Today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of singer Luke Kelly. He was only 44 at the time. As a singer, instrumentalist, and a founding member of The Dubliners, Kelly was at the forefront of the re-popularization of traditional ballads of Ireland and the British Isles beginning in the 1960s. His legacy lives on through the musicians he inspired, as well as a few landmarks renamed and (perhaps soon to be) erected in his honor.
Here he is singing the well-known setting of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Raglan Road in 1979.
On Raglan Road of an autumn day
I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might one day rue
I saw the danger and I passed
Along the enchanted way
And I said let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day
The great Frank Harte relates the story behind Dunlavin Green and sings the ballad. The singing begins at 2:42 into the video.
In the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety eight
A sorrowful tale the truth unto you I’ll relate
Of thirty-six heroes to the world were left to be seen
By a false information were shot on Dunlavin Green.
Bad luck to you Saunders, for you did their lives betray.
You said a parade would be held on that very day.
Our drums they did rattle – our fifes they did sweetly play.
Surrounded we were and privately marched away
Quite easy they led us like prisoners through the town
To be shot on the plain, we first were forced to kneel down.
Such grief and such sorrow were never before there seen
When the blood ran in streams down the dykes of Dunlavin Green