Cill Chaise was written in the early nineteenth century after the woods of Kilcash had been sold and when its castle was falling into ruin. Although its text refers to actual people (most famously, Lady Iveagh), it does not conform neatly to historical facts. Cill Chaise is the best-known, but not the only Irish literary composition about Kilcash.

The authorship of the lyrics is uncertain. Traditionally, they had been ascribed to Fr John Lane, but since he died before the timber sales that they lament, this isn’t possible. Recent research suggests that it was most likely the work of Patrick Laffan, a local pig dealer who hanged himself in 1836 after the death of his wife and the failure of his business.

The standard Irish text of the poem (given below, along with a literal translation) was edited by the late Prof. Dáithí Ó hÓgáin. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s English translation has recently been used on the syllabus of the Leaving-Certificate (an Irish state examination for students finishing secondary school).

Cill Chaise

Créad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad,
tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár;
níl trácht ar Chill Chais ná a teaghlach,
is ní bainfear a cling go bráth;
an áit úd ina gcónaíodh an deighbhean
a fuair gradam is meidhir tar mhná,
bhíodh iarlaí ag tarraing tar toinn ann,
s an tAifreann binn á rá.                                       

Is é mo chreach fhada is mo léan goirt
do gheataí breá néata ar lár,
an Avenue ghreanta faoi shaothar
is gan foscadh ar aon taobh den Walk,
an chúirt bhreá a sileadh an braon di
is an ghasra shéimh go tláith,
is in leabhar na marbh do léitear
an tEaspag is Lady Iveagh!     

Ní chluinim fuaim lacha ná gé ann
ná fiolair ag déanadh aeir cois cuain,
ná fiú na mbeacha chum saothair
a thabharfadh mil agus céir don tslua,
níl ceol binn milis na n-éan ann
le hamharc an lae a dhul uainn,
ná an chuaichín i mbarra na ngéag ann,
- ó, ’sí a chuirfeadh an saol chum suain!

Nuair a thigeann na poic faoi na sléibhte
is an gunna lena dtaobh is an líon
féachann siad anuas le léan ar
an mbaile a fuair sway in gach tír;
an fhaiche bhreá aoibhinn ina réabacha
is gan foscadh ar aon taobh ón tsín,
páirc an Phaddock ina dairy
mar a mbíodh an eilit ag déanadh a scíth’!

Tá ceo ag titim ar chraobhaibh ann
ná glanann le grian ná lá,
tá smúit ag titim ón spéir ann,
is a cuid uisce go léir ag trá;
níl coll, níl cuileann, níl caora ann,
ach clocha agus maolchlocháin;
páirc na foraoise gan chraobh ann,
is d’imigh an game chum fáin!

Anois mar bharr ar gach mí-ghreann
chuaigh prionsa na nGael tar sáil,
anonn le hainnir na míne
fuair gairm sa bhFrainc is sa Spáinn;
anois tá a cuallacht á caoineadh,
gheibheadh airgead buí agus bán,
’sí ná tógfadh seilbh na ndaoine,
acht caraid na bhfíorbhochtán.

Aitím ar Mhuire is ar Íosa
go dtaga sí arís chughainn slán,
go mbeidh rincí fada ag gabháil timpeall,
ceol veidhlín is tinte cnámh,
go dtógfar an baile seo ár sinsear
Cill Chais bhreá arís go hard,
is go brách nó go dtiocfaidh an díleann
ní fheicfear í arís ar lár!
Notes (by stanza)

[1] The generous woman is Margaret Bourke, Lady Iveagh. Her second husband was Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash. Lady Iveagh was famous for her piety. (See the History page for people mentioned here).

[2] The ‘avenue’ leading to Kilcash Castle still exists today. The bishop is Christopher Butler, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.

[3] The area was well-known for its good hunting. Thomas Butler kept a deerpark for this purpose. Kilcash combines the bounty of wild nature as well as that of the tamed beauty of a landscaped demesne.

