The Auld Triangle


This song has at least two layers of meaning. It was made famous by the Dubliners and historically has been attributed to Brendan Behan. Behan himself was a prisoner at Mountjoy Jail in Dublin, which is situated on “the banks of the Royal Canal.” The jailers would get the attention of the prisoners through the “jingle-jangle” of an iron bar shaped into a triangle.

Alternately, the “Auld triangle” and “Royal Canal” each have a more… ahem… carnal meaning as well.

Here is a great video with a variety of singers, Irish and otherwise, singing in Royal Albert Hall.

The Auld Triangle

A hungry feeling
Came o’er me stealing
And the mice were squealing
In my prison cell
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Oh! To start the morning
The warden bawling
“Get up out of bed, you! And clean out your cell!”
And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal

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Eileen McManus/McMahon

 Here is  another from the exile song tradition, and it shares much in common with the other “Erin’s Green Shore” songs.  Here the young woman in the vision is given the name “Eileen McManus,” but you can find other versions under the name “Eileen McMahon” such as  Patricia Herald sings in a recording from 1991 as a part of the Inishowen Song Project at the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

The video below is of Jimmy Spruhan in Sacred Heart Chapel in Borris, Co Carlow.

Eileen McManus

Last night as I lay on my pillow
A vision came into my view
Of a ship sailing out on the ocean
And the wind it tremendously blew.

On the deck stood a handsome young maiden
Her features I ne’er saw before
As she sighed for the rights of her country
Saying I’m banished from Erin’s green shore.
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Lone Shanakyle

Old Shanakyle Cemetery

This is one of my very favorite recordings by Mary Dillon and Déanta. It is a masterful example of how a traditional song can be set in a “modern” arrangement and still retain all the feeling of an unaccompanied air.   The song was written by Thomas Madigan (c. 1860) and references Old Shanakyle (Shankill) Cemetery in Kilrush, Co. Clare.

Far, far from the isle of the holy and grand
Where wild oxen fatten and brave men are banned
All lonely and lone in a far distant land
Do I wander and pine for poor Éireann

Lonely and sad I roam far from my native home
Where the wild waves surging foam, headlands appearing
Clouded in silver spray, flashing through heaven’s bright ray
For thy glory and pride, lovely Éireann

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