Archivi categoria: Musica irlandese/ Irish music

Paddy Lay Back: take a turn around the capstan

Leggi in italiano

Paddy Lay Back is a kilometer sea shanty, variant wedge, sung by sailors both as a recreational song and as a song to the winch to raise the anchor (capstan shanty).

Stan Hugill in his “Shanties from the Seven Seas”, testifies a long version with about twenty stanzas (see), here only those sung by himself for the album ” “Sea Songs: Newport, Rhode Island- Songs from the Age of Sail”, 1980: “It was both a forebitter and a capstan song and a very popular one too, especially in Liverpool ships. […] It is a fairly old song dating back to the Mobile cotton hoosiers and has two normal forms: one with an eight-line verse – this was the forebitter form; and the second with a four-line verse – the usual shanty pattern. Doerflinger gives a two-line verse pattern as the shanty – a rather unusual form, and further on in his book he gives the forebitter with both four- and eight-line verses. He gives the title of the shanty as Paddy, Get Back and both his versions of the forebitter as Mainsail Haul. Shay, Sampson and Bone all suggest that it was a fairly modern sea-song and give no indication that any form was sung as a shanty, but all my sailing-ship acquaintances always referred to it as a shanty, and it was certainly sung in the Liverpool-New York Packets as such – at least the four-line verse form. […] Verses from 11 onwards [of the 19 verses given, incl. v. 3, lines 1-4 above] are fairly modern and nothing to do with the Packet Ship seamen, but with the chorus of ‘For we’re bound for Vallaparaiser round the Horn’ are what were sung by Liverpool seamen engaged in the West Coast Guano Trade.” (Stan Hugill)
(all the strings except III)
Stan Hugill

Nils BrownAssassin’s Creed Rogue   (I, II, III, V, VI)

‘Twas a cold an’ dreary (frosty) mornin’ in December,
An’ all of me money it was spent
Where it went to Lord (Christ) I can’t remember
So down to the shippin’ office I went,
Paddy, lay back (Paddy, lay back)!
Take in yer slack (take in yer slack)!
Take a turn around the capstan – heave a pawl (1) – (heave a pawl)
‘Bout ship’s stations, boys,
be handy (be handy)! (2)
For we’re bound for Valaparaiser
‘round the Horn! 

That day there wuz a great demand for sailors
For the Colonies and for ‘Frisco and for France
So I shipped aboard a Limey barque (3) “the Hotspur”
An’ got paralytic drunk on my advance (4)
Now I joined her on a cold December mornin’,
A-frappin’ o’ me flippers to keep me warm.
With the south cone a-hoisted as a warnin’ (5),
To stand by the comin’ of a storm.
Now some of our fellers had bin drinkin’,
An’ I meself wuz heavy on the booze;
An’ I wuz on me ol’ sea-chest a-thinkin’
I’d turn into me bunk an’ have a snooze.
I woke up in the mornin’ sick an’ sore,
An’ knew I wuz outward bound again;
When I heard a voice a-bawlin’ (calling) at the door,
‘Lay aft, men, an’ answer to yer names!’
‘Twas on the quarterdeck where first I saw you,
Such an ugly bunch I’d niver seen afore;
For there wuz a bum an’ stiff from every quarter,
An’ it made me poor ol’ heart feel sick an’ sore.
There wuz Spaniards an’ Dutchmen an’ Rooshians,
An’ Johnny Crapoos jist acrosst from France;
An’ most o’ ‘em couldn’t speak a word o’ English,
But answered to the name of ‘Month’s Advance’.
I knew that in me box I had a bottle,
By the boardin’-master ‘twas put there;
An’ I wanted something for to wet me throttle,
Somethin’ for to drive away dull care.
So down upon me knees I went like thunder,
Put me hand into the bottom o’ the box,
An’ what wuz me great surprise an’ wonder,
Found only a bottle o’ medicine for the pox

1) pawl – short bar of metal at the foot of a capstan or close to the barrel of a windlass which engage a serrated base so as to prevent the capstan or windlass ‘walking back’. […] The clanking of the pawls as the anchor cable was hove in was the only musical accompaniment a shanty ever had! (Hugill, Shanties 414)
2)  it is a typical expression in maritime songs
3) limey – The origin of the Yanks calling English sailors ‘Limejuicers’ […] was the daily issuing of limejuice to British crews when they had been a certain number of days at sea, to prevent scurvy, according to the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act (Hugill, Shanties 54)
4) the sailor has spent all the advance on high-alcohol drinking
5) A storm-cone is a visual signalling device made of black-painted canvas designed to be hoisted on a mast – if apex upwards, a gale is expected from the North, if from the South, apex downward. The storm cone was devised by Rear Admiral Robert Fitzroy, former commander of HMS Beagle, head of a department of the Board of Trade known today simply as the Met Office, and inventor of weather forecasts.
“In 1860 he devised a system of issuing gale warnings by telegraph to the ports likely to be affected. The message contained of a list of places with the words:
‘North Cone’ or ‘South Cone’ – for northerly or southerly gales respectively
‘Drum’  – for when further gales were expected,
Drum and North/South Cone’ – for particularly heavy gales or storms. ” (from herei) (see more)

FOLK VERSION: Valparaiso Round the Horn

For his title the song has become a traditional Irish song, a popular drinking song, connected to equally popular jigs (eg Irish washer woman)! Also known as “The Liverpool song” and “Valparaiso Round the Horn”. Among the favorite pirate song of course!

The Wolfe Tones from “Let The People Sing” 1972 make a folk version that has become the standard of a classic irish drinking song
The Irish Rovers live
Sons Of Erin

‘Twas a cold an’ dreary (frosty) mornin’ in December,
An’ all of me money it was spent
Where it went to Lord I can’t remember
So down to the shippin’ office I went,
Paddy, lay back (Paddy, lay back)!
Take in yer slack (take in yer slack)!
Take a turn around the capstan – heave a pawl (1) – (heave a pawl)
About ships for England boys be handy(2)
For we’re bound for Valaparaiser
‘round the Horn! 

