Beidh aonach amárach

Leggi in italiano

“Beidh aonach amárach” or “An Gréasaí Brógè” is an irish nursery rhyme 

Dick Kelle

Clare is a county in the province of Munster on the west coast of Ireland, very much anchored to the traditions, in which Gaelic is spoken by more than 50% of the population.
In the county there is still a big horse fair a few kilometers from Ennis at Spancilhill (also mentioned in another traditional song “Spancil hill “), but we can not know if the fair to which it refers this nursery rhyme is just that.

This nursery rhymes is a composition in very simple and repetitive verses with a well-marked rhythm, structured as a call and response between mother and daughter: the daughter begs the mother to let her go to the fair, the mother replies that she could go when she will turn 13, and now she has nine, and it is still early to make choices in life. The daughter objects that many girls have married young and that she is in love with the shoemaker.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh by Anam an Amhráin TG4

Altan live

English translation
Oh mammy, won’t you let me go to the fair
Oh dearest love, don’t plead with me
There’s a fair tomorrow in County Clare
Why should I care, I won’t be there
I’ve a little daughter and she’s very young
And she’s in love with a cobbling man
You’re not ten or eleven years old
When you reach thirteen you’ll be more mature
I’d rather have my cobbling man
Than an army officer with his gold bands
There is many a maid who married young
And lived in peace with her cobbling man
Irish Gaelic

Is a mháithrín an ligfidh tú chun aonaigh mé(x3)/ Is a mhuirnín óg ná healaí é
Beidh aonach amárach in gContae an Chláir(x3)/ Cén mhaith domh é ní bheidh mé ann
Tá ‘níon bheag agam is tá sí óg(x3)
Is tá sí i ngrá leis an ghreasaí bróg
Níl tú ach deich nó aon deag fós(x3)
Nuair a bheas tú trí deag beidh tú mór
B’fhearr liom féin mo ghreasaí bróg(x3)
N fir na n’arm faoina lascú óir
‘S iomaí bean a phós go h-óg(x3)
Is a mhair go socair lena greasaí bróg

Na Casaidigh

[Iníon]: Beidh aonach amáireach
Cé maith dom é?
Ní bheidh mé ann!
[Iníon]:’S a mháithirín,
a’ ligfidh tú don aonaigh mé?
[Máthair]: A mhúirnín ó,
ná h-éilig é!

[Máthair]: Níl tú a deich
ná a h-aondéag fós,
Nuair a bheidh tú
trídéag beidh tú mór!
[Iníon]: B’fhearr liom
féin mo ghréasaí bróg,
Ná oifigeach airm
le lásaí óir!


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 !!


La storia di questa  canzone è molto romantica e triste, come quasi tutte le canzoni d’amore  irlandesi! In “Spancil(l) hill” l’amore per la fidanzata lasciata indietro in Irlanda si mescola con l’amore e la nostalgia della terra natia. L’autore è Michael Considine  emigrato negli Stati Uniti nel 1870 (quando aveva all’incirca vent’anni) ): la sua fidanzata era rimasta in Irlanda in  attesa che lui risparmiasse abbastanza soldi per poterle pagare il biglietto  della traversata e convolare a nozze.  Il nome della ragazza che lo aspetterà per tutta la vita era Maria MacNamara.

Samuel B. Waugh, Irish immigrants debark at New York in 1847.
Samuel B. Waugh, Irish immigrants debark at New York in 1847.


Michael però non fece fortuna, rimase a Boston per qualche  hanno e poi si trasferì in California; era però cagionevole di salute e  quando si rese conto che gli restava poco da vivere, scrisse una poesia e la  mandò in Irlanda (il testo originale come tramandato da Robbie McMahon vedi).
Micheal morì poco dopo nel 1873 ma la canzone  ricorderà per sempre il suo amore per Spancil hill.


Il protagonista della canzone chiamato John rivede il suo paese natale in sogno, durante il giorno più bello, quello della fiera, un grande mercato di cavalli che si svolge ancora regolarmente in una località chiamata Croce (o incrocio)  di Spancil Hill nei pressi di Ennis.
L’emozione più grande è quella dell’incontro con la bella Nell (il suo primo e unico amore): era infatti consuetudine che nel giorno di fiera gli innamorati si incontrassero per il rituale corteggiamento;  l’evanescente sogno al canto del gallo si dissolve e il risveglio lo riporta all’amara realtà e al suo letto di morte.

La versione conservata  presso il ramo famigliare di Michael rimasto in Irlanda, contiene ben 11  strofe, decisamente troppe per una canzone di questi tempi, così la versione standard  riportata dalla tradizione ha ridotto a 5-6 le strofe, modificando qua e là  le parole.

