Where's That


"As far as we are concerned, `Stage Irish' is a written phenomenon. There might, of course, have been such a thing as spoken `Stage Irish' in the past . . .", writes Alan Bliss in his Spoken English in Ireland. "The term `Stage Irish' is used to denote a conventional form of language, used in the work of dramatists (and by extension, in that of novelists and others) whenever they wish to reproduce the speech of an Irish character."

After an examination of 27 rare texts manuscripts, early editions of plays, pamphlets and broad-sheets from the 17th and 18th centuries, Bliss concludes that the `Stage Irish' found therein was only remotely related to the speech of Irishmen. William Carleton in his Willie Reilly and Dear Colleen Bawn had Willie speak thus: "Wid de help o' Gad, shir, I was christhened afwhore, sure, by de phriest." Carleton would be well aware that nobody in Ireland spoke like that, but as in the case of other Irish writers and their London publishers, his London publisher would require the Irish peasant to be so distinguished.

Donegal-born Robert Arthur Wilson (1820-1875) spent some years in America as a young man, and on his return to Ulster wrote for the Nation and other papers. He made a reputation for himself as a humorous writer in the Morning News under the pseudonym Barney Maglone. Wilson decided to have Barney Maglone's speak in "Stage Irish". In his innumerable poems "sister" became "sisther", "leave" became "lave", "please" became "plaze", "hero" became "hayro", etc. One poem is Maglone's Halloweve Compliment: "Musha, Barney, it's raly too bad bedad/To see the're looking so sad, my lad/ It's now Halloweve/An' you sit there an' grieve/On account of your sittin', like stone,/Poor, dismal pilgarlic, Maglone."

Whatever one might think about Wilson's use of "Stage Irish", it is unlikely that he had any intention of getting above his readers by using hifalutin words, so we must presume that he knew that "pilgarlic" was familiar to those readers. This word, noted as far back as 1529, meant a pilled (peeled) or bald head of garlic. "A pilled or bald head; a bald-headed man from 17th c. applied in a ludicrously contemptuous way. It is now used only in dialect!" But "Barney Maglone" was approximately 150 years ago - is it still to be heard in Co Fermanagh?

And as "Barney Maglone" spoke "Stage Irish", did Wilson feel that the surname Maglone had a matching ridiculousness? Maglone is one anglicisation of the Irish surname Mac Giolla Eoin, also rendered Mac Aloone, Mac Loone, Mac Cloone, Mac Gloin, Mac Glone. "In Fermanagh and Derry. Eoin is a borrowing of the biblical name John from the Latin Joannes. The name was re-borrowed from the French Jehan, giving in Irish the forms Seaan, Seon, Seoinin," according to Irish Personal Names (O Corrain + Maguire). Eoghan "born of the yew" is a separate name, being one of the 20 most popular names in ancient Ireland. Mac Giolla Eoin has been absurdly changed to Monday, due to the similarity in sound of the word Luain, Monday. (MacLysaght's Surnames of Ireland). Peadar Livingstone in his The Fermanagh Story, however, says: "It is difficult to understand how Mac Giolla Eoin could have become McAloone. Perhaps it might have been Mac Giolla Luain." Telephone directories south of the Border list nine Mac Loone entries, while to its north there are 35 Mac Aloone entries. Twenty of these are in Co Fermanagh, especially around Enniskillen.

Shane m'Clone of Crive, "in the province of Connaught", was among a list of pardoned persons in 1587, and Morrogh m'Clone of Lisduff was among the pardoned "in Cos Roscommon, Galway and Clare" in 1593. McAloone is listed in the 1659 Census as among the principal Irish names in the Co Donegal barony of Tirhugh, and McGleoine among the principal Irish names in the Co Leitrim barony of Carrigallen. In 1876 there was a single acre M'Glone holding in Co Armagh; eight and 375 acres in Co Donegal, and 46 and 78 in Co Fermanagh. In Co Derry there were holdings of 82, 13, 19, 31, and 17 acres - all in Mobuy, Draperstown, belonging to David, Laurence, John (Jack), John (Peter), and John (Tom).

Mobuy, in the Co Derry parish of Lissan, is said to derive from Magh Bhui, "yellow plain".