Pierce Ferriter

Commentary


Life
?1600-1652 [Piaras Feiritéir; var. d.1653]; Gaelic lord of Ballyferriter, Dingle; empower to raise force of 600 men by Patrick Fitzmaurice, Lord Kerry; shifted allegiance to Gaelic interest represented by Finín Mac Cárrthaigh; wounded in attack on Tralee Castle in 1641; held the castle till the fall of Ross Castle, Killarney, in 1653;
 
Ferriter went to Killarney [?Ross] to arrange terms, and was promised safe conduct but was seized at Castlemaine and hanged with a priest and a bishop at the Hill of Sheep [Cnocán na gCaorac] in Killarney [var. ‘[...] consoled by the ministrations of Father Maurice O’Connel’ - W. G. H. Flood ; his sophisticated courtly love poetry was edited by Padraig Ó Duinnín (1903);
 
though Ferriter’s best-known poem is “Leig díot t’airm, a mhacoimh mná [Lay aside thy arms, maiden]”, he also wrote love-poems addressed to men in Renaissance-fashion; there is a monument by Seamus Murphy to the four chief Kerry Poets in Killarney town; best-remembered for the line ‘is biogdhghad bais liom bas mo chomarsan’ [I will not die for you ...]; his castle was destroyed by a gale in May 1845. DIB DIW OCIL

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Works
  • P[adraig] Ó Duinnín [Dinneen, ed., Dánta Phiarais Feiritéir [Gaelic League Series, Irish Texts, Vol. 5] (Dublin 1903; rev. edn. 1934);
  • Filidhe móra Chiarraighe / Four Notable Kerry Poets (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1929), viii, 32pp., 8º [Egan O’Rahilly, Eoghan Ruadh O’Sullivan/Ó Suilleabháin, Piaras Ferriter/Féiriteir and Geoffrey O'Donoghue/Seafradh Ó Donnchadha].  
  • Seán Ó Tuama, An Gra i bhFilíocht na h-Uaisle (1988).
 
See also T. F. O’Rahilly, ‘A poem by Piaras Fe[i]ritéir’, Eriu, 13 (1942); also anthologised in Sean Ó Tuama, ed. [and Thomas Kinsella, trans.], An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed (OUP 1981).

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Criticism
John Caball, The Singing Swordsman (1953/4), biographical novel, with a preface by Daniel Corkery.

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Commentary
William Grattan H. Flood, A History of Irish Music (Dublin: 1905) - Chap. XIX [‘Irish Music in the Seventeenth Century, 1650-1700’: ‘One of the most renowned harpers in 1650 was Pierce Ferriter, of Ferriter’s Castle, County Kerry, whose fame is not confined to tradition. We read that he was presented with a beautiful harp by Edmond Mac an Daill (son of Donnell Mac an Daill), of Moylurg, County Roscommon, on which occasion he wrote an Irish poem of twenty-six stanzas. The “gentleman harper” (as he was called in County Kerry), headed a band of troops to defend his property, but surrendered on condition of quarter for his men and himself. Notwithstanding this he was thrown into a filthy prison, where, however, he had the happiness of being consoled by the ministrations of Father Maurice O’Connell, a Jesuit, who, in the guise of a labourer, gave him the last sacraments. Pierce Ferriter was led out to execution in the year 1652, at Killarney, on Cnocán na gCaorac, now Fair Hill, and was hanged. The Rinuccini MS. adds that though famous as a Confederate leader, he was still more famed as an orator and bard - et praesertim Hibernica lingua insignem - especially for his genius as an Irish poet. Ferriter composed many fine airs, but I have failed to recover any of them save the caoine on the death of the Knight of Kerry in 1642 - published by [Thomas] Crofton Croker [Popular Songs]. The Puritans, not content with hanging the Kerry bard, also hanged his brother-in-law, Father Thady Moriarty, Prior of the Dominican Convent, Tralee, whose martyrdom is chronicled on October 15th, 1653.’ See also footnotes: 1. ‘[His] castle was dismantled by a gale in May, 1845.’ 2. ‘The definitive edition of Pierce Ferriter’s Irish poems has recently been published by the Gaelic League, Dublin, edited by Rev P. Dinneen. The poem on the harp is particularly interesting, as giving the Irish names for the corr (harmonic curve or crosstree), the lámcrann (front pillar), and the com, or soundboard, of the harp given to Ferriter by Mac an Daill. It was designed by MacSithduill, made by Cathal, bound and emblazoned by Bennglan, and decorated with gold by Parthalon mor MacCathail.’ (pp.197-98; available at Library Ireland online; accessed 10.05.2011.]

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References
Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985); involved in 1641 from religious rather than political motives; his invention of a Trojan horse in the form of an artificial sow ended in disaster; Castle surrendered in March 1642; Ferriter held it until 1653 when he surrendered under safe conduct to Brig-Gen. Nelson at Killarney; hanged.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: Maurice O’Sullivan’s grandfather tells him of the poet and chieftain Pierce Ferriter, a leader of Irish forces in the war of 1641, [who] was captured and hanged in Killarney in 1653 [sic], a prominent figure in the folklore of West Kerry, 883; cited in footnote to Pearse Hutchinson’s poem, “The Frost is All Over” [‘To kill a language is to kill a people ... Honor Croome / Could never make her Kerryman verse English’], 1335n. Otherwise not listed in FDA.

University of Ulster Library, Morris Collection holds Pierce Ferriter, Dánta [&c] (Connradh na Gaedhilge 1916).

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