Gerry McLaughlin, a member of our UGAAWA, has penned a number of tributes in poetic form to various people and I thought they were worth sharing with you and with his permission we have posted some of his work here. The first is a tribute to his 96-year old dad, Willie "The Kid" McLaughlin, who is not well and to whom we send our best wishes. The second is in memory of his mother who passed away recently. The third is a tribute to an Ulster Council Gael, Tom Cullen and then a poem for Matt Hughes. There is also a great tribute to the late Seamus Heron, ‘the greatest Erne Gael of them all’.

Fermanagh Tributes

‘This is something I wrote for our dad "Willie the Kid" McLaughlin, who is not well at the moment. He is a feisty free spirit, a witty wee man with blue eyes popping out of his head. Willie came to Corlea in 1924 and gave us a great love for the GAA and he was secretary and treasurer and hit frees for a club that reached a Donegal SFL final in 1948. And he has a fine singing voice and takes no crap from anyone at the age of 96!

 'Willie the Kid' and the kings of Corlea

Yankee Jimmy and Yankee Tommy, giants from the golden stone of Cloghore
Scraped the skies, those bounding boys of yore
Patsy Rooney' sprung like a salmon
Scattering his foes to the wind.
Eddie John Gonigle busted through defences like a ghost with a hammer in his heart
And, big William McGee stood like Hercules on the edge of the square.
John Doogan was well able for the giants of Mulleek.
And Neil "Myers" Doherty played minor till he was 30.
While Jimmy Rourke sang all their songs at the Crooked Bridge
These were Willie’s kings in his own townland, with no frontiers.
They would have won a county championship.
But “Big men” with serge suits, and pioneer pins, in the Fall.
Decided that they were neither Fermanagh nor Donegal.
Corlea was scattered to the wind in 1948
Turned into a townland of trees, with no ball.
A few months after they had played a senior county final in Donegal
And Willie still remembers that cruel Fall
But he still smiles when he also remembers singing 'Shanagolden' in Moore’s meadow
Like a Corlea king of Donegal’.

This is a poem in tribute to the late former Ulster Council member Tom Cullen from Erne Gaels, Belleek.
He was a great Irish teacher, a great poet and a great Gael who was also an accomplished author and wrote a number of publications about the GAA in Ulster.

  “Wee Tom”

The moon is an angel’s wing over Corlea-Tom
It’s flying high over the Red Hill
The cry of spring is in Derryhillew
And the daffodils in Eddie Moore’s green fields are staring at the stars
Cullen’s country was a special place
Where bards made their own magic in May.
And the whole world was in Corlea.
A Gaelic kingdom, where Wee Tom walked tall
A towering giant of the GAA
Who had a swagger, sure of his wares
Casting a clear blue eye on the world.
A wordsmith and weaver of dreams
Making verse like his mother’s kin- the old O’Dalaigh bards
Softly singing their songs
Proud of his people and clan
Who could look in the eye of every man
Aye, and even death too
But we will never forget you.

In memory of my Mother

Take care and “don’t be drinking”
Rose is suddenly back as my mother
From a world that she can’t understand
And her words are like no others

She sits like a lady with a lovely scarf around her neck
And she speaks softly in a strange tongue in the Rock Home
Her tone is normal and mild
But the words have no meaning
And that is so cruel for one who was once as clear in heart and mind as a child

Suddenly she is back in West Fermanagh
Loving the dog roses that grew in the hedge
In front of the house
Because they had no thorns worth talking about

And back over the brown bog running to Lattone
Her university on the hill where she loved learning
A curly haired queen who loved words
Who loved their bright magic
And their windows of wonder
Just like her father Joe Johnny McGuire.

But her mother Teresa’s death was like ice in summer
And there would be no Mount Lourdes to open the doors
To a greater world and instead was sent to an aunt
A withered drone, scared a sensitive child.
Who so badly missed her own mother

And Rose poured all the love she was denied
Into her own little ones.
And never forgot baby Rose who lies in a quiet corner of Annagary.
As Willie buried their first baby, in a wooden box.

Her sorrow often streamed quiet tears
When her boys were playing football or Willie was in Corlea.
But her gra for us soon dried those tender tears
For Rose loved us all the same
And sleeps in Ballyshannon on the edge of the world
Not too far away from her Fermanagh hills of home.

This is the last one, a tribute to one of Fermanagh’s greatest ever hurlers, the late Matt Hughes, who was originally from Ballingarry in County Tipperary. He was my neighbour and taught me a lot about hurling and he played and coached in Fermanagh for many years. Matt was our hero, our very own Christy Ring and he had the same build and he had a voice like “rich warm wine”.

Matt Hughes

Nobody sang Sliabh na mBan like Matt Hughes
Nobody in McMorrow’s hallowed hall came even close
He was our hero hurler from the deep syrupy South
Hands as big as Christy Ring, wrists of an angel
A voice like rich warm wine
And, a smashing strike that put fear in all our Fermanagh foes
On the green where Tipperary were never defeated
He strode like a Gaelic chief
With the gravitas and grace of a craggy 1940s movie star
And there was a kind of magic in the cool way he lit a cigarette
Drew long on the flickering flame, and drank deep from life’s golden cup
There were no half measures with Matt
On the field of battle, or in the warm glow of victory in the ‘Congo’ or the Carlton
Where he and ‘Wee Tom” recalled great days for Erne Gaels against Lisbellaw
And we sang rebel songs deep into the dawn.
In 2000 we said Slan to one of our bravest and best Our tears fell fast for a fallen comrade
But I know there is an angel in a jersey of blue and gold Singing Sliabh na mBan on top of a star
And Matt’s warm smile is wrapped around us-as of old.

  Seamus Heron, our greatest GAA local hero
A posting of a pic of the late great Seamus Heron by Declan McCaffrey sparked a few great memories of the greatest Erne Gael of them all. Not many people may know this, but Seamus Heron was secretary of the Devenish club at the age of 16 in 1954. He had beautiful hand- writing and his reports in that year and in the later 1950s were very well written, but his contribution to Erne Gaels was unsurpassed and held several positions in the club and was chairman from the early 1970s to the late 1980s.
He was charismatic and had a unique style, could skilfully stir the pot and then settle a row with a great one liner or a shrug of his shoulders.
Seamus did so much to encourage young people to take part in Gaelic Games and that included Gaelic football hurling and camogie that he helped to successfully revive in the mid 1980s.
He loved the banter and bonhomie and enjoyed lobbing in a few curve balls at county board meetings. But his heart was always in the Gaels and he loved nothing better than to see others doing well, a rare quality. And perhaps his greatest gift was his positivity and his courage in having the guts to fight for the things that were important for his club and his area.
In this he was a natural leader and made you believe that anything was possible if you just believed.
Seamus neither looked up or down on people, everyone deserved equal respect and he was very good a swiftly deflating wind bags. His famous Blue Maxi carried us to so many underage matches all over Fermanagh and there wasn't a mercenary or selfish bone in his body, but he loved the GAA with every fibre of his being. He had a strong weakness for a plain ice, underdogs and the wounded. Seamus was a real local hero, and will never be forgotten as long as grass grows or the river Erne flows around his own beloved Belleek.

I would like to thank Gerry for allowing us to publish these terrific lines.