Elegy on the death of David Sisk

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The poem composed by the Dungourney poet, Eamonn de BhFal (Edward Wall) is a lament on the passing of David Sisk of Corkbeg who died in 1747 aged 62. David Sisk was born about 1685 and is likely to be the grandson of David FitzRobert Sisk who had land in Aghada/Corkbeg circa 1612 -

David’s lifespan coincided with the departure of the remains of the old Irish and Anglo-Irish Catholic aristocracy (the “wild geese”) to the Continent after the Treaty of Limerick and the subsequent imposition of the Penal Laws which were vigorously applied during his lifetime. During this period, Catholics were excluded from the professions and from land ownership. Leases could only be held for a period of 31 years. The temptation to convert to Protestantism to protect property rights must have been difficult to withstand in the circumstances - however, David appears to have remained a Catholic (“And he did not forsake God’s faith when circumstances changed” line 52).

The poem is one of many laments composed by Edward Wall follows the established format of the genre which usually consisted of a mix of high praise of the positive characteristics and deeds of the subject of the poem and expressions of loss and sorrow at his demise. David appears to have continued a established tradition of hospitality and patronage for professional poets, who had suffered a dramatic loss in status and position as a result of the fall of the old Gaelic order after the battle of Kinsale in 1603, the Cromwellian war of the mid-17th century and finally the Williamite war of the 1690's.

References to mythological figures and to topographical features were also standard motifs in the typical lament. Cliona in line 29 was a Munster otherworld lady in literary and oral tradition, who was said to reside in a palace under Carraig Chliona in the parish of Kilshannig, south of Mallow in Co. Cork. Aine (line 29) was a land goddess whose palace was situated at Cnoc Aine (the hill of Knockainey in Co. Limerick) . Cnoc Firinne (line 30) (Knockfeerina) lies east of the village of Ballingarry on the Croom-Newcastle West road, Co. Limerick. This hill, 948ft high, was another of the celebrated otherworld seats in Munster. Knockfeerina overlooks the River Maigue (line 30) which flows north from Charleville through Adare into the Shannon estuary. The reference to Cait on line 33 appears to be a reference to David’s wife.

David Sisk is buried in Corkbeg cemetery. The headstone is inscription as follows:






1747 AGED 62






(I have hoped in you lord

bring me back to

eternal life

pray for me Holy

Mother of God)

The headstone has a skull and crossbones motif, which was a significant aspect of funerary art in the area ( according to a study by Patrick O’Shea of the imagery and symbolism on 18th century headstones in churchyards in the Barony of Imokilly) . It appears on 28 headstones out of a total of 360 inspected for the purposes of the study. The skull and crossbones is a symbol of mortality. The motif on the headstone was revealed by Brendan and Harry Sisk when they cleaned and raised the headstone in the summer of 1998. The headstone is number 4 on the map of Sisk headstones in Corkbeg graveyard.

By locating the headstone and linking our ancestor to the hero of the Edward Wall poem we were able to date the death elegy to 1747. Edward Wall (1688-1763) was a member of the Rathluairc school of poetry. His compositions were edited and published by Risteard O Foghludha in 1946. The earliest manuscript version of the David Sisk lament is in the O’Longain Irish Manuscripts collection in the Royal Irish Academy. The version dates from 1795-1808. {my note: This version is in Old Irish script and is not divided into stanzas and is very difficult to read, Other versions of the Elegy are a/ in handwritten form in the Boole Library, UCC and b/ in Maynooth College}.

Edward Wall is buried in Dungourney graveyard- His headstone was located with the assistance of a local historian, Mr. James Colbert, in Autumn 1998. The headstone had fallen and was moss covered and would shortly have been lost to future generations. Brendan and I felt that the poetic contribution by Edward Wall to the memory of our 18th century forbear was deserving of a reciprocal gesture in an effort to sustain the memory of the file so with the financial assistance of Brendan and our family we arranged for the cleaning and erection of the headstone so that it will be available to interested visitors for some generations to come.

The headstone inscription is as follows


stone was erected by

William Wall in Me

Mory of his father

Edmond who died Febray the 20th 1763"

Seamus Sisk

25 March 1999


Who was Edward Wall?


Cois Caoin-Reathaighe (published in 1946) by Risteard O Foghludha, tells us that he was Eamonn de BhFál 1683-1755

(In his Literary Worthies of Imokilly he gives the years as 1688-1750)


The dates are incorrect as his headstone states that he died on 20th February 1763 aged 95 years and therefore lived 1668-1763.  See also Gravestones of Historical Interest by Liam O Buachalla and Richard Henchion.


