MJ Kearns - Sligo Poets

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1915 > Sligo Poetry 1915 > Sligo Champion

Michael J. Kearns, the "Bard of Geevagh" had been living in Glasgow but returned to Ireland at the outbreak of war in 1914. He worked for some time in a Boyle hotel before returning to Glasgow in 1920.

These poems are in his usual style, and show his command of rhythm and rhyme but also his lack of originality and his habitual use of well-worn cliches of Irish rural verse. There is also a touch of subservience with a poem in praise of John O'Dowd and his poetic efforts, one thanking J.F. Cunningham for mentioning him in his London Notes column in the Sligo Champion and one in praise of that newspaper itself. The John O'Dowd poem was written in reponse to a poem by that MP in the previous week's Sligo Champion which shows Kearns' speed of composition.

It seems a great pity that his Geevagh Ball poem doesn't have any personal names included or indeed any local colour apart from the list of places from which patrons attended.

The Sligo Champion showed the poet little respect, getting his surname and his christian names wrong and misspelling Boyle as well.

The details of the incident commemorated in The Old Green Flag, with some stanzas from the poem were included in October 1915 in the Sligo Nationalist. in a news report Man Who Raised the 'Old Green Flag'

Sligo Champion 20 March 1915
          St Patrick’s Day.

(Written by a Sligo exile in America on receiving shamrocks from his sister to wear on St. Patrick’s Day. He is delighted to receive the emblem of his native land and proud to hear of the change in Erin and the passing of the Home Rule Bill.)

Dear exiles from the Emerald Isle,
Cheer up brave boys, look gay,
For this is Ireland’s day of days,
Loved, sweet St. Patrick’s Day;
Come, rally round from every side,
Come, every exile true,
Rejoice with me, that land is free
Where first the shamrock grew.

My native land to-day is free,
’Twas freed by Redmond true,
With Scanlan and John Dillon brave,
Old Ireland’s chosen few.
God bless the leaders of our race
For this great hope begun,
God bless the gallant peasant class
For this great victory won.

A hundred years and more had passed
And still the fight went on.
Brave martyrs nobly shed their blood
To hasten on the dawn.
The night is o’er, the day has dawned,
Old Ireland now is free,
So will she prosper and be great,
As God meant she should be.

My home is in old Ireland,
The land St. Patrick blessed,
The home of saints and martyrs,
The green isle of the West;
God bless the friends in that fair land,
Three thousand miles away,
Each year they send a shamrock green
For dear St. Patrick’s Day.

I’ll proudly wear upon my breast
The emblem of my land,
Old Ireland’s shamrock, fresh and green,
Plucked by a sister’s hand,
Plucked from a sweet and shady grove
Where often I did stray
With comrades of the olden times
Upon each Patrick’s Day.

But when the springtime comes again
Once more I hope to see
The country of my dearest love,
The friends who set her free,
Brave Redmond, Scanlan, Dillon, too,
I fondly hope and pray
I’ll meet with ye in Ireland free
On next St. Patrick’s Day.

(Late of Geevagh, Co. Sligo.)

Sligo Champion 8 May 1915
      The Geevagh Ball.

Congratulations, Geevagh boys,
  United, true and brave,
We thank you most sincerely for
  The social grand you gave,
’Twas certainly a record,
  It could not be surpassed
In any place in Ireland
  From Sligo to Belfast.

The hall was simply crowded,
  ’Twas packed right to the door,
And out upon the street and road
  Were twice as many more;
The gathering was magnificent
  It long surpasses all
The famous social gatherings
  That were held in Geevagh Hall.

The dancing was delightful,
  The music was sublime,
The catering was perfect
  And served in right good time.
Thanks to the genial committee,
  We thank you one and all
For your courtesy and kindness
  At the famous Geevagh ball.

They came from Glen and Arigna,
  From Highwood and Lough Bo,
From Riverstown and Sooey,
  Ballyrush and Corrigeenroe.
They were there from Knockalassa,
  From Keadue and Coothall,
At the famous social gathering
  That was held in Geevagh Hall.

They came from Castlebaldwin,
  And from Ballyfarnon, too,
Sweet Conway’s cRoss and Geevagh,
  And from Boyle there came a few.
We enjoyed it to perfection,
  For it was a splendid ball,
We’re just longing for another
  To be held in Geevagh Hall.
          MARTIN J. KEARNS

Sligo Champion 16 October 1915
The "Sligo Champion" at the Front.

In the trenches here in Flanders,
  Where the shot and shrapnel blaze,
’Mid the din of strife and battle,
  And the weary nights and days,
We keep vigil for the postman,
  And we greet him with a shout
As he takes the SLIGO CHAMPION
  To our lowly new dug-out.

When the big guns cease to rattle,
  And we get a moment’s rest,
We sit down to read the CHAMPION,
  ’Tis the paper we like best,
For it tells of hope undying
  In the old land far away,
It portrays the old flag flying
  And the dawn of freedom’s day.

