The Races

Once again Sigerson paints a most vivid pen-picture of one of Cahersiveen's famous sporting occasions. The meeting is one of the oldest in Ireland and was first held in 1852 on land in Reenrusheen bequeathed to the people of the town by the Liberator, Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847). They have taken place every year since and are now a two-day event in August.
Sigerson's own notes on this reads - Steve 'Crusher' Casey: a wrestler from Sneem, Co. Kerry who became a world champion. Dilisc: edible seaweed; Crubeen: a pig's trotter; Peg's Leg: brown-coloured sugar-sticks; Fertha: a river in South Kerry; Medium: a measure varying from a half-pint to a pint but nearer to a pint.

'Twas a day in September 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,
Oh 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 on 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 kinds of fellows
Sold dilisc and shellfish and the juicy crubeen
And penny Peg's legs oh the size of a peeler
On the day of the races in Cahersiveen.

Oh the jockeys they sat on their horses like statues
Their fame shall remain while the Fertha shall flow
And 'tis my hero Padgen that 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.

Now 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 and dashed through the rushes
Their jockeys arrayed in blue, scarlet and green:
'Twas the world's eighth wonder to hear the hooves thunder
On the day of the races in Cahersiveen.

And that night men did gather hearts light like a feather
Round a medium 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 ye graze in high heaven and have comfort forever
Ye're the pride of the races in Cahersiveen."

But my father he's gone now God's peace to his ashes
The boys are young men and the old men are dead
There's many a mile between me and the racecourse
But the hooves of the horses beat loud in my head.
Oh I give you my oath and I'd swap 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.






Carhan River