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
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