perplexed

For he knew that his own turn would surely come next.

And as he was trying to crawl out of the tick

Jack drew out wild with a box and a kick.

And the last words he heard as he shot through the door

Was "take him to hell, but don't hit me no more "

At this time poor Mitchell vacated the bed

And the blanket and sheet he pulled round his head.


The “tick” is bag filled with straw or feathers serving as a mattress.

Verse 14

He sprang down the mountain, a perch with each bound

His speed was ne’er reached by the Countryman’s hound;

Till he came to the cottage of Owen McEntee

And there from the beginning he told his story.

Owen sat listening and spoke not a word

Sometimes he thought ‘twas a nightmare he had

And more times he was partly believing the lad.


A “perch” is a length of five-and-a-half yards, i.e. 5.03 metres.


Here is The Countryman again!


Owen McEntee would have been Jemmy Mitchell’s neighbour, a distance of about 300 metres north along the lane (if my recollection about where Mitchell lived is correct)

Verse 15

Owen said "sit down there until the cock crows

And then with you to your cabin we 'II go

When we see the appearance of things at your cot

We 'II soon ascertain if you raving or not”.

The two boys sat there until the cock crew.

And with sticks and a lantern started the two

When they reached Jemmy Mitchell’s they found such a sight

‘Twas enough to give them a terrible fright 


Verse 16

There were chairs without legs and legs without chairs

The clothes and the blankets were bundled in layers;

There was large pools of blood here and there on the floor

And the face of the wag-of-the-wall at the door;

The wheels and the weights were scattered over the ground

And a trace of the pendulum never was found.

There was large cakes of plaster which happened to fall

When Jack missed the devil and hammered the wall.


The “wag-of-the-wall” was style of clock mounted on one of the wall of the kitchen. It operated with a pendulum and weights.

Verse 17

As the sun it was rising o’er Agheragh 's height

To quench the last struggling resemblance of night,

Mitchell found a puck goat in the street in the morn

With blood on his hooves and Jack's shirt on his horn.


Agheragh is a townland at the top of the hills above and to the east of the lane where the houses of Mitchell, McEntee, and McCabes were located.






Author believed to be John Farnan, also known as The Bandmaster, and writer under the pen-name of Paul Posey – a regular contributor to the Anglo-Celt, the Meath Chronicle and Old Moore’s Almanac 


Commentary by Philip Donnelly


(with contributions by Teddy and Peter McCabe and Richard Barber)

Verse 1

It was on the Cavan Border, in the late Hibernian Hall

Where the natives of Moybologue held an unsuccessful Ball;

Yes, very unsuccessful, as usually they do,

Where honest men are hard to find and fools are quite a few.

The Hibernian Hall was actually a barn owned by the Gargan family (The Brocks – last 2 were Maureen and Andy). It was an old farmhouse close to Tierworker on the right hand side of the road to Moybologue – now owned by Francis Clarke, funeral undertaker, in Bailieborough.

Verse 2

I went up to the doorway of the late Hibernian Shrine

Where a jewish looking darkie did ungracefully recline;

I asked him what's the admission as I furnished up my fob,

The jew he shook his shoulders and says he it is two bob.

The doorkeeper was Packie Curran, and uncle of Kathleen Cooney, nee Curran. He used to deliver milk to the Creamery in Bailieborough with a horse and cart.


“two bob” is two shillings, also known as a florin.

Verse 3

I paid my darling florin, and I boldly entered in

Amongst those prancing lunatics where all was noise and din;

There was shouts from every corner, from the mouth of every lug

To the rattling and the scraping of a music killin jug.


A “lug” was an ignorant lout.

Verse 4

There were rowdy cheers and whistles from Moybologue's own dragoons,

You'd talk of ancient savages or distant camaroons;

And there were savages from Balloughly

Who trod on Mary Curran where her bunions used to be.

Balloughly is a townland about 2 miles east of Tierworker.


Mary Curran was a sister of Hugh, Jack, and Peter Curran who lived directly opposite to where the Moybologue Road meets the Tierworker Bailieboro Road.

Verse 5

Mary got so nasty in the moment of her pain,

She cried out with a vengeance that she'd never dance again.

And there upon a hoarding sat the big and gracious Hugh

Like the statute of St. Bernard that was made from gum and glue.


Verse 6

Hugh sat in admiration, at his sister he did stare

While she tripped among the beggars in her costly underwear.

Then there was Gallagher the scraper with the roisin and the thread

And his darling little cuckoo sang beautifully and read.



Tom Gallagher lived near the old cemetery of Moybologue. His little cuckoo was his fiddle.

Verse 7

There was present Jimmy Mitchell of the slander slinging tongue

Not leaving out Hugh Carolan who still goes free unhung.

There was John and Matthew Tully, the apostles of the way

And little Jimmy Conway with his daughters Kate and May.

This is the same Jemmy Mitchell from the previous poem – The Moat of Moybologue.

Hugh Carolan lived in Tierworker on the road from the Church towards Cormeen. Kevin Carolan, Jr., Hugh’s grandson, lives in the same area and is a son-in-law of Peter McCabe. The family is known as “The Rabbit Carolans”.

John and Matthew Tully were members of the Cuffe Tully family of Greaghnadarragh.

Jimmy Conway and his daughters lived in Carnans about half a mile from the Brock’s Barn (The Hibernian Hall)

Verse 8

And modest Matt Meleady with his back against the wall

Singing out the praises of the late Hibernian Hall.

There was Farnan the deceiver with the superfluous airs

The sort you’d see with Asses is all I can compare.


I knew Matt Meleady. His brother, Andy, was a regular visitor at our house on Sunday nights. They lived together as two old bachelors.

John Farnan, the author of this poem, lived near Edingora on the way to Kilmainhamwood. He had prominent ears and this may be why he mentions the “superfluous airs (ears)”. He trained many bands in the area, including the Finternagh Fife and Drum Band and the Kingscourt Brass and Reid Band.

Verse 9

The dancing and the prancing went on till half past three

When Molly Lynch the Tailor cooked another slop of tea,

There upon the stage of errors and beside the gracious Hugh

Where the savages ate supper for another bob or two.


Who is Molly Lynch?

Verse 10

Well I finished up the dancing and left a wiser man;

Sure the natives of Moybologue were a rough and tumble clan.