The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

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The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:13 am

Epigraph from The Rum Diary:

My rider of the bright eyes,
What happened you yesterday?
I thought you in my heart,
When I bought you your fine clothes,
A man the world could not slay.
--Dark Eileen O'Connell, 1773



Eileen O'Connell of Kerry, also known as Eileen Dubh O'Connell, Eibhlin Dubh Ní Chonaill, or Dark Eileen, composed the Irish language dirge Lament for Art O'Leary for her husband Art O'Leary, also known as Art O'Laoire, or Airt Uí Laoghaire.

Eileen apparently first saw Art O'Leary one day in 1767, as he rode past on a dark white steed, the peerless, whose forehead bore a snow-white star. Eileen was 23; she had been married to "old O'Connor of Firies" when she was 15, and widowed within six months of that marriage. When her family disapproved of Art O'Leary, Art and Eileen eloped, marrying on 19th December 1767. They lived with Art's father, Cornelius O Laoire, at Raleigh House near Macroom. Eileen bore two children, and was pregnant with a third at the time of Art's death.

Art O'Leary was a Roman Catholic, one of the few surviving Catholic gentry. The viciously anti-Catholic Penal Laws in force in Ireland during the 18th century made it impossible for 95% of the population to receive an education or have a career in their own country. O'Leary had been educated on the Continent and served as a Captain in the Hungarian Hussars, a Regiment of Empress Marie Therese's Army of Austro-Hungary. As would befit a well-regarded soldier, aristocrat and husband and father, the epitaph on his tomb reads "Lo! Arthur Leary, generous, handsome, brave, / Slain in his bloom, lies in this humble grave." The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ... The Penal laws in Ireland refers to a series of laws imposed under British rule that sought to discriminate against the majority native Catholic population but also against Protestant dissenters in favor of the established Church of Ireland which recognized the English monarchy as its spiritual head. ... Polish Hussar Hussar refers to a class of light cavalry, Hungarian in origin but subsequently imitated throughout Europe.

There was a history of contention between O'Leary and the high sheriff, an Anglo-Irish Protestant landowner named Abraham Morris, over a period of years. There were undoubtedly numerous reasons: the Penal Laws were deeply oppressive of Roman Catholics. One cause of dispute may have been a "beautiful horse", a chestnut mare which Morris wanted to buy, and O'Leary refused to sell. According to the Penal Laws, a Roman Catholic was banned from owning a horse worth more than five pounds. Protestantism is a general grouping of denominations within Christianity. ...

Morris was able to use his position as a Protestant, and as sheriff, to have O'Leary outlawed. A price of 20 guineas was put on O'Leary's head. Once proclaimed an outlaw, he could be shot at sight quite legally.

On May 4th, 1773, O'Leary went out riding. According to local lore, he stopped in the Inn in Carrignanimma and regaled his hearers, over a few drinks, with accounts of what he intended to do to Sheriff Morris. Morris was warned, and took a troop of militia in pursuit of O'Leary. O'Leary was seen in Carriganimma, crossing the footbridge over the River Foherish, and proceeding on horseback along the ridge on the West Bank. Morris and his men were waiting on the East side of the river. Morris gave the order to fire, and a soldier named Green fired the first shot, which killed Art.

I knew nothing of your murder
Till your horse came to the stable
With the reins beneath her trailing,
And your heart's blood on her shoulders
Staining the tooled saddle
Where you used to sit and stand.
(Dhubh ní Chonaill; Eilís Dillon translator)


His horse ran into Rathleigh, riderless and soaked in blood. Eileen O'Connell mounted her husband's horse and galloped back to Carraig an Ime, where she found her husband's lifeless body.

Eileen composed a 390 line lament both to mourn Art O'Leary's death as well as to call for his murder to be avenged. It became part of the Irish oral tradition, as it was not written down until many years after it was composed in 1773. Some critics consider "Lament for Art O'Leary" to be the most passionate love poem in all of Irish literature and the most remarkable set of keening verses to have survived from the oral tradition.

A number of Irish writers have attempted to capture her grief and rage in translating the lament, including O'Connor, John Montague and Thomas Kinsella..
"Go dtiocfaidh Airt Ó Laoghaire chugham
ní scaipfidh ar mo chumha
atá i lár mo chroí á bhrú
dúnta suas go dlúth
mar a bheadh glas a bheadh ar thrúnc
's go raghadh an eachair amú."
Eibhlín Dhubh ní Chonaill, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire

("Till Art O'Leary returns
There will be no end to the grief
That presses down on my heart,
Closed up tight and firm
Like a trunk that is locked
And the key is mislaid."
Eibhlín Dhubh ní Chonaill, The Lament for Art O'Leary)


Initially O'Leary was buried by Eibhlin in the Old Cemetery of Kilnamartra (Tuath na Dromann), near to Dundareirke Castle. His family wished him to be buried in Kilcrea Friary, but burial in monastic ground was forbidden at that time under the penal laws. His body was moved temporarily to an unconsecrated field adjacent to the Friary. When it became legally possible, his final interment in the sacred grounds of Kilcrea Friary took place. The ruins of Kilcrea Friary (also called Kilcrea Abbey) are located near the town of Aherla in County Cork, Ireland.