He was from Couragh, Dungourney.


Edward Wall 1668-1763


He lived and wrote at the height of the Penal Laws.


Verse 12 of “Ar Bás Dath Siosg” has been variously translated as follows



Hospitality and entertainment were found in his house;

Tables laden and Noblemen seated at them;

Music to encourage their appetite and sweet singing with the Harp;

This was how this brave fellow, active and intelligent, liked to live.




Drinking and long carousing I used to see in his house

A table laid out and noblemen around it.

Music being cultivated and sweet singing on the harp

This is what the active, clever man practised.



This type of hospitality was quite common in Ancient Ireland.


In The Story of the Irish Race by Seumas MacManus see his chapter on HOSPITALITY IN ANCIENT IRELAND.


A characteristic of the Irish Race for which it has been noted through the ages is its hospitality. In pre-Christian days this quality shone as much as it did in later time.


A person of rank had to entertain any stranger without enquiring who or what he was or the wherefore of his coming. Against the coming of unknown guests his door must be open, and his fire must always have on it the coire ainsec, undry cauldron.

A guest came when he liked, stayed while he would, and left when he wished. No matter how many the guests that thronged one’s house, or how lengthy their sojourn, under no conceivable circumstances could it be intimated to them that they should depart. And, furthermore, under no circumstances, in those times, could or would a guest, departing from any house howsoever poor, so far forget the respect due his host, as to offer any kind of compensation.



In the old Irish poets and writers we find a man reckoned wealthy not by what he has but by what he gives.


In the early days, because in many districts people might be too poor, or travelers too many, for satisfactory private hospitality, there were, at various points throughout the land, public houses of hospitality called bruideans (breens). And the honoured officials who were entrusted with these houses were called brughaids (brewys). A bruidean was always set at the junction of several roads, frequently at the junction of six. It had open doors facing every road—and a man stationed on each road to make sure that no one passed unentertained. It had a light burning on the lawn all night. A full cauldron was always boiling on the fire. It was stocked with provisions of all kinds in plenty.

The esteem in which was held the virtue of hospitality is exemplified by the fact that the public brughaid was, by law, permitted the same number of attendants, and given the same protection, as the king of a territory. His hospice was endowed with land, and with other allowances. The brughaid had a magistrate’s jurisdiction for arbitration of agrarian cases. His house, too, was the house of assembly for election of officers of the territory.

As the brughaid was required to welcome, at all times, every company and every face, his bruidean must always be stocked with three boiled fleshes, three red fleshes (i.e. uncooked) and three living fleshes. The three fleshes were those of an ox, a wether, and a hog. The three living fleshes must be at hand, fattened, and ready for immediate killing; the three red fleshes dressing in the kitchen; the three boiled fleshes in the boilers, ready for immediate serving.

Every brughaid was required to have at least a hundred of each kind of animal grazing on his fields—and a hundred servants in his house. He was called a brughaid ceadach, meaning a hundred brughaid. There was a brughaid leitech, two hundred brughaid, who had two hundred of each type of cattle, and a hundred beds for guests. The good brughaid was expected to have in his house the three miachs (sacks) – a miach of malt to make refreshment for wayfarers, a miach of wheat to give them food, and a miach of salt, to improve the food’s taste. Also the three cheers, the cheer of the strainers straining ale, the cheer of the servitors over the cauldron, and the cheer of the young men over the chessboard, winning games from one another.

The six chief bruideans of Ireland were asylums of refuge for homicides—like the six Jewish cities of refuge. Keating estimated the total number of such houses of hospitality in Ireland, As being over four hundred. He says there were ninety in Connaught, ninety in Ulster, ninety three in Leinster, and a hundred and thirty in Munster.


Brendan Sisk

Iargno ar Bas Daibhi Dathmhail Siosg.

by Eamun de BFal 1668-1763.


Lament on the death of Beautiful Davy Sisk

By Edward Wall 1668-1763


Manuscript T8, Special Collections, Boole Library, UCC, Cork

compiled by Tadhg Ua Donnchuda – (Torna)


Translated by Padraig O’Suilleabhain

An Rath Mor, Ciarrai (Aug 1998)



My predicament, my need, my desolation, my sorrow, my weariness

Spotless David Sisk under a slab decaying in a church-yard

Smooth, clever, intelligent were the “notes of his head”

And he did not sin against the high “Powerful One”.



