Smyth Sisters of Grousehall

This poem is a telling of our family history in verse, and how the differing fates of the descendants of two sisters from Grousehall in Cavan affected the history of the area, and the arts world from England to South Africa. It is being updated, and is based on the family tree as put together by Phillip Hourican.

Outline of the HOURICAN / CARTY family tree
Outline of the HOURICAN / CARTY family tree


Sisters Smyth Mary and Catherine were
Daughters of Phillip in their prime
They were as the traditions of the age
Married as girls be in their time.
Their issue of note in their fields
Though often on different sides
For such is the sea of life and its storms
Subject to chances ebbing tides.


Catherine married Ralph Dopping of Granard battle field
So her issues politics was set
Mary married a Phillip Corcoran
Our line is her issue yet:
On all sides and shades of green
Marys kin have held the flag
And fought over it, as Catherine’s kine
Of the Union Jack had to brag.


Catherine’s son John, though British he
John Bull to the core
A Gaelic scholar and rector was
Unlike his stock before
His writings are the reasons why
We know of old Longford today
Life is odd how it works
In its own eccentric way!


Johns son Ralph in famine times
By the standards of the day was kind
His brother James Henry, a cruel sort
Brings evictions horrors to mind.
John had died on Gowna
Ralph some say by his own hand
James Henry put the poor to the road
Concept of charity did not understand.


Mary had a daughter Margaret
Who married Phillip Hourican
Of Dunbeggan he was as all them are
A native Irishman.
Their childrens kine were to take the gun
Under leadership of Sean Mac Eoin
Put their lives, homes and freedom on the line
So that our land, our folk should own.


James Henrys daughter, wife of Boyd of Ballymaccool
With her lot was quite content
Wished for Empire to continue to rule the world
Signed the Ulster Covenant
Marshalled working classes and agricultural poor
Carson’s declaration to sign
He cousin Maxwell Edward fought in Afghanistan
Both sides of the Durand line.


Charlotte’s daughter to South Africa went
Her writing wide read won fame
Far from Donegal today in Port Elizabeth
A street there bears her name…
Phillips Houricans daughter Margaret to the Cartys married
Where this humble bard is of the blood
But in Portmouth too another holds the pen
Of this quite bardic brood!


I mused one day in Merlin wood
Flying my new bought drone
That in England that very day
Far from their Derrycassin home
A distant cousin, of one blood
Was making legal framework for the sky
So that drones could be flown safely
By big business, and you and I.


Two small girls in Grousehall played
A few centuries ago
Their future looked so similar
Their childrens future they would not know.
That is life in all its strangeness
We can just accept and enjoy it
For whose to say what part in life will play
Our issue, like the sisters Smyth?

ii / Line 1: Ralph Dopping led the local Crown forces at the Battle of Granard. After the prisoners were led by Cornwallis to Ballinalee where they were summarily hung at Bullys Acre until the hangman refused to hang any more.
ii / Line 5: The Houricans in particular have been active in politics, Phil being a Fianna Fáil councillor in Longford, and another Hourican PJ being a Fine Gael mayor of Cork. We ourselves were morally on the side of the Republicans in the Civil War of 1922, though in actuality were neutral.
iii / Line 1: Rev John Dopping was a Gaelic scholar, and recorded much of the folkore and dialect of the area, which is referenced by researchers to this day.
iv / Line 2: Ralph Anthony was known for kindness and folly: he lost a lot of money through gambling, drinking and helping the poor. Was the recipient of the Naked Protest at Derrycassin. He married firstly Hanging Jacks grandniece, and then a Fox of Foxhall. For the former marriage to be acceptable, he had to append her surname to his as he was broke and she wealthy.
iv / Line 3: James Henry, Ralphs brother, took over running Derrycassin on Ralph Anthony’s death.. He was cruel and evicted many, as he had done in Donegal where he was agent for landlords like Lord Leitrim and others.
v / Line 5: Hugh Hourican of Clonbroney was in the North Longford Flying Column.
vi / Line 1: Charlotte Dopping Boyd was a prominent Unionist, working with the poor of Donegal to sign the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant
vi / Line 7: In the 1920’s during the War of Independence, ME Dopping Hepenstall was fighting in the Waziristan Wars, winning medals in the British Army fighting the Pashtun.
vii / ine 5: Mary Rosalie Boyd, author of “The Veld” among other works, born in UK, grew up in Donegal, married in South Africa where she was famed for her poetry.
vii / Line 7: Maggie Sawkins, descended from James Hourican, whose daighter married Keohane, from whome the Prices descend. She won the Ted Hughes prize in 2013. Lives in Portmouth.
viii / Line 5: Lambert Dopping Hepenstal is working on the avaition regulations for drone usage for businesses like Amazon in the UK.

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