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Henry Masterman Mist Diaries and Prisoners Pie Magazine

Diaries of Heny Masterman Mist and a copy of Prisoners’ Pie, the Ruhleben Camp magazine. Learn more.

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BC Archives MS-2570

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has the best right to divide Mac Da Tho's pig. This he does, holding its tail between his teeth the while, his companions forming a ring around him, "for men had an evil custom in that house of pelting each other with bones". "But to the Connaughtmen he gave no more than two of the pig's feet for their portion." Naturally enough "this seemed little to them" and a free fight is the result in which the Ulster heroes gain the victory.

A much more refined, almost modern kind of humour not untinged with satire is exemplified by the curious medley of popular instruction of King Cormac". It may almost be described as a parallel to the advice given to his son by Polonius, adapted to the conditions of Irish life in the 9th century. Here we have a king, evidently with a stormy youth behind him, giving a younger man - called Carbery, the benefit of his experience. As for instance:

"Oh Cormac grandson of Conn, who are the worst for whom you have a comparison?"

"Not hard to tell" said Cormac.

"A man with the immpudence of a satirist, with the pugnacity of a slave-woman, with the carelessness of a dog, with the conscience of a hound with a robber's hand, with a bull's strength with the dignity of a judge, with keen ingenious wisdom, with the speech of a stately man, with the memory of an historian, with the behaviour of an abbot with the swearing of a horse-thief,

and he wise, lying, grey-haired, violent, swearing, garrulous when he says "the matter is settled. I swear, you shall swear."

It is not difficult to recognise, both the irresponsible gaiety, the love of fun for its own sake, and at the same time the clear-headed critical faculty, - almost Shavian, dare we venture to say? - of many much more modern Hibernians in these amusing outbursts. Examples might easily be multiplied did space and materials permit - but enough has been quoted in these brief hints to show that with the Irish at any rate humour is not a late or a modern growth but an essential part of the oldest inheritance of the race.


In splendid streams the days pass over me, And plunge their waters into a flaming sea: The spray leaps up, and breaks against the clouds. And madly I rush to seize it ere it falls.


BC Archives, MS-2570 Box 1 File 6 / MIST, Henry Masterman / Ruhleben magazine, Prisoners’ Pie, 1916.

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