Lady Muck from Clabber Hill
Sir, – I am guessing that Alison Healy’s mother was perhaps born and reared somewhere in the north of the island, where she would have learned the meaning of the Ulster Scots word “clabber” (“Lady Muck’ – An Irishwoman’s Diary on flaunting it”, August 28th).
To put it as delicately as I can, examples of clabber can be seen dotted around any field where cattle are grazing. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I very much enjoyed Alison Healy’s recollections about her mother’s colourful expression “Lady Muck of Clabber Hill”.
She says the only reference to Clabber Hill was in Maryland in the US, but she should have looked closer to home.
Those familiar with the works of WF Marshall, “the Bard of Tyrone”, will immediately recognise clabber for what it is. His sad lament about the unmarried farmer growing old on a smallholding, “Me and Me Da”, contains the lines, “the de’il a man in this townslan’/was claner raired nor me/but I’m livin in Drumlister/in clabber to the knee . . . ”, or up to his oxters in farmyard muck! – Yours, etc,
DAVID DAVIN POWER,
Sir, – Growing up in Monaghan, I remember the phrase “Lady Muck” well. It was a putdown for someone who was thought to be acting above their station! The word clabber means muck and dirt.
Clabber Hill would be a very lowly place to live!
In the poem Living in Drumlister, by Rev WF Marshall, one line goes, “I’m living in Drumlister, in clabber to the knee”! – Yours , etc,
Sir, – Alison Healy’s Irishwoman’s Diary will have left surviving members of the British Communist Party misty-eyed. Their anthem used to be, “We will make Lady Docker sweep the stairs at Transport House, When the Red Revolution comes along”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Lord and Lady Muck even made it into the consciousness and lyrics of Elvis Costello
“And all we get are pictures of Lord and Lady Muck, They come from lovely people with a hard line in hypocrisy, There are ashtrays of emotion for the fag ends of the aristocracy” (Pills and Soap, 1983). – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The word “clabber” comes from “clábar”, the Irish word for “muck”. – Yours, etc,