IMA Source Catalog

Gathering all the sources for historical Irish martial culture in one place.

New York Times November 10, 1895 p. 30

IRISH FACTION FIGHTS – From the Westminster Review. The Origin of these senseless, brutal, and cruel conflicts is more or less shrouded in obscurity. It is abundantly clear that neither politics nor religion had anything to say in the matter. They probably originated in ‘hurling matches,’ a species of hockey, once a favored amusement among the youth of Munster on Sundays and holidays after “last mass.” These matches were generally played between neighboring parishes or counties, in some large convenient field or on a bit of “commonage.” The matches naturally caused a good deal of rivalry and jealously; disputes, of course, were inevitable, and it was only natural than a hot-blooded Tipperary gorsoon, finding himself getting the worst of an argument with a Limerick logician, should have recourse to the unanswerable and readier argument of the stick. The “hurley,” “common” or crooked stick used in the game was especially adapted for this species of argument; and judiciously applied, as a rule, immediately silenced an opponent. A ponderous “shillelagh” waved aloft, a piercing “whoop,” a dull thud, and a groan were the signals for a general scrimmage. In a twinkling, the whole filed was a seething, yelling mass of ferocious, wild-eyed, skull-cracking demons.

Such contests took tremendously and grew rapidly in popularity. By degrees a petty quarrel become a matter of well neigh national importance, and whole parishes and baronies took it up and vindicated their champion’s honor whenever opportunity permitted and then fates were propitious. Every male, and, indeed, may old ones, too, were members of some faction or another and thus year after year and generation after generation, the feud grew and throve, and not a man knew what on earth he was fighting for. The leading factions in County Limerick were the “Three-Year-Olds,” and the “Four-Year-Olds,” so called because of a petty dispute as to the age of a bull in the remote past. In County Waterford the factions were called the “Shawnavests” and the “Corrawats,” while in Tipperary the “Magpies” and the “Blackhens” were the most notorious. Although, of course, the women were non-combatants, never the less they belonged to one faction or another, and, did an opportunity present itself for wreaking vengeance, neither sex nor age afforded the least protection. Chivalry, sad to relate, was conspicuous by its absence.

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January 28, 2009 - Posted by | Faction fight descriptions, Old Newspaper clippings | , , , , , , ,

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