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

Chorus:
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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Spancil Hill

This song was written by an Irish emigrant to the United States in the 1870s, Michael Considine of Spancilhill in County Clare.  Spancil Hill sung here by Jim McCann of The Dubliners. It’s one of many songs by emigrants longing for the home, family, and friends they left behind in search of a better life. According to Frank McGrath on the mudcat café discussions:

In the late 1930s or early ’40s, Robbie McMahon, a local folk singer and composer, during an Irish traditional music session in Spancilhill, was going to sing “Spancilhill”, when the woman of the house, Moira Keane, a relative of Michael Considine, handed Robbie McMahon the original text of the song. According to Raymond Daly[3] and Derek Warfield, she said:”If ye are going to sing that song ye might as well sing it right.”

This text was confirmed some time later, around 1953, at another session in the parish, when Robbie McMahon was asked to sing “Spancilhill”, and a local, old man first resisted him, saying: “Don’t sing that song.” When asked why not, the old man replied “because ye don’t know it”. According to Daly and Warfield, McMahon sang the song anyway using the version given to him by Moira Keane. As McMahon got into the song, he noticed the old man paying more attention, fiddling with his cap and looking a little flustered.

When the song was finished the old man asked: “Where did ya get that song?” McMahon told him and the old man seemed both perturbed and pleased at the same time. The old man was John Considine, the nephew of the songs’s composer Michael Considine. John was 76 at that time and had kept his uncle’s song safe for 70 years. He gave his approval to McMahon’s performance after hearing that he had sung the original version.

Spancil Hill

Last night as I lay dreamin’
Of pleasant days gone by
Me mind bein’ bent on travelin’
To Ireland I did fly
I stepped aboard a vision
and followed with my will
‘Til next I came to anchor
At the cross near Spancil Hill

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 think I hear it still
It’s the little stream of water
That flows down Spancil Hill

It being the 23rd of June
The day before the fair
Where Ireland’s sons and daughters
In crowds assembled there
The young, the old, the brave and the bold
They came for sport and kill
There were jovial conversations
At the cross near Spancil Hill

I went to see my neighbours
To hear what they might say
The old ones were all dead and gone
The others 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
Saying Johnny I love you still
She’s Meg the farmers daughter
And the pride of Spancil Hill

I dreamt I stooped and kissed her
As in the day of ‘ore
She said Johnny you’re only joking
As many the times before
The cock crew in the morn’
He crew both loud and shrill
And I woke in California
Many miles from Spancil Hill