In the history of Irish literature the town of Croom, in the heart of County Limerick, is celebrated as the meeting place of the 18th century Fili na Maighe, the Gaelic poets of the Maigue. This was the original birth place of ‘the Limerick’. “I sell the best Brandy and Sherry
The ‘limerick’ is a form of comic verse consisting of five anapaestic lines of which the first, second, and fifth have three metrical feet and rhyme together and the third and fourth have two metrical feet and rhyme together.
The Maigue poets, writing in their native Irish, produced a great body of poetry, and the custom was widely adopted in other locations in Limerick City and County. Soon the neighbouring Counties of Cork, Clare and Tipperary began to pen the verse.
Two anthologies on the subject, published this century, list 42 poets and Irish scholars (part-time poets) of County Limerick who were known to have composed limericks. The themes of these early works included love-poems, drinking songs, poems on national affairs, and satires on public figures.
Two of the first, and most famous, exponents of the Limerick were poet and publican Sean O’ Tuama (1706-’75), and his friend Andrias MacCriath (1710-1793). O’ Tuama and MacCraith grew up together in Kilmallock, County Limerick and were educated in one of the many hedge schools of the time, with a traditional education incorporating Latin and Greek studies.
O’ Tuama later became a publican and word of his hospitality grew, as did the popularity of the Limerick. Poets in North Cork, Clare and Tipperary began to pen the verses. O’ Tuama and his friend fell out and as a result scathing Limericks were written by them to castigate the other.
O’ Tuama wrote:
To make all my customers merry,
But at times their finances
Run short as it chances,
And then I feel very sad, very”.
To which MacCraith replied……..
“O’Tuama! You boast yourself handy,
At selling good ale and bright Brandy
But the fact is your liquor
Makes everyone sicker,
I tell you this I your good friend, Andy”.
Much of the work of the Maigue poets is on display at the Adare Heritage Centre in the picturesque village of Adare in County Limerick. Today those interested in the Limerick verse can visit the Limerick’s Centre at Castle Lane beside the 13th century King John’s Castle.
Adare Heritage Centre
Tel. 061 396666
Tours of Adare castle, restaurant, craft shops, Tourist Information Office.
Information and photo courtesy Shannon Regional Tourism Development.
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