When I read of homes and places
  And the boys I used to know
In the old town by the seaside,
  Sure my tears begin to flow.
For I never more shall meet them,
  Merry-hearted, bright and gay,
In the Sligo of my childhood,
  Dear old Sligo far away.

Some are sleeping here in Flanders,
  Sligo’s loyal men and true,
Yes, they gave their life-blood freely
  For their king and country too.
Well they fought for Belgium freedom,
  And for freedom’s cause they fell,
’Twas old Ireland’s Connaught Rangers
  That first met the shrapnel shell.
                              M. J. KEARNS.

Sligo Champion 17 April 1915
   To Mr. John O’Dowd, M.P.

(Respectfully addressed to Mr. John O’Dowd, M.P., the bard of South Sligo, in recognition of his poem to Mike O’Leary, which appeared in last week’s issue of the SLIGO CHAMPION.)

Sing on, sweet Irish bard, sing on,
Long may you wield your pen
To write in verse the daring deeds
Of valiant Irishmen.
Your lines to Mike O’Leary
I hold in high regard,
To-day you’re loved by old and young,
South Sligo’s brilliant bard.

O, would I were an Irish bard,
With talents rare endowed,
Both night and day I’d sing in praise
Of brilliant John O’Dowd.
His name it is a household word
From Geevagh to Granard
He is revered by old and young,
South Sligo’s brilliant bard.

At Mass and meeting, fair and dance,
No matter where you go,
You’re sure to hear his honoured name,
The bard of South Sligo.
In Parliament and out of it
He labours true and hard,
He is revered by old and young,
South Sligo’s brilliant bard.

Sing on, sing on, brave, gallant John,
You’ve won renown and fame,
To-day with Ireland’s noble bards
We’ll place you’re honoured name.
Long may you live, sweet bardic son,
Of you we’re really proud,
You are revered by old and young,
Our own brave John O’Dowd.
         MICHAEL J. KEARINS, Boyle.

(Late of Geevagh, Co. Sligo.)

Sligo Champion 10 July 1915
       The Old Green Flag

In pleasing song I love to hear
  Of brave undaunted men
Who fought for Faith and Freedom too
  O’er hillside, vale, and glen;
In ages past our Irish boys
  (Of every land the pride)
Gave up their lives for Freedom’s cause,
  For Faith and Freedom died.

Old Erin’s sons are fighting now
  On Belgium’s gory plain,
Where heroes died there side by side
  Their Freedom to retain:
The first to meet the daring foe
  Were Irish Guardsmen true,
Their blood soon died the verdant fields
  Of France and Belgium too.

They fought at Mons and Marne
  Old Belgium to set free,
’Twas there O’Leary beat the Huns
  And won the great V.C.
Another of the fighting race,
  A hero of renown,
Was gallant brave young Cunningham
  From dear old Sligo town.

’Twas he who raised "the Old Green Flag"
  That stopped the prowling Hun,
When English troops were falling fast
  ’Twas Erin’s flag that won,
I’m proud he is a Sligo man,
  A youth of tender age,
His name and fame and glory too
  Will shine in history’s page.

And when he is returning
  To his home of long ago
The genial Mayor of Sligo town
  Will honour him I know.
Yes, Mayor Jinks is always ready,
  In civic chain and gown,
To welcome men like Cunningham
  To dear old Sligo town.
                        M. J. KEARNS.

Sligo Champion 27 November 1915
Lines Respectfully Addressed to Mr. J. F. Cunningham,

Kind-hearted Mr Cunningham,
  You’ll pardon me I know
For those few lines addressed to you
  From native sweet Sligo.
’Tis now some fourteen years and more,
  If I remember well,
Since first I wrote my maiden lay
  At sweet St. James’ Well.

I thank you for the compliments
  You sent across the sea;
While life remains I shall revere
  Those lines addressed to me.
I did enjoy your paper, too,
  It filled my heart with pride,
It’s every line told plainly how
  The exiled Irish died.

You ask me for some verses, too,
  Indeed I can’t refuse,
So in the SLIGO CHAMPION soon
  I’ll write of far-famed Loos.
Oh would I were an Irish bard
  And know where to begin,
Some stirring lays I’d sing in praise
  Of London Irishmen.

Our country’s cause is safe indeed,
  No wonder we feel proud
When we have men like Cunningham,
  Brave Scanlan, and O’Dowd.
And in the fight for Erin’s right
  They made a noble stand,
With voice and pen they helped to win
  The freedom of our land.

So fare-thee-well, my learned friend,
  A genial fond adieu,
Some day in dear old Sligo town
  I hope to meet with you;
When we shall visit sweet Lough Gill,
  And surely, without fail,
A day or two I’ll spend with you
  In Geevagh’s lovely vale.
                          M. J. KEARNS.

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