ASCOLTA The Dubliners (voce Jim McCann) (tranne la II strofa)

ASCOLTA The Corrs  in Home 2005 (tranne la II strofa)

ASCOLTA The Wolfe Tones in The Greatest hits 2000 (tranne la II strofa)

Last  night as I lay dreaming
Of  pleasant days gone by
My mind bein’ bent on ramblin'(1)
To Ireland I did fly
I stepped  aboard a vision,
And I followed  with my will
Till next  I came to anchor
At the Cross near Spancil Hill(2).
Delighted by the novelty,
Enchanted with the scene
Where in my early boyhood,
Where  often I had been
I thought  I heard a murmur,
And I think I hear it still
It’s the little stream of water
That flows down by Spancil Hill.
It being the Twenty-third of June,(3)
The day before the Fair
When Ireland’s sons and daughters
In crowds assembled there
The  young, the old, the brave and bold,
They came  for sport and kill
There  were jovial conversations
At the Cross of Spancil Hill(4).
I went to see my neighbors,
To hear what they might say
The old ones were all dead and gone,
The young ones turning grey
I met  with tailor Quigley,
He’s as bold as ever still
Sure, he used to make my britches
When I lived in Spancil Hill.
I paid a flying visit
To my first, and only, love
She’s white as any lily,
And  gentle as a dove
She threw her arms around me,
Sayin’ “Johnny I love you still!”
She’s Nell(5) the farmer’s daughter,
And the pride of Spancil Hill.
I dreamt  I stopped and kissed her
As in the days of yore
She said “Johnny(6), you’re only joking(7),
As many times before.”
The cock(8) crew in the morning,
He crew  both loud and shrill
And I woke in California,
Many miles from Spancil Hill.
TRADUZIONE ITALIANO (riveduta da Cattia Salto)
L’altra notte mentre sdraiato sognavo
di piacevoli giorni passati,
vagabondando con il pensiero,
volai fino all’Irlanda,
saltai a bordo di una visione
e caparbiamente continuai
finché arrivai a gettare l’ancora
alla croce vicino a Spancil Hill(2)
Lieto delle novità,
incantato dal paesaggio
in cui nella mia prima infanzia
sono spesso stato,
credetti di sentire  un mormorio,
e credo  di sentirlo  ancora,
è il piccolo corso  d’acqua
che scorre giù da Spancil Hill
Era il 23 giugno(3)
Il giorno prima della  fiera
quando i figli e le  figlie dell’Irlanda
si riuniscono lì in una folla,
giovani, vecchi, i coraggiosi e gli audaci,
sono venuti per divertirsi e cacciare,
c’erano  conversazioni gioviali
alla croce di Spancil Hill.
Sono andato per vedere  i miei vicini,
per sentire cosa  avrebbero detto,
i vecchi erano tutti morti e sepolti,
i giovani si erano ingrigiti.
Ho incontrato Quigley  il sarto
che è tanto bravo quanto tranquillo,
sicuro, mi faceva i pantaloni
quando vivevo a Spancil Hill
Ho fatto un’improvvisata
al mio primo e unico amore
Lei è bianca come un giglio,
e dolce come una  colomba,
mi ha abbracciato,
dicendo “Johnny, ti amo ancora!”
Lei è Nell(5), la figlia del contadino,
il vanto di Spancil Hill
Ho sognato di fermarmi e di baciarla
come nei giorni del passato
“Johnny(6), tu stai solo scherzando(7),
come hai fatto tanto tempo fa.”
Il gallo(8) cantò quel mattino
cantò forte e acuto
e mi sono svegliato in  California,
a molte miglia da Spancil Hill.

1) letteralmente “la mia mente si piegava al vagabondaggio“. Le immagini che seguono sono quelle di un viaggio per mare che riporta il protagonista a casa e in effetti il suo sogno è così potente che egli assume la consistenza di un fantasma
2) di Spancilhill resta solo un cartello (a pochi kilometri di Ennis, contea di Clare), ma una volta era un luogo in cui si radunava una  grande fiera di cavalli e il nome suggerisce la pratica di “spancilling” ossia di legare le zampe di un animale  in modo particolare di modo che resti fermo. La fiera si svolge ancora regolarmente.
3) La fiera si svolge  il 23 giungo anche se nella canzone è considerato giorno di vigilia.
4) oppure “At the parish church in Clooney, a mile from SpancilHill”
(traduzione italiano: alla chiesa  parrocchiale di Clooney, un miglio da Spancil Hill.) La chiesa oggi è un rudere e il cimitero è abbandonato (vedi)
5) il nome della  fidanzata non è Nell ma Maria MacNamara
6) si presume che il  nome dell’autore sia Michael
7) la fidanzata lo rimprovera di averla ingannata e di non essere realmente intenzionato a portarla con sè in America
8) il canto del gallo ha il potere di scacciare i fantasmi