The Cahersiveen Races

WORDS: Sigerson Clifford (1913-1985)
MUSIC: Trad. Arr. Clifford/Dennehy.
MANDOCELLO: Garry O'Briain

Sigerson Clifford was born in Cork of Kerry parents in l913 and the family moved to Cahersiveen when he was two years old. The beauty of the place, its sportsmen and characters are dominant features of his work. Here, once again, he paints a most vivid pen-picture of one of its famous sporting occasions which still takes place every year but its date has been changed to the month of August. Now try singing the first line!
Steve 'Crusher' Casey came from Sneem, Co. Kerry and became a world champion at wrestling. Clifford's 'Ballads of a Bogman', was first published in 1955 and is now available from Mercier Press Limited.

'Twas a day in September that I'll always remember,
I went with my father to Carhan's old school
And there on the racecourse were gathered in great force
Rich man and poor man, wild boy and tame fool.
There were tinkers from Galway as brown as a ha'penny,
A beggar with whiskers the longest I've seen,
The three-card trick Johnny and the four-shots-a-penny
On the day of the races in Cahersiveen.

'Twas a rich Tower of Babel beside the school gable
Where the bookies were shouting and laying the odds,
'Twould take Atlas so hairy or our own Crusher Casey
To push through the crowds packed like peas in their pods.
There were tents like umbrellas where all sorts of fellows
Sold dilisc and shellfish and the juicy crubeen,
And penny Peg's legs the size of a peeler
On the day of the races in Cahersiveen.

The jockeys they sat on their horses like statues,
Their fame shall remain while the Fertha still flows:
'Tis my hero, Padgen, I'd pin a bright badge on,
With the two gallant Griffins, Jimmie and John Joe.
Denis Donovan, too, from high Barr na Sráide,
And Courtney, Saint Brendan's, were sporting and keen,
While Jack Rock's spurs a-jingle would make your blood tingle
On the day of the races in Cahersiveen.

The horses, God bless them, in my dreams I caress them,
The wild-things of beauty stole the heart from my side,
As I watched them fly over the grass and red clover
And sweep like the wind east by Reenrusheen tide.
They skimmed the hawbushes, they dashed through the rushes,
Their jockeys arrayed in blue, scarlet, and green:
'Twas the world's eighth wonder to hear their hooves thunder
On the day of the races in Cahersiveen.

O that night men did gather, hearts light like a feather.
Round a meegum in Bawner's or a pint at the Plow,
They toasted the horses that won out their courses
And shouted their praises while time did allow.
'Here's a health to you, Terry, and O'Neill's Pride of Kerry,
Likewise Lass from Sussa, the westland's swift queen:
May they graze in high heaven and have comfort for ever,
They're the pride of the races in Cahersiveen.'

My father is gone now, God's peace to his ashes,
The boys are young men and the old men are dead,
There is many a mile between me and the racecourse,
But the hooves of the horses beat loud in my head.
I give you my oath now I'd swop the wide world
To call back the bright days when proud I had been
A lad with his dad on the white road to Carhan,
And the splendid horse-races in Cahersiveen