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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Trimmin's on the Rosary

The Trimmin's on the Rosary is a poem about 'the little Irish mother' who 'had one sweet, holy custom.'  Every evening she pleaded, '"Now it's getting on to bed-time; all you childer get your beads."' Each night she lined up her children to say the Rosary. But not just the usual five decades. Of course, there were lots of trimmin's that needed to be added...

Please take the time to share this poem. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Written by John O'Brien, (Father Patrick Joseph Hartigan)

Ah, the memories that find me now my hair is turning gray,
Drifting in like painted butterflies from paddocks far away;
Dripping dainty wings in fancy -and the pictures, fading fast,
Stand again in rose and purple in the album of the past.
There's the old slab dwelling dreaming by the wistful, watchful trees,
Where the coolabahs are listening to the stories of the breeze;
There's a homely welcome beaming from its big, bright friendly eyes,
With The Sugarloaf behind it blackened in against the skies;
There's the same dear happy circle round the boree's cheery blaze
With a little Irish mother telling tales of other days.
She had one sweet, holy custom which I never can forget,
And a gentle benediction crowns her memory for it yet;
I can see that little mother still and hear her as she pleads,
"Now it's getting on to bed-time; all you childer get your beads."
There were no steel-bound conventions in that old slab dwelling free;
Only this - each night she lined us up to say the Rosary;
E'en the stranger there, who stayed the night upon his journey, knew
He must join the little circle, ay, and take his decade too.
I believe she darkly plotted, when a sinner hove in sight
Who was known to say no prayer at all, to make him stay the night.
Then we'd softly gather round her, and we'd speak in accents low,
And pray like Sainted Dominic so many years ago;
And the little Irish mother's face was radiant, for she knew
That "where two or three are gathered" He is gathered with them too.
O'er the paters and the aves how her reverent head would bend!
How she'd kiss the cross devoutly when she counted to the end!
And the visitor would rise at once, and brush his knees - and then
He'd look very, very foolish as he took the boards again.
She had other prayers to keep him.  They were long, long prayers in truth;
And we used to call them "Trimmin's" in my disrespectful youth.
She would pray for kith and kin, and all the friends she'd ever known,
Yes, and everyone of us could boast a "trimmin"' all his own.
She would pray for all our little needs, and every shade of care
That might darken o'er The Sugarloaf, she'd meet it with a prayer.
She would pray for this one's "sore complaint," or that one's "hurted hand,"
Or that someone else might make a deal and get "that bit of land";
Or that Dad might sell the cattle well, and seasons good might rule,
So that little John, the weakly one, might go away to school.
There were trimmin's, too, that came and went; but ne'er she closed without
Adding one for something special "none of you must speak about."
Gentle was that little mother, and her wit would sparkle free,
But she'd murder him who looked around while at the Rosary:
And if perchance you lost your beads, disaster waited you,
For the only one she'd pardon was "himself" - because she knew
He was hopeless, and 'twas sinful what excuses he'd invent,
So she let him have his fingers, and he cracked them as he went,
And, bedad, he wasn't certain if he'd counted five or ten,
Yet he'd face the crisis bravely, and would start around again;
But she tallied all the decades, and she'd block him on the spot,
With a "Glory, Daddah, Glory!" and he'd "Glory" like a shot.
She would portion out the decades to the company at large;
But when she reached the trimmin's she would put herself in charge;
And it oft was cause for wonder how she never once forgot,
But could keep them in their order till she went right through the lot.
For that little Irish mother's prayers embraced the country wide;
If a neighbour met with trouble, or was taken ill, or died,
We could count upon a trimmin' - till, in fact, it got that way
That the Rosary was but trimmin's to the trimmin's we would say.
Then "himself" would start keownrawning - for the public good, we thought -
"Sure you'll have us here till mornin'.  Yerra, cut them trimmin's short!"
But she'd take him very gently, till he softened by degrees -
"Well, then, let us get it over.  Come now, all hands to their knees."
So the little Irish mother kept her trimmin's to the last,
Every growing as the shadows o'er the old selection passed;
And she lit our drab existence with her simple faith and love,
And I know the angels lingered near to bear her prayers above,
For her children trod the path she trod, nor did they later spurn
To impress her wholesome maxims on their children in their turn.
Ay, and every "sore complaint" came right, and every "hurted hand";
And we made a deal from time to time, and got "that bit of land";
And Dad did sell the cattle well; and little John, her pride,
Was he who said the Mass in black the morning that she died;
So her gentle spirit triumphed - for 'twas this, without a doubt,
Was the very special trimmin' that she kept so dark about.

                        . . . . .

But the years have crowded past us, and the fledglings all have flown,
And the nest beneath The Sugarloaf no longer is their own;
For a hand has written "finis" and the book is closed for good -
Here's a stately red-tiled mansion where the old slab dwelling stood;
There the stranger has her "evenings," and the formal supper's spread,
But I wonder has she "trimmin's" now, or is the Rosary said?
Ah, those little Irish mothers passing from us one by one!
Who will write the noble story of the good that they have done?
All their children may be scattered, and their fortunes windwards hurled,
But the Trimmin's on the Rosary will bless them round the world. 

John O'Brien was the pen name of Patrick Joseph Hartigan, born in 1878 in Yass in New South Wales, Australia. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest for the Goulburn diocese and was appointed inspector of Catholic schools. He later spent 27 years as parish priest for Narrandera. John O'Brien said he wrote his verses for his own amusement and referred to them as mere jingles. But he was too modest: he was a writer of genuine talent. Two volumes of his verse were published: Around the Boree Log and Other Verses (1921) and The Parish of St Mel's in 1954. John O'Brien died in 1952.

From a review by The Age (Melbourne): "Although the beauty of the bush home life and charm of religious faith are almost his exclusive themes, the writer touches a wide range of human emotions. He has proved his title to a worthy place among Australian poets."

John O'Brien's poetry collection, Around the Boree Log is available as a free downloadable ebook


  1. I love this! We used to always end our dinners with one decade of the Rosary, but lately we have been saying the whole Rosary. Many nights, I could use a little of that old Irish mother's discipline in keeping the children foucsed and reverent. Maybe we should add some "trimmin's," asking God for greater self-control and respect! :)

    1. Kari,

      I am so pleased you love this poem. With all those trimmin's prayer time must have seemed very long to the children, but the poet looks back with such love and gratitude. That Irish mother is a good example to all of us, isn't she?

      I have another of John O'Brien's poems to post next week. It is also about a mother and the Rosary, and is a heart touching story.

      God bless, Kari!

  2. What a wonderful poem, an inspiration! I have to chuckle, as I have quite a few "trimmin's" myself.

    1. Karla,

      I'm glad you liked it! Watch out for the other John O'Brien poem. I'll post it in a few days' time.