Donegal journalist Gerry McLaughlin fondly remembers his beloved Corlea

Donegal journalist  Gerry McLaughlin fondly remembers his beloved Corlea

Gerry McLaughlin, known by most as a news and sports journalist, has many strings to his bow, among them a love for reading and writing poetry. He has penned this poem which is about Christmas in Corlea, a small border townland near Belleek, to where his father Willie came in 1925.

Gerry told us: "It was and is a magical place and will hold my heart forever. I hope you enjoy this poem about it."

                      A Corlea Christmas 1930s


The stars of Heaven are shining brightly over the Red Hill

And a sickle moon is wrapped warm in a soft cloud

There are razor blades in the breeze from Bonahill

But I am kept warm in a townland of trees

And will never feel the winter chill


For Christmas is coming to Corlea.

Eddie Moore touches the bow and plays the Coolin

And his 22-year-old heart beats faster

For he knows his true love 

Is coming around the valley with her greatest gift

A smile that could open Heaven above


There’s music from the byre as Willie milks the grey cow.

Standing stately like a queen of the land

And the calves are calling quietly from the stable

For they know that Joseph Mary and Jesus are their eternal band

Up in Belleek the pubs are heaving with banter and bile

Raised voices, a few broken glasses and even noses and hearts

As breast- fed feuds are taken to town.

And the men with too much drink slink into Midnight Mass


For Christmas is a terrible time to fall out of love and into hate

But my five year-old heart is waiting on the one with the white beard.

The one who will be flying in from Cashelard

With all my hopes and dreams on board


Barney Daly, from the blue-eyed breed of the bards

Shafted a shovel for Gerry ‘The Bull” McBarron

And it was brought back to the “Bull”

Wrapped up in the bars of a rhyme


Billy Moore is making some home- made beer

And Thomas John Ward is shaking his shoulders

Reddened with rum and black and telling all

How he spotted the banshee as clear as

You would see a white cow in a bog.


And I am watching my mother Rose, who always cried

When Eddie Moore played the Coolin.

A song of loss and loneliness stealing over icy ash trees

A song for the young who don’t know the sorrow of true love

On Eddie’s singing fiddle before the flickering flames of Christmas


But Corlea never bent the knee to the stranger

And there was always something sharper than straw in the thatch

And gold whiskey and “white lightning” soon loosened

Tongues around the flickering flames as they remembered 

Major Moore and his mistress Madame Bideau.


They weren’t the worst but their kind were happy

To see the natives pushed back to rushy hills.

To see caps doffed in sullen silence

And Irish rents to pay the bills for living on their own land


It is later now and the stars of Heaven are still over the Red Hill.

And the sickle moon is the wing of an angel.

The two big oaks on McCann’s Mountain

Are surely the Father and Holy Ghost

Watching the baby Jesus, in the stable of Christmas in Corlea

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