That day there wuz a great demand for sailors
For the Colonies and for ‘Frisco and for France
So I shipped aboard a Limey barque (3) “the Hotspur”
An’ got paralytic drunk on my advance (4)
There were Frenchmen, there were Germans, there were Russians
And there was Jolly Jacques came just across from France
And not one of them could speak a word of English
But they’d answer to the name of Bill or Dan
I woke up in the morning sick and sore (5)
I wished I’d never sailed away again
Then a voice it came thundering thru’ the floor
Get up and pay attention to your name
I wish that I was in the Jolly Sailor (6)
With Molly or with Kitty on me knee
Now I see most any men are sailors
And with me flipper I wipe away my tears

1) see above
2) or Bout ship’s stations, boys
3) see above
4) see above
5) a euphemism to describe the hangover
6) the name varies at the discretion of the singer


(Mer)Maid on the Shore

Leggi in italiano

A fertile vein of the European balladry tradition that has its roots in the Middle Ages, is the so-called “girl on the beach”; Riccardo Venturi summarizes the commonplace “solitary girl who walks on the shores of the sea – coming ship – commander or sailor who calls her on board – girl who embarks on her own will – rethinking and remorse – thoughts at the maternal / conjugal house – drama that takes place (in various ways)
In the “warning ballads” the good girls are warned not to fantasise, to stay in their place (next to the fireplace to crank out delicious treats and children) and not to venture into “male roles”, otherwise they will end dishonored or raped or killed. Better then the more or less golden cage that is already known, rather than free flight.
Every now and then, however, the girl manages to triumph with cunning, over the male cravings, so in the “(Fair) Maid on the Shore” she turns herself into a predator!

Rebecca Guay: Mermaid


It is a mermaid, which the captain sees on a moonlit night, who is walking along the beach (it is well known that selkies and sirens can walk with human feet on full moon nights). Immediately he falls in love and sends a boat to carry her on his ship (by hook or by crook), but as soon as she sings, she casts a spell on the whole crew.
And here the fantastic and magical theme ends: the girl takes all gold and silver and returns to her beach, far from being a fragile and helpless creature, so also her looting the treasures recalls the topos of the siren that collects the glistening things from ships (after having caused shipwreck and death) to “furnish” his cave!
(mer)maid on the shoreBertrand Bronson in his “Tunes of the Child Ballads” classifies “Fair Maid on the Shore” as a variant of Broomfield Hill (Child # 43), the ballad was found more rarely in Ireland (where it is assumed to be original) and more widely in America (and in particular in Canada). Thus reports Ewan MacCall (The Long Harvest, Volume 3) “More commonly found in the North-eastern United States, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland is a curious marine adaptation of the story in which the knight of the Broomfield Hill is transformed into an amorous sea-captain. The young woman on whom he has designs succeeds in preserving her chastity by singing her would-be lover to sleep.”

A.L. Lloyd sang The Maid on the Shore in his album The Foggy Dew and Other Traditional English Love Songs (1956) and commented in the notes “As the song comes to us, it is the bouncing ballad of a girl too smart for a lecherous sea captain. But a scrap of the ballad as sung in Ireland hints at something sinister behind the gay recital. For there, the girl is a mermaid or siren.

It’s of a sea captain that sailed the salt sea
the seas they were fine, calm and clear-o (1)
And a beautiful damsel he changed for to spy
walking alone on the shore, shore
walking alone on the shore
What I’ll give to you me sailors boys
and …  costly ware-o (2).
if you’ll fleach me that girl aboard of my ship
who walks all alone on the shore, shore
walks all alone on the shore
So the sailors they got them a very long boat
And off for the shore they did steer-o,
Saying, “Ma’am if you please will you enter on board
To view a fine cargo of ware (3), ware
To view a fine cargo of ware.”
With much persuasion they got her on board
the seas they were fine, calm and clear-o,
she sat herself down in the stern of the boat
off for the ship they did steer, steer
off for the ship they did steer.
And when they’ve arrived alongside of the ship
the captain he order his chew-o,
Saying, “First you should lie in my arms all this night
and may be I’ll marry you dear, dear
may be I’ll marry you dear(4)
VI (5)
She sat herself down in the stern of the ship
the seas they were fine, calm and clear-o,
She sang so neat, so sweet and complete,
She sang sailors and captain to sleep, sleep
sang sailors and captain to sleep.
She’s robbed them of silver, she’s robbed them of gold,
she’s robbed their costly ware-o.
And the captain’s bright sword she’s took for an oar
And she’s paddled away for the shore, shore/ paddled away for the shore.
And when he awaken he find she was gone
he would like a man in despair-o
… she deluded both captain and crew
“I’m a maid once more on the shore, shore
I’m a maid once more on the shore”

having transcribed the text directly from listening, there are some words that escape me (and that for a mother-tongue are very clear!) Any additions are welcome !
1)  the verse is used as a refrain on the call and response scheme typical of the sea shanty
2) the captain promises a substantial reward to his sailors
3) in other more explicit versions the cabin boy is sent to show rings and other precious jewels, asking her to get on board to admiring ones more beautiful
4) in a more cruel version the captain threatens to give the girl to his crew, if she will not be nice to him
First you will lie in my arms all this night
And then I’ll give you to me jolly young crew,
5) It is missing
“Oh thank you, oh thank you,” this young girl she cried,
“It’s just what I’ve been waiting for-o:
For I’ve grown so weary of my maidenhead
As I walked all alone on the shore.”

In the Scandinavian versions of the story the girl is first enticed with flattery on board the ship and then kidnapped, in the French version L ‘Epee Liberatrice she is a princess who gets on the ship because she wants to learn the song sung by the young cabin boy: she falls asleep and when she wakes up she discovers to be on the high seas, she asks a sailor for a sword and kills herself, the Italian version (Il corsaro -Costantino Nigra) follows a similar story, but it is only the Irish version that dwells on the magic song of the siren.

The ballad has many interpreters mostly in the folk or folk-rock field.

