Friday, July 10th, 2015...9:00 am

The Bon Ton Skillig List

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Here is a recently cataloged “Skellig list” broadside from the city of Cork, Ireland. A Skellig (or Skillig) list is a poem pairing up local bachelors and unmarried women, giving the subjects false names; but they were easily identifiable to local residents, given their age and physical descriptions (flattering or insulting), how long they have been unmarried, street of residence, and other personal details. The couples are supposed to take themselves to the island Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast and be married; Lent came ten days later on the Skelligs and gave the couples more time, as marriages were supposed to take place before Lent. Skellig lists were composed and circulated or posted for public viewing on Shrove Tuesday in Cork, Kerry and elsewhere. The humor in the (anonymous) Skellig lists “consists of associating the most probable and improbable persons.1” “Skillig” is a variant spelling of “Skellig” in this form of poem.



Some favorite descriptions:

“Hanna Bolster and Tom are the next that will dash on,
Those ladies that think they’re the pink of the fashion,
They say they’d ne’er stoop to move with the trash,
Who throng the Parade, Patrick-street and the Marsh
But as proud and as stale as they are to be seen,
To Skillig they’ll drive in their corn machine.”

“Miss E. Doyle is the next that appears,
She’ll take Parker the Chandler tho’ stricken in years,
Prue Thornhill comes on with a pawn office ticket,
She vows that with Nat Swan she will certainly trip it,
And certainly they are a great pair of friskers,
Prue is constantly praising her Nat for his whiskers.”

“Poet Meagher he finds himself left on the shelf,
As he has no one to go with he’ll go by himself.”

(Possibly P. J. Meagher, County Cork poet and author of Zedechias, a Hebrew tale.)

The poet closes with a gentle reminder:

“Now that my task is o’er as I intended
I hope no lad or lass has been offended,
I’m sure to them no harm I could have done,
But if I have, I humbly beg their pardon,
I have said some funny things perhaps on many,
But I have nothing said too severe on any,
And as I have got no more to say
I bid farewell ‘till next Skillig day.
Old maidens, bachelors, beaus and nymphs divine,
As I found out all your names I pray you find out mine.”

With thanks to Inez Fletcher , Librarian, of the National Library of Ireland, and Críostóir Mac Carthaigh, Archivist, of the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.

See also:  A wonderful post by Bridget Haggerty on the Irish Culture and Customs website.

1. James Coleman, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Series 2, Vol. 1., 77-78.

The Bon Ton skillig list: EB8.A100.830b, HOLLIS number 14408708.

Thanks to Cataloging Assistant Dana Gee for contributing this post.

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