Tag Archives: Vince Hearns

How the First Cat Was Created

If he did not sit on the hob, the seanachai always got a chair nearest the fire, that’s if the cat was not in the way. In my father’s time visitors who came calling to our house, always greeted those present with the blessing (Go sabhalaigh Dia gach a bhfuil in láthair ach an Cat’) ‘God save all here except the cat’, for ’twas well known that the divil was often in the cat, and if you listen to me carefully I tell you how it was that the first cat was created. And no divil at all in it.

One day Mary and her Son were travelling the road, and they were heavy and tired, and it chanced that they went past the door of a house in which there was a lock of wheat being winnowed. The Blessed Virgin went in, and she asked an alms of wheat, and the woman of the house refused her.”Go in again to her” said the Son, ” and ask her for it in the name of God”She went, and the women refused her again.”Go into her again” said He, ” and ask her to give you leave to put your hand into the pail of water, and to thrust it down into the heap of wheat, and to take away with you all that shall cling to your hand.”She went, and the woman gave her leave to do that.

When she came out to our Saviour, He said to her, “Do not let one grain of that go astray, for it is worth much and much.” When they had gone a bit from the house they looked back, and saw a flockof demons coming towards the house, and the Virgin Mary was frightened lestthey might do harm to the woman. “Let there be no anxiety on you” said Jesus to her; “since it has chanced that she has given you all that of alms, they shall get no victory over her”

They travelled on, then, until they reached as far as a place where a man named Martin had a mill. “Go in” said our Saviour to his mother, ” since it has chanced that the mill is working, and ask them to grind that little grain-een for you”She went. ” O musha, it’s not worth-while for me” said the boy who was attending the querns, “to put that little lock-een a-grinding for you.” Martin heard them talking and said to the lout “Oh, then do it for the creature, perhaps she wants it badly” said he. He did it, and he gave her all the flour that came from it.

They travelled on then, and they were not gone any distance until the mill was full of flour as white as the snow. When Martin perceived this great miracle he understood well that it was the son of God and His Mother who chanced that way. He ran out and followed them, at his best, and there was that much haste on him going through a scunce (a thick-set double ditch) of hawthorns that a spike of the hawthorn met his breast and wounded him greatly.

There was that much zeal in him that he did not feel the pain, but clapt his hand over it, and never stopped until he came up with them. When our Saviour beheld the wound upon poor Martin He laid His hand upon it, and it was closed, and healed upon the spot. He said to Martin then that he was a fitting man in the presence of God, “and go home now,” said He, ” and place a fistful of the flour under a dish, and do not stir it until morning”When Martin went home he did that, and he put the dish, mouth under, and the fistful of flour beneath it.

The servant girl was watching him, and thought that maybe it would be a good thing if she were to set a dish for herself in the same way, and signs on her, she set it.On the morning of the next day Martin lifted his dish, and what should run out from under it but a fine sow and a big litter of bonhams with her. The girl lifted her own dish, and there ran a big mouse and a clutch of mousheens with her. They ran here and there, and Martin at once thought that they were not good, and he plucked a big mitten off his hand and flung it at the young mice, but as soon as it touched the ground it changed into a cat and the cat began to kill all the young mice.

That was the beginning of cats. Martin was a saint from that time forward, but it was not known which of the saints he was of all the saints who were called Martin.And that happened.

Henry Joy McCracken (Version I)

Foreword by Vince Hearns:

I got this song from my Belfast friend Davy when we lived in a hostel in Co. Clare in the 1960’s. Henry Joy McCracken was born a Presbyterian in Belfast in 1767. By occupation he managed a cotton mill. He was a founder member of The Belfast City Branch of The United Irishmen and he later was to become a member of the Ulster Directory. He founded the first Sunday school in his native city and was well known for preaching political and religious liberty. In 1795, in the company of Wolfe Tone, Robert Simms, Samuel Nelson and Thomas Russell at the site of MacArt’s Fort on Cave Hill, outside Belfast they swore the oath “Never to desist in our efforts until we have subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted our independence”. Following a year of imprisonment in Dublin’s Kilmainham Jail, Henry Joy planned and led the 1798 rebellion in Co. Antrim. Following the defeat of his army at Antrim Town he retreated to the Slemish mountains and was planning to escape to the USA when he was captured. He was court-martialled and sentenced to death, the sentence was carried out at the Belfast Market House on June 17th 1798. His sister Mary Ann accompanied him from the prison cell to the gallows.

Henry Joy McCracken (Version I)

An Ulster man I’m proud to be from Antrim’s glens I come,
And though I’ve laboured by the sea I have followed fife and drum.
I have heard the martial tramp of men, I’ve seen them fight and die,
Ah lads I well remember when I followed Henry Joy.

I dragged my boat unto the land and I hid my sails away,
I hung my nets upon a tree and I scanned the moonlit bay.
The boys were out, the Redcoats too, I kissed my wife goodbye,
And in the shade of a green wood glade I followed Henry Joy.

Oh lads ’twas Ireland’s cause we fought for side and home we bled.
Though our hearts were true, our numbers were few and five to one lay dead.
There was many a lassie mourned her lad, and mother mourned her boy,
For youth was strong in that battle throng that followed Henry Joy.

In Antrim Town the tyrant stood, he tore our ranks with ball,
But with a cheer and a pike to clear, we swept them o’er the wall
Our pikes and sabres flashed that day, we won, but lost. Oh why?
No matter lads, I fought beside and shielded Henry Joy.

In Belfast town they have built a tree and the Redcoats muster there.
I saw him come as the beat of a drum, rang out on the barrack square.
He kissed his sister and went aloft he bid his last goodbye,
My God he died, and I turned and I cried. they have murdered Henry Joy.

Written by Henry Joy McCracken.