Mountains of Mourne:
Dare be no better music to sing to when you’ve had a wee drop den Oirish music, and dare be no better Oirish music dan dat sung by der Fureys wid Davey Arthur. Okay. I’ll drop the faux Irish phonetics and introduce today’s item: Mountains of Mourne, a song in the form of a letter by a simple Irish chap to his wife or sweetheart. In it he tells of his experiences in, and his thoughts and impressions of, London, in the process revealing his own innocence and simplicity.
There is a version sung by Don MacLean which is popular but I have always preferred the Davey Arthur/Fureys’ version. IMHO Davey Arthur’s voice and accent present much more effectively the naiveté of the person singing than the more sophisticated voice and persona of Don MacLean.
Don MacLean’s version may be heard at:
The version by The Fureys and Davey Arthur, my favourite, can be heard at:
A version by Irish Mist is also charming:
Take the time to have a listen whilst reading the lyrics below. It’s a delightful little song where the real story is not what is sung in the lyrics but what the lyrics tell us about the person who is singing.
The Mountains of Mourne
Oh Mary this London's a wonderful sightWith the people here working by day and by nightThey don't sow pratties nor barley nor wheatBut there's gangs of them digging for gold in the streetAt least when I asked them that's what I was toldSo I just took a hand in this digging for goldBut for all that I found there I might as well beWhere the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea
I believe that when writing a wish you expressedAs to how the fine ladies of London were dressedNow if you’ll believe me, when asked to a ballThey don't wear a top on their dresses at allSure I've seen them myself, and you couldn't in truthSay if they were bound for a ball or a bath.Don't be starting them fashions now Mary mo chroi,Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
You remember young Peter O'Loughlin of courseWell he’s over here at the head of the forceI met him today, I was crossing the strandAnd he stopped the whole street with one wave of his handAnd we stood there talking of days that were goneWhile the whole population of London looked on,But for all his great powers he's wishful like meTo be back where the dark Moume sweeps down to the sea.Yes for all his great powers he’s wishful like meTo be back where the dark Moume sweeps down to the sea.
- The lyrics were written in 1896 by the 19th Century Irish musician Percy French.
- The singer refers to his beloved as “Mary mo chroi” in the above lyrics, which when sung sounds like Mary Macree. In fact “mo chroi” means “of my heart” in the ancient Irish language. “Cuisle mo chroi”, pronounced “cushla muh cree”, is an ancient Irish term of endearment meaning “pulse of my heart”.
- The Mourne Mountains are the most picturesque in Ireland and were the inspiration for C S Lewis’s Narnia.
- In June 2009 archaeologists and geologists released studies in which they came to the conclusion that the Mourne Mountains were the source of Ireland’s prehistoric gold, used in ancient jewellery and artefacts.
- The following verse is sometimes also sung:
There's beautiful girls here, oh, never you mindWith beautiful shapes nature never designedAnd lovely complexions all roses and creamBut O'Loughlin remarked with regard to the sameThat if at those roses you venture to sipThe colours might all come away on your lipSo I'll wait for the wild rose that's waitin' for meWhere the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
- In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, many Irish males went to London to labour on the roads, bridges, canals etc being built.
- The Irish are a contradictory lot. On the one hand, they are continually fighting, even with each other: in the pubs; over politics; over religion; with the English; over football… Yet on the other hand they cherish a connection with anyone descended from the Irish or Ireland. Article 2 of the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) was amended in 1998 to read "[f]urthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage." The Irish government recognises all people with a heritage on the island of Ireland. The right to register as an Irish citizen survives to the third generation. The term “diaspora” refers to the displaced and relocated persons of a common ethnicity or identity, away from their original place of settlement. Although the Irish government limits the Irish diaspora to those living abroad who are Irish citizens or who have Irish citizenship by descent, in practice the Paddies claim anyone who has Irish descent as Irish diaspora. As a result the diaspora numbers 80 million worldwide, even though only 7 million live in Ireland. The singer of Mountains of Mourne is part of the Irish diaspora.