Stan Rogers from Fogarty’s Cove (1976)
John Renbourn group from The Enchanted Garden, 1980 (strofe I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VIII)

Eliza Carthy from Rough Music, 2005

The Once from The Once 2009

I (1)
There is a young maiden,
she lives all a-lone
She lived all a-lone on the shore-o
There’s nothing she can find
to comfort her mind
But to roam all a-lone on the shore, shore, shore
But to roam all a-lone on the shore
‘Twas of the young (2) Captain
who sailed the salt sea
Let the wind blow high, blow low
I will die, I will die,
the young Captain did cry
If I don’t have that maid on the shore, shore, shore…
III (3)
I have lots of silver,
I have lots of gold
I have lots of costly ware-o
I’ll divide, I’ll divide,
with my jolly ship’s cres
If they row me that maid on the shore, shore, shore…
IV (4)
After much persuasion,
they got her aboard
Let the wind blow high, blow low
They replaced her away
in his cabin below
Here’s adieu (5) to all sorrow and care, care, care…
V  (6)
They replaced her away
in his cabin below
Let the wind blow high, blow low
She’s so pretty and neat,
she’s so sweet and complete
She’s sung Captain and sailors to sleep, sleep, sleep…
VI (7)
Then she robbed him of silver,
she robbed him of gold
She robbed him of costly ware-o
Then took his broadsword
instead of an oar
And paddled her way to the shore, shore, shore…
Me men must be crazy,
me men must be mad
Me men must be deep in despair-o
For to let you away from my cabin so gay
And to paddle your way to the shore, shore, shore…
VIII (8)
Your men was not crazy,
your men was not mad
Your men was not deep in despair-o
I deluded your sailors as well as yourself
I’m a maiden again on the shore, shore, shore

The textual version of the John Renbourn group differs slightly from Stan’s version
1) There was a young maiden, who lives by the shore
Let the wind blow high, blow low
no one could she find to comfort her mind
and she set all a-lone on the shore,
she set all a-lone on the shore
2) or Sea
3) The captain had silver, the captain had gold
And captain had costly ware-o
All these he’ll give to his jolly ship crew
to bring him that maid on the shore
4) And slowly slowly she came upon board
the captain gave her a chair-o
he sited her down in the cabin below
adieu to all sorrow and care
5) in the version of Renbourn the sentence is clearer, it is the pains of love that the captain tries to alleviate by rape the girl!
6) She sited herself in the bow of the ship
she sang so loud and sweet-o
She sang so sweet, gentle and complete
She sang all the seamen to sleep
7) She part took of his silver, part took of his gold
part took of his costly ware-o
she took his broadsword to make an oar
to paddle her back to the shore,
8) Your men must be crazy, your men must be mad
your men must be deep in despair-o
I deluded at them all as has yourself
again I’m a maiden on the shore,

 Solas from “Sunny Spells And Scattered Showers” (1997)

There was a fair maid
and she lived all alone
She lived all alone on the shore
No one could she find for to calm her sweet mind (1)
But to wander alone on the shore, shore, shore
To wander alond on the shore
There was a brave captain
who sailed a fine ship
And the weather being steady and fair (2)/”I shall die, I shall die,”
this dear captain did cry
“If I can’t have that maid on the shore, shore, shore
If I can’t have that maid on the shore”
After many persuasions
they brought her on board
He seated her down on his chair
He invited her down to his cabin below
Farewell to all sorrow and care
Farewell to all sorrow and care (3).
“I’ll sing you a song,”
this fair maid did cry
This captain was weeping for joy
She sang it so sweetly, so soft and completely
She sang the captain and sailors to sleep
Captain and sailors to sleep
She robbed them of jewels,
she robbed them of wealth (4)
She robbed them of costly fine fare
The captain’s broadsword she used as an oar
She rowed her way back to the shore, shore, shore
She rowed her way back to the shore
Oh the men, they were mad and the men, they were sad
They were deeply sunk down in despair
To see her go away with her booty so gay
The rings and her things and her fine fare
The rings and her things and her fine fare
“Well, don’t be so sad and sunk down in despair
And you should have known me before
I sang you to sleep and I robbed you of wealth
Well, again I’m a maid on the shore, shore, shore
Again I’m a maid on the shore”

1) the sentence would make more sense if it were instead “to calm his restless mind”
2) the reference to the good weather is not accidental, in fact the sighting of a siren was synonymous with the approach of a storm
3) that is having a good time with a presumably virgin
4) the woman is not just a thief but a fairy creature that steals the health of the sailors

Folk Songs of the Catskills (Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht, Norman Studer)

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


Lark in the Morning

Leggi in italiano

The irish song “The Lark in the Morning” is mainly found in the county of Fermanagh (Northern Ireland): the image is rural, portrayed by an idyllic vision of healthy and simple country life; a young farmer who plows the fields to prepare them for spring sowing, is the paradigm of youthful exaltation, its exuberance and joie de vivre, is compared to the lark as it sails flying high in the sky in the morning. Like many songs from Northern Ireland it is equally popular also in Scotland.
The point of view is masculine, with a final toast to the health of all the “plowmen” (or of the horsebacks, a task that in a large farm more generally indicated those who took care of the horses) that they have fun rolling around in the hay with some beautiful girls, and so they demonstrate their virility with the ability to reproduce.

The Plougman – Rowland Wheelwright (1870-1955)

The Dubliners

Alex Beaton with a lovely Scottish accent

The Quilty (Swedes with an Irish heart)

