Mo Ghile Mear

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"Mo Ghile Mear" (My Gallant Darling) is an Irish song, written in the Irish language by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill in the 18th century.[1] Composed in the convention of Aisling poetry,[2] it is a lament by the Gaelic goddess Éire for Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was then in exile.[3]

The song differs from more conventional Aisling poems. Whereas Aisling poetry normally has the poet asleep or otherwise minding his own business when he experiences a dream or vision of a fair maid, in this poem the poet personifies Éire/Ireland, the country itself, as a woman who once was a fair maiden but is now a widow. Her husband, the "Gallant Boy", is not dead but far away. As a consequence the land is failing and nature itself is in decline. This is a theme also used in "Seán Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna" and "Cill Chais".[citation needed]


The air was collected by composer Seán Ó Riada from Dómhnall Ó Buachalla of Cúil Aodha, County Cork, with words from two of Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill's songs: Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló, Seal do Bhíos im’ Mhaighdin Shéimh, and another of unknown origin. Thus, "Mo Ghile Mear" is something of a musical chimera.[citation needed][clarification needed]

For example, Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló, which provides many of the verses as well as the chorus, was originally sung to the air of the Jacobite tune The White Cockade, according to James Hardiman.[4] Dónal Ó Liatháin gave an account[when?] to the sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird of how these varied components were combined to create "Mo Ghile Mear":[5]

"We were gathered in the Ó Riada house [...] and Peadar had this tape and he put it on and on it was a man, if my memory serves me correctly, whose name was Domhnall Ó Buachalla. ... You could recognise from the tape that his was an old voice. [Peadar] told us that this was a tape that his father had collected from the man in question and he played us a song from it, and I think that the verse that affected me most was:
Gile mear sa seal faoi chumha
Gus Éire go léir faoi chlocaí dhubha
Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin
Ó luadh i gcéin mo ghile mear.
..I didn’t recognise the air at all myself, it was a very muffled recording. But Maidhci and Jeremiah did recognise it [...] Peadar gave it to me saying that we could make a song from this melody."

Ó Liatháin described the process of selection:

"I had no plan whatsoever except that I ... would take the most beautiful verses ... the verses that were ... sort of universal as you might say. There really wasn't any difficulty because it was kind of clear that this was the thing you would do... The words and lines were very nice in the verses that we chose, but ... Seán Clarach really was a superb craftsman as regards metre and so forth and you couldn't really find a bad verse where the metre would not be spot on".[5]



  1. ^ "Hail to the Chieftains". Billboard: 14. 24 December 1994. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  2. ^
  3. ^ William David Coulter (1994). "Traditional Irish folk music, the Ó Domhnaill family, and contemporary song accompaniments". University of California: 79.
  4. ^ 1782–1855., Hardiman, James, (1971). Irish minstrelsy ; or, Bardic remains of Ireland, with English poetical translations. II ([1st ed. reprinted] ed.). Shannon: Irish University Press. p. 146. ISBN 0716506289. OCLC 16211456.
  5. ^ a b "Ó Riada's Vision – Seán Ó Riada, the Cúil Aodha choir and 'Mo Ghile Mear'". The Journal of Music. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  6. ^ James Last & Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann - Mo Ghile Mear (My Darling Gallant). Polydor. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  7. ^ "James Last – In Ireland". Discogs. Retrieved 10 May 2019.