Synge happy birthday

Currach

Rowing the beer to the island.

Born this day 1871 John Millington Synge wrote the poem below which describes how the keg of porter had to be rowed to the island of Beg-Innish though the Atlantic waters where the gannets fish.

Beg-Innish in gaelic simply means “small island”.

In 1977 Guinness made the iconic ad “Tá siad ag teacht” (They are coming) describing the same journey.  Still evocative after all these years, you can find it on Youtube.

The rowing boat they use in the still above is a traditional Irish Currach.  A high riding fragile shell made of ash frames covered in tarred canvas.  It is one of the oldest types of craft in continuous use.  Originally made with tanned ox-hide, and similar in construction to a coracle.  The Currach is a surprisingly good craft on the open ocean.  It was the workhorse of the fishermen of the Irish west coast for hundreds of years.  The design reflects the lack of large timber available, due to the scouring effect of Atlantic storms.

Light as a large canoe, the fishermen lift it over their heads and carry it up the beach to dry out after a day of fishing.  The image of fishermen with their currach brings to mind a scarab beetle and the circularity of life and death.  Many legs beneath a shiny black carapace.

 

Beg-Innish ; by John Millington Synge

Bring Kateen-beug and Maurya Jude
to dance in Beg-Innish,
and when the lads (they’re in Dunquin)
have sold their crabs and fish,
wave fawny shawls and call them in,
and call the little girls who spin,
and seven weavers from Dunquin,
to dance in Beg-Innish.

I’ll play you jigs, and Maurice Kean,
where nets are laid to dry,
I’ve silken strings would draw a dance
from girls are lame or shy;
four strings I’ve brought from Spain and France
to make your long men skip and prance,
till stars look out to see the dance
where nets are laid to dry.

We’ll have no priest or peeler in
to dance in Beg-Innish;
but we’ll have drink from M’riarty Jim
rowed round while gannets fish,
a keg with porter to the brim,
that every lad may have his whim,
till we up sails with M’riarty Jim
and sail from Ben-Innish.

currach2

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