This is a traditional Irish song arranged by Clannad. It appears on their seventh album Magical Ring, released in 1983.
The song tells of a poet wandering around meeting beautiful women. I like the lines in the second verse where the woman asks him where are his shirt and his shoes, saying it’s seldom she’s seen a man wearing a sack for clothing come to court a woman. The fourth verse tells of women in various places in North Donegal. “Dis” is the same as “beirt” orin Scots Gaelic “dithis”, two people. From the notes below, you will gather that people used to sing this song with several verses of this ilk. Nowadays it would seem they choose one verse connected with their own locale. I don’t know for sure if Clannad sang the same verses as Albert Fry, but it seems likely.
Mánus Ó Baoill Ceolta Gael 2 (Mercier, 1986) had these same verses
S Ó Baoghill et al Cnuasacht de Cheoltaí Uladh (1944) has 4 verses; the first two are the same as those given above.
Breandán Ó Buachalla Nua Duanaire 2 (Dublin, 1976) has a different but closely related version, based mainly on a manuscript archived. in the Belfast Public Library. The first two verses are very close to those given above. Although he only published 6 verses, ó Buachalla says that most versions have over 20 verses – with many of the verses consisting mainly of names of places the poet has travelled and trades he has pursued.
There are many versions of this song. Ó Buachalla cites a book about the song: S Laoide. Seachrán Chairn tSiadhail (Dublin, 1904), as well as documents in University College Dublin M 20,13 c 1852); the National Library of Ireland G 802, 23 c 1850; Royal Irish Academy 3 B 38, 46 c 1850, and Belfast Public Library (P) XVII, 46 c 1850
In sources G (National Library) and M (UCD), Art Mac Bionaid wrote that the song was attributed to Micheál ó hIr, while in B (RIA) and P (Belfast Library) it is said that the author was Toireach Rua ó Dónaill . ó Buachalla credits ó Dónaill.
Toirealach Ó /Mac Dónaill who was born near Dungannon, Tyrone early in the 18th century. Little is know about Mac Dónaill but it is said he was killed by a group of soldiers when he was only 23 years old. (B. Ó Buachalla. Nua Duanaire 2. with reference to Ó Muirgheasa. Dhá Chéad de Cheoltaibh Uladh (Dublin, 1934) and é Ó Doibhlin Domhnach Mór (Omagh, 1969)
Éinri Ó Muirgheasa writing about ‘seachrán’ poetry in “Céad de Cheoltaí Uladh” (1915): “The seachrán like the aisling was a well-known class of composition in Irish poetry. Fairies were supposed to carry human beings all around Ireland in the course of one night, or even as far as Rome and back again. This was called a ‘seachrán’ or ‘straying’. Every district had, up to the beginning of the present generation, stories of such nocturnal travels made by someone in that neighbourhood. But the great use of the Seachrán to the poet was that it enabled him to show off his knowledge of geography. Maps and geographies did not form part of the equipment of a hedge school, so that a knowledge of a number of place-names, and an idea of the location of these places, passed off as something very learned in these days. And the poem itself was more a lesson in geography than anything else. Then many of the poets were of the Goldsmith type, wanderers who had seen many places, and had heard stories from other travellers of the places they had not seen, so that in some of these poems we get characteristic touches in reference to the places that only one who had been to the place could supply.”Do you have any further information about this song? Edit this page and help us expand this section. ^close
Upon my drawing west to Carn tSiail,
to the annual fair of the feast of St.Mary,
the young girl coming from the west happened upon me
and she was melancholy as she passed me on the road.
It seemed to me that my senses had left me,
as if I were dazed or I had been drinking for a spell.
It looked to me as if the bright sun had darkened
beside all the radiance that was in her rosy cheek.
With a start I greeted the maiden,
without no trace of sense in my voice.
I inquired of her if there was a man in Ireland
whom she would choose over me in her path.
She asked of me where was my shirt,
my wig, my beaver hat, not to mention my shoes;
that she had rarely seen a sack as clothes
on a man who’d entice young girls.
There’s not a place from here to Min a’ Lábáin,
where I haven’t been in love with a woman or two,
a woman in the Rosses over in Min ‘a Marach,
from Gleann Ailne to Mucais Mh6r,
a pair in Baollach, a pair in Báineach,
a woman in Aran and one by Gweedore,
from Letterkenny to Ballydavid,
and to Coillidh Mhánais along the way.
I was in Moneymore, in Caislean Cabha,
in Baile Uí Dhálaigh and in Lisnaskea;
I have been in Monahan and at the Grainsi
and at Droichead Chúl Aine for over a year.
Last night I happened to be in Drogheda
and tonight I’m here around Carn tSial,
and now if you don’t prefer me to men of affairs,
here’s my hand to you and I’ll travel on.