Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Handsome Rover

So it basically meant “Peterson” all this time. Who’da thunk?

The Peter in question, Piers de Bermingham, was an invader, made Lord of Athenry, beating back the native Gaels to solidify the Norman conquest of Ireland—sometimes in open battle, sometimes by treachery...

[S]ome of the [Norman] settlers were harsher than circumstances may have dictated. Take, for example, Piers de Bermingham, baron of Tethmoy and lord of the castle Carrickfergus. Under the guise of healing a breach between him and his hostile neighbors, the O’Connors of Offaly, he threw a Christmas feast and invited the Gaels to attend. After dinner, he had the chief, his brothers and their retainers butchered. For this act, the [Norman] government in Dublin gave him £100 and praised him as a hunter of the Irish.
Nasty piece of work, that man. But his imprimatur does give us part-ownership of one of the greatest of Irish songs—indeed, almost the archetypal Irish song in its melancholy and its bottomless reserves of self-pity, exploding into sheer self-parody in that priceless last verse.

I’m telling you, man, that’s us all over.
(Sing it, Van!)

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