Foggy Dew (Irish ballad)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"Foggy Dew" is the name of several Irish ballads, and of an Irish lament. The song chronicles the Easter Uprising of 1916, and encourages Irishmen to fight for the cause of Ireland, rather than for the British Empire, as so many young men were doing in World War I.

Early title[edit]

"The Foggy Dew" as the name of an Irish traditional song first appears in Edward Bunting's The Ancient Music of Ireland (1840),[1] where the tune is a different one than that mostly sung today (also different from the lament and the rebel song below). Bunting's source for the tune was a "J. Mc Knight, Belfast, 1839", but the same melody already appears in O'Farrell's Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes (London, 1804), where it is called "Corraga Bawn".[2]

Easter Rising[edit]

Another song called “Foggy Dew” was written by Fr (later in life) Canon Charles O’Neill from Portglenone, County Antrim (1887–1963), a parish priest of Kilcoo and later Newcastle, County Down, sometime after 1919 when he was a curate at St. Peter's Cathedral, Belfast.[3][4]

The music is from a manuscript that was in possession of Kathleen Dallat, sister of Michael Dallat of Ballycastle. That manuscript gives Carl Hardebeck as the arranger.[5] It is the same air as the traditional love song The Moorlough Shore.

"The Foggy Dew" is a product of the political situation in Ireland in the aftermath of the Easter Rising and World War I.

Approximately 210,000 Irishmen joined up and served in the British forces during the war.[6] This created mixed feelings for many Irish people, particularly for those with nationalist sympathies. While they broadly supported the British war effort, they also felt that one of the moral justifications for the war, "the freedom of small nations" like Belgium and Serbia, should also be applied to Ireland, which at that time was under British rule.[7]

In 1916, Irish nationalists led by James Connolly and Patrick Pearse decided to take advantage of the fact that Britain was pre-occupied by the war and stage a rebellion. In what became known as the Easter Rising, the rebels seized some of the major buildings in Dublin including the General Post Office.

The rebellion was quickly put down by British forces, but the rebellion and the execution of the leaders that followed, marked a turning point for many Irish people. Some had opposed the action of the rebels, but the public revulsion at the executions added to the growing sense of alienation from the British Government.[7]

Canon O'Neill was reflecting this sense of alienation when he wrote "The Foggy Dew". In 1919, he[8] attended the first sitting of the new Irish Parliament, known as the Dail. The names of the elected members were called out, but many were absent. Their names were answered by the reply "faoi ghlas ag na Gaill" which means "locked up by the foreigner".

It had a profound effect on O'Neill and some time after this he wrote "The Foggy Dew". The song tells the story of the Easter Rising but more importantly, it tries to reflect the thoughts of many Irish nationalists at the time who had come to believe that the Irishmen who fought for Britain during the war should have stayed home and fought for Irish independence instead.

O'Neill sums up this feeling in the lines: "‘Twas far better to die ‘neath an Irish sky, Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar."

Recording artists[edit]

The song (also sometimes known as "Down the Glen") has been performed and recorded by most well-known Irish folk groups, including The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Shane MacGowan and the Wolfe Tones among others.

  • Sinéad O'Connor provided the vocals for a mournful version of the song on the Chieftains' 1995 collaboration album The Long Black Veil which was voted "Best Duet" by BBC Radio 6 Music. This version is also played often before a concert by Dropkick Murphys. On 11 July 2015, she sang a live rendition of the song for Conor McGregor's entrance at UFC 189 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • The Irish singer Gráinne Holland sing a version of the song as Gaeilge called "An Drúcht Geal Ceo"
  • Dublin singer Dylan Walshe recorded a version live from Cave In Rock.
  • The Italian Epic Metal band Wotan in their second studio album Epos.
  • Alan Stivell on the "Olympia" live album (1972), and the "Again" album (1993) (including Shane MacGowan's backing vocals).
  • Daniele Sepe with his Italian jazz group included Foggy Dew in his album "Spiritus Mundi" (1995), among many other protest songs from all over the world, with the voice of the Finnish singer Auli Kokko.
  • Young Dubliners on their album Breathe (1995).
  • The song "Livin' in America" by the Celtic rock band Black 47 is played and sung to the tune of the Foggy Dew.
  • Serbian band Orthodox Celts on their second album The Celts Strike Again.
  • Houston-based Celtic rock band Blaggards on their 2005 album "Standards."
  • Croatian band Belfast Food on Live in Rijeka.
  • German Celtic metal band Suidakra on the album "Lays From Afar" (1999) as the album closer. It features only the first verse.
  • Alaska based Celtic rock band Fire on McGinnis covered it on their debut album Fire on McGinnis (2012).
  • The Screaming Orphans on their album Sliabh Liag (2013).
  • Tartanic on their album Uncivilized (2008).
  • Pete Seeger recorded this song with his own lyrics, calling it "Over the Hills".
  • Shannon - Celtic-folk band, Poland.
  • Irish metal band Primordial on the compilation One and All, Together, for Home (2014).
  • Gilles Servat in a duet with Ronnie Drew, in Servat's album Sur les quais de Dublin (On the Quays of Dublin) (1996) including a verse written by Servat
  • The Wallace Band, a Russian folk rock band, on their album Volosataya banda is back(2011), performed a song called "Iz proshlogo son", a poetical translation into Russian by M. Nizhegorodov
  • Odetta did a version in the early 1960s, now available on YouTube.
  • Scottish folk singer Hamish Imlach on his self-titled album (1966).
  • Sportive Tricks on their 2015 album, Tricks Up Our Sleeves.
  • Jag Panzer on their 2017 album The Deviant Chord.
  • Polish folk band Beltaine from their album Rockhill (2004).
  • Arizona road band Major Lingo on the album Ride (1987)


  1. ^ Bunting, Edward: The Ancient Music of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges & Smith, 1840), tune no. 150, p. 109; facsimile reprint, Dublin: Waltons, 1969.
  2. ^ Fleischmann, Aloys (ed.): Sources of Irish Traditional Music c.1600–1855, 2 volumes (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), ISBN 0-8240-6948-X, vol. 2, p. 717 and 1106, tunes no. 3913 and 6068.
  3. ^ O'Boyle, Cathal (1973). Songs of the County Down. Skerries, Co. Dublin: Gilbert Dalton. ISBN 0-86233-012-2.
  4. ^ Down & Connor Diocesan Archives in Belfast, record for Father Charles O'Neill
  5. ^ Harte, Frank (1978). Songs of Dublin. Skerries, Co. Dublin: Gilbert Dalton. ISBN 0-946005-51-6.
  6. ^ Ireland and the Great War by Keith Jeffery (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  7. ^ a b "History - British History in depth: Ireland and World War One". BBC. Retrieved 2012-08-11.
  8. ^ rs04.shtml

External links[edit]

The above link no longer contains the relevant file