High was his stature, in his career and accomplishments, and in respect

Loving, mannerly, generous, charitable, pure

Strong, daring, of good qualities, jolly, bright

Without flattery, not prone to argument, trickery or malice, guileless(he was).



He did not trick the pitiful person, the strong nor the weak

The love of the seers, who was not surly to composing poets

A man without hardness, in whom generosity resided

And it’s a terrible loss to the area that the hero lies cold in the grave.



It’s a loss to the regions of Banba(Ireland) that he is weak in the grave

A man that never entertained miserly, ungenerous, uncharitable thoughts

A man that is not found wanting in sword-fights

But(on the contrary) generous, gregarious, liberal – a strong leader.



The champion was unshakeable, powerful, strong, mighty

Mild, fun loving, without arrogance in his good fortune in life.

In friendship he was honest and he harmed nobody.

And he was an intelligent, understanding, valorous, gentle hero.



An uncowardly hero in any affray that he may have been in,

Generous to the weak, to nobles, poets and clergy.

Humane as well as that, charitable, good-looking and of good disposition,

And generosity has disappeared from our view seeing that David is interred.






Since that distinguished person who was never censured, has been buried

Wood-birds are without sweetness since the prince is no more.

There are no fish in pools, no leaf, no flower has been seen for a long time

And the gods are heard mourning you in words of lament.



Sad and lamenting you is Clíoðna and bright Áine

The fairy princesses of Cnoc Fírinne and (River) Máigh of the streams,

The unscreaming stone of the wise-men of Fáil(Ireland)

And, far and wide in Imokilly is heard the sound of the waterfalls.



Weeping full tears is the bright woman, Cáit, and her family

They are mourning bitterly and grievously do they feel your loss.

The chief poets of every district will lament the generous one

Yes, well may they praise him since David was laid low and weak.



Weak are his women for a while now crying

And I think it no shame since he is in the graveyard

A beautiful, pious, generous, gentle scion

Straight, faultless, without flattery, deceit or pomp.



Pomp was never to be detected in the high spirits of the quick, big heart

And he was sincere in deed, valorous, decent, strong and lively.

The hue of snow was mixed with the rose in his bright cheek

And every bone in his body was well proportioned.



Drinking and long carousing I used to see in his house

A table laid out and noblemen around it.

Music being cultivated and sweet singing on the harp

This is what the active, clever man practised.



Clever and learned was the generous, magnanimous Phoenix

Always honourable, charitable, talented, well-respected

Benefactor of clergy and poets, a source of strength to them

And he did not forsake God’s faith when circumstances changed.



The decrees of the Church he followed with apology to no one

And never did he insult a person even of the lowliest station

Generously he used scatter the worldly wealth that accrued to him

And, O God of the apostles, take his soul to your own habitation.






It is a loss to me that bright David Sisk is under this tombstone and it’s a troublesome plight.

He was sturdy, intelligent, wise.

(He was) The love of the Learned and a merry character

His house usually was full of people.


A house of welcome, that truly came to the aid of many

A house for poor people whose roof was not empty

O Son of my heart who was cruelly hanged on a tree of thorns

Place near you the gentle mannerly, happy man.



He was gentle, charitable, liberal, well respected

A pure, learned man, merry, well to do, heroic, pleasant.

He was not in want, he used spend with humanity.

And, O King of the apostles, bring his soul free to heaven.



In heaven may the Father receive the really kind-one, the right one.

A man like Achilles, whose strength would not be bested in battle.

I would have to make a long journey in Art’s Highland(Eire)

Before I’d find the likes of this hawk, laid low beneath the tombstone.



In the grave, Alas!, laid low, a great champion, of mighty deeds

A man of smooth, well-chosen, loving, cheerful, peaceful pronouncements.

A man who rarely was blamed because of ill affection

Find a man, I hear, who did not fail as to reputation or when put to the test.



David was not found wanting in manliness, ‘til the day of his death

And he did not get a reputation for wrongdoing.

Now, alas, the worthy man lies low

And, O King of graces, give him a place in your bright court.



O King of graces, from now on you have in your heavenly kingdom

A quiet, kind, ingenious, straight man – David.

A pure, high-spirited person, of good repute and deed

Dead in the grave – it is a case of deep loss.





Ar Bas Dath Siosc.

by Eamun de bFal 1668-1763.


                                On The Death of David Sisk

By  Edward Wall 1668-1763   

Translated (1971) by Paidrig O Maidin  


from manuscript 23G24 (257) p. 91 Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson St., Dublin 2







My sorrow, loss, deprivation, weariness that bright

David Sisk is under the stone, decaying in the graveyard.

