This song dates from the 17th century during the Penal Laws when Mass in Ireland was attended at remote gatherings in secret. The words appear to be a love song, but in reality it contains a coded message. “Were you at the Rock and did you see my Valentine?”, meaning the priest, and the “Carraig” was the “Mass rock” used as a meeting-place and altar.
In 1695, the British imposed harsh penal laws in Ireland, known as the ‘popery code’: The Irish were prohibited from buying land, bringing their children up as Catholics, and from entering the forces or the law. The Irish could no longer run for elected office, purchase land, or own property (such as horses) valued at more than 5 pounds. In the early years of the 18th century the ruling British Protestants in Ireland passed these laws designed to strip the “backwards” Irish population of remaining land, positions of influence and civil rights.
By 1778 Irish Catholics would own a meager 5% of Irish land. Furthermore, the Catholic educational system was outlawed and priests who did not conform to the laws could be branded on the face or castrated. As a result, much of Catholic church services and education and record keeping was forced underground, to operate only under extreme secrecy. The religion and culture were kept alive by secret open-air masses and illegal outdoor schools, known as ‘hedge’ schools. All Irish culture, music and education was banned. By the time of the census of 1841 the Irish were impoverished, landless and leaderless by the eve of the famine.Do you have any further information about this song? Edit this page and help us expand this section. ^close
Were you on the rock?
Or did you yourself see my love?
Or did you see the brightness, the fairness
Or the beauty of the woman?
Or did you see the finest apple
That came from the healthiest flower?
Did you see my valentine?
Is she being persecuted as they are saying?
I was on the rock
And I did see your love
And I saw the brightness, the fairness
And the beauty of the woman
And I did see the finest apple
That came from the healthiest flower
And I saw your valentine
She is being persecuted as they are saying