Archivi categoria: TURISMO IN IRLANDA/ Ireland travelling

Puck Fair: a rebellious billy-goat

Leggi in italiano

In the Irish village of Killorglin, County Kerry (South-West Ireland), the most curious feast is celebrate in August: a wild goat is brought to the village and crowned king for three days and three nights (10, 11 and 12 August) . Put unfortunately in a cage, he is hoisted on a high scaffolding that dominates the houses of the village, to look curiously the activities to which his subjects are dedicated: up there, although imprisoned, the beak is abundantly fed of food and water, and at the end of the fair he is returned to his mountain!




The fair is full of events: horse fair, livestock, craft stalls, street performers, music, parades with the band, dance and fireworks. As is the case with these traditional festivals, the origins are remote and lost in the Middle Ages, so legends are never lacking: the origins are presumably related to the Celtic religion when to celebrate a good harvest they interceded with the god Lughsee more); the legend tells of two rival clans, and of a mountain beak that has had the promptness to warn the village from the armed attack; so the warriors of the village in turn armed themselves and prepared their defense, succeeding in defeating the enemy clan. The beak instead of roasting was crowned King Puck and taken to parade. Other stories bring the legend back to the times of Oliver Cromwell and the “invaders” become the English who went to Ireland to subdue the Irish to the Crown. The soldiers bothered a group of goats, but the head of the pack the “puck” instead of fleeing to the hills, rushed to the town of Killorglin to “warn” the inhabitants.

Other legends indicate the origin of King Puck at the beginning of the nineteenth century: the fair was already flourishing and, as usual, the sellers paid heavy tax to local lord; when the British government made illegal to impose tolls at livestock, horse and sheep fairs, attorney Daniel O’Connell suggested to devote the fair exclusively to goats, as they were not mentioned in the document (August 10, 1808 ); and to show of good faith, a goat was hoisted on a stage at the top of the fair banner.

Historically the fair has obtained legal status from King James I of England and Ireland (and James VI of Scotland) in 1603.

re capro
“Kings may come and Kings may go. But King Puck goes on forever.” The sculpture was inaugurated on August 5, 2001



The goat is not an unusual animal in the Celtic tradition and generally represents fertility. The Amaltea goat fed baby Zeus and the Norse goat Heidrun dispenses mead from its udders to the Valalla warriors.
Fauns and satyrs in Greek and Latin mythology personify sexual desire and libido, the horned god with deer antlers or goat-ram horns became the syncretic god of pre-Christian religions and lent his image to the Devil.

Thus in mythology and religions, the female of goat was represented with a positive image, symbol of nourishment, fertility and abundance, while the male of goat had negative connotations.

In Irish folklore, the bocánach (a goblin-goat) infests the battlefields while in the Scottish Highlands the Glaistig (half woman and half goat) is a of the guardian waters of the cattle. With long, beautiful blonde hair, she hides her animal bottom under a long green dress and attracts men with a song or dance to drink their blood, but in many parts of Scotland, glaistig are considered protectors of livestock and of shepherds, as well as of children left alone by their mothers watching over grazing animals. (see more)


An Poc ar Buile – The Mad Billy Goat

The song was composed by Dónal Ó Mulláin (1880-1965) in 1940, and made famous in the 60s by Seán Ó Sé: singer-farmer of Scrahans, violin and organ player, as well as a gifted dancer, he composed poems and songs in gaelic that were prized and immediately become popular.
Ar buile = bulling means “being angry” that the term in Irish Gaelic translates as “madness, frenzy”.
The beak thus becomes the symbol of the combative and indomitable Irish spirit!

The Chieftains from Water from the Well 2000

Liam Devally 1966 (what a voice!)

Gaelic Storm from Tree 2001

English translation
As I set out with me pike in hand To Dromore(1) town to join a meithil (2) Who should I meet but a tan puck goat(3)
And he’s roaring mad in ferocious mettle.
Aill-il-lu puill-il-iu – Aill-il-lu it’s the mad puck goat.
He chased me over bush and weed And thru the bog the running proceeded,
‘Til he caught his horns in a clump of gorse
And on his back I jumped unheeded.
He did not leave a rock that had a passage through
Which he did not run with force to destroy me
And then he gave the greatest leap
To the big slope of Faille Bríce…
When the sergeant stood in Rochestown(4)
With a force of guards to apprehend us
The goat he tore his trousers down And made rags of his breeches and new suspenders
In Dingle(5) Town the next afternoon The parish priest addressed the meeting
And swore it was The Devil himself He’d seen ridin’ on the poc ar buile
Irish gaelic
Ag gabháil dom sior chun Droichead Uí Mhóradha
Píce im dhóid ‘s mé ag dul i meithil
Cé casfaí orm i gcuma ceoidh
Ach pocán crón is é ar buile…
[curfá] Ailliliú, puilliliú, ailliliú tá an puc ar buile!
Ailliliú, puilliliú, ailliliú tá an puc ar buile!
Do ritheamar trasna trí ruillógach,
Is do ghluais an comhrac ar fud na muinge,
Is treascairt do bhfuair sé sna turtóga
Chuas ina ainneoin ina dhrom le fuinneamh…
Níor fhág sé carraig go raibh scót ann
Ná gur rith le fórsa chun mé a mhilleadh,
S’Ansan sea do cháith sé an léim ba mhó.
Le fána mhór na Faille Bríce…
Bhí garda mór i mBaile an Róistigh
Is bhailigh fórsa chun sinn a chlipeadh
Do bhuail sé rop dá adhairc sa tóin ann
S’dá bhríste nua do dhein sé giobail…
In Daingean Uí Chúis le haghaidh an tráthnóna
Bhí an sagart paróiste amach ‘nár gcoinnibh
Is é dúirt gurbh é an diabhal ba Dhóigh leis
A ghaibh an treo ar phocán buile…

1) Dromore (County of Tyrone, Northern Ireland) in 1798 was a notorious den of rebels so whoever braced the pike did it to fight against the British
2) Meithil (pronuncia MEH-hill) = work gang is a group of farmers who go to help for an “extraordinary” job in the nearby farm. In America, tradition is still rooted and is called “barn raising”
3) a crazy goat !! that is the billy goat (also called beak).
4) Cork County of Munster
5) Dingle (County of Kerry) and its territory were the scene of the “Second Desmond Rebellion” (1579-80)


Báidín Fheidhlimidh

Leggi in Italiano

The island of Tory or better Oileán Thoraigh, is a grain of rice (measuring 5 km in length and 1 in width) 12 km off the northern coast of Donegal. Ancient fortress of the Fomorians that from here left to raid the coasts of Ireland, a race of primordial gods, like Balor of the Evil Eye, the Celtic god of darkness that had only one eye on the back of the head.
It is called the island of artists since a small community of painters has been established in the 1950s. The hundreds of people who live there are Gaelic speakers and have been “governed” since the Middle Ages by a king of the island: it is up to the king to explain the legends and traditions of the island to the tourists!

island of Tory
by Pixdaus 

Bright and verdant in summer it is flagellate from strong storms in the winter months, theater of great tragedies of the sea.
But above all it is a land of rabbits and birds among which we can distinguish the puffins of the sea with the characteristic triangular beak of a bright orange with yellow and blue stripes wearing the frak.


“Phelim’s little boat” or “Báidín Fheidhlimidh” (Báidín fheilimi) is one of the “songs of the sea” and is taught to Irish children at schools being a rare example of a bilingual song. Almost certainly handed down for generations in oral form, the song may have been composed in the seventeenth century.
Despite appearing as a nursery rhyme, the ballad tells the story of Feilimí Cam Ó Baoill, or Phelim O’Boyle, who, to escape his bitter enemy, abandons Donegal. He was one of the Ulster leaders of the O’Neil clan, one of the largest tribal dynasty in Northern Ireland (see). A warrior-fisherman leader who, to avoid conflict with the Mac Suibhne clan, or Sweeney, takes the sea on a small boat to the island of Gola; but, still not feeling safe, he changes the route to the island of Tory, more jagged and rich in hiding places, even if more treacherous for the presence of the rocks. And right on the rocks the small boat breaks and Phelim drowns.