The lark in the morning, she rises off her nest(1)
She goes home in the evening, with the dew all on her breast
And like the jolly ploughboy, she whistles and she sings
She goes home in the evening, with the dew all on her wings
Oh, Roger the ploughboy, he is a dashing blade (2)
He goes whistling and singing, over yonder leafy shade
He met with pretty Susan,, she’s handsome I declare
She is far more enticing, then the birds all in the air
One evening coming home, from the rakes of the town
The meadows been all green, and the grass had been cut down
As I should chance to tumble, all in the new-mown hay (3)
“Oh, it’s kiss me now or never love”,  this bonnie lass did say
When twenty long weeks, they were over and were past
Her mommy chanced to notice, how she thickened round the waist
“It was the handsome ploughboy,-the maiden she did say-
For he caused for to tumble, all in the new-mown hay”
Here’s a health to y’all ploughboys wherever you may be
That likes to have a bonnie lass a sitting on his knee
With a jug of good strong porter you’ll whistle and you’ll sing
For a ploughboy is as happy as a prince or a king
1) The lark is a melodious sparrow that sings from the first days of spring and already at the first light of dawn; it is a terrestrial bird which, however, once safely in flight, rises almost vertically into the sky, launching a cascade of sounds similar to a musical crescendo.
Then, closed the wings, he lets himself fall like a dead body until he touches the ground and immediately rises again, starting to sing again . see more
2) blade= boy, term used in ancient ballads to indicate a skilled swordsman
3) The story’s backgroung is that of the season of haymaking, starting in May, when farmers went to make hay, that is to cut the tall grass, with the scythe, putting it aside as fodder for livestock and courtyard’s animals . While hay cutting was a mostly masculine task, women and children used the rake to collect grass in large piles, which were then loaded onto the cart through the use of pitchforks.. see more

George Stubbs – Haymakers 1785 (Wikimedia)

Lisa Knapp from Till April Is Dead ≈ A Garland of May 2017, from Paddy Tunney (only I, II) (Paddy Tunney The Lark in the Morning 1995  ♪), the most extensive version comes from the Sussex Copper family, but Lisa further changes some verses.

The lark in the morning she rises off her nest
And goes whistling and singing, with the dew all on her breast
Like a jolly ploughboy she whistles and she sings
she comes home in the evening with the dew all on her wings
Roger the ploughboy he is a bonny blade.
He goes whistling and singing down by yon green glade.
He met with dark-eyed Susan, she’s handsome I declare,
she’s far more enticing than the birds on the air.
This eve he was coming home, from the rakes in town
with meadows been all green and the grass just cut down
she is chanced to tumble all in the new-mown hay
“It’s loving me now or never”, this bonnie lass did say
So good luck to the ploughboys wherever they may be,
They will take a sweet maiden to sit along their knee,
Of all the gay callings
There’s no life like the ploughboy in the merry month of may



This version was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904 as heard by Ms. Harriet Verrall of Monk’s Gate, Horsham in Sussex, but already circulated in the nineteenth-century broadsides and then reported in Roy Palmer’s book “Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams”. Became into the English folk music circuit in the 60s the song was recorded in 1971 by the English folk rock group Steeleye Span with the voice of Maddy Prior.

The refrain is similar to that of the previous irish version, but here the situation is even more pastoral and almost Shakespearean with the shepherdess and the plowman who are surprised by the morning song of the lark, but with the reversed parts: he who tells her to stay in his arms, because there is still the evening dew, but she who replies that the sun is now shining and even the lark has risen in flight. The name of the peasant is Floro and derives from the Latin Fiore.

Steeleye Span from Please to See the King – 1971

Maddy Prior  from Arthur The King – 2001

“Lay still my fond shepherd and don’t you rise yet
It’s a fine dewy morning and besides, my love, it is wet.”
“Oh let it be wet my love and ever so cold
I will rise my fond Floro and away to my fold.
Oh no, my bright Floro, it is no such thing
It’s a bright sun a-shining and the lark is on the wing.”
Oh the lark in the morning she rises from her nest
And she mounts in the air with the dew on her breast
And like the pretty ploughboy she’ll whistle and sing
And at night she will return to her own nest again
When the ploughboy has done all he’s got for to do
He trips down to the meadows where the grass is all cut down.

1)plow the field but also plow a complacent girl


“Lark in the morning” is a jig mostly performed with banjo or bouzouki or mandolin or guitar, but also with pipes, whistles or flutes, fiddles ..
An anecdote reported by Peter Cooper says that two violinists had challenged one evening to see who was the best, only at dawn when they heard the song of the lark, they agreed that the sweetest music was that of the morning lark. Same story told by the piper Seamus Ennis but with the The Lark’s March tune

Moving Hearts The Lark in the Morning (Trad. Arr. Spillane, Lunny, O’Neill)

Cillian Vallely uilleann pipes with Alan Murray guitar

Peter Browne uilleann pipes in Lark’s march


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


Amhrán Na Bealtaine

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TITLES: Amhran Na Bealtaine, Samhradh, Summertime, Thugamur Fein An Samhradh Linn (We Brought The Summer With Us, We Have Brought The Summer In) or Beltane Song
It is a traditional Irish tune sung on May Day (Lá Bealtaine).

Charles Daniel Ward: Processing of Spring -1905
Charles Daniel Ward: Processing of Spring -1905


A Gaelic Summer song that could date back to the late Middle Ages played in the feast for the landing of James Butler Duke of Ormonde in 1662, the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It is a traditional song in the southeastern part of Ulster (Northern Ireland) and it was sung by young men and women on May Eve, while they carried around the Garland of May.
Most likely this was a begging song to get food or drink in exchange for the May branch, tabranch of hawthorn or blackthorn to be left in front of the door. With this auspicious gesture, the inhabitants are protected from fairies because fairies could not overcome these flowered barriers (see more).

The song is still very popular in Ireland, Oriel area (t included parts of Louth, Monaghan and Armagh) and is performed both in instrumental version and sung.
Edward Bunting states that the song had been played in the Dublin area since 1633.
The Chieftains (a instrumental version that is a hymn to joy, a song of birds awakening to the call of spring: the Irish flute starts imitating a lark followed in musical canon by some
wind instruments (the Irish flute, the whistle and the uillean pipes) and the violin, great!)

