• January 11, 2020

Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan TD and his insatiable desire to embrace the memory of the RIC lead me unpredictably on ‘a Gaelic odyssey’.

I wrote about W B Yeats poem ‘Reprisals’ in which he writes a second eulogy to his former friend Major Robert Gregory an airman killed in the first world war. Yeats bemoans the fact that the action of the RIC in Gregory’s home County (Galway) are at odds with the ideals that Gregory died for:

Through ‘Reprisals’ I’m led to the story of Lady Augusta Gregory (Major Gregory’s mother) who was heavily involved, indeed a driving force, in ‘The Gaelic Revival’ at the end of the nineteenth into the twentieth century. It’s a fascinating story and its certain the influence of that period and people like her undoubtedly spurred the Pan Celtic renaissance that spilled across the Celtic countries including our own.

Here’s the link to the story of a remarkable woman:


The Gregory’s home at Coole Park Co Galway is close to Gort and North Clare a place I visited often but sadly never went to the house and grounds which are now administered by the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Yeats poem ‘Reprisals’

“Some nineteen German planes, they say,
You had brought down before you died.
We called it a good death. Today
Can ghost or man be satisfied?
Although your last exciting year
Outweighed all other years, you said,
Though battle joy may be so dear
A memory, even to the dead,
It chases other thought away,
Yet rise from your Italian tomb,
Flit to Kiltartan cross and stay
Till certain second thoughts have come
Upon the cause you served, that we
Imagined such a fine affair:
Half-drunk or whole-mad soldiery
Are murdering your tenants there.
Men that revere your father yet
Are shot at on the open plain.
Where may new-married women sit
And suckle children now? Armed men
May murder them in passing by
Nor law nor parliament take heed.
Then close your ears with dust and lie
Among the other cheated dead.”

Yeats earlier first eulogy on the death of Lady Augusta Gregory’s son Robert entitled ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ may seem familiar if you’ve seen the film ‘Memphis Belle’ it’s the poem featured in that film (link):


Image: Lady Gregory

Bernard Moffatt, Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (6 January 2020)

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