The Gaelic here is peculiar because it comes from Donegal and has different affinities with the Scottish Gaelic. Baidin is a word in Irish Gaelic that indicates a small boat and the concept of smallness returns obsessively in all verses; so the nursery rhyme has its moral: in highlighting the challenge and the audacity in spite of a contrary destiny, we do not have to forget the power of the sea and we must remind that freedom has a very high price.

Sinéad O’Connor from  Sean-Nós Nua 2002:  ua voice with such a particular tone; here the pitch is melancholic supported by a siren-like echo effect. In the commentary on the booklet Sinéad writes:
It tells the story of Feilim Cam Baoill, a chieftain of the Rosses [in Donegal] in the 17th century. He had to take to the islands off Donegal to escape his archenemy Maolmhuire an Bhata Bu Mac Suibhne. Tory Island was more inaccessible and seemed safer than Gola, but his little boat was wrecked there. For me, the song is one of defiance and bravery in spite of terrible odds. It is a song of encouragement that we should be true to ourselves even if being true means ‘defeat’. A song of the beauty of freedom. And a song of the power of the sea as a metaphor for the unconscious mind. It shows that we can never escape our soul.”

Na Casaidigh from Singing for memory 1998: a fine arrangement of the voices in the choir and a final instrumental left to the electric guitar in a mix between traditional and modern sounds very pleasant and measured.

Angelo Branduardi from Il Rovo e la Rosa 2013,  (his Gaelic is a bit strange!) the arrangement with the violin is very precious

Phelim’s little boat went to Gola,
Phelim’s little boat and Phelim in it,
Phelim’s little boat went to Gola,
Phelim’s little boat and Phelim in it
A tiny little boat, a lively little boat,
A foolish little boat, Phelim’s little boat,
A straight little boat, a willing little boat,
Phelim’s little boat and Phelim in it.
Phelim’s little boat went to Tory,
Phelim’s little boat and Phelim in it,
Phelim’s little boat went to Tory,
Phelim’s   little boat and Phelim in it.
Phelim’s little boat crashed on Tory,
Phelim’s little boat and Phelim in it,
Phelim’s little boat crashed on Tory,
Phelim’s little boat and Phelim in it.
Donegal Gaelic
Báidín Fheidhlimidh d’imigh go Gabhla,
Báidín Fheidhlimidh ‘s Feidhlimidh ann
Báidín Fheidhlimidh d’imigh go Gabhla,
Báidín Fheidhlimidh ‘s Feidhlimidh ann
Báidín bídeach, Báidín beosach,
Báidín bóidheach, Báidín Fheidhlimidh,
Báidín díreach, Báidín deontach,
Báidín Fheidhlimidh’s Feidhlimidh ann.
Báidín Fheidhlimidh d’imigh go Toraigh,
Báidín Fheidhlimidh’s Feidhlimidh ann
Báidín Fheidhlimidh d’imigh go Toraigh,
Báidín Fheidhlimidh ‘s Feidhlimidh ann.
Báidín Fheidhlimidh briseadh i dToraigh,
Báidín Fheidhlimidh ‘s Feidhlimidh ann
Báidín Fheidhlimidh briseadh i dToraigh,
Báidín  Fheidhlimidh ‘s Feidhlimidh ann (1)

1) or Iasc ar bhord agus Feilimí ann  [Laden with fish and Phelim on board]

THE DANCE: Waves of Tory

The island has also given the title to an Irish folk dance “Waves of Tory” which reproduces the waves breaking on the rocks! Among the dances for beginners is performed with one step and presents only a difficult figure called Waves.
see more


Amhrán Na Craoibhe

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Amhrán Na Craoibhe (in englishThe Garland Song)  is the processional song in Irish Gaelic of the women who carry the May branch (May garland) in the ritual celebrations for the festival of Beltane, still widespread at the beginning of the twentieth century in Northern Ireland (Oriel region).

The song comes from Mrs. Sarah Humphreys who lived in the county of Armagh and was collected in the early twentieth century, erroneously called ‘Lá Fhéile Blinne‘ (The Feast of St Blinne) because it was singed in Killeavy for the Feast of St Moninne, affectionately called “Blinne“, a clear graft of pre-Christian traditions in the Catholic rituals.
The song is unique to the south-east Ulster area and was collected from Sarah Humphreys who lived in Lislea in the vacinity of Mullaghban in Co. Armagh. The air of the song from Cooley in Co. Louth survived in the oral tradition from my father Pádraig. It was mistakenly called ‘Lá Fhéile Blinne’ (The Feast of St Blinne) by one collector. Though it was sung as part of the celebrations of Killeavy Pattern it had no connection with Blinne or Moninne, a native saint of South Armagh, but rather the old surviving pre-Christian traditions had been incorporated into Christian celebrations. The district of ‘Bealtaine’ is to be found within a few miles of Killeavy where this song was traditionally sung, though the placename has been forgotten since Irish ceased to be the vernacular of the community within this last century. Other place names nearby associated with May festivities are: Gróbh na Carraibhe; The Grove of the Branch/Garland (now Carrive Grove) Cnoc a’ Damhsa; The Hill of Dancing (now Crockadownsa).” (Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, 2002, A Hidden Ulster)
St Moninna of Killeavy died in 517-518, follower of St Brigid of Kildare, her names “Blinne” or “Moblinne” mean “little” or “sister” (“Mo-ninne” could be a version of Niniane, the “Lady of the Lake” of the Arthurian cycle); according to scholars her name was Darerca and her (alleged) tomb is located in the cemetery of Killeavy on the slopes of Slieve Gullion where it was originally located her monastery of nuns, become a place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages along with her sacred well, St Bline’s Well.


It seems that the name of Baptism of this virgin, commemorated in the Irish martyrologists on July 6th, was Darerca, and that Moninna is instead a term of endearment of obscure origin. We have her Acta, but her life was confused with the English saint Modwenna, venerated at Burton-on-Trent. Darerca was the foundress and first abbess of one of Ireland’s oldest and most important female monasteries, built in Killeavy (county of Armagh), where the ruins of a church dedicated to her are still visible. He died in 517. Killeavy remained an important center of religious life, until it was destroyed by the Scandinavian marauders in 923; Darerca continued to be widely revered especially in the northern region of Ireland (translated from  here)


The Slieve Gullion Cairns

Slieve Gullion ( Sliabh gCuillinn ) is a place of worship in prehistoric times on the top of which a chamber tomb was built with the sunlit entrance at the winter solstice. (see).
According to legend, the “Old Witch” lives on its top, the Cailleach Biorar (‘Old woman of the waters’) and the ‘South Cairn’ is her home also called ‘Cailleach Beara’s House‘.
the site with virtual reality
On the top of the mountain a small lake and the second smaller burial mound built in the Bronze Age. In the lake, according to local evidence, lives a kelpie or a sea monster and it’s hid the passage to the King’s Stables. (Navan, Co. Armagh)

Cailleach Beara by Cheryl Rose-Hall

The Hunt of Slieve Cuilinn

The goddess, a Great Mother of Ireland, Cailleach Biorar (Bhearra) -the Veiled is called Milucradh / Miluchradh, described as the sister of the goddess Aine in the story of “Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Old Witch“, we discover that the nickname of Fionn (Finn MacColl) “the blond”, “the white” comes from a tale of the cycle of the Fianna: everything begins with a bet between two sisters Aine (the goddess of love) and Moninne (the old goddess), Aine boasted that he would never have slept with a gray-haired man, so the first sister brought Fionn to the Slieve Gullion (in the form of a gray fawn she made Fionn pursue her in the heat of hunting by separating himself from the rest of his warriors), then turned into a beautiful girl in tears sitting by the lake to convince Fionn to dive and retrieve her ring. But the waters of the lake had been enchanted by the goddess to bring old age to those who immersed themselves (working in reverse of the sacred wells), so Fionn came out of the lake old and decrepit,and obviously with white hair. His companions, after having reached and recognized him, succeed in getting Cailleach to give him a magic potion that restores vigor to Fionn but leaves him with white hair! (see)

The Cailleach and Bride are probably the same goddess or the different manifestations of the same goddess, the old woman of the Winter and the Spring Maid in the cycle of death-rebirth-life of the ancient religion.

