Mairtin Hayes was born in 1846, at Carhumore, Kilmeedy. He spent a happy boyhood in the pleasant highland country that surrounds his ancestral home. He delighted large gatherings at fairs, weddings, football matches and even at wakes. His clear enunciation of impromptu verse earned him great popularity and esteem. In fact from early manhood he was known affectionately as “Mairtin the Poet”.
Most of his compositions were inspired by local incidents. Running through many of the lines is a strong line of patriotism. He could also resort to satire as shown in a reply to a verse sprung upon him by John Chawke an Outfitter who lived in Kilmeedy many years ago. He and John were having a wee drop at Geary’s Alehouse, Kilmeedy. This incident took place shortly before Mairtin bade farewell to his native land. He and John, in the presence of a number of people, addressing the poet in a few prepared words, John Chawke said:
“ Here’s a health to Hayes the poet,
Who brought from Chawke that fancy coat,
May he survive in the land where he is going,
With plenty of money and bumpers flowing”
Answer me that Mairtin?
To which the poet extemporaneously replied:
“ Here’s to a health to Hayes the poet
Who bought from Chawke that rotten coat,
May he survive in the land he’s going
For the coat he bought wasn’t worth the sewing”
The words of one of his best known songs, written after his arrival in the States, were kindly given to me by his nephew, Martin Coleman, of Carhumore. It tells of his reason for fleeing this lovely land, how sorrowful he feels for the friends of his youth in Carhumore and Ballyhahill. He expresses a wish to be with them again. Alas, a wish that was unfulfilled as Mairtin never again saw the little village nestling beneath the heath covered hillside, or the great plain that spreads as a richly embroidered floral carpet of diversified scenery when viewed from his childhood playground “ The street above the road”.
My Dear and Native Land
Adieu my dear and native land,
Though very far from me,
It’s on your soil I could not stand
A Cushla Geal Mo Chraide.
The rent being high and wages small,
Which grieves this heart of mine,
An caused our Irish boys to toil
Where the burning sun doth shine.
Its often when I sit alone
In that bright land o’er the west
And think of days gone by at home,
And the friends that I love best,
For thoughts as true as true can be.
Shall never part my mind,
May fortune smile on Erin’s Isle
And the friends I left behind.
From Queenstown Quay we sailed away
The weather being calm and fine,
On board of the gallant Wyoming
That famous White Star Line.
The day of our departure,
I’ll not forget the day,
Being on a Sunday morning,
On the eighteenth day of May,
Twould grieve the heart of any man,
That morning on the Strand
To hear the cries of our Irish boys
When losing sight of land,
On the twenty-fifth we landed safe
All on Columbia’s shore
Where we drank a health to the boys we left
Around Sweet Carhumore.
On the plains of Ballyhahill
I can no longer gaze,
Whilst here alone I sigh and moan
Though far beyond the waves,
And the day we’ll meet together,
I’d long for it to dawn,
When I will have the Pleasure,
Of seeing my Cailin Bawn.
I knew I was a stranger,
In the City of St.Louis,
I thought to make acquaintance
And found it was no use,
I sat beside the table,
Then took my pen to and ink,
And as far as I was able,
I then began to think.
I thought of days long, long ago
When I was going to school,
Had nothing else to trouble me,
But sitting on a stool
Those days I thought were hard enough,
And so they were that time,
Oh, how I wish I was again
A boy at the age of nine.
It’s in the County of Limerick,
Not far from Carhumore
A place called Ballyhahill,
I feel I’ll ne’er see more;
I always lived contented
With merriment and joy,
Till by those cruel landlords
From my home I had to fly.