The Shining One/A Schoolhouse in Ros Muc
Lyrics: John Tunney
Air: The Rocks of Bawn

This song is in part the result of my collaboration with two academic colleagues in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Shirley Wrynne and Mark McCarthy.  Their research into the 1916 Rebellion in Co. Galway and into the events that preceded it led me to the figure of Colm Ó Gaora from Ros Muc, a man who had been sworn into the Volunteers by Patrick Pearse.  Ó Gaora was himself a writer and his work has been used by Tim Robinson in the latter’s beautiful books on Conamara.  I was drawn to idea of writing a song reflecting in some way on the events of the revolutionary era but very much in the voice of someone who witnessed them first hand.  In fact I have used ideas and, in a couple of cases, the very words of Ó Gaora to convey scenes and attitudes.  One of his key concerns was the extent to which British imperialism and monarchism had captured the Irish imagination in the decades before the rebellion.  The response to the royal visit to Conamara in 1903 and the on-going propagandising of the local population, particularly the young, by Lord Dudley the Viceroy were to Ó Gaora and his family a challenge to the very sense of who they were.  The decision to stage a Fleadh in the schoolhouse at An Turlach Beag – a night of Gaelic poetry, music, song, and even the showing of a film, was Pearse’s answer, an event calculated to act as a decolonising of the minds of the local people. In retrospect, Ó Gaora saw this blow struck for culture, for the legitimising of Irish identity and the validity of Irish civilisation, was every bit as important as what Pearse achieved with guns and bombs in Easter Week.

Come all you loyal heroes, whether woman, child or man.
’Till I sing of gallant Pearse, my friends, as plain as ’ere I can.
In the GPO he struck a blow when he fought in Easter Week,
But the blow he struck close to Ros Muc is the one of which I speak.

Oh my name is Colm Ó Gaora, Conamara to the bone.
My father was a fearless man who loved his native home.
But as neighbours fell ’neath a foreign spell and embraced the tyrant’s yoke
His soul it burned as within he churned, and his spirit nearly broke.

To the heart of Conamara in the year ninteen-o-three
Sailing into Killary Harbour came the pride of monarchy.
King Edward and Alexandria, with Lord Dudley the Viceroy
And a slew of plain clothes policemen clicking heels with childish joy.

Bonfires on every hummock, Union jacks on every hill
The spirit of the nation dead, replaced by a slavish thrill.
The crowd unhitched the horses, pulled the carriage on by hand.
They moved the king with their display and disgraced their native land.

Seoiníní ’is lucht galldachais le gliondar ina gcroí
Ag tarraingt in áit na gcapall trean caráiste mór an rí.
Ag cairéal mharmair Chonamara do chrom na Gaeil a gcinn
’S ní fhaca siad ach spága an rí agus gúna na banríon’.

That very year, to me ’tis dear, the shining one he came
In time he’d build a cottage and we learned to love is name.
Pearse gave us back our pride and joy in the things that were our own
From Ros a’ Mhíl to Tír and Fhia, and from Scríb to Cloch na Rón.

At Inver Lodge Lord Dudley staged events focussed on the young.
He championed all things British and he had their praises sung.
They clearly were superior and that should be our view;
The voices whispered in our ears, our ways they wouldn’t do.

Now to answer these colonials a fleadh Pearse organised
Irish poetry, song and music, all our culture eulogised.
At the little school at Turlough Beg, in one night of uproarious fun
He burst Lord Dudley’s bubble, set our imperialists on the run. 

Then at Rossa’s grave with pride we stood, bold Ros Muc volunteers.
Each man recruited by brave Pearse as our hearts within us cheered:
“Not merely free but Gaelic too, Gaelic and also free!”
A dream to spur a people on to strike for liberty.

Sure the bourgeois moralisers and the cynics stand in line.
Still fumbling in their greasy tills, so sure this is their time.
From feathered beds they shake their heads at idealists and their kind,
But wisdom too is yet proved true by less calculating minds.

Now when you think of all those heroes who fought for our liberty 
The women and the men so brave and their struggles to be free,
Oh recall that fleadh at Turlogh Beg and the blow for culture struck.
When Pearse scattered those colonials from that schoolhouse in Ros Muc.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.

John Tunney

The Shining One/A Schoolhouse in Ros Muc

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