Christopher P. Barrett, known to one and all as Christy, was born in February 1911 and died there in May I986. During his 75 years, in his beloved Athenry he led a full active life and his very active involvement in all aspects of life there conveyed his love of family, community, religion and Ireland.
He was proud to be a traditionalist and consequently his love of traditional values can be seen in his poetry, particularly in the following lines which have no title but are self explanatory.
I seek not power or glory
I seek not wealth or fame
Thankful I am, to be what I am
For I honour and love His name
Power and Glory must surely fade
But that which I seek is for aye.
All I ask, that my lips may fashion His name
At the time decreed that I die.
Some of his work was published in the Tuam Herald, Our Boys and other magazines. One in particular “Ireland 1942” was published in “The Torch” in 1942 after some poor people were killed for grovelling in a dump. He was particularly proud of this poem as it signified his love of justice and he worked hard to maintain this.
In this issue of The Athenry Journal we are very proud to print a small selection of his many poems.
I saw an Irish mother with her children numbered six
A straggling to the dump heap to gather scraps and sticks
Her face was pale and wan, her eyes were sunk and blue
And on each little pinched face was hungers ghastly hue.
I followed slowly in their wake my heart said ‘Go and See’
This model of our Motherhood, our Christianity.
I saw then grovel in the dirt like stricken beasts of prey
And fill their baskets with the scraps the “Bigshots” threw away
“Go and See” in model Ireland what the worker’s lot must be
No wonder that her sons must go to lands beyond the sea.
The favoured few can sit and smile a wallowing in wealth
And crush the soul of Ireland, destroy her soul and health.
Our sons that now ‘fore all the world seen as a tainted race
Dear God but though alone can wipe the tears f rom Erin’s face
To watch these little off springs ill clad and scarce half fed
Brings back in vision bygone days we Irish hoped were dead.
I could but stare and wonder as they homeward made their way
And pray to God they soon would see the “Dawning of the day”
When our sons who toil and strive all day to keep our nation’s name
May in pride, side by side, not slink around in shame.
C. P. Barrett.
A love, new-born, has just come into my life
To help bear my joys, the care and strife
Decreed by God that we be man and wife
Decreed by God that friends thro’ life we be
So hence in prayer l raise my voice to thee,
To guide our faltering footsteps o’er life’s sea
To grant thy mother be our mother too
And shroud us in her mantle blue
With guiding hand to lead us back to you
[This was written as a tribute to his Wife Nan whom he had just met.]
Lament for Fr. Michael Griffin
From Gurteen’s verdant pastures green
He came, a youth, to fame unknown
To reap the harvest of his God
To walk the path of Life — Alone.
By Corrib’s lovely shore he came
With gentle mein, with noble brow
To loving Souls he preached “The Word”
His hand forever on the plough.
Ochone, Ochone, the foemen came
Left grief and sorrow in their lay
The ﬁght was on, each Irish heart
In union stove their deeds to stay.
No greater love hath man for man
The words that his Creator spake
Whate’er befalls in joy or dread
I’ll go, for God, for Ireland’s Sake.
In quiet and unassuming way
His noble gallant work he wrought
To us for whom he strove and died
How great the lesson that he taught
Ere long, those ﬁends of lust and hate
Foresaw in him a leader, true
And in the darkness of the night
Set forth their hellish work to do.
And e’er their gruesome work was done
It came, the Sun’s sweet golden light
To show unto the whole wide world
The cruel dark secret of the night
From shore to shore, o’er hill and dale
Went forth a plaintive wailing cry
Yet once again, those ﬁends of hell
Dragged forth an Irish priest to die.
By Barna’s calm and rugged shore
They bore thy noble form to rest
Enshrouded in the ﬂag you loved
They raised the cairn on your breast
That those who gaze should ever think
Of one that died for “Róisín D” *
Who gave his all unto his God
Who gave his life for me or you.
God rest you Fr. Michael dear
Sweet be thy holy sleep and bright
Thy death was just as thou didst yearn
For Ireland’s cause, for Truth and Right.
Tho’ you’re gone your memory lingers
Deep in the heart of every Gael
Forever shall your name be honoured
Amid the heroes of Inisfail.
C. P. Barrett
Fr Michael Griffin, The Crescent, Galway, a native of Gurteen, was arrested by the Black and Tans and dragged to his death after a lorry during the War of Independence!
This poem typiﬁes his love for freedom and justice and the deep Republican tradition which was handed down to him. * Róisin Dubh pronounced “Dú”.
