Friday, April 23, 2010

'Mo Ghile Mear' - an Irish Gaelic song about Bonnie Prince Charlie

My Dashing Darling (Mo Ghile Mear) - The Highland Sessions (tomtscotland)

Dulcimer tab at"

Heard for the first time today when I downloaded the Chieftans' CD "The Wide World Over: A 40 Year Celebration" and heard their version backing Sting on the song ... stopped what I was doing ... whoa, what was that? ... and immediately launched a Google search ... which eventually led me to YouTube, the Sessions website, Mudcat Cafe and all the usual haunts.

Great song! Lyrics are available on line in English translation (at least in part), and it tells of British royal pretender Charles Stuart and the Rising of 1745. "Mo Ghile Mear" translates as "My Dashing Darling" or "My Hero." See lyrics below. YouTube has several versions, ranging from an unaccompanied solo by Mary Black to a Riverdanced-up (my word) confection by Celtic Woman, a pop group.

Best of the lot (I think) is by Mary Black, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Mary Ann Kennedy, Karen Matheson, Karan Casey and Allan MacDonald in 2005 on a BBC show on Irish and Scottish Gaelic musical traditions called "Highland Sessions." Beautiful vocals in a style influenced by Sean-nós, instrumental backup but very restrained and, I think, appropriate - and harmony, but British folk harmonies on the chorus. All six of them sang with the emotion and intensity I associate with Sean-nós - and the older southern Appalachian style of singing. About half were Irish, the other half Scots.

Full rundown on "Mo Ghile Mear" at the Session w/ sheet music. Also several threads in Mudcat Cafe starting with "Lyr Req: Mo Ghile Mear (phonetic Irish)" with several sets of lyrics, phonetic transcriptions, English translations and the mostly very well informed comments typical of Mudcat threads.

A webpage by John D. Casey Jr. (1998), notes, "The air is, appropriately, of Scottish orgin, a version of "The White Cockade" by Jim Connell, a 19th Century Irish exile in Scotland, originally set the words of "The old Red Flag" to the same tune." I can't hear the resemblance, although both songs come out of the 1745 rising, but I can't always hear these tune family resemblances.

Casey adds, "It is also well known that this song is sung like an anthem in many pubs at closing time. I suspect that it is a method of extracting a few extra minuets of drinking time." He also has lore on 18th-century Irish poet Seán Clárach Mac Domnhnaill, who wrote the words:

It is said that he once entered an upper-class book seller's in Cork, and was looking at a leather-bound, gilt-edged, folio copy of the Iliad in the original Greek. He was holding it upside down, which gave the owner and assembled gentry great amusement to see the "illiterate peasant with the marks of the sty on his brogues."

He asked the owner; "Beggin' ye pardon, yer Honour, but how much is this book here?"

The owner, greatly amused, said; "50 guineas Paddy, but if ye can read it, you may have it."

MacDonnell then turned the book around and began reading from it in fluent Greek. The dumbfounded owner was bound to his oath, and the assembled gentry got even greater amusement at his considerable expense! (50 guineas was a huge sum in those days.)
Casey also says the song dates from 1746 and "is a rosg-cathadh (in Scottish Gaelic, brosnachadh), a battle hymn or incitement ... intended to invite Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who had but recently fled Scotland after the failure of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, to return, and to incite the Irish to join in another Rising." Others call it an Aisling or lament eulogizing the Jacobite cause.

Other websites: has guitar chords and lyrics in Gaelic and English. Also Irish Songs - Lyrics With Guitar Chords - By Martin Dardis (in Gaelic but with link to the YouTube clip from BBC Sessions, which is how I first found it) at

1. (D)Seal da rabhas im' (Bm)mhaighdean (D)shéimh,
(G)'S anois im' (D)bhaintreach (G)chaite (A)thréith,
Mo (Bm)chéile ag (G)treabhadh na (Bm)dtonn go (D)tréan
De bharr na gcnoc is i (A)n-imi(D)gcéin.


(D)'Sé mo laoch, mo (Bm)Ghile (D)Mear,
(G)'Sé mo (D)Chaesar, (G)Ghile (A)Mear,
(Bm)Suan ná (G)séan ní (Bm)bhfuaireas (D)féin
Ó chuaigh i gcéin mo (A)Ghile (D)Mear.
And a phonetic version of the Gaelic. Sample:
[1 and Chorus]
Shay muh lay moe Gil-ah Mar
Shay moe Hay-suh, Gil-ah Mar,
Soon nawh shayn nee voor-ahs hayn
Oh coo-ig EE-gayne moe Gil-ah Mar.
Good directory of introductory Sean-nos articles on Iarla Ó Lionáird's website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love readding, and thanks for your artical. ........................................