The ancient path to St Bline’s Well.

On the occasion of the patronal feast (pattern celebrations) of the Holy Moninna (July 6) a procession was held in Killeavy that started from St Blinne grave, headed to the sacred well along an ancient path, and then returned to the cemetery. A competition was held between teams of young people from various villages to make the most beautiful effigy of the Goddess, a faded memory of Beltane’s festivities to elect their own May Queen. During the procession the young people sang Amhrán Na Craoibhe accompanied by a dance, whose choreography was lost, each sentence is sung by the soloist to whom the choir responds. The melody is a variant of Cuacha Lán de Bhuí on the structure of an ancient carola (see)

One of the most spectacular high-level views in Ireland.
On a clear day, it’s possible to see from the peak (573 mt) as far as Lough Neagh, west of Belfast, and the Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin.

Páidraigín Ní Uallacháin from“An Dealg  Óir” 2010

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin & Sylvia Crawford live 2016 


English translation P.Ní Uallacháin*
My branch is the branch
of the fairy women,
Hey to him who takes her home,
hey to her;

The branch of the lasses
and the branch of the lads;
Hey to him who takes her home,
hey to her;

The branch of the maidens
made with pride;
Hey, young girls,
where will we get her a spouse?
We will get a lad
in the town for the bride (1),
A dauntless, swift, strong lad,
Who will bring this branch (2)
through the three nations,
From town to town
and back home to this place?
Two hundred horses
with gold bridles on their foreheads,
And two hundred cattle
on the side of each mountain,
And an equal amount
of sheep and of herds (3),
O, young girls, silver
and dowry for her,
We will carry her with us,
up to the roadway,
Where we will meet
two hundred young men,
They will meet us with their
caps in their fists,
Where we will have pleasure,
drink and sport (4),
Your branch is like
a pig in her sack (5),
Or like an old broken ship
would come into Carlingford (6),
We can return now
and the branch with us,
We can return since
we have joyfully won the day,
We won it last year
and we won it this year,
And as far as I hear
we have always won it.
Irish gaelic
‘S í mo chraobhsa
craobh na mban uasal
(Haigh dó a bheir i’ bhaile í
‘s a haigh di)

Craobh na gcailín is
craobh na mbuachaill;
(Haigh dó a bheir i’ bhaile í
‘s a haigh di).

Craobh na ngirseach
a rinneadh le huabhar,
Maise hóigh, a chaillíní,
cá bhfaigh’ muinn di nuachar?
Gheobh’ muinn buachaill
sa mbaile don bhanóig;
Buachaill urrúnta , lúdasach, láidir
A bhéarfas a ‘ghéag
seo di na trí náisiún,
Ó bhaile go baile è ar
ais go dtí an áit seo
Dhá chéad eachaí
è sriantaí óir ‘na n-éadan,
Is dhá chéad eallaigh
ar thaobh gach sléibhe,
È un oiread sin eile
de mholtaí de thréadtaí,
Óró, a chailíní, airgead
is spré di,
Tógfa ‘muinn linn í suas’
un a ‘bhóthair,
An áit a gcasfaidh
dúinn dhá chéad ógfhear,
Casfa ‘siad orainn’ sa gcuid
hataí ‘na ndorn leo,
An áit a mbeidh aiteas,
ól is spóirse,
È cosúil mbur gcraobh-na
le muc ina mála,
Nó le seanlong bhriste thiocfadh ‘steach i mBaile Chairlinn,
Féada ‘muinn tilleadh anois
è un’ chraobh linn,
Féada ‘muinn tilleadh,
tá an lá bainte go haoibhinn,
Bhain muinn anuraidh é
è bhain muinn i mbliana é,
è mar chluinimse bhain
muinn ariamh é.
May Garland

1) it is the May doll, but also the Queen of May personification of the female principle of fertility
2) the may garland made by women
3) heads of cattle in dowry that is the animals of the village that will be smashed by the fires of Beltane
4) after the procession the feast ended with a dance
5) derogatory sentences against other garlands carried by rival teams “a pig in a poke” is a careless purchase, instead of a pig in the bag could be a cat!
6) Lough Carlingford The name is derived from the Old Norse and in irsih is “Lough Cailleach”

7005638-albero-di-biancospino-sulla-strada-rurale-contro-il-cielo-bluThe hawthorn is the tree of Beltane, beloved to Belisama, grows as a shrub or as a tree of small size (only reaches 7 meters in height) widening the branches in all the directions, in search of the light upwards.
The branch of hawthorn and its flowers were used in the Celtic wedding rituals and in the ancient Greece and also for the ancient Romans it was the flower of marriage, a wish for happiness and prosperity.
The healing virtues of hawthorn were known since the Middle Ages: it is called the “valerian of the heart” because it acts on the blood flow improving its circulation and it is also used to counteract insomnia and states of anguish. see


The flowers are small, white and with delicate pinkish hues, sweetly scented. In areas with late blooms for Beltane the “mayers” use the branch of blackthorn,same family as the Rosaceae but with flowering already in March-April.


Amhrad Na Beltaine


Irish May Day (Beltane)

Leggi in italiano

May day is called in Ireland the “na Beal tina” or “the day of the fire of Beal” consecrated to Bel or Belenos. On the eve large fires are lit and the cattle are passed between them – as was the ancient custom of the Celts – custom still conserved in the Irish countryside with the belief that this preserves cows from diseases and from Good People (wee folk).

All hearths were extinguished at sunset and rekindled with the embers of the collective bonfire only the next day (and still today in Ballymenone county of Fermanagh).
The cattle were then taken to the summer pastures, where they remained until Samahin, watching by a buachaill.


Fee74aBeltane is a crucial day in the season (Winter ends and Summer begins) and fairie can more easily make contact with the world of humans. The eve is a day in which you have to pay the most attention, because the fairy people (Good People for the Irish) can be very spiteful and even the malefics are more effective. So no Irish woman would ever taking her newborn for a walk outside so as not to risk finding a challenger in return. In particular, youth and beauty can arouse the envy of fairies and therefore even the beautiful girls are indoors.
In general it is popular belief that illnesses or injuries occurring on the May Eve are the most difficult to cure. So it is a good idea to always leave the house with an iron amulet around your neck or in your pocket and leave an offer of food to the fairies!


Mummers were typical beggars during the nineteenth century, masked figures equivalent to the English Morris dance. Thomas Crofton Croker in “The Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland” (published in 1825) reports many Irish traditions of May and describes precisely the May Mummers; in short, Croker tells us that during his trip to the south of Ireland he witnessed the May festival, which is the favorite of the Mummers: a group of girls and boys from the village or neighborhood who march in procession in a row for two, the men are dressed in white with brightly colored jackets or waistcoats and carry colored ribbons on their hats and on their sleeves and even the women are dressed in white or in light colors. A pair of girls carries a holly bush for each, decorated with many colored ribbons with hanging many new hurling balls (a popular sport that begins in May), a May gift for young people in the village. The procession is preceded by musicians, bagpipes or pipes and drums. There is a clown wearing a scary mask and bearing a long pole with scraps of fabric on top (like a broom) that plunges into the water and shakes it around the crowd to keep the little ones entertained.
The masks parade through the villages or go from house to house dancing to receive money and spend the evening with a cheerful and colossal drink.