[6] The identity of the Prince of the Gaels had been the subject of debate. Suggestions include Walter Butler, the 18th Earl of Ormond, who lived most of the time in London; James Butler, the 2nd Duke of Ormond, who fled to the Continent when he was outlawed as a Jacobite in 1715; and Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-88; better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie).

Eighteenth-century map of Tipperary
Eighteenth-century map of parts of Tipperary and Kilkenny showing Kilcash and Garryricken

Kilcash (translation)

What shall we do henceforth without timber?
The last of the woods is laid low.
There is no mention of Kilcash or its household,
And its bell shall never be tinkled again.
In the place where the generous woman used to live –
She who gained esteem and affection above all women –
There earls used to visit from overseas,
And the melodious mass used to be said.

It is my long-lasting loss and my bitter sorrow
That your fine neat gates are laid low.
The well-designed Avenue is overgrown,
And there is no shelter on any side of the Walk.
The elegant mansion from which rain used to run off
And the gentle company is dejected,
And in the book of the dead are read
The names of the bishop and Lady Iveagh.

I do not hear the noise of a duck or of a goose there,
Nor eagles soaring into the air by the refuge,
Nor even the bees undertaking work
Who would give honey and wax to the people.
The sweet melodious music of the birds is not there
As the light of day goes away from us,
Nor is the little cuckoo on the tops of the branches there
Oh, she it is who would put everyone to sleep!

When the gallants come through the mountains,
With the gun and the hunting-net at their sides,
They look down with sadness
On the townland which won fame in every land.
The fine pleasant lawn is torn up,
With no shelter on any side from the weather;
The Paddock is turned into a dairy,
Where the doe used to take its rest!

Fog is falling on the branches there,
Which does not clear in the sun or daylight;
Mist is falling from the sky there,
And all its water is ebbing away.
There’s no hazel, no holly, no berries there,
But rocks and bare stony ground.
The forest-park has no branches there,
And the game has all gone away.

Now, to crown every misfortune,
The Prince of the Gaels went over the sea,
From here with the gentle maiden,
He was called to France and to Spain.
Now her fellowship is lamenting her,
They who used to receive gold and silver money.
She it was who would not take away the people’s possessions,
But who was the friend of the very poorest.

I beseech Mary and Jesus
That she may safely return to us,
That long dances may be going on all around,
With violin music and bonfires;
That this home of our ancestors
May be built up once more as fine Kilcash;
And forever, or until the flood comes,
It will not be seen laid low again!

Other Kilcash-Related Compositions

  • An Deaghfáistine (The Good Omen) and Epithalamium do Thighearna Chinn Mara (Epithalamium for Lord Kenmare) were written by Aogán Ó Rathaille (d.c.1728) to celebrate the marriage of Honora Butler (a daughter of Thomas Butler and Lady Iveagh) to Valentine Browne, Viscount Kenmare.
  • Caoineadh don Bhantiarna Bhuiltéar (A Lament for Lady Butler) was written for Eleanor Morres (d.1793), the wife of Walter Butler, 16th Earl of Ormond. She was buried with her husband at Kilcash.
  • Cúirt an Ghrinn Seo Ormond (This Pleasure-court of Ormond). A dialogue between a pious daughter and a feckless father about the relative merits of religion and riotous living. It celebrates the good times that were to be had at Kilcash.
  • Gabha Dubh Chill Chaise (The Blacksmith of Kilcash). The eponymous hero woos a local beauty while being aware that his propensity to drink is not in his favour.
  • Bishop Butler of Kilcash. This song is a red herring in that it refers to John Butler (d.1800), the Catholic bishop of Cork who, notoriously, resigned his see to take up his inheritance as the 22nd Lord Dunboyne. In transmission, the lyrics confusingly attached themselves to the strictly orthodox Archbishop Christopher Butler who had lived at Kilcash.
Kilcash Castle (courtesy of John Kerr)

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