The Hackler from Grouse Hall

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"The Hackler from Grouse Hall" is a song from the Sliabh Guaire area of Cavan, Ireland, about an overzealous R.I.C. sergeant who pursued an aging hackler with a fondness for Poitín.[1]

History[edit]

The song was written in the late 1880s by a local man, Peter Smith, from Stravicnabo, Lavey. (In Colm Ó Lochlainn’s “More Irish Street Ballads” 1965, it is incorrectly attributed as having been written in the 1870s) [2]

An aging hackler, Pat McDonald, “Paddy Jack” was pursued and arrested by a sergeant who had come to Grouse Hall. The hackler may have been Pat McDonald who died, aged 83, at his son's farm in Claragh, Cootehill in 1896.[3] Hackling, of which McDonald was a roving practitioner, was the final process in preparing flax for spinning into linen. Prior to the industry becoming mechanised and moving to East Ulster it was a rural based cottage industry with Cootehill as Ulster’s largest market.

The sergeant was James Mullervy, born in Derawaley, Drumlish, Longford who joined the R.I.C. (Royal Irish Constabulary) in 1872 and was appointed sergeant in Grouse Hall in 1887.[4] He retired in 1898 and returned to Derawaley where he married, raised a family and where his descendents live today.

Recordings[edit]

Christy Moore and Planxty, Damien Dempsey

Poitin[edit]

In the 1990s a product known as The Hackler, an Irish Poitín, was developed by Cooley Distillery. So popular was this song that the promotional literature originally referred incorrectly to a hackler as a maker of Poitín. This error was subsequently corrected.

"The Sergeant's Lamentation"[edit]

Peter Smith wrote a response in which the sergeant, distracted by hearing “the hills resound with Jemmy from Grouse Hall”, vowed to find the “man who wrote the song”, and have him before the judge.

"The Calico Landlord"[edit]

In the period after the Famine many town shopkeepers bought tracts of countryside and in many cases were less caring than the traditional planter landlord. One such, whom he describes as “bloated and bluffed, a boycotted draper, in Ballyjamesduff”, is castigated in “The Calico Landlord”.

"Petie’s Cat"[edit]

Finally in "Petie’s Cat" he regales the foibles of some neighbours who allow a row over a cat to make it to a court hearing in Ballyjamesduff.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frank Brennan at Laragh Gathering, July 2013
  2. ^ Meek, Bill (31 July 1972), "Tribute to Colm Ó Lochlainn", The Irish Times: 10
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ R.I.C. records assembled by James O’Herlihy