The Procession of the May Queen Herbert Wilson Foster (1846–1929)


May Pole and the dances around the pole are quite common in Ireland, Holywood town in Northern Ireland is famous for its May tree erected in the middle of a crossroads: according to local tradition it dates back to 1700 (taken from the mast of a ship) and is still a place for dances to the annual May festival.

Holywood Pole

But the most typical custom is to cut a branch of hawthorn (or rowan) and plant it next to the door or put it on outside the door, making a garland with yellow flowers (primroses, marigolds and buttercups) and colored ribbons.
From this tradition was born the May basket crafted by the childrenand and filled with fresh flowers, to be left – secretly – next to the door of the neighbors or beloved one. With this auspicious token, the inhabitants are protected from fairies, because fairies cannot overcome these flowered barriers.


The herbs harvested before sunrise in May Day have better healing properties especially to treat warts. When butter production was a homemade churning process, the first butter produced with milk from May Day was considered the best to prepare ointments.

Another custom of the eve was a good whipping with nettles and the children went around running with a bunch of nettles to hit the comrades or the unfortunate bystanders; their task was to collect the shoots of nettles to bring home to the kitchen pantry. Known as a purifying and detoxifying herb since ancient times, nettle was in fact used in the preparation of soups and the Irish rural tradition recommended eating nettles in May to treat or prevent rheumatism. Even in ancient Rome it was recommended to those who suffered from rheumatism or rheumatoid arthritis to roll in the nettle. see more

Nettles once rivaled linen and hemp as weaving fiber, for sails, clothes and household linen.


The Cliff of Dooneen or Avalon?

Leggi in italiano

“The Cliff of Dooneen” (Doneen, Dooneen, Duneen) is an Irish ballad from the 1930s (or late 19th century), made famous by Planxty; it spread to Great Britain after the post-war migration, Christy Moore heard a version in 1965 by various singers (Andy Rynne, Ann Mulqueen and Mick McGuane) and made it popular in folk scene of the 70s.

Like Avalon, the Dooneen cliffs are not found in a specific place, but in the mists of myth and nostalgia. Two counties contend this location: Clare near the mouth of the Shannon and Kerry near Beal. However, it is suspected that the confusion between the counties is an attempt to advertise the cliffs of Moher, that is one of the most charming places in Ireland.
It’s an emigration song, those who leave for distant lands regret their home and want to be buried in the places loved in their youth.

(Photo: Philippe Gosseau)


According to Beal’s people (Kerry Co.) the poem was penned by Jack McAuliffe of Lixnaw who wrote the original version during a visit to his sister. Nichols Carolan from the ITMA in Dublin attests: “Dooneen Point is on the Kerry Coast, between Ballylongford and Ballybunnion at the Mouth of the River Shannon, giving excellent views of the South West of Clare, though it should be said that it is not possible to see Kilrush and Kilkee from this point as stated in verse two [Christy Moore lyrics]. This has been explained by suggesting that the song was originally located in Moveen, a few miles south west of Kilkee in Clare. The song was first recorded in Dublin in the 1960s sung by Siney Crotty who came from Kilbaha, which is on the Clare side of the Shannon. Since it’s first appearance it has gained enormous popularity. The Irish Traditional Music Archive has around one hundred and ninety commercial recordings of it.

Jack McAuliffe poem
I have traveled afar from my own native home.
Away o’er the billows, away o’er the foam I have seen many sights but no equal I’ve seen
To the old rocky slopes by the cliffs of Dooneen
I have seen many sights of Columbus fair land,
Africa and Asia so delightful and grand,
But dig me a grave were the grass it grows green
On the old rocky slopes by the cliffs of Dooneen.
How pleasant to walk on a fine summers day.
And to view the sweet cherries that will never decay,
Where the sea grass(1) and seaweed and the old carrageen(2)
All grow from the rocks by the cliffs of Dooneen.
The Sand hills of Beal (3) are glorious and grand,
And the old castle ruins looking out on the strand,
Where the hares and the rabbits are there to be seen
Making holes for their homes by the cliffs of Dooneen.
I have tracked my love’s footsteps to the boathouse of old
And the dance  (4) on the hillside where love stories are told,
Its there you will see both the lad and the colleen
Moving round by the shore of the cliffs of Dooneen
Take a view across the Shannon some sites you will see there
High rocky mountains on the south coast of Clare
The towns of Kilrush and Kilkee ever green
But theres none to compare with the cliffs of Dooneen
Farewell Dooneen, Farewell for a while, And to those kind-Hearted neighbours that I left in the isle,
May my soul never rest till it’s laid on the green
Near the old rocky slopes by the Cliffs of Dooneen

1) these sea floor plants often grow in large “meadows” that resemble grazing
2) There are various types of red algae found along the coasts of Ireland – Great Britain: the alga dulse (Palmaria palmata) and the irish moss (Chondrus crispus also called Carragheen) which, when spread out and dried in the sun, turns to white in a characteristic “blonde” color!
3) the Dingle Peninsula in the south-west of Ireland has a very indented coastline characterized by rock headlands and pristine green meadows
4) a Feile Lughnasa, a Celtic summer festival still celebrated in July


However the most accredited version of the song is the one that identifies the cliffs with the “Cliffs of Moveen” in County Clare.


Christy Moore tells in his web pageIt is a very simple piece of writing yet the combination of its lyric and music have people around the world. I have heard it sung in very different styles too. Margo recorded a “Country and Irish” version whilst Andy Rynne used to sing it in the Sean-Nós style

 Christy Moore

Quadriga Consort

Christy Moore lyrics
You may travel far from your own native  home
Far away o’er the mountains, far away o’er the foam
But of all the fine places that I’ve ever seen
there’s none to compare with the Cliffs of Dooneen
Take a view o’er the mountains, fine sights you’ll see there
You’ll see the high rocky mountains o’er the West coast of Clare
Oh the towns of Kilkee and Kilrush can be seen
From the high rocky slopes of the cliffs of Dooneen
It’s a nice place to be on a fine summer’s day
Watching all the wild flowers that ne’er do decay
Oh the hares and the loft pheasants are plain to be seen
Making homes for their young round the cliffs of Dooneen
Fare thee well to Dooneen, fare thee well for awhile
And to all the kind people I’m leaving behind
To the streams and the meadows where late I have been
And the high rocky slopes of the cliffs of Dooneen

Who knows why on the Web many write that the text is by Jack McAuliffe but then they sing the Christy Moore version !!


Una vecchia aria tradizionale irlandese ha conosciuto un disceto successo come melodia abbinata a diverse canzoni, come spesso accade nell’ambito della musica tradizionale, una buona vecchia melodia è sempre pronta per un nuovo testo!
Già Thomas Moore (1779-1852) scrisse il testo della sua canzone “Bendemeer’s Stream” e un’altra canzone fu pubblicata sul “Nation” del 15 febbraio 1845 con il titolo “Lament of the Irish Maiden: A Brigade Ballad” prendendo sempre in prestito la stessa melodia.

Anche intotolata Carrigdhoun (o Carraig Donn) la canzone è attribuita da alcuni a Ellen Mary Patrick Downing (1828-1869), da altri a Denny Lane (1818-1895) di Cork. La melodia è finita poi nella “The Mountains of Mourne” scritta da  Percy French.


Danis Nagle in Land met sea project (qui)

Il testo rimanda al passato dell’Irlanda e si riferisce a una località vicina al Ballea Bridge sulla strada per Ballygarvan (da ammirare nelle spettacolari foto di Danis Nagle (qui), il ponte costruito nel 1790 con la pietra calcarea del posto è romanticamente integrato nel paesaggio.
Siamo in Autunno e la natura tutta sembra triste e desolata proprio come il cuore della fanciulla, la quale vanamente cerca sollievo nel ricordo della primavera passata, quando il suo Donald era ancora con lei e le giurava eterno amore! Così non ci saranno mai più primavere per lei a meno che non decida di seguirlo e emigrare in Francia!

