Little Waves of Breffny

Today, I was sent an email with this poem by Eva Gore-Booth and asked if and how it related to our Breifne Region. Eva Gore Booth was sister of Constance Markievicz, daughters of Robert Gore-Booth of Lissadell House. Lissadell House is perhaps more famous for its occasional visitor, W.B. Yeats.  Yeats encouraged Eva to forward her literary abilities to compete and succeed in the male dominated literary world of Ireland.

The Little Waves of Breffny

The grand road from the mountain goes shining to the sea,
And there is traffic in it and many a horse and cart,
But the little roads of Cloonagh are dearer far to me,
And the little roads of Cloonagh go rambling through my heart.

A great storm from the ocean goes shouting o'er the hill,
And there is glory in it and terror on the wind,
But the haunted air of twilight is very strange and still,
And the little winds of twilight are dearer to my mind.

The great waves of the Atlantic sweep storming on their way,
Shining green and silver with the hidden herring shoal,
But the Little Waves of Breffny have drenched my heart in spray,
And the Little Waves of Breffny go stumbling through my soul.

Today, I also read an old newspaper article from the Sligo Journal of 1855

This told a story of “pirates” from the north shores of Sligo raiding the oyster farms of Robert Gore-Booth within the Ballisadare Bay.  The Gore-Booth Estate workers raced off in horses and carts to Cloonagh, jumped onto boats there and raced back around the bay in the boats to confront the “pirates”, and quite a scuffle took place.

The Origin of Breifne

It appears that Cloonagh has never been within any Breifne borders but the oyster rich Ballisadare Bay may well have been the origin of what eventually mushroomed into the Bréifne, a region pushing Ulster away from Connaught.

The oyster farming at Ballisadare Bay goes back to the first known people in Ireland, way back to around 6000 BC. Farming during a hunter gatherer mesolithic period.

Eva Gore-Booth’s earliest writings recalled ancient folklore told to her as a child, stories of mythological warriors, powerful women, evocative locations and ancient Irish wisdom. She recalled the stories of ancient times to provide interpretation and faith in truth and beauty today. Eva poured a lot of time into reading ancient texts of religion and eastern philosophy.

Eva placed herself into standing up for the rights of women and W.B. Yeats encouraged her to forward her literary talents to cut through Ireland’s male dominated literary society.

I can visualize Eva working with the oyster racks with the wind and surf spray hammering her face. It was a “man’s job” and she was doing it, and she wrote “Little Waves Of Breffny” as a passionate response.

The Quest 

Eva’s spirituality found Christ as an inspiration and personification of love.

In response she wrote this wonderful poem in 1925 as a tribute to the life of Jesus. 

Deep in that world where pale tides ebb and flow
And wild shapes wander under the vast blue,
A man once sought, beneath the shadow show,
To find himself, the living one, the true.
And first he met a gentle silver shade
And held it as it would have floated by
He cried to it "Art thou myself?" he said
"Nay, but the form of all thy dreams am I"
"Not thou, but thine" thin voices and swift gleams
Mocked at the darkness of the lonely quest,
For though he found his soul, his burning dreams,
Himself seemed always an unbidden guest
He laboured on through sorrow, toil and strife
Till in the labyrinth a strange voice said
"I am the Resurrection and the Life"
He woke at last - himself transfigured.



  1. For a bit more on Eva Gore-Booth, see the short biographical article on


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