Gloaming  live Samhradh Samhradh (Martin Hayes fiddle)

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin from A Stór Is A Stóirín 1994 

English translation*
Mayday doll(1),
maiden of Summer
Up every hill
and down every glen,
Beautiful girls,
radiant and shining,
We have brought the Summer in.
Summer, Summer,
milk of the calves(2),
We have brought the Summer in.
Yellow(3) summer
of clear bright daisies,
We have brought the Summer in.
We brought it in
from the leafy woods(4),
We have brought the Summer in.
Yellow(3) Summer
from the time of the sunset(5),
We have brought the Summer in.
The lark(6) is singing
and swinging around in the skies,
Joy for the day
and the flower on the trees.
The cuckoo and the lark
are singing with pleasure,
We have brought the Summer in.
Irish gaelic
Bábóg na Bealtaine,
maighdean an tSamhraidh,
Suas gach cnoc
is síos gach gleann,
Cailíní maiseacha
bán-gheala gléasta,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh, samhradh,
bainne na ngamhna,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh buí
na nóinín glégeal,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Thugamar linn
é ón gcoill chraobhaigh,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh buí
ó luí na gréine,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm
‘sag luascadh sna spéartha,
Áthas do lá
is bláth ar chrann.
Tá an chuach is an fhuiseog
ag seinm le pléisiúr,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

* from here
garlan-may-day1) the Bábóg is the spring doll, Brídeóg, the “little Bride”, (Brigit, or Brigantia in Britannia, a trine goddess -Virgin, Mother, Crona) among the most important of the Celtic pantheon, the maiden of wheat made by women in Imbolc (February 1) with the last sheaf of harvest; the young Goddess of Spring, a strong symbol of rebirth in the cycle of death-life in which Nature is perpetuated: in the doll still lives the spirit of the wheat. Brigid’s dolls were also dressed in a white dress, decorated with stones, ribbons and flowers and carried in procession throughout the village.
The doll will reappear in the Victorian celebrations of May in her white-robed, placed between a wreath of flowers and ribbons hanging on a rod and carryed by mayers (see more)
2) milk from cows for calves. The May Day is called na Beal tina or the day of the fire of Beal, then consecrated to the god Bel or Belenos. On the eve large fires were lit and the cattle were passed among them, this celtic custom is still remained in the Irish countryside with the belief that this prevented the Wee Folk to make bad jokes like braiding the tails of the cows or stealing the milk
3) the May flowers were mostly yellow to recall the color and the warmth of the sun. Flowers and green branches were placed on the threshold of the house and window sills to protect the inhabitants from the fairies and as a sign of good fortune. Fairies could not overcome these flowered barriers. This tradition was typical of Northern Ireland. The children mostly went to pick wild flowers to make garlands, especially with yellow flowers.4) the greenwood, the most inviolate and sacred forest of the ancient Celtic rituals

Bringing Home the May, 1862, Henry Peach Robinson
Bringing Home the May, 1862, Henry Peach Robinson

5) the youth go into the woods at night of the eve till the morn  (see more)
6) the lark is a sacred bird with solar symbolism (see more)
7) the song of the cuckoo is a harbinger of Spring, also because once the season of love is over (end of May), the cuckoo (male) no longer sings  (see more)

Extra verses 

English translation (*)
Holly and hazel
and elder and rowan,(1)
We have brought the Summer in.
And brightly shining ash
from Bhéal an Átha,(2)
We have brought the Summer in
Irish Gaelic
Cuileann is coll
is trom is cárthain,
Thugamar féin
an samhradh linn
Is fuinseog ghléigeal Bhéal an Átha,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

1) The hawthorn is a fairy plant like holly, hazel, elderberry and rowan, protective and auspicious (probably due to the very sharp thorns). The May tradition places the branch of hawthorn outside the house (hanging on the windows and next to the entrance) because if it is brought into home, especially when it is flowered, brings bad luck. This negative meaning dates back to the Middle Ages when the branches of hawthorn were used as amulets against the evil eye, witches and demons; it might be traced back to the vague rotting smell of the branches, but it is certainly linked to the Church’s attempt to assimilate pre-Christian rites to satanic practices.
2) Bhéal an Átha literally the mouth of the ford is also a place known today as Ballina a city on the river Moy in the Mayo counts. However, the settlement is relatively recent (late 15th century). Na Bealtaine is more likely to refer to a toponym Beulteine as it was called the place of the Beltane festival on the border between the county of Armagh and that of Louth, in Kilcurry, today there are only a small mound with the ruins of an old church. All versions collected in the area describe a radius around this location of about twenty miles

Bábóg na Bealtaine, Other Tunes

La Lugh (Eithne Ní Uallacháin & Gerry O’Connor) from Brighid’s Kiss 1995. Tune composed by Eithne Ní Uallacháin (I, III,IV, V, VI)

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin has reinterpreted the song, previously published on the tune transcribed by Edward Bunting, on the tune and text as transcribed by Séamus Ennis from the testimony of Mick McKeown, Lough Ross recorded on a wax cylinder (I, II, III, IV, V , VII)

English translation*
Golden Summer of the white daisies,
we bring the Summer with us,
from village to village
and home again,
and we bring the Summer with us.
I Mick McKeown version
Golden summer, lying in the meadows,
we brought the summer with us;
Golden summer, spring and winter,
and we brought the summer with us.

Young maidens, gentle and lovely,
we brought the summer with us;
Lads who are clever, sturdy and agile,
and we brought the summer with us.
Beltaine dolls,
Summer maidens
Up hill and down glens
Girls adorned
in pure white,
and we bring the Summer with us.
The lark making music
and sky dancing
the blossomed trees laden with bees
the cuckoo and the birds
singing with joy
and we bring the Summer with us.
The hare nests on the edge of the cliff
the heron nests
in the branches
the doves are cooing,
honey on stems
and we bring the Summer with us.
The shining sun is lighting the darkness
the silvery sea shines like a mirror
the dogs are barking,
the cattle lowing
and we bring the Summer with us.
Golden summer, lying in the meadow,
we brought the summer with us;
From home to home and to Lisdoonan of pleasure,
and we brought the summer with us.
Irish Gaelic
Samhradh buí na nóiníní gléigeal,
thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn,
Ó bhaile go baile is chun ár mbaile ’na dhiaidh sin,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
(Mick McKeown version
Samhradh buí ’na luí ins na léanaí,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Samhradh buí, earrach is geimhreadh
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.)
Cailíní óga, mómhar sciamhach,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Buachaillí glice, teann is lúfar,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.
Bábóg na Bealtaine,
maighdean an tsamhraidh
suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann
cailíní maiseacha, bángheala gléasta,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm is ag luasadh sna spéartha,
beacha is cuileoga is bláth ar na crainn,
tá’n chuach’s na héanlaith ag seinm le pléisiúr,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
Tá nead ag an ghiorria ar imeall na haille,
is nead ag an chorr éisc i ngéaga an chrainn,
tá mil ar na cuiseoga is na coilm ag béiceadh,/’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn.
Tá an ghrian ag loinnriú`s ag lasadh na dtabhartas,
tá an fharraige mar scathán ag gháirí don ghlinn,
tá na madaí ag peithreadh is an t-eallach ag géimni
’s thugamar fhéin an samhradh linn
Samhradh buí ’na luí ins a’ léana,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Ó bhaile go baile is go Lios Dúnáin a’ phléisiúir,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