The Plough and the Stars 1943
One glorious Thursday, Nineteen Forty Three
On a night that will always be treasured by me
We shook up the critics like a menace from Mars
And produced Sean O’Casey’s ‘The Plough and the Stars.
Brave Kil. starred as Fluther all out on his own
Though we knew his poor heart was heavy as stone
But that’s what has made it a treasure to hold
For he showed us his mettle was purer than gold.
Then Howley as Peter showed up on the scene
With his ostriches’ plumes and his costume of green
His big General’s Sword, his trim little beard
He set the crowd giggling ‘til they laughed and they cheered.
Then Mac as the Covey strolled in spruce and spry
Nettled poor Peter with a gleam in his eye
And started up Fluther with ungodly remarks
As he quoted the teachings of poor Karl Marx.
Then Kathleen as Jennie thought she’d have her say
So she nosed and she battered and gave out the pay
She got the crowd going by her wit and her grace
And she holds in our hearts a very good place.
Then Kitty as Nora came hurriedly in
And soon put a stop to the rush and the din
Tho’ it doesn’t sound well for her husband to say
She stole her due honour as ‘Queen of the Play’.
Then Nodhlag as Bessie co-starred with old K.
She bowed knee to no one, and just had her say
But she has won a place we know she’ll retain
And the crowd will acclaim her again and again.
Then Christy as Clitheroe in pomp did arrive
And changed the whole scene as he kissed his fond wife
With his own red-lipped Nora to help him along
He sang to the crowd that sweet little song.
Then Tom as the captain in smart uniform
Passed a little remark that raised quite a storm
But Tom didn’t mind, he just whistled quite gay
‘Til Christy was ready, then, they both went away.
Then Ethna as Mollser came timidly on
For with all her paint she looked weak and wan
So we listened in glee to her ready-made coughs
And carried her proudly away in a box.
Then Detta as Rosie was cream of the show
Tho’ Michael proclaimed her ‘a wee bit too slow’
I claim a stardom in doing her part
As she nettled the Covey and won Fluthers heart.
The bartender Jack in his job did excel
As he ordered them all to clear off to hell
Tho’ we all paid our drinks, we never got change
But that was a scheme only Jack could arrange.
Then Jimmy as Langan, just starred in his part
And gasped as the life blood flowed out of his heart
Then showed up again in the Brave Sergeant’s role
But after the show he was put on the dole.
Then a voice chanted in just like a recordin’
Shure everyone knew ‘twas that ould sport Jordan
As he quoted his lines with passion a’mingling
We listened in pride as we felt our blood tingling.
And good old Mike Fahy both on stage and off
Was an excellent Cockney, a real English toff
The make-up was perfect, we all did agree
That for once we looked handsome, Oh Yeah! sez me.
Then on came “The Lady”, that’s Molly we know
She looked, oh, so frightened with no where to go
Oh, isn’t it awful she plaintively crows
The boys couldn’t help her, so, off she goes.
The “Big Shot” producer just can’t be left out
Tho’ down at rehearsal we dreaded his shout
But after the show so proud and elated
He was glad with us all to be associated.
And Peggy and Rhoda as prompters did well
Though I think on the lines their minds did not dwell
Their thoughts were a wandering down to the hall
Just thinking of someone quite handsome and small
The technical staff did their bit as we know
And helped to make perfect a really good show
So we all can be happy, for doing our best,
In “The Plough and the Stars” in that town in the West.
This epic is a tribute to the ‘Athenry Players’ whose 1943 production of the “Plough and the Stars” was much acclaimed. Many of that cast have passed to their eternal reward but the Dramatic Society still lives on in the capable hands of Kitty Lardner who was active even then. C. P Barrett
I heard a thrush at eve, as shadows fall
Breaking the calmly stillness with jubilant songs
I listened entranced to those exultant notes
And thought of God who is boundless goodness.
Even on humble birds we bestowed so rich a gift
No piper’s lute e’er trilled those luscious notes,
Nor violin throbbed,
Nought stirred save swaying branches
Whilst I a blest audience feasted.
The melody o’er peace» reigns once more
My joyous heart goes forth in prayer above,
I know not why, I meekly said
‘God Bless Thee, O Minstrel’
(In this poem we see his love of nature and peace and observe that he took the time to “stand and stare” and see God’s handiwork in the peaceful countryside!)
Written by Christy Barrett
Published here 11 Jan 2023 and originally published December 1996
John Hanley talks to Paul McNamara
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