Raglan Road

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.

Raglan Road

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

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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

The Banks of the Roses

“Banks-apalooza” continues with The Dubliners singing the rousing Banks of the Roses. I swear, I’m not just trying to post everything Sean Cannon has done. But would that really be a crime?

The Banks of the Roses

Chorus:
On the Banks of the Roses me love and I sat down
And I took out me fiddle for to play me love a tune
And in the middle of the tune-o she sighed and she said
Oro Johnny, lovely Johnny don’t ya leave me

When I was a young boy I heard me father say
That he’d rather see me dead and buried in the clay
Sooner than be married to any runaway
By the lovely sweet banks of the roses

Chorus

And then I am no runaway and soon I’ll let them know
That I can take a bottle or can leave it alone
And if her daddy doesn’t like it he can keep his daughter at home
And young Johnny will go rovin’ with some other

Chorus

And when I get married t’will be in the month of May
When the leaves they are green and the meadows they are gay
And me and me true love we’ll sit and sport and play
By the lovely sweet banks of the roses

Chorus