On May 17th, 1773, a Coroner's Inquest produced a verdict that Abraham Morris and the party of soldiers were guilty of the willful and wanton Murder of Arthur O Laoire.

On July 17, 1773, O'Leary's brother Cornelius attempted to murder Abraham Morris, then fled to America. Morris recovered from the shots, but they were considered to have shortened his life. (He died in September 1775.)

On September 4th, 1773, Morris submitted himself to trial by his peers, the local Magistracy, and was found innocent of any crime by those Gentlemen. Green, who fired the fatal shot, was later decorated for gallantry.

Ironically, Eileen was also the aunt of Daniel O'Connell, an Irish political hero who was known as "The Liberator" for his successful efforts to repeal British laws that penalized Catholics because of their religion, including the Penal Laws that served as the legal justification to compel Eileen's husband to sell his horse. Daniel O'Connell is beloved as a national hero throughout Ireland, and the major street in Dublin, O'Connell Street, was named to honor his memory.




Below is an excerpt from an entry on Anita Thompson's Owl Farm blog:

A Man the World Could Not Slay

It is storming rain and cracking thunder tonight in Manhattan. It hasn't poured like this since we won the senate back. The rain has been falling all day and now, at 10 pm, the thunder and lightning has finally started. To get the full effect, I opened my windows and turned off all the lights. It's just me, the glow of my laptop and the lightning -- wonderful.

I'd like to post two emails that I received today. Judy from North Carolina asks about the epigraph to The Rum Diary and Ken Kreie sent the lyrics from this Waylon and Willie Nelson song that he attached with a dedication to our friend, Kurt Vonnegut...

And speaking of heroes, an astute reader named Judy from North Carolina has emailed me regarding the epigraph for The Rum Diary. I think the epigraph is also fitting for Kurt Vonnegut, so I decided to post a portion of her email here tonight too. She asks about the significance of the epigraph. After much thought, and consultation with one of my teachers, Jon Kenneth Williams of Columbia University, whom I interrupted as he was translating a Middle Welsh poem to English (yes, seemingly unrelated), agrees with me that the epigraph perhaps signifies the mourning of lost youth. "I thought you...a man the world could not slay." Since the only significant female in the story is Chenault, who is the wildly flawed heroine, who is not lost in the end, it most likely does not speak to the Kemp/Yeamon/ Chenault love, but incredulity in the face of mortality.

It was always an adventure and a pleasure to watch Hunter decide on which epigraph to use for his books, but I never actually spoke to him about the Rum Diary epigraph! But we can certainly guess what his intentions were: Here is the email from Judy:


From the email that Anita is referring to:

The English translation for the Irish lament that is quoted as the epigraph for "The Rum Diary" is lament for Art O'Leary." The opening paragraph of "The Rum Diary" refers to the street on which Al's Backyard is located as "Calle O'Leary." When I first read the opening paragraph of "TheRum Diary", I was immediately struck by the choice of an Irish surname as a street name in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Was the choice of O'Leary as the street name possibly intended as a cross reference to the lament used as the epigraph?

Anita, thanks for letting me share this information with you...
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby shmrNglo » Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:47 am

DitHoT, I just want to thank you for all your detailed research and work in sharing these Tidbits with us.
I find them tremendously enjoyable .... when I read them I am transported back into time .......
Thank you once again.
:lilyrose:

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby ladylinn » Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:37 pm

A most interesting tidbit DITHOT. Thanks for your indepth research. We would never understand the meaning of the epigraph without you. Thanks again for all you do!!

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:49 pm

As usual, I am behind again. :-/ Every time new tidbits start I promise myself I will keep up, after all the hard work is already done. But nope, once again I need to catch up.

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby Melzo » Sat Apr 03, 2010 6:43 pm

It's always interesting to know the reasons authors choose the epigraphs they do for their stories. Thank you, DITHOT, for the research on this one. It helps understand the reason for the epigraph and the story a little more. :bouquet:
"The final measure of bravery is to stand up to death." ~ Marlon Brando/McCarthy, The Brave

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby moviemom » Sat Apr 03, 2010 8:15 pm

Thank you, DeppIntheHeartofTexas for the very informative and interesting tidbit! :bouquet:
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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby suec » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:48 am

Yes, very interesting, DIDHOT, thanks. The eigraph certainly introduces the elegiac feeling in the book for me.
"Luck... inspiration... both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose, and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment."

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby Liz » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:15 am

shmrNglo and moviemom, :welcome: to ONBC!

suec, nice to see you back again.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:11 am

I'm glad you all are enjoing the tidbits! I always find it interesting to dig up more information on what we are reading. :cool:

It's good too see a lot of new people and welcome back some old friends!
:welcome:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Rum Diary Tidbit #6 ~ Dark Eileen O'Connell

Unread postby suec » Tue Apr 06, 2010 5:06 am

Thanks - enjoying the tidbits & looking forward to the discussion! :wave:
"Luck... inspiration... both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose, and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment."


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