Mo Ghile Mear

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"Mo Ghile Mear" (translated "My Gallant Darling", "My Spirited Lad" and variants) is an Irish song. The modern form of the song was composed in the early 1970s by Dónal Ó Liatháin (1934–2008), using a traditional air collected in Cúil Aodha, County Cork, and lyrics selected from Irish-language poems by Seán "Clárach" Mac Domhnaill (1691–1754).


The lyrics are partially based on Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló ("My Heart is Sore with Sorrow Deep", c. 1746), a lament of the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745.[1][2] The original poem is in the voice of the personification of Ireland, Éire, lamenting the exile of Bonnie Prince Charlie.[3] Mo ghile mear is a term applied to the Pretender in numerous Jacobite songs of the period. O'Daly (1866) reports that many of the Irish Jacobite songs were set to the tune The White Cockade. This is in origin a love song of the 17th century, the "White Cockade" (cnotadh bán) being an ornament of ribbons worn by young women, but the term was re-interpreted to mean a military cockade in the Jacobite context.[4]

Another part of the lyrics is based in an earlier Jacobite poem by Mac Domhnaill, Seal do bhíos im mhaighdin shéimh.[5] This was published in Edward Walsh's Irish Popular Songs (Dublin, 1847) under the title of "Air Bharr na gCnoc 'san Ime gCéin — Over the Hills and Far Away". Walsh notes that this poem was "said to be the first Jacobite effort" by Mac Domhnaill, written during the Jacobite rising of 1715, so that here the exiled hero is the "Old Pretender", James Francis Edward Stuart.

The composition of the modern song is associated with composer Seán Ó Riada, who established an Irish-language choir in Cúil Aodha, County Cork, in the 1960s. The tune to which it is now set was collected by Ó Riada from an elderly resident of Cúil Aodha called Domhnall Ó Buachalla. Ó Riada died prematurely in 1971, and the song was composed about a year after his death, in c. 1972, with Ó Riada himself now becoming the departed hero lamented in the text. The point of departure for the song was the tape recording of Domhnall Ó Buachalla singing the tune. Ó Riada's son Peadar suggested to Dónal Ó Liatháin that he should make a song from this melody.[6]

Ó Liatháin decided to select verses from Mac Domhnaill's poem and set them to the tune. He chose those that were the most "universal", so that the modern song is no longer an explicit reference to the Jacobite rising but in its