I was thinking the other day:
Chan eil mòran lochd ‘s an crìdh a bhios a gabhail òran.
There’s not much guile in a heart that’s always singing songs.
You caught me—that’s Gaidhlig (Scottish Gaelic), not Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic, often just “Irish”). No matter; the Scots are the Irish who found boats. (The Australians are the Irish who got caught.)
As part of my ongoing Guile-Reduction Project, I wanted to share a handful of songs connected somehow to Ireland. I’m posting early so you have a chance to get music like this over the weekend.
Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, singing at Bunratty Castle in 1981. Especially good if you’re still recovering from late-winter snow.
Assembling the list, I didn’t expect to find this bunch of all-stars singing an Irish classic about a Scottish icon–Bonnie Prince Charlie. (Lyrics and translation here.)
‘Sé mo laoch, mo Ghile Mear,
‘Sé mo Chaesar, Ghile Mear,
Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin
Ó chuaigh i gcéin mo Ghile Mear.
He is my hero, my dashing darling
He is my Caesar, dashing darling
I’ve had no rest from forebodings
since he went away, my darling…
Mary Dillon’s acapella version of the emigrant song.
The sheep run unsheared and the land’s run to rushes
The handyman’s gone, and the winder of creels
Away across the ocean go journeyman tailors
And fiddlers that flicked out the old mountain reels…
(You can hear a lengthier version sung by Heidi Talbot, and I encourage you to; the site has ads you can avoid by shutting your eyes.)
Some might choose to advance to the 45-second mark to skip the intro and get right to the Corrs’ version (in Irish) of about a lost love. Still, the video maker did include English and Spanish translations.
Oh, Bridget O’Malley, you’ve left my heart breaking
You sent the death pangs of sorrow to pierce my heart sore
A hundred mean are craving for your breathtaking beauty
For certain, you’re the fairest of maidens in Oriel…
Sinéad O’Connor and the Chieftains with perhaps the best-known song about the 1916 Rising in Dublin.
The bravest fell, and the requiem bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Easter-tide
In the springing of the year.
Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill singing a ballad filled with Dublin place names–and with numbers.
More Dublin place names in Patrick Kavanagh’s song. Performers include Donal Lunny on bouzouki (nearly as Irish as the bodhran), Liam O’Flynn on the uillean pipes, Sean Keane on fiddle, and vocals from Mark Knopfler.
Jimmy Mo Mhíle Stór (Jimmy, My Thousand Treasures)
Cara Dillon singing an English version of this song about (yet another) far-away sailor. You get her rendition of The Verdant Braes of Skreen at no extra charge.
You can compare Dillon’s Jimmy with this one, more traditional and in Irish, by Kathleen Macinnes. Or with this one which I really like (despite the anime video someone inflicted on the sound track). The band’s the Chieftains, and the singers are Cookie, Heather, and Raylene Rankin. Cape Breton girls, from Mabou, about twenty miles from my home town, so of course we’re related. Their dad was my fourth cousin.
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem perform the Dublin street ballad in which James Joyce saw “the entire cycle of life, death, and resurrection…” From their iconic Carnegie Hall concert.
Mary Black was the first singer on Mo Gile Mear, above. Here she sings Dick Gaughan’s song. You should listen.
Talking all the day
With true friends who try to make you stay
Telling jokes and news
Singing songs to pass the night away
Watching Galway salmon run
Like silver dancing, darting in the sun…
A sendoff from The Wailin’ Jennys.
Slán abhaile, slán go fóill (safe home, good luck).