Frank Corcoran

irish composer

For this Holy Solstice , December 21 2006


Yes, rape. Not of the sacred deposit ” in full and perfect integrity” , but how mangily poor and how linguistically appalling to my little Christmas ears in Saint Finian´s were his vowels and town-lands: Moyvore was foreign, Ballinacargy a laugh; I cringed at Clonmellon, Mount Nugent, Beaupark, Oristown, monstrous Ratoath, Kilcloon; I could just about hear the native echoes in ” Moynalty”.
On 27 June 1816 our Bishop Cantwell, deep, roundy, was appointed dean with an annual salary of 121 pounds, Propanda Fide not being asleep. Our tenant-farmer´s son had written: ” The sum of one thousand a year, which you specify, instead of exaggerating, underrates the amount available for these sacred uses.” For little me the Priests´Library shone gold vermilion in that afternoon sun.
It is just meat to offer a medium rare lamb for all the sheep of Taghmon. It is a collar of gold over the necks of those engaged in the mummery of superstition, whose generosity was established by a free parochial house, a fat cow or a 10 pound note at Christmas. Influenced by a mysterious torpor, many have not found Ballinacargy a laugh. Several gentlemen were on their legs together. ( Music and dancing were also available at an extra charge )
Even if , as an expectant postulant, it is my present fancy transsexual, I had travelled by boat down the Royal Canal from far-flung Castletown Kilpatrick to measled Athboy , how might his relatio for Rome have looked after my back-bone was broken , that first Christmas dinner? Mother was to live only for eighteen months in Madras, okay. The stately cypress of the Tropics waves above where she sleeps, her long last sleep, okay. How would I provide for the instruction of the female youth of the town and vicinity?
I intended to send an explanation to His Holiness from Ratoath, it being the sacred privilege of all sons to have recourse to the father of the faithful , okay. Yes, I did accept benefits from those crafty and cunning Ministers, okay.( Do not blush to whisper in the ears of certain credulous people that they have a well disposed and favourable attitude. No inverted commas. No upper case. ) I was denounced through all the moods and tenses of Billingsgate, so I was.
Time was elapsing and it was prejudicial to me, as long as my limbs could sustain me in Kilcullen or Navan, having as my object the amelioration of the social condition of a people like the Irish. ( It is the Maynooth education that is working all this evil. The priests there are very violent. )
At the hustings, Sir Richard Levinge, Urquhart and Mostyn lounged ; I was not yet well enough acqainted with the malignity of my enemies to attach the slightest credit or importance to statements emanating from such a source.” Lambaste him ” ; I had not heard a single serious charge of violence or imprudence aimed at my sacred character. As to Mullingar: I much feared, religion had not much benefited from their example there; it required no very great stretch of the lamb´s intelligence , no astute notions of a sheep´s propriety to know that the rostrum was not the place most suited. At St. Finian´s, where I snatched a hasty meat-dinner, a number who were present expressed great indignation at the proceedings of my conference along the following lines: why were the country butchers reduced to such misery as to be obliged to flee from the land of their lambs, with which their dearest associations are entwined ? The gangrene had eaten into all classes of society, and all classes , therefore, must contribute to the cure, or it could not be affected. Their conduct nothing but a well established plea of insanity could explain. Many, very many, I was still confident,had been forced to join the movement through intimidation of every species, worldly and spiritual.
He, the bishop , I mean, ( it was either him or me ) then wrote in September 1865 to Propaganda from Calais seeking faculties to say mass. I was fair game, I´m afraid. This boy attained the age of fifteen years, that period of pauper existence which the law pronounces to be manhood, that at which it declares education shall cease, and idleness and increase of diet make up for any lack of knowledge. He denounced, of course he would, a house of ill repute on the canal banks in Mullingar ( the result was that mine was burned down a few nights later by some midnight incendiary, who had profited by the mild and Christian instruction of his pastor. )
I was charged with outraging common decency, by going with strumpets into groves and forts. My health was better than in Rome ; however, during the week of the last Bellewstown Races, our worthy neighbour of Sheephouse volunteered in the most handsome manner, to supply , gratuitously, from his quarry, all the cut-stone for the front of my sacred edifice in Mount Bolus.
Or take Oristown. Bish Cantwell´s good self , possessing the confidence of Rome, would be enabled not only to save but, healing past dissensions, he would restore it to an influence and character that heretofore had rendered the Irish church the terror of the enemies of our holy faith. I suggested – too late , as it then transpired – that he travel to Naples and Gaeta to visit the Pope and Fransoni.
“I did all in my power to damage him and his two classes of supporters” was his later chilling report on me to Propaganda. The greater good determined that he should not stay silent about my unsuitability for episcopal office, in those days of unparalleled suffering an appointment which would be hailed as present blessing. He rammed the point further home: ” He ( he meant little me ) declared he ( again ditto ) would not refuse absolution to a priest who took office in the Queen´s Colleges “.
Even after this rescript, I felt the proquinquity of a lamb to its slab. He, Cant Well Enough, again wrote to Propaganda in my case: ” His sad calamity has been publicly notorious : he not only cut his own throat to an extent that rendered recovery for some days hopeless, but even endeavoured to kill his sister…. ” The blood welled . Roundy well, Bishop Cant , again: ” I would look on his episcopal appointment as a national calamity.”
How terrible are the dangers augmented by the folly or treachery of some of our Brethren. Rarely well done is the Christmas lamb. The Pope telling Prince Doria, an emissary for Lord Shrewsbury, that he knew of the true circumstances from a letter posted out of Ballinacargy one wet and dismal night that December, I quote from memory: “We hope Dr. Cant will not go to London. His meddling will be most mischevious, as such men are more to be dreaded in Ireland in a religious point of view than the openly avowed hostility of the worst Tory Government”.
If the pitch cap fit , let this Christmas lamb wear. My bishop´s comments on all of this were sarcastic and well over the top o´the hill : ” Were Luther on earth he would be a suitable climax to the disgusting young of Ballinacargy, young spawn of that Metropolis who in the numerous institutions and professions laugh at religion and trample on morality . I shall forward to Rome a true report of this deep laid and unchristian plot! I trust it will decide His Holiness and the Propaganda on affixing their strong and solemn condemnation on a project which if brought into operation would soon extinguish the Gospel light in this country!”
My mother slept her long , last sleep not in Moyvore but in Madras; she was in no way convinced : ” Lord, emancipate the rising generation from the thraldom of Priestly domination, then ! My son ! My lamb´s collar spiked against the prowl of Roman wolves!” But Bish Cant´s reply was characteristic:
” How she has been bamboozled to make such a testamentary disposition of her son is astonishing! It unfortunately shows the sad power that some of their reverences possess over even respectable females, and how they turn and twist them to their own selfish views. Here we have a lady bequeathing every particle of her beloved son whom she possessed to a class of men that never existed. Nor, from the well known certainty there is of some of the cloth feathering their nest to their heart´s content, is there the remote possibility of having such a son in esse!”
Ballinabrackey and Tubber, once desert Dysart, nobbered Nobber and Dromconrath and safe Slane and monstrous Ratoath. How are ye ? Where are ye? Can´t leave ye well enough alone this Holy Solstice?

Posted under: General

One comment

  • Dear Maestro Corcoran,

    Thank you for your beautiful gift of music. Through my partner, Allan von Schenkel you sent me “Mikrocosmoi” and “Quasi Rondo e Scherzo” and “Sweeney’s Total Rondo.”

    Your writing is both challenging and satisfying. Thank you!

    Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2007.

    Best regards,
    Kristen Williams
    Basso Moderno Duo