Education - its changing forms.
The monastic schools provided education and training in virtue, prior to the reorganisation of the church in the mid 12th Century. Famous schools were run at Inisfallen on the Lakes of Killarney, Molana on the mouth of the Blackwater, Cork, Ross, Lismore, Emly etc. Schools were also run by the friars. They were replaced by the Bardic schools which survived into the middle of the 17th Century. The professional fili or bards received their training in these schools. The bards served the upper educated segments of society and held their position in virtue of their training, knowledge of history and Gaelic traditions.
A great deal of poetry consisted in elaborate panegyrics or extravagant praise poems on the occasion of births, marriages and deaths within the families of their patrons. They achieved a high degree of technical training in the skills of syllabic verse, internal and end rhyme etc. Their influence extended from the 1200's until the collapse of the Old Gaelic Order at the start of the 17th Century. The defeat at Kinsale was a watershed in their decline and the last Bardic school closed about 1641. This was a consequence of the downfall of the social system on which they depended for their livelihood.
The O'Dalys of Nohoval and Ballydaly.
The O'Dalys were the most renowned and fruitful brood of professional poets in this area. They originated in County Westmeath and moved to the Cork/Kerry area in the 12th Century. They became professional poets to the McCarthy Mores and the McCarty Reaghs. In the words of John O'Donovan "There is certainly no family to which the Bardic literature of Ireland is more deeply indebted than to the O'Dalys". The most prestigious names associated with this area are, Geoffrey and Aengus Fionn O'Dalaigh and Aengus Rua the satirist.
Geoffrey Fionn O'Dalaigh.
Geoffrey, grandson of Tadhg, was born at Nohoval, in Duhallow in 1320 and in the Annals of the Four Masters he is described as the "Arch Professor of poetry in Ireland" at the time of his death in 1387. Although he was born in the former parish of Nohoval, Millstreet parish can lay an oblique claim to him because his clan held lands in Ballydaly, Kippagh and Curracahill and because he wrote a famous poem of 37 quatrains about the famed hill of Clara.
There are many independent tributes to this renowned, poet. Fearflatha O'Gnimh, writing towards the end of the 16th century, states: "Geoffrey Fionn started no poem without taking pains, even at an empty shell stage. In his poetic undertakings he was always the very flower of art." Professor Sean O'Tuama, commenting on his influence on Aodhgan O'Rathaille, has this to say "Gurb e an file is mo a cuaigh ibhfeidhm ar shaothar agus ar mheon an Rathaillig". (O'Tuama p.126) and Eleanor Knott (1957: p.41) says his poems are amongst the finest specimens of the dan direach we possess.
A number of his poems were translated by Fr Lambert McKenna and Professor Bergin in the 1920's. He was a professional poet to the McCarthy More, the Anglo Norman Earls of Desmond and was ollamh to the O'Keeffes. We can ascertain a great deal of
biographical detail from the contents of his poetry. He west of Clara, had a son named Eoghan, who is buried about whom he wrote an emotional lyric after his selected three of his poems as worthy of perusal:
was born to the in Nohoval and
1. A poem of 16 stanzas in honour of Colman Mac Leinin, Patron Saint of the O'Dalys. In this poem he traces the bardic tradition of his family back to Dalach, a fosterling and pupil of St Colman of Cloyne before he entered religious life. His blessing has brought profit to the family ever since. I quote two stanzas from Bergin's translation, p. 242:
V3 "Thou wert the fosterer of the poet from whom we come, thou patron whose name is Colman. 'Tis a tale must be told, that of Colman whose fostering was Dalach.
VI3 "It was fitting for the race of Dalach to whom he gave the profitable craft to spread some verses of their art before Colman, Patron of Cloyne". 2. "Under Sorrow's Sign." This poem is about a child born in prison, is included in Kinsella's Anthology No, 74. It appears to have been, for centuries, the most popular religious composition in Ireland and was, according to Professor Monatgu, the favourite poem of Sean O'Riada. He asserts that it is one of the most famous bardic poems and is a parable analogous to the classic metaphor for human existence, that of Plato's allegory of the cave (The figure in the Cave: 1989 p.51). The little boy grew up in prison for a space of years. Nothing he could see of the light of day but the bright ridge of a field through a hole which someone had made. The child who knew no