He was suave, learned, wise in his speech,

And did not offend against the Almighty in heaven.



He was highly esteemed in authority, wealth and popularity.

Loving, courteous, charitable, friendly, clean,

Strong, brave, talented, witty, bright,

Without wrangling, without prejudice, without spite, without trickery.



He did not play tricks on the poor, or the strong, or the weak.

He was the favourite of the poets and he smiled on them.

Hospitality had built her nest in this generous man;

It is a tragedy for the countryside that this hero is growing colder in the cemetery.



In the cemetery lies Ireland's loss in her weakness;

A man who never tried to pretend to be always right, or was very

Miserly or broke: A man not found defeated in Sword Duels,

But was ever open, fond of company, bountiful, while remaining in firm command.



This hero was firm, able, strong and virile, disciplined,

Delightful, without arrogance in his bloom of life.

His affection was given without crookedness of any kind,

And he never injured anyone. This hero was thoughtful, understanding, entertaining and chaste.



A hero without fear in every contest he found himself fighting.

At ease with the weak, the princes, the poets, the clergy

And above all, humanity, friendship, beautiful in his character.

Since David lies in the clay hospitality has gone astray among us.




In the clay they laid this man of distinction who was never blamed.

The birds of the wood have no sweetness since this prince was overcome;

No fish are caught, no leaf nor blossom has been seen for a long time;

Even the gods are heard lamenting your death.



Your death has troubled CLIONA and bright AINE the goddesses of

Knockfienna and of the river Maigue of the many tributaries;

The magical stone that the wise men of Ireland had,

Gave a shout and for a long time the cry of the waterfalls has been heard in Imokilly.



Unrestrainedly wept that luminous woman Cáit and her children;

They are lost, sad and hungry in your absence.

The leaders of every community will mourn the champion who was never tight-fisted,

And there will be no rest since David was knocked down.



The women have been weeping for him for a good while,

And I accept that the cause of their sorrow is unashamedly laid in the grave.

A devout offshoot, beautiful, charitable and gentle,

Without crookedness, without blemish, without flattery, without deceit, without pomp.



Pomp never touched this fine fellow of the distinguished and generous heart,

Who was clean in action, valiant, genial, vigorous and energetic.

The white of snow shone in his countenance through the rose

And every limb in his body was perfect.



Hospitality and entertainment were found in his house;

Tables laden and Noblemen seated at them;

Music to encourage their appetite and sweet singing with the Harp;

This was how this brave fellow, active and intelligent, liked to live.



He was intelligent and learned, a princely and generous Phoenix,

Innocent, charitable, talented, always of good reputation:

The learning of the clergy and the poets, strengthening them,

And he never forsook God's religion for an altered liturgy.



He carried out the rules of the church without dread of anyone,

And he never insulted anyone, even the most vile.

He scattered generously whatever blooms of the world came to him

And may God of the Apostles carry his soul up to his own abode.




Underneath this stone, to my sorrow and torment

Lies the cultured man, energetic, intellectual, bright David Sisk,

Patron of poets and champion of fun,

His home ever filled with people.



A house that liberally nourished a true tradition;

A house that gave shelter to the poor

O Christ, Son of God, who suffered terribly under the thorns,

Take with you this affable, courteous and gentle man.



He was gentle, friendly, liberal and popular;

A cultured man, clean, witty, wealthy, wonderful and droll.

He was never broke or in want and he gave with charity,

O King of the Apostles bring his soul with you to heaven.



May the Father receive him in heaven, this fine, gentle, right man.

Like Hercules he was unconquerable in contests.

I would have to make a long journey in Ireland before I would meet

The like of this hawk now laid to rest in the Cemetery.



In the cemetery alas, lies the champion, chaste and powerful in action:

A man of suave words, well shaped, loving, happy, calm;

A man who never blamed another no matter how evil his appearance;

A man who never yielded, as I hear, in the contest of supreme talents.



David never yielded in manliness until death;

He earned no repute that his good behavior did not win:

Now he lies, this worthy man, the cause of my sorrow.

May the King of Graces give him an abode in his bright courts.



In Your Heaven forevermore, O King of Graces,

You have that brave, humane, ingenious, straight man,

David, a fine clean fellow, good in deed and in repute,

Now dead in the grave, and deep is our loss and our sorrow.

Dath Siosc [David Sisk]gravestone Corkbeg Cemetery

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