Una fanciulla si dispera perchè il suo innamorato l’ha lasciata per andare a combattere l’Inghilterra arruolandosi nell’esercito francese. Erano i tempi della “Fuga dei Conti” così anche i giovani della Famiglia McCarthy (insediati nel Castello di Ballea) privati di terre e proprietà presero il volo.
Quando la Glorious Revolution del 1688 viene vinta dal protestante Guglielmo III d’Orange (e dalla neonata monarchia costituzionale) gli Irlandesi si schierano con il re cattolico spodestato Giacomo II Stuart (il quale fu costretto a fuggire di nuovo in Francia): alla fine delle lotte per la rivendicazione al trono con il trattato di Limerick del 1691 agli Irlandesi fu dato scegliere tra il giuramento di fedeltà a Guglielmo III o l’esilio e il sevizio militare sul continente; così molti soldati preferirono l’esilio e andarono a ingrossare le fila dell’esercito francese, mentre l’aristocrazia coloniale (Ascendancy) si impossessò delle loro terre e del potere. (continua)


ASCOLTA Cherish the Ladies in “The Back Door”, 1992
ASCOLTA Ernst Stolz arrangiamento strumentale

Versione Cherish the Ladies
On Carrigdhoun (1) the heath is brown,
The sky is dark o’er Ardnalee (2),
And many a stream comes rushing down
To swell the angry Ownabwee (3) ;
The moaning blast
goes sweeping fast
Through many a leafless tree,
And I’m alone, for he is gone,
My hawk (4) has flown,
ochone, machree (5)!
The heath was green
on Carrigdhoun,
Bright shone the sun
over Ardnalee,
The lighlting green trees bent trembling down
To kiss the slumbering Ownabwee;
That happy day,
’twas but last May,
‘Tis like a dream to me,
When Donnell swore,
ay, o’er and o’er,
We’d part no more,
astor machree (6)!
Light April showers
and bright May flowers
Will bring the summer back again,
But will they bring me back the hours
I spent with my brave
Donnell then?
‘Tis but a chance,
he’s gone to France,
To wear the fleur-de-lys (7);
But I’ll follow you my Donnell Dhu,
For still I’m true to you,
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Sul Carrigdhoun la brughiera
è secca
il cielo è nuvoloso sopra Ardnalee
e più di un ruscello scorre rapido
a gonfiare il furioso Ownabwee,
il rimbombo lamentoso
prosegue svelto
attraverso molti alberi senza foglie
e io sono sola, perchè lui è partito
il mio falco ha preso il volo
ahimè cuore mio!
La brughiera era verde sul Carrigdhoun
luminoso splendeva il sole su Ardnalee,
gli alberi di un verde acceso
si piegavano tremuli
a baciare il placido Ownabwee;
quale giorno felice
era lo scorso Maggio
ma era solo un sogno per me
quando Donnell mi giurò,
si, e ancora e ancora
che non ci saremmo mai lasciati,
amore mio!
Le pioggerelline di Aprile
e i fiori vivaci di Maggio
riporteranno nuovamente l’estate,
ma mi riporteranno indietro le ore
che ho trscorso con
il mio coraggioso Donnell?
Non sarà possibile
perchè è partito per la Francia
a indossare il giglio,
ma ti seguirò mio Donnell Dhu
perchè ti sono sono ancora fedele.
cuore mio

1) Carrigdhoun: è una parola inventata dall’autore del testo.
2) Ard-na-Lee o Ardnalee è una località nei pressi di Cork
3) scritto anche come Own na Buidhe: Il fiume Owenabue [Owenboy] passa a sud della città di Cork.
4) in codice venivano chiamati “oche selvagge”
5) ochone mo chroidhe
6) a stór mo chroidhe, scritto anche A Stor Mo Chroi significa letteralmente: Tesoro del mio cuore
7) fleur-de-lys è il nome in francese del giglio araldico, emblema della ragalità.



Le fate non sono affatto creature benevole, attratte dalla forza e vitalità del genere umano, rapiscono i bambini e in particolare i neonati, o seducono (a scopo di rapimento) belle fanciulle e giovinetti.
I Rapimenti fatati erano un tempo un tentativo di razionalizzazione del dolore per una morte sconvolgente, quando coglie la vita ancora in boccio. Si trovava consolazione nel pensare che le fate abbiano sottratto quella giovane vita a un triste destino, secondo l’antica religione solo chi è caro agli dei muore giovane!

Si cercava anche di spiegare dei comportamenti anomali, come l’autismo o la depressione, così si diceva che i rapiti ritornati avevano perso l’anima, perchè avevano assaggiato  il cibo delle fate!
Racconti, fiabe e ballate della tradizione celtica sono ricchi di rapimenti fatati e descrivono una vasta gamma di situazioni per mettere in guardia i malcapitati: non bisogna mai fermarsi su di un prato d’erba alta e dentro un cerchio di funghi perchè sono anelli fatati, porte verso l’altro mondo; mai addormentarsi ai piedi di una collina perchè potrebbe essere un tumulo fatato, dimora del castello degli elfi. Ma il pericolo più grande è costituito dal cibo delle fate, perchè chi lo assaggia ne conserva uno struggente desiderio molto spesso fatale.  (vedi)


Slish Wood and Lough Gill, Co. Sligo (tratto da qui)

E’ la poesia scritta da W. B. Yeats (in The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, 1889)  in cui si descrive per l’appunto un rapimento fatato. Yeats fu uno studioso di mitologia irlandese e appassionato raccoglitore di racconti e leggende sulle fate (ha pubblicato Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry nel 1888 e Fairy Folk Tales of Ireland nel 1892)

La poesia è ambientata nella contea di Sligo, dove il poeta trascorse la maggior parte del suo tempo, “la sua patria spirituale”, “terra dei desideri e del cuore!” e precisamente al Lough Gill un lago a forma di drago, ricco di isolette. Nella poesia descrive anche altre due località care alle fate: Rosses Point nella Baia di Sligo e la cascata di Glencar a metá strada tra Sligo e Manorhamilton, nella contea di Leitrim.

Sono le acque in cui le fate della contea vanno a divertirsi, quelle lacustri di Gill, dove sull’isola di Innisfree accumulano le provviste e banchettano, poi la Baia di Sligo sulla cui rena amano danzare al chiaro di luna, rincorrendo la spuma delle onde che si rifrangono sul bagnasciuga, e infine la cascata di Glencar dove giocano scherzetti alle trote e si fanno la doccia sotto alle felci.