* from here and here


Amhrán na Craoibhe (The Garland Song)


Liffey Ferry

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The Dublin Penny Journal Vol 1 No 18 27 october 1832

Once the River Liffey was crossed by barges and boats that connected north and south banks and east and westwards up and down river ferrying passengers, animals and goods. As more bridges were built across the Liffey the ferries moved downstream s; in the past crossing the river from the bridge, it had a cost, like in the Middle Ages a toll was paid for people and goods transported up to the amortization of expenses incurred for the construction of the bridge, for example the Wellington Bridge then Liffey Bridge built in 1836 he kept the turnstiles until 1919 (the bridge is nicknamed Helfpenny bridge “half-penny bridge” because of the cost of the toll). The bridge was also built following protests over the bad state and overcrowding of ferries carrying goods and people across the river.


The first ferry to Dublin was born in 1385 following the collapse of the bridge on the Liffey near the Customs House, in the cost of the ferry was paid also a fee to help finance the construction of a substitute bridge. But with the expansion of the city and the shortage of bridges, a ferry service assigned to the Dublin Corporation was established in the 1665: the service was active one hour before dawn and ended one hour after sunset and only at the beginning of the twentieth century rowing boats were converted into engines.

Liffey Ferry in the 60s

The last public ferry, from Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to the East Wall Road (Spencer dock), worked until 1984 when the East Link Bridge was opened on October 20th. On that occasion Pete St. John was also present and he listened to the ferryman complaining : “Here I am redundant and I’m only 42, after 20 years befriending the machine “, Pete is a modern Dublin folk singer of the past and could not miss the opportunity to write a song about The Ferryman: the form is that of the intimate conversation of the ferryman to his wife, an appeal to remain united and not be overwhelmed by changes in life. Like so many other songs written by Pete it immediately became a popular song in the Irish folk clubs.
Pete St. John live

Gaelic Storm

Patsy Watchorn

Little boats are gone
from the breast of Anna Liffy (1)
The ferryman is stranded on the quay
Sure the Dublin docks is dying
and a way of life is gone
And Molly it was part of you and me
Where the Strawberry beds(2)
sweep down to the Liffy

You kissed away the worry from my brow
I love you well today
and I’ll love you more tomorrow

If you ever love me Molly love me now
T’was the only job I knew
it was hard but never lonely
The Liffy ferry made a man of me
And it’s gone without a whisper
and forgotted even now
And sure it’s over Molly over
can’t you see
Well now I’ll tent the yard
and I’ll spend me days in talking
And I’ll hear them whisper
“Charlie’s on the dole”
But Molly we’re still living
and darling we’re still young
And that river never owned
me heart and soul

1) Anna Liffyis the personification of the River Liffey
2) gli Strawberry Beds are an area along the Liffey near Chapelizod which has remained relatively natural, Joyce’s favorite spot along the western edge of Phoenix Parks. The Dubliners used to go for their picnics and spend their honeymoon.


In traghetto sul Liffey

Read the post in English

The Dublin Penny Journal Vol 1 No 18 27 ottobre 1832

Un tempo il Liffey era solcato da chiatte e barchette che collegavano le sponde nord e sud del fiume o che ne risalivano o scendevano al mare per trasportare passeggeri, animali e merci. Mano a mano che venivano costruiti i ponti le attività dei traghettatori si spostavano o si convertivano in altri servizi; una volta attraversare il fiume dal ponte aveva comunque un costo, come già nel Medioevo si pagava un pedaggio per le persone e le merci trasportate fino all’ammortamento delle spese sostenute per la costruzione del ponte stesso, ad esempio  il  Wellington Bridge poi Liffey Bridge costruito nel 1836 mantenne i tornelli fino al 1919 (il ponte è soprannominato Helfpenny bridge  “ponte da mezzo penny” proprio per il costo del pedaggio). Il ponte venne costruito anche in seguito alle proteste  per il cattivo stato e il sovraffollamento dei traghetti che trasportavano merci e persone attraverso il fiume.


Il primo traghetto a Dublino era nato nel 1385 in seguito al crollo del ponte sul Liffey in prossimità della Dogana (The Custom House), nel costo del traghetto si pagava oltre al servizio anche una quota per aiutare a finanziare la costruzione di un ponte sostitutivo. Ma con l’espandersi della città e la penuria di ponti venne istituito con patente regia (1665)  un servizio di traghetti assegnato alla Dublin Corporation: il servizio era attivo da un’ora prima dell’alba e terminava ad un’ora dopo il tramonto e solo agli inizi del Novecento le barche a remi vennero convertite a motore.

il Liffey Ferry negli anni ’60

L’ultimo traghetto pubblico, da Sir John Rogerson’s Quay all’East Wall Road (Spencer dock), ha funzionato fino al 1984 quando è stato aperto l’East Link Bridge il 20 ottobre. In quell’occasione era presente anche Pete St. John che ascoltò il traghettatore poco più che quarantenne lamentarsi per essere rimasto senza  lavoro dopo vent’anni dedicati al sevizio: “Here I am redundant and I’m only 42, after 20 years befriending the machine”, Pete è un cantore moderno della Dublino del passato e non poteva lasciarsi sfuggire l’occasione per scrivere una canzone The Ferryman: la forma è quella dell’intimo colloquio del traghettatore alla moglie, un appello a restare uniti e non farsi travolgere dai cambiamenti della vita. Come tante altre canzoni scritte da Pete è subito diventata una canzone popolare nei circuiti folk irlandesi.
Pete St. John live

