‘An Báta Scoil’ © Joe Canning 2017. All Rights Reserved.

‘An Báta Scoil’
© Joe Canning 2017. All Rights Reserved.

The tally stick… ‘An Báta Scoil’,
that hung behind the classroom door,
was daily cut from nearby hanging bough.
Used to still our ancient tongue
they strung it to ancestral young,
whom they considered stupid, savage, wild.

The tutor warned them every day,
that Gaelic sounds they must not say
or canes would strip the flesh from tiny hands.
A wounding lash for every notch,
for utterance of Gaelic words,
forbidden by the power that ruled the day.

And so began their cleansing plan,
with wicked tool of foreign hand,
instilling fear to drive the tongue away.
And written on that quarry slate
’tis “Only English must ye speak”;
but all their plans were damned and doomed
I say.

In classrooms when the ragged child
was taught through fear and crying eyes.
when reddened palms would sting at end of day.
When lashing blows on hands would reign,
till not one Gaelic word remained,
That English! was the order of the day.

These tales to me were handed down,
of deeds inflicted by the crown,
to wash away the lilt of Irish tongue.
But though they tried, in truth they failed,
our tongue survived and so did Gael
And now they grow in strength each passing day.

That hate still lives I have to say,
In some who choose old Empire’s ways
that live in fear of things they tried to banish,
They will not grasp the hand of peace
and still they hate and still they preach,
It seems the nation’s word drives them to panic.

I fear they need to face the truth
that Ireland’s lilt wont be subdued,
and none will take away our ancient word.
Our tongue grows strong in this domain
and those protesting strive in vain
As Gaelic slowly creeps back to the stage.
The Tally stick.’ An Báta Scoil,’
no longer hangs on classroom doors,
And Erin’s voice still echoes in the valleys.

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