ASCOLTA la poesia recitata da Anya Yalin e illustrata (salta la III strofa)

Stolen Child
W. B. Yeats
Where dips the rocky highland
Of sleuth wood in the lake
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats
There we’ve hid our fairy vats
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand
Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light
By far off furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles
Whilst the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above glen car
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams
Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand
Away with us he’s going
The solemned eyed
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace unto his breast
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand.
Il fanciullo rapito
Traduzione italiano di Roberto Sanesi*
Laggiù dove i monti rocciosi
Di Sleuth Wood si tuffano nel lago,
Laggiù si stende un’isola fronzuta
Dove gli aironi svegliano, sbattendo
Le ali, i sonnolenti topi d’acqua;
Laggiù abbiamo nascosto i nostri tini
Fatati, ricolmi di bacche e ciliege
Fra le più rosse di quelle rubate.
Vieni, fanciullo umano!
Vieni all’acque e nella landa
Con una fata, mano nella mano,
Perché nel mondo vi sono più lacrime
Di quanto tu non potrai mai comprendere.
Laggiù dove l’onda del chiaro di luna risveglia
Riflessi luminosi nelle grigie e opache
Sabbie, lontano, là presso la lontana
Rosses (3), tessendo danziamo
Tutta la notte le più antiche danze,
Intrecciando le mani e intrecciando gli sguardi
Finché la luna non abbia preso il volo;
E avanti e indietro a balzi
Inseguiamo le bolle spumeggianti,
Mentre il mondo è ricolmo di pene
E dorme un sonno ansioso.
Vieni, fanciullo umano!
Vieni all’acque e nella landa
Con una fata, mano nella mano,
Perché nel mondo vi sono più lacrime
Di quanto tu non potrai mai comprendere.
Dove l’acqua zampilla, vagabonda,
Dalle colline sopra Glen-Car
Nei laghetti fra i salici
Dove a stento una stella potrebbe
Bagnarsi, cerchiamo le trote assopite
E bisbigliando, ai loro orecchi doniamo
Ad esse sogni inquieti;
Lievemente sporgendoci
Dalle felci che versano
Le loro lacrime sui giovani ruscelli.
Vieni, fanciullo umano!
Vieni all’acque e nella landa
Con una fata, mano nella mano,
Perché nel mondo vi sono più lacrime
Di quanto tu non potrai mai comprendere.
E con noi egli viene,
Il fanciullo dall’occhio solenne:
Mai più potrà udire i muggiti
Dei vitelli sui tepidi pendii
O la teiera sopra il focolare
Cantargli la pace nel petto,
Né vedere i sorci bruni
Che corrono attorno alla madia.
Perché egli viene, il fanciullo umano,
Viene all’acque e nella landa
Con una fata, mano nella mano,
Da un mondo dove esistono più lacrime
Di quanto egli potrà mai comprendere.

* traduzione di Roberto Sanesi da Poesie di Yeats, Mondadori 1974

La poesia fu  messa in musica  nel secolo successivo dal compositore inglese Cyril Rootham
ASCOLTA Stolen Child op 38, la versione per coro e orchestra

A dare notorietà alla poesia nell’ambito della musica folk ci ha pensato Loreena McKennitt con il suo album d’esordio, componendo la melodia.
ASCOLTA Loreena McKennitt in Elemental, 1985 nel video si mostrano i paesaggi nella contea di Sligo tra la foschia, in suggestive albe o crepuscoli

ASCOLTA Cuan Alainn (in inglese Beautiful Harbour) hanno realizzato un arrangiamento in russo della composizione di Loreena McKennitt -2014, testo tradotto da Gregory Kruzhkova per info sul video (qui)
ASCOLTA La versione folk-rock dei Waterboys risale al 1988: che mettono in musica il “ritornello” lasciando il parlato sulle strofe (voce di Tomas Mac Eoin)

ASCOLTA Heather Alexander in Wanderlust 1994, altra melodia

ASCOLTA Hamilton Camp  compone ancora un’altra melodia -piuttosto interessante, con un ritornello molto orecchiabile – e registra il brano con il titolo “Celts” nell’album Sweet Joy, 2006 (su Spotify)
ASCOLTA Merrymouth nell’album d’esordio “Simon Fowlers Merrymouth” 2012, su melodia composta da Simon Fowler/ Dan Sealey /Mike Mcnamara , molto intensaASCOLTA Kate Price (rifacimento della versione Merrymouth) in Songs from the Witches Wood 2009

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats
There we’ve hid our fairy vats
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand
Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light
By far off furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles
Whilst the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above glen car
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams
Away with us he’s going
The solemned eyed
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace unto his breast
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand.
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto*
Dove l’altipiano roccioso
di Sleuth Wood (1) si immerge nel lago,
laggiù si trova un’isola boscosa (2)
dove il battito d’ali degli aironi,
sveglia i topi d’acqua dormiglioni;
laggiù abbiam nascosto delle fate
i mastelli ricolmi di mirtilli,
e delle più rosse ciliege rubate .
Vieni, fanciullo umano!
alle acque e ai boschi
mano nella mano di una fata
perché il mondo contiene più lacrime
di quante tu possa sopportare (3)
Dove l’onda al chiaro di luna tira a lucido le sabbie grigio scuro
lontano, presso la lontana Rosses (4),
per tutta la notte danziamo
la trama dei balli più antichi,
intrecciando mani e sguardi
finché la luna avrà preso il volo;
e avanti e indietro a balzi
inseguiamo le bolle schiumose,
mentre il mondo è ricolmo di pene
e dorme un sonno ansioso.
Dove l’acqua errabonda zampilla,
dalle colline sopra Glencar (5)
in pozze fra i giunchi, che a stento una stella potrebbe bagnarsi, (6)
cerchiamo le trote addormentate
e bisbigliandogli nelle teste (7)
doniamo loro sogni inquieti,
sporgendoci piano
dalle felci che piangono lacrime
sui rivoli novelli.
Via con noi egli andò,
il fanciullo dagli occhi gravi:
mai più sentirà i muggiti
dei vitelli sui tiepidi pendii,
o il bollitore sopra il focolare
cantargli la pace nel petto,
nè vedrà i topolini bruni
circolare attorno alla dispensa.(8)
Perché egli viene, il fanciullo umano,
alle acque e ai boschi
mano nella mano di una fata
perché il mondo contiene più lacrime
di quante tu possa sopportare

1) Sleuth Wood noto come Slish Wood,  “Sleuthwood by the lake”, un tempo un folto bosco di querce lungo la sponda meridinale  del Lago Gill, gran parte degli alberi vennero abbattuti per procurare il legname necessario agli sforzi bellici della II Guerra Mondiale. Il bosco scende ripido per incontrare l’acqua tra grandi massi coperti di muschio
2) letteralmente “isola di foglie”, è Innishfree (‘Isle of Heather’) l’isola disabitata nel Lough Gill in cui Yeats avrebbe voluto vivere abitando in un piccolo cottage (continua)
3) l’atteggiamento delle fate è compassionevole, il fato del fanciullo (o il mondo degli uomini) è crudele e vogliono evitargli delle sofferenze
4) Rosses Point è una spiaggia nella baia di Sligo, (dalla parte opposta del lago) una popolare località di villeggiatura della famiglia Yeats: una piccola striscia di sabbia e alle spalle una distesa d’erba. All’angolo nord di Rosses c’è un piccolo promontorio di sabbia, rocce ed erba: nessun contadino saggio si addormenterebbe ai suoi piedi per timore di un rapimento fatato
5) è la cascata di Glencar vicino al lago omonimo, nella contea di Leitrim.  Quando il vento soffia da Ovest l’acqua, invece di cadere, s’innalza verso il cielo. Per questo motivo, la cascata viene anche chiamata “il comignolo del diavolo”. Per la verità le cascate sono due, quella più alta e imponente e quella più bassa e più modesta, incastonata tra le rocce e il fogliame con una polla a gradoni
6) le chiazze d’acqua sono così piccole che a malapena rispecchiano le stelle del cielo
7) letteralmente “sussurrando alle loro orecchie” Sebbene i pesci non abbiano l’orecchio esterno, sono tuttavia in grado di udire: gli organi dell’udito sono localizzati nella parte posteriore del cranio ( orecchio interno). I pesci percepiscono i suoni che hanno una frequenza compresa tra i 16 e i 7.000 hertz.
8) la madia con la farina d’avena

ASCOLTA Clann una versione strumentale intitolata Stolen Child (le parole sono solo dei vocalizzi -di Charlotte Oleena- ma che atmosfera!!) in Seelie e di cui la KIN Fables ha prodotto una trilogia: Kin, Salvage, Requiem



Ancora una contesa musicale tra Irlanda e Scozia in merito alla marcia di origine seicentesca accreditata con i titoli più vari così elencati da A Rock And A Wee Pickle Tow, The Burnt Old Man, Captain Collins, The First Clan March Of The O’Sullivans, Lilliburlero, Máirseáil Uí Shúilleabháin, Mairseail Ui Shulleabhain, March Of The O’Sullivans, The March Of The O’Sullivans, O’Sullivan’s Clan March, The Old Hag Tossed Up In A Blanket, Old Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket, The Old Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket, The Rock And The Wee Pickle Tow, Rock And Wee Pickle Tow, Sullivan’s March, Sweeping The Cobwebs Out Of The Sky, The Wee Pickle Tow.
Pubblicata da Playford nel suo  “Musick’s Hand-Maid” (1663) con il titolo generico di “A Scotish March” conobbe una grande fortuna anche nel secolo successivo come “Pretender March” (il Bonnie Prince Charlie della ribellione giacobita del 1745).

Come Montrose March omaggia lo scozzese James Graham (1612–1650) primo Marchese di Montrose ma viene anche rivendicata dagli Irlandesi come O’Sullivan’s March per commemorare la resistenza dell’ultimo principe d’Irlanda Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare (1561–1618) e la sua strenue resistenza conto l’invasione inglese: la fuga dei sopravvissuti guidati dal Principe di Beare nel dicembre del 1603 diventa l’odissea del clan con donne e bambini alla ricerca di un rifugio sicuro verso Nord. Partirono in mille e marciarono per due settimane, ma ne arrivarono  solo 35 decimati dal freddo, la fame e le incursioni.
Oggi il percorso è diventato una BBW nonchè ispirazione per un Walking Festival: il Ballyhoura International Festival si svolge a Kilfinane, nella contea di Limerick, ed è il più antico e il maggiore Walking Festival d’Irlanda. (continua)

Diventata famosa dopo essere finita nel film di Rob Roy del 1995, inserita anche nella colonna sonora del film Master and Commander del 2003 la marcia è popolare anche in Nord-America

ASCOLTA Clare McLaughlin, Martin Hunter, Malcolm Stitt, Mairead McManus che la suonano come jig

ASCOLTA The Chieftains



“‘Twas pretty to be in Ballinderry” o semplicemente “Ballinderry” è una canzone del Nord d’Irlanda poco conosciuta: la poesia scritta da Alfred Perceval Graves è un lament in cui una fanciulla piange la morte del suo Phelim che voleva emigrare in America ma la nave su cui si è imbarcato ha fatto naufragio. Il testo fu pubblicato con musica arrangiata da Charles Villiers Stanford nella raccolta “Sing of Old Ireland” sulla scia dell’Irish revival e il gusto antiquario delle antiche melodie “celtiche” : la melodia originale proviene dalle trascrizioni di Edward Bunting ed era popolare già nel Settecento nelle campagne delle contee di Down e Antrim.
Bunting scrive in “Ancient Music of Ireland” (1840):
(Ballinderry) has been a favorite performance from time immemorial with the peasantry of the counties of Down and Antrim, the words being sung by one person while the rest of the party chant the cronan (chorus) in consonance…..There are numerous other sets of words sung to Ballinderry; they are all of a very rustic character and uniformly refer to localities along the rivers Bann and Lagan such as
‘T is pretty to be in Ballinderry,
‘T is pretty to be in Magheralin etc
‘T is pretty to be in Ballinderry,
‘T is pretty to be at the Cash of Toome etc

Queste varie versioni testuali furono trascritte fin dagli inizi dell’Ottocento e una sorta di sequel alla poesia di Graves venne scritto nel 1880 con il titolo di “The return of Phelimy Hyland” da James N. Richardson .


Alfred Perceval Graves traspone in inglese un tipico keening irlandese, un’antica arte del pianto e del canto funebre derivato dalle tradizioni gaeliche.
Ballinderry è un distretto della costa occidentale del Lough Neagh il cuore azzurro della provincia Nord d’Irlanda, l’Ulster (da Lennymore Bay e Sandy Bay si raggiunge l’isoletta di Ram).
Erano signori gli O’Neill di Ballinderry che risiedevano nel castello di Portmore costruito nel 1661 o 1664 da Lord Conway (sulle fondamenta di una antica fortezza) tra Lough Beg e Lough Neagh; la tenuta era ricca di alberi centenari e di bellissimi boschi (vedi Bonny Portmore)


L’isoletta oggi disabitata,  fu sede nel Medioevo di un monastero per poi essere venduta ai Conti O’Neill; un grazioso cottage estivo con il tetto in paglia fu edificato dal primo conte Charles O’Neill agli inizi dell’Ottocento proprio nelle vicinanze dei ruderi del monastero, unitamente a una casetta per i custodi; sembra che con la bassa marea l’isola fosse raggiungibile via terra percorrendo una strada pavimentata rialzata (i cui resti sono ancora visibili).
L’isola è un luogo ameno in cui passeggiare rigoglioso di alberi (molti dei quali piantati proprio dal conte) e ricco di roseti, feconda e bella come un angolo di paradiso; sull’isola vivevano due custodi Jane e Robert Cardwell, una sorta di geni tutelari che conducevano una semplice ed eremitica vita in simbiosi con l’isola e le sue risorse: si trasferirono sull’isola nel 1883 e ci rimasero fino alla fine, Robert morì nel 1929 e Jane nel 1933 alla veneranda età di 102 anni.

Ecco come appariva il cottage a metà ottocento

e come appare oggi

ASCOLTA The Cottars in “Made In Cape Breton,” 2002 che tenerezza sentire cantare una voce così fresca e giovane! (all’epoca del loro primo cd erano tutti degli adolescenti)

‘Twas pretty to be in Ballinderry (1)
‘Twas pretty to be in Aghalee (2)
Still prettier to be on bonny Ram’s Island
Sitting forever beneath a tree (3)
Ochone, ochone! Ochone, ochone!(4)
II (5)
For often I sailed to bonny Ram’s Island
Arm in arm with Phelim, my diamond (6)
And he would whistle and I would sing
And we would make the whole island ring
“I’m going,” he said, “from bonny Ram’s Island
Out and across the deep blue sea
And if in your heart you love me, Mary
Open your arms at last to me”
‘Twas happy to be in little Ballinderry
now ‘tis sad as sad can be;
For the ship that sailed with Phelimy Diamond
Is lost for ever beneath the sea.
Traduzione di Cattia Salto
Era bello stare a Ballinderry
era bello stare a Aghalee
e ancora meglio stare nella bella isola di Ram
seduti per sempre sotto ad un albero
Ahimè, ahimè, Ahimè, ahimè
Perchè spesso navigavo verso la bella isola di Ram
tra le braccia di Phelim, il mio gioiello
e lui avrebbe suonato il flauto e io avrei cantato
e noi avremmo fatto il giro di tutta l’isola
“Vado via- disse lui – dalla bella isola di Ram
per attraversare il mare profondo
e se nel tuo cuore mi ami Mary
abbracciami un’ultima volta”
Era bello stare a Ballinderry
ora invece è molto triste
perchè la nave che salpò con Phelimy Diamond
è perduta per sempre nell’oceano

1) dal gaelico Baile an Doire = ‘town of the oak wood’
2) i Clancy Brothers dicono Aucholee
3) il verso di Graves dice “Trysting under the ivy tree!”
4) lamento in gaelico equivalente ad Alas
5) la strofa nella versione di Graves dice
“For often I roved in little Ram’s Island,
Side by side with Phelimy Hyland,
And still he’d court me and I’d be coy,
Though at heart I loved him, my handsome boy!”
6) Phelimy Hyland probabilmente storpiato in “Phelimy Diamond.” invece di diamond i Clancy Brothers dicono demon; scritto anche come Phelim my love,


“Mary la rossa” (in inglese “Red-Haired Mary” ) è considerato un traditional irlandese, ma è stato composto negli anni 50 da Sean McCarthy (1923-1990): nato a Finuge, contea di Kerry, era un cantante e poeta,  autore di canzoni molto popolari come “Shanagolden”, “Highland Paddy”, “Murphy’s Volunteers”, “Step It Out Mary”, “The Hills of Connemara” e non ultima, “Red Haired Mary”.
Nel suo libro di canzoni”The Road to Song: Sean McCarthy, His Songs, Their Music and Story”, così scrive in merito alla canzone: “The young farmer, walked tall and proud, alongside the big Spanish Donkey. Sparks from his large hobnail boots looked and sounded like fireworks at a Rose of Tralee Festival. Mary walked barefoot, along the soft edge of the Dingle road, her long red hair streaming like a crimson kite in the autumn wind. They came together at the bend of the road, a mile outside the town. John Reagan’s heifers, which I was driving to market, were bellowing and looking for water, so I passed them in a hurry. I saw the tall young farmer, and the Red Haired girl, alter though fighting a gallant battle, against great odds, outside Murphy’s Pub. A battle that encompassed the Donkey, the Law, Mary’s father, her brother, several inlaws, and of course, the Tall Farmer.
The victors? Why love, of course, instant love. Red Haired Mary, and her tall man, walked into the autumn eve sunshine, with the big Spanish ass braying in approval. It was ten years later that I wrote the song. The song tells all: The fight, the short courtship, the donkey’s contribution, and of course, the happy ending. The Wolfe Tones and Danny Doyle were two of the first to make their story famous but scores of other singers have sung the donkey’s praises as well.
Sometimes now, when I fiddle with juke boxes in New York, Liverpool or London, I see “Red Haired Mary” in the titles. The song is being sung by young people that I never met, and it gives me a great feeling to know that Red Mary is known world wide.”


Un’allegra e scanzonata canzone d’amore  risalente agli anni 50, ma di grande popolarità,  registrata tra gli altri dai Clancy Brothers&Tommy Makem, Foster and Allen, Wolfe Tones, Three Pints Shy e più recentemente i Dervish e i Kilkennys; narra del colpo di fulmine tra il protagonista e una bella irlandese dai capelli rossi che si incontrano alla fiera di Dingle, una delle tante Lammas Fairs, le grandi fiere che si svolgono dopo il raccolto del grano: un tempo principalmente mercato del bestiame (in particolare cavalli) dove gli agricoltori si ritrovavano per vendere e comprare i prodotti dell’estate, ma anche un importante evento di socializzazione per le fattorie isolate, nonchè occasione per combinare matrimoni o trovare l’anima gemella.

ASCOLTA Roslyn una versione bluegrass


ASCOLTA Shanneyganock

I was going down the fair in Dingle(1),
one fine mornin’ last July,
while going down the road before me,
a red-haired girl I chanced to spy (2).
II (3)
“Come ride with me, my fairy maiden (4).
My donkey he will carry two.”
She looked at me, her eyes a-twinkling (a-twinkle)
her cheeks were two rosy hue.
” Thank you kindly, sir,” she answered,
Then she tossed her bright red hair;
“Seein’ as you’ve got your donkey,
I’ll ride with you to the Dingle fair.”
Take (5) your hands off red haired Mary
you and I will soon be wed
We’ll see  the priest this very morning
And tonight we’ll lie in a married bed
When we reached the town of Dingle,
I took her hand to say goodbye;
A tinker man (6) stepped up beside me,
He belted (7) me (hard) in my left eye.
I was feeling kind of peevish (8)
And my poor (old) eye was sad and sore
I tapped him gently with my hobnail (9)
And he flew (10) back to Murphy’s door
He ran (went) off to find his brothers
The biggest guys (11) I e’er did see (12)
They rapped (13) me gently with their knuckles
And I was minus two front teeth
The policeman (14) came round the corner
He said, ” young man (15) you have broke the law.”(16)
My donkey kicked him in the kneecaps (17)
He fell down and broke his jaw.
The red-haired maiden , she kept on smiling (18)
“I’ll come with you, young man (19)” she said.
“We’ll forget (20) the priest this very morning,
Tonight we’ll lie in Murphy’s shed!
Through the Dingle fair (21) we rode together,
My black eye and her red hair;
Smilin’ gaily at the tinkers,
B’ God, we were a handsome pair.
Traduzione di Cattia Salto
Me ne andavo alla fiera di Dingle
in una bella giornata dello scorso Luglio
proprio mentre percorreva la strada davanti a me, una rossa che mi misi a osservare
“Cavalca con me, mia  giovane fanciulla
il mio asinello ci porterà in due”
lei mi guardò e gli occhi le brillavano
le sue guance erano tinte di rosa
“Vi ringrazio infinitamente signore – lei rispose e poi scrollò i lucidi capelli rossi
“Visto che avete l’asino cavalcherò accanto a voi fino alla fiera di Dingle”
Giù le mani dalla rossa Mary,
io e lei saremo presto sposi
vedremo il prete questa mattina presto
e stanotte dormiremo in un letto nunziale
Quando raggiungemmo la città di Dingle, le presi la mano per salutarla,
 un calderaio mi si parò
e mi colpì all’occhio sinistro
Mi sentivo un tantino irritato
il mio povero occhio lacrimava dal dolore
così l’ho accarezzato con i miei scarponi chiodati
e lui cadde all’indietro sulla porta del Murphy
Andò a cercare i suoi fratelli
gli uomini più grossi che abbia mai visto
mi accarezzarono
con i loro pugni
e mi trovai con due denti in meno.
Un poliziotto venne da dietro
e mi disse “Giovanotto avete infranto la legge”
il mio asino  gli diede un calcio alla rotula
e lui cadde giù e si ruppe la mascella.
La fanciulla dai capelli rossi si mise a sorridere
“Andrò con te giovanotto
dimentichiamoci il prete per questa mattina
e stanotte dormiremo sotto il tetto del Murphy”
Così per la fiera di Dingle cavalcammo insieme
il mio occhio nero e i suoi capelli rossi
sorridendo allegramente ai calderai
e per dio eravamo una bella coppia

NOTE delle varianti testuali
1) Dingle è un paesello di pescatori di circa 2000 abitanti situato in una pittoresca insenatura ai piedi dei monti Slievanea, quasi al centro dell’omonima penisola di Dingle, luoghi in cui si respira la storia del passato e si trovano dietro l’angolo paesaggi mozzafiato
2) oppure “On the road I saw before me
A red-haired maiden passing by”
3) i Dervish dicono invece
I went up to her, says I “Young lady
My donkey he will carry two
But seeing as how you have a donkey
To the Dingle fair I’ll ride with you”
In effetti se il protagonista vorrebbe dare un passaggio alla rossa, lei inizialmente mantiene le distanze dicendo che preferisce stare a cavallo del suo di asinello, anche se non le dispiacerebbe avanzare affiancati
4) I went up to her, said I, young lady,
5) oppure keep
6) irish travellers
7) oppure punched
8) peevy
9) Hobnailed boots were made by Irish craftsmen –– bootmakers called ‘Greasai Bróg’ in Irish. These boots were made to order and would last a lifetime. The very thick soles are almost completely covered with hobnails and the stout heels are protected by an almost horseshoe-shaped iron tip.  A big change from walking barefoot to wearing hobs! (tratto da qui)
10) fell
11) oppure Larger men oppure The hot biggest man
12) meet
13) tapped
14)a volte scritto in slang come “peeler”, guardia civica, l’equivalente del nostro vigile. In alcune versioni l’intervento delle forze dell’ordine è alla VI strofa seguita dall’arrivo dei due energumeni che a questo punto sembrano essere i fratelli della guardia e non del calderaio
15) oppure son
16) oppure He told me I had broke the law;
17) ankle,
18) just stood there smiling
19) oppure “Young sir, I’ll go with you instead
20) skip
21) town