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"The Gaelic Movement: Seilg at Knockfierna - A Splendid Gathering" |

“The Gaelic Movement: Seilg at Knockfierna – A Splendid Gathering”

The Seilg (hunting) event held at Knockfierna on Sunday, organized by the branches of the Gaelic League in West Limerick, was an extraordinary and highly successful gathering. It stands as one of the most notable events of its kind ever held in Munster, demonstrating the immense popularity of such outings and the significant influence of the Gaelic movement in our county. Approximately four thousand people assembled on the summit of the Fairy Hill to enjoy songs, recitations, and speeches delivered in the Gaelic language.

Knockfierna, with its picturesque and captivating scenery, provided an ideal setting for this gathering of Gaels. Some interpret the name of the hill as “the hill of the lawgiver,” possibly drawing from the fact that the Druids once held court on its crest. Whether attributed to Queen Maev or the Druids, the hill’s fame highlights their appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds it. Stretching in all directions are the stunning plains of Ireland, with the Galtees marking the southern border of Tipperary, and the Shannon River meandering through the landscape, adorned by the sylvan splendour of Adare in its summer glory. Further, in the distance, the villages of Rathkeale, Ballingarry, Askeaton, and Croow can be seen, nestled amidst fields and woodlands, with the majestic backdrop of the Kerry mountains.

The weather on Sunday was ideal, with the countryside basking in the radiant June sun. The occasional cloud shadows heightened the visual impact, showcasing the ever-changing glimpses of Irish scenery. The climb up the heath-covered turf to reach the summit of Knockfierna, although challenging, added to the overall enjoyment of the day, offering a health-giving adventure and amplifying the pleasure envisioned by the event’s organizers.

The mythical beings of Knockfierna, including Queen Maev and her fairy band, must have been somewhat rudely awakened by the influx of holidaymakers. However, if Irish folklore holds true, these legendary beings would have found solace in knowing that their territory was being visited by the descendants of those who lived in the “good old times” when the “good people” reigned supreme. The old Irish songs sung in the traditional language, the speeches and recitations delivered in Irish, and the dances that hearken back to the Gaelic merrymakings of the past would have been pleasant reminders of bygone centuries.

The scene atop the hill on Sunday was truly inspiring. The people gathered there displayed self-assurance, determination, and a cheerful spirit. It was evident that the “new soul breathed in Eire” had made itself manifest in both young and old attendees, and the prevailing sentiment was that the time had come to make every effort to preserve what is true and cherished in our national identity.

The gathering did not follow a strict program; rather, it was a meeting of the people of West Limerick, united in fellowship and a shared commitment to the best and noblest aspects of patriotic endeavour. Reverend Father Murphy of Rathkeale played a prominent role in orchestrating the day’s proceedings, supported by Reverend Father Culbane, Mr McColluw, the Gaelic League organizer, Mr T. B. Naughtoo, Mr Hassett, and members of various Gaelic classes in West Limerick.

The Rathkeale Brass Band, led by the genial Tom O’Brien and with its patriotic founder, Mr William Hayes, present, delighted the crowd with a selection of Irish airs. Jigs, reels, and hornpipe exhibitions were plentiful. Irish songs and choruses were beautifully performed, and the audience responded with enthusiasm whenever prompted.

The festivities continued until 6 o’clock when the descent from the hill began, and the attendees returned to their homes, expressing the hope that another Seilg would be organized before the end of the summer.

Representatives from Gaelic League branches across the region were present, including Rathkeale, Ballingarry, Newcastle West, Askeaton, Adare, Pallaskenry, Ardagh, Feenagh, Bauogue, Foynes, and Ballysteen. Songs were contributed by the Rathkeale, Newcastle West, and other branches, and there were excellent exhibitions of Irish step dancing by Professor Wren of Rathkeale and Mr John Barron of Askeaton. Notable clergy members in attendance included Reverend Father Foley of Knoockaderry, Reverend J. Murphy of Rathkeale, Reverend Father Culbane of Ballingarry, and Reverend Father Ryan of Feevagh.

During the event, Reverend Jeremiah Murphy of Rathkeale delivered a heartfelt speech, declaring that the hill of Knockfierna provided a magnificent platform from which to proclaim the principles of Irish-Irelanders. He praised the glorious gathering of Gaelic forces from Limerick, emphasizing their pride in the language of their forefathers and their dedication to preserving cherished traditions intertwined with religious fidelity, purity, and genuine patriotism. Father Murphy expressed his belief that their ancestors would rejoice and commend the efforts being made to safeguard the precious treasure of the Irish language, which has withstood the storms of war and persecution for centuries. He encouraged the attendees to embrace the Gaelic League’s mission and awaken the Irish spirit, standing united in the quest to make Ireland Irish once more.

Mr McCollum, the Gaelic League organizer, also addressed the gathering in Irish. He commended the remarkable turnout of men and women from the county, highlighting their collective presence as a testament to the ongoing fight for freedom that the Irish people have waged for the past seven centuries. He urged them to establish Gaelic League branches in every parish and support only Irish-made products.

The program continued with performances, aided by a platform constructed near the Druidic cairn. The Rathkeale Gaelic League Class, consisting of 50 members, delivered two beautiful Irish choruses. Mr Kennedy performed an excellent rendition of “Ned of the Hills,” followed by Mr O’Shea singing “The Shan Van Vocht,” along with other songs in Irish. Mr Wren of Rathkeale danced the hornpipe with splendid style and executed the intricate steps of “The Blackbird” in response to the audience’s applause. Mr Buckley of Dromcollogher delivered an Irish recitation with great credit. Mr McEnery of Rathkeale showcased his skill in a hornpipe, and the Newcastle West Gaelic League Class sang “The Wearing of the Green.” Miss Aherne, a member of the class, followed with “Shule Agra.” Mr G. O’Dea of Rathkeale gave an impressive display of step dancing, and the Rathkeale Class sang “Let Erin Remember” with much taste. The Ballingarry Class contributed a chorus, and several volunteers performed additional songs.

Overall, the Seilg at Knockfierna was a remarkable gathering that demonstrated the vitality of the Gaelic movement and its stronghold in West Limerick. It fostered a sense of unity, pride, and dedication to preserving the Irish language and cultural heritage. The event concluded with the hope that similar gatherings would be organized in the future, further strengthening the Gaelic League’s influence and promoting the essence of Irish identity.

Limerick Echo – Tuesday 21 June 1904

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