St. James' Well - Sligo Poets

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Sligo Champion 24 May 1913
            St. James’ Well.

(Respectfully addressed to Mr. M. Gildea,
N.T., St. James’ Well, and all my old
Schoolmates and Friends around St.
James’ Well.)

Now far away from the old land
    An exile here I roam,
Across the waters wild and wide,
    Far from my native home.
The dear old scenes of long ago
    I do remember well,
My youthful plays and schoolboy days
    Around St. James’ Well.

I long to ramble there once more
    And meet with comrades true,
And view again those happy scenes
    Where days of childhood flew.
O! for one sight of the old school,
    No tongue nor pen can tell
How I revere that schoolhouse fair
    At sweet St. James’ Well.

And you, good master, kind and true,
    I hope you’re teaching still
In that dear school, so fair to see,
    Down by yon rippling rill.
’Twas there in happy days gone by,
    You taught me first to spell,
Long e’re I thought I’d have to roam
    From sweet St. James’ Well.

To that sweet well in former days,
    I heard the old folk say,
Good people came from far and near
    Upon St. James’ Day,
From England, Scotland, and Wales,
    And far-off lands as well,
In thousands there they daily roamed
    Around St. James’ Well.

I long to see old schoolmates dear
    With whom I used to stray
And wander wild, when but a child,
    Round many a bank and brae.
I long to see my mountain home,
    Wherein I once did dwell–
It nestles by old "Corn Hill,"
    Quite near St. James’ Well.

So I’ll conclude and finish now
    This plain and simple lay,
Just scribbled by an Irish boy
    Nine hundred miles away.
Adieu, farewell, kind master dear,
    Old schoolmates fare thee well,
My kind regards I send to all
    Around St. James’ Well.

               MICHAEL J. KEARNS.
Abercromby Street, Glasgow.
(Late Geevagh, Co. Sligo.)

Michael J. Kearns (1886-1967)

Michael J Kearns was a well-known poet who had been educated at St. James' Well National School (N.S.), Geevagh, Co. Sligo. He emigrated to Glasgow in 1906 and returned to Ireland in 1914 and remained until 1920 when he returned to Glasgow. See his poem, Geevagh Road, in the Sligo Champion 1912.

This poem is another emigrant's lament recalling the days of youth in the native place. Like the poem published in the 1912 newspaper it lacks specific details apart from the schoolteacher's name.

The National Teacher (N.T.) to whom the poem is addressed is Michael Gildea who lived at
Ummeryroe, Shancough, Co. Sligo. In the 1911 census he is recorded, married to Maria, with five of the seven children born to them still living. They were married eleven years. Maria's mother, Mary Conlin, lived with them.

In 1901 the couple were also living with Maria, had no children, and Mary Conlin was given as 'Head of the Household'.

St James' Well N.S. was opened in 1893 and closed in 1977. Michael Gildea became principal in 1893 and retired in 1936. His son Padraig succeeded him as principal. Padraig retired in 1977 and the school was then amalgamated with Geevagh N.S.

Information and photograph of the derelict school (below) from National Schools of County Sligo 1831-1999 (INTO Sligo, 1999).

St. James' well is a holy well which has given its name to the area. Pilgrimages were held to the well in the period from the feast day of St. James on 25 July to 15 August.

"Corn Hill" is more usually spelled Carran Hill.

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