Gaelic Storm

Patsy Watchorn

Little boats are gone
from the breast of Anna Liffy (1)
The ferryman is stranded on the quay
Sure the Dublin docks is dying
and a way of life is gone
And Molly it was part of you and me
Where the Strawberry beds(2)
sweep down to the Liffy

You kissed away the worry from my brow
I love you well today
and I’ll love you more tomorrow

If you ever love me Molly love me now
T’was the only job I knew
it was hard but never lonely
The Liffy ferry made a man of me
And it’s gone without a whisper
and forgotted even now
And sure it’s over Molly over
can’t you see
Well now I’ll tent the yard
and I’ll spend me days in talking
And I’ll hear them whisper
“Charlie’s on the dole”
But Molly we’re still living
and darling we’re still young
And that river never owned
me heart and soul
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Le barchette sono sparite
dal petto di Anna Liffy, il traghettatore è arenato sulla banchina
i moli di Dublino stanno morendo
ed è finita un’abitudine, che, Molly, faceva parte della nostra vita
Dove gli Strawberry beds
scendono verso il Liffy, 
mi baciavi via le preoccupazioni della fronte
ti amo tanto oggi
e ti amerò di più domani

se mi ami Molly amami ancora oggi
Era l’unico lavoro che conoscessi;
era dura ma non ero mai solo
il Liffy ferry ha fatto di me un uomo
ed è scomparso senza un sospiro
già adesso dimenticato,
è proprio finita Molly,
non vedi?
Bene ora tenterò la sorte
e passerò i giorni in colloqui
e li sentirò bisbigliare
“Charley vive col sussidio”
ma Molly siamo ancora vivi
e cara siamo ancora giovani
e quel fiume non si è mai preso
il mio cuore e la mia anima

1) Anna Liffy è la personificazione del fiume Liffey
2) gli Strawberry Beds sono un’area lungo il Liffey vicino a Chapelizod rimasta relativamente naturale, il posto preferito di Joyce lungo il bordo occidentale del Phoenix Parks. Un tempo i Dublinesi si recavano per i loro pic-nic e per trascorrere la luna di miele.


Shamrock shore

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Two texts in search of an author, with the same title “Shamrock shore” we distinguish two different songs, both as text and as melody, the first reported by PW Joyce at the end of the nineteenth century is an irish emigration song, the second ever traditional is also an emigration song, but above all a protest song, the social and political denunciation of the Irish question.


Already at the end of the 1800s P. W. Joyce reported it in his  “Ancient Irish Music” to then republish it in 1909, so he writes “This air, and one verse of the song, was published for the first time by me in my Ancient Irish Music, from which it is reprinted here. It was a favourite in my young days, and I have several copies of the words printed on ballad-sheets“. Again P. W. Joyce in Old Irish Folk Music (1909) reports further text
“Ye muses mine, with me combine and grant me your relief,
While here alone I sigh and moan, I’m overwhelmed with grief:
While here alone I sigh and moan far from my friends and home;
My troubled mind no rest can find since I left the Shamrock shore.”

The Irish emigrant arrives in London, the tune is that generally known with the title of”Erin Shore” (see)

Horslips from Happy to meet, sorry to part, 1972

PW Joyce, 1890
In early spring when small birds sing and lambkins sport and play,
My way I took, my friends forsook, and came to Dublin quay;
I enter’d as a passenger, and to England I sailed o’er;
I bade farewell to all my friends,
and I left the shamrock shore.
To London fair, I did repair some pleasure there to find
I found it was a lovely place,
and pleasant to mine eye
The ladies to where fair to view,
and rich the furs they wore
But none I saw, that could compare to the maids of the shamrock shore

PARTY SONG: You brave young sons of Erin’s Isle

More than a song, a political rant about the need for the independence of Ireland and the evils of landlordism.
Matt Molloy, Tommy Peoples, Paul Brady (1978)

You brave young sons of Erin’s Isle
I hope you will attend awhile
‘Tis the wrongs of dear old Ireland I am going to relate
‘Twas black and cursed was the day
When our parliament was taken away
And all of our griefs and sufferings commences from that day (1)
For our hardy sons and daughters fair
To other countries must repair
And leave their native land behind in sorrow to deplore
For seek employment they must roam
Far, far away from the native home
From that sore, oppressed island that they call the shamrock shore
Now Ireland is with plenty blessed
But the people, we are sore oppressed
All by those cursed tyrants we are forced for to obey
Some haughty landlords for to please
Our houses and our lands they’ll seize
To put fifty farms into one (2) and take us all away
Regardless of the widow’s sighs
The mother’s tears and orphan’s cries
In thousands we were driven from home which grieves my heart full sore
We were forced by famine and disease (3) To emigrate across the seas
From that sore, opressed island that they called the shamrock shore
Our sustenance all taken away
The tithes and taxes for to pay
To support that law-protected church to which they do adhere (4)
And our Irish gentry, well you know
To other countries they do go
And the money from old Ireland they squandered here and there
For if our squires  would stay at home
And not to other countries roam
But to build mills and factories (5) here to employ the laboring poor
For if we had trade and commerce here
To me no nation could compare
To that sore, oppressed island that they call the shamrock shore
John Bull (6), he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish the tyrants from our land
And in harmony like sisters stand
To demand the rights of Ireland,
let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all around the shamrock shore

1) The song is obviously post-Union (1800), because it refers to the dissolved Irish Parliament
2) the plague of landlordism
3)  in 1846 the entire crop of potatoes (basic diet of the Irish) was all destroyed due to a fungus, the peronospera; the “great famine” occurred (1845-1849 which some historians prolonged until 1852) which lasted for several years and almost halved the population; those who did not die of hunger were lucky if the
y could leave for England or Scotland, but more massive was the migration to America
4) ‘tithes and taxes’ paid in support of the Irish Church, so the song pre-dates the Act of Disestablishment in 1869
5) the years of large-scale industrial expansion (with relative upgrading of infrastructure) began in Britain starting from 1840-50
6) John Bull is the national personification of the Kingdom of Great Britain

Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore


Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

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“Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore ” is a traditional Irish song originally from Donegal, of which several textual versions have been written for a single melody.

