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
Let me just put this out there: Mary Dillon is one of my very favorite singers. So when I learned last year she was performing live again and that her new CD North was on its way, I was ecstatic.
Mary is a two-time All Ireland singing champion and former member of one of the greatest Irish traditional groups of the ’90s, Déanta. For the past fifteen years, however, Mary has put her focus on her family life, appearing only occasionally as a background singer on a few recordings.
Mary was kind enough to give SOTI a few minutes of her time and to talk about the new CD, her new group, and singing in general.
I was looking for version of The Lakes of Pontchartrain to post and so very happy to find this live video recording from just this summer. I wish I could have been at this gathering of talents. And I don’t know a much better example of the tradition than the way the music is shared here between the likes of the wonderful Mary Dillon, John Spillane, and others.
The Lakes of Pontchartrain
It was one fine March morning, I bid New Orleans Adieu
And I took the road to Jackson Town, my fortune to renew
I cursed all foreign money, no credit could I gain
Which filled my heart with a longing for, the Lakes of Pontchartrain
I stepped on board of a railroad car beneath the morning sun
I rode the rods till evening and I laid me down again
All strangers there no friends to me ’til a dark girl towards me came
And I fell in love with the Creole Girl, by the Lakes of Pontchartrain
I said “Me pretty Creole Girl, me money here’s no good,
If it weren’t for the alligators, I’d sleep out there in the wood”
“You’re welcome here kind stranger, from such sad thoughts refrain”
“For me Mammy welcomes strangers, by the Lakes of Pontchartrain”