This poem by Con O’Brien, The Bard of Ballyhea, was originally published in the Cork Weekly Examiner. It tells the story of Boss Murphy’s uncle the famous weight thrower William Murphy (c1819-1905) and his hammer throwing victory at Liscarroll Castle in 1868.
MURPHY’S FAMOUS THROW OF
THE SLEDGE AT LISCARROLL CASTLE
‘Twas back long ago, in the year ’68,
When the landlord and agent were running the State,
And the tenant implored, with his hat in his hand,
That their “Honours” might let him hold on to the land.
And the Fenians were scattered, and chased day and night,
But what matter, although they went down in the fight,
They left us the spirit that laughed at all fear,
And inspired them to die for the cause they held dear.
‘Twas then you might find a “great” boy, here and there,
Who “Lepped” a big river, with five feet to spare,
With a gun in his hand, and a bag on his back.
While he laughed at the game-keeper hard on his track,
Or who hammered the Peelers in Buttevant Square,
When they tried to arrest him, the day of the fair.
Now big William Murphy, well known far and wide,
A fine able man, without swagger or pride,
Was famous for throwing the sledge, and the weight,
About his friends sent a challenge, for miles all around,
Declaring his master, could nowhere be found.
But at length and at last, a bold rival was got,
To challenge Big Bill, on his own native spot,
On next Patrick’s Day, at the sledge and the weight,
And the County all round took a note of the date.
From Buttevant, Churchtown, Kanturk, and Greenhall,
From Charleville, Mallow, and Freemount and all.
Such Crowds in Liscarroll were never since seen,
When the Rivals peeled off, and stood out on the green.
And the Colonel from Buttevant, said half aloud,
That he never saw men with more cause to be proud,
McCarthy the Challenger, gave a big throw,
And Murphy was beaten a half yard or so,
Then at it again, and McCarthy still won,
Till somebody shouted that William was done,
Then he caught up the sledge in a temper, and threw,
And said “Hand me my coat, I think that ought to do”
And McCarthy remarked ’twas as well for him go,
For the Devil himself couldn’t “bate” that same throw.
Then Murphy looked up at the Castle hard by,
And he gazed at the wall that stands sixty feet high,
And he called for a sledge, for his temper was hot,
And he asked if they thought him a crawler, or what.
So they brought him a sledge, that was twelve pounds in weight,
And he rolled up his sleeves, for he couldn’t be “bate”
And he paced sixty feet from the foot of the wall,
While a silence came over the soldiers and all.
And the muscles, like whipcord stood out on him there,
As he stood to his mark, for he judged it with care
Then he balanced, and swung, with his terrible might,
And the sledge sailed aloft, like a bird in its flight,
Clean over the wall, that stands forty feet high,
While the crowd stood around, and ’tis small wonder why,
Then the big fellow smiled, and said, “Now get a man,
To throw it half way, after that, if you can.”
Such shouting, and cheering were never since known,
As William walked off, with some friends of his own,
And his record still stands, as the years come and go,
And a stone marks the spot where he stood for that throw.