The Monks of the Screw

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The Monks of the Screw was the name of an Irish drinking club active in the period 1779-1789. It was also called the Order of St. Patrick.[1] The "screw" referred to the corkscrew required to open a bottle of wine.

Ethos and foundation[edit]

John Philpot Curran

According to the club's song, it was founded some time in the 5th century by Ireland's patron saint: "When Saint Patrick this order established / He called us the Monks of the Screw". The real founder was John Philpot Curran, a convivial and popular wit and a lawyer at the Irish Bar. The members were liberal by contemporary standards, and some assisted in the first reforms of the penal laws. Most were lawyers or politicians in the Parliament of Ireland; Curran being both. Most supported the Irish Patriot Party.

Uniform and meeting places[edit]

The members had to wear a black poplin gown and generally met in Kevin Street, Dublin, or at Curran's house "The Priory", near Rathfarnham. Curran was jokingly described as the Prior of the Order.[2]

Song[edit]

The club had its own drinking song, written by Curran, whose tune is said to be a traditional air from Curran's native County Cork.[3][4]

When Saint Patrick this order established,
He called us the Monks of the Screw
Good rules he revealed to our Abbot
To guide us in what we should do;
But first he replenished our fountain
With liquor the best in the sky;
And he said on the word of a Saint
That the fountain should never run dry.

Each year when your octaves approach,
In full chapter convened let me find you;
And when to your convent you come,
Leave your favourite temptation behind you.
And be not a glass in your convent
Unless on a festival found;
And this rule to enforce I ordain it –
One festival all the year round.

My brethren, be chaste till you're tempted;
While sober be wise and discreet;
And humble your bodies with fasting,
As oft as you've nothing to eat.
Yet in honour of fasting one lean face
Among you I'd always require;
If the Abbott should please, he may wear it,
If not let it come to the Prior.

Come, let each take his chalice, my brethren,
And with due devotion prepare.
With hands and with voices uplifted
Our hymn to conclude with a prayer.
May this chapter oft joyously meet
And this handsome libation renew,
To the Saint, and the Founder, and Abbot,
And Prior, and Monks of the Screw!

Members[edit]

The membership included: Lord Mornington, Lord Townshend (a former viceroy of Ireland), John Philpot Curran, Barry Yelverton, Father Arthur O'Leary, George Ogle, Henry Grattan, Walter Hussey Burgh, Dudley Hussey, Henry Flood, Arthur Wolfe, Arthur Gore, 2nd Earl of Arran, Jonah Barrington, William Tankerville Chamberlain and James Dennis.

Modern band[edit]

An eponymous Irish traditional music band comes from Sliabh Luachra in County Kerry.

Other Order[edit]

The Order of St. Patrick should not be confused with the later Illustrious Order of St. Patrick that was founded in 1783.

Hear also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Notes on the monks; accessed Dec 2009
  2. ^ Irish Literature Volume 2 ed. Justin McCarthy Jnr. (1904) at p797.
  3. ^ The song called "The Monks of the Screw" was to a tune that Petrie (1855) believes Curran learned "in his own loved county of Cork." [Stanford/Petrie]. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903/1979; No. 20, pg. 4. Stanford/Petrie (Complete Collection), 1905; No. 490, pg. 124.
  4. ^ Lyrics at McCarthy J. op. cit., pp. 797-798.