TUNE: Erin Shore

A typically Irish tune spread among travellers already at the end of 1700, today it is known with different titles: Shamrock shore, Erin Shore (LISTEN instrumental version of the Irish group The Corrs from Forgiven, Not Forgotten 1995), Lough Erin Shore (LISTEN to the version always instrumental of the Corrs from Unpluggesd 1999), Gleanntáin Ghlas’ Ghaoth Dobhair, Gleanntan Glas Gaoith Dobhair or The Green Glens Of Gweedor (with text written by Francie Mooney)

Standard version: Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

The common Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore was first sung on an EFDSS LP(1969) by Packie Manus Byrne, now over 80 and living in Ardara Co Donegal*. He was born at Corkermore between there and Killybegs. It was taken up by Paul Brady and subsequently. However, there are longer and more local (to north Derry, Donegal) versions in Sam Henry’s Songs of the People and in Jimmy McBride’s The Flower of Dunaff Hill.” (in Mudcats ) and Sam Henry writes “Another version has been received from the Articlave district, where the song was first sung in 1827 by an Inishowen ploughman.”
The recording made by Sean Davies at Cecil Sharp House dates back to 1969 and again in the sound archives of the ITMA we find the recording sung by Corney McDaid at McFeeley’s Bar, Clonmany, Co. Donegal in 1987 (see) and also Paul Brady recorded it many times.
Kevin Conneff recorded it with the Chieftains in 1992, “Another Country” (I, II, IV, V, II)

Amelia Hogan from “Transplants: From the Old World to the New.”

Liam Ó Maonlai & Donal Lunny ( I, IV, V, II)

Dolores Keane & Paul Brady live 1988 (I, II, IV, V)

Come Irishmen all, who hear my song, your fate is a mournful tale
When your rents are behind and you’re being taxed blind and your crops have grown sickly and failed
You’ll abandon your lands,
and you’ll wash your hands of all that has come before and you’ll take to the sea to a new count-a-ree, far from the green Shamrock shore.
From Derry quay we sailed away
On the twenty-third of May
We were boarded by a pleasant crew
Bound for Amerikay
Fresh water then we did take on
Five thousand gallons or more
In case we’d run short going to New York
Far away from the shamrock shore
II (Chorus)
Then fare thee well, sweet Liza dear
And likewise to Derry town
And twice farewell to my comrades bold (boys)
That dwell on that sainted ground
If fame or fortune shall favour me
And I to have money in store
I’ll come back and I’ll wed the wee lassie I left
On Paddy’s green shamrock shore
At twelve o’clock we came in sight
Of famous Mullin Head
And Innistrochlin to the right stood out On the ocean’s bed
A grander sight ne’er met my eyes
Than e’er I saw before
Than the sun going down ‘twixt sea and sky
Far away from the shamrock shore
We sailed three days (weeks), we were all seasick
Not a man on board was free
We were all confined unto our bunks
And no-one to pity poor me
No mother dear nor father kind
To lift (hold) up my head, which was sore
Which made me think more on the lassie I left
On Paddy’s green shamrock shore
Well we safely reached the other side
in three (fifteen) and twenty days
We were taken as passengers by a man(1)
and led round in six different ways,
We each of us drank a parting glass
in case we might never meet more,
And we drank a health to Old Ireland
and Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

*additional first verse by Garrison White
1) It refers to the reception of immigrants who were inspected and held for bureaucratic formalities, but the sentence is not very clear. Ellis Island was used as an entry point for immigrants only in 1892. Prior to that, for approximately 35 years, New York State had 8 million immigrants transit through the Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Lower Manhattan.


This text was written by Patrick Brian Warfield, singer and multi-instrumentalist of the Irish group The Wolfe Tones. In his version the point of landing is not New York but Baltimore.
Young Dubliners

The Wolfe Tones from Across the Broad Atlantic 2005 

Lyrics: Patrick Brian Warfield 
Oh, fare thee well to Ireland
My own dear native land
It’s breaking my heart to see friends part
For it’s then that the tears do fall
I’m on my way to Americae
Will I e’er see home once more
For now I leave my own true love
And Paddy’s green shamrock shore
Our ship she lies at anchor
She’s standing by the quay
May fortune bright shine down each night
As we sail across the sea
Many ships have been lost, many lives it cost
On this journey that lies before
With a tear in my eye I’ll say goodbye
To Paddy’s green shamrock shore
So fare thee well my own true love
I’ll think of you night and day
And a place in my mind you surely will find
Although we’ll be far, far away
Though I’ll be alone far away from home
I’ll think of the good times once more
Until the day I can make my way
Back home to the shamrock shore
And now our ship is on the way
May heaven protect us all
With the winds and the sail we surely can’t fail
On this voyage to Baltimore
But my parents and friends did wave to the end
‘Til I could see them no more
I then took a chance with one last glance
At Paddy’s green shamrock shore

This version takes up the 3rd stanza of the previous version as a chorus
The High Kings

So fare thee well, my own true love
I’ll think of you night and day
Farewell to old Ireland
Good-bye to you, Bannastrant(1)
No time to look back
Facing the wind, fighting the waves
May heaven protect us all
From cold, hunger and angry squalls
Pray I won’t be lost
Wind in the sails, carry me safe
So fare thee well, my own true love
I’ll think of you night and day
A place in my mind you will surely find
Although I am so far away
And when I’m alone far away from home
I’ll think of the good times once more
Until I can make it back someday here
To Paddy’s green shamrock shore.
Out now on the ocean deep
Ship’s noise makes it hard to sleep
Tears fill up my eyes
The image of you won’t go away
New York is in sight at last
My heart, it is pounding fast
Trying to be brave
Wishing you near
By my side, a stór (2)
Until I can make it back someday here
To Paddy’s green shamrock shore

1) Banna Strand , Banna Beach, is situated in Tralee Bay County Kerry
2) my love

Shamrock shore