Moll Dubh A’ Ghleanna

Dark Beauty of the Glen
This is a traditional Irish song arranged by Altan. It appears on Atlan’s second studio album The Red Crow, released i more...

This is a traditional Irish song arranged by Altan. It appears on Atlan’s second studio album The Red Crow, released in November 1990. See similar song Bean Dubh an Ghleanna sung by Iarla Ó Lionáird.

Note from

This song is sung throughout Ireland as a love song, but in Donegal ‘Moll Dubh’ takes on another meaning – poteen (a kind of whiskey you distill yourself). Altan’s album “The Best of Altan” has their rendition of Moll Dubh recorded on track ten. Moll Dubh a Ghleanna by Emer Kenny is on the album Parting Glass.

Joe Heaney Archives

As Joe explains, this song is more generally known in Conamara as ‘Moll Dubh an Ghleanna,’ although he seems to prefer the Munster title and air. “In Connemara they have Moll Dubh.. Moll is the old Gaelic word for a beautiful woman.”

From The Doegen Records

Two distinct songs share the title ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’. The lyrics of the present recording are similar to the opening verse of the song as published in John O’Daly, The poets and poetry of Munster (Dublin, 1849), 220-5. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Moll Dubh an Ghleanna’. O’Daly could not ascertain the authorship of the air but stated that the words are attributed to the famous rapparee Éamann an Chnoic (‘Ned of the Hills’) who flourished in the early eighteenth century. Breandán Ó Buachalla notes that verses from the song ‘Éamann an Chnoic’ appear in some versions of ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’. See Nua-dhuanaire I (Dublin, 1971), 128. Edward Bunting included a version of the melody in A general collection of the ancient Irish music (London, 1796), 22. Thomas Moore based his song ‘Go Where Glory Waits Thee’ on Bunting’s ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’ or ‘The Maid of the Valley’. George Petrie found fault with Bunting’s setting and felt compelled to print his own setting of the air which can be examined in David Cooper, The Petrie collection of the ancient music of Ireland (Cork, 2002), 239-41. Petrie’s lyrics are very similar to those sung by Pádraig Ó Ceallaigh on this recording. However, Ó Ceallaigh’s highly ornate and stylistic rendition of the song differs melodically from those found in printed sources. For an example of two different melodies set to this popular song see Nóirín Ní Riain, Stór amhrán (Cork and Dublin, 1988), 38-41. Examples of other recorded versions of the song appear on Séamus Ennis’s Ceol, scéalta agus amhráin (Gael Linn, 1961; reissued 2006), and on Seán de hÓra’s self-titled album (Gael Linn, 1977). The other song also entitled ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’ can be found in Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish poetry (Dublin, 1789), and Edward Walsh, Irish popular songs (Dublin, 1847). For a discussion of it see David Cooper, The Petrie collection of the ancient music of Ireland, 241-3. Petrie gives the opening four lines as: An bhfaca tú nó an gcuala tú / An stuaire dob áille gnaoi / I ngleannta dubha, is mé in uaigneas / Gan suaimhneas de ló ná d’oíche. A claim that the poem was composed by Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh is made in Seán Ó Dufaigh and Diarmuid Ó Doibhlin, Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh: beatha agus saothar (Dublin, 1989), 105.

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I have cattle on the hill
With no one there to tend them
And for them I am deeply worried
Between myself and God
To them I take the trail
For they have taken my senses from me

Chorus (after each verse):
She's Moll Dubh of the valley
She's Moll Dubh of spring
She's Moll Dubh, more ruddy than the red rose
And if I had to choose
From the young maids of the world
Moll Dubh a' Ghleanna would be my fancy

Me without a wife
I won't be all my life
And Moll Dubh in youth just blooming
Lifeless the song of the bird
That sings alone
On a mound by the edge of the moorland

The Dark Molly of the glen
Has my heart in her keeping
She never had reproach or shame
So mannerly and honestly
She said to me this morning
"Depart from me and do not come again"

There's not a handsome youth
From Dublin down to Galway
And around by 'Umhail Uí Mháinnle'
That's not heading for the glen
On steeds so sleek and slim
Hoping to win the dark maid's affection

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