One of the Maigue’s first-known limerick-makers was tavern owner John O’Toumy, who was born a few miles from Croom in 1706. Of his own business practices, he bemoaned:
I sell the best brandy and sherry,
To make my good customers merry.
But at times their finances
Run short as it chances,
And then I feel very sad, very.
To which Andrew McCrath, another Maigue poet, was quick to respond:
O’Toumy! You boast yourself handy
At selling good ale and bright brandy,
But the fact is your liquor
Makes everyone sicker,
I tell you that, I, your friend, Andy.
The verse form John O’Toumy and Andrew McCrath helped foster became an energetic dimension of the Irish cultural landscape. Centuries before step-dancing swept across our stages, sailors from around the world landed in Cork and made the short journey north to the taverns of Limerick. And while there’s no concrete evidence to suggest how the limerick spread from continent to continent, the following explanation is offered by an anonymous bard:
The sailors returned to their ships
To contemplate thousands of trips,
Then set sail on the breeze
With short rhymes up their sleeves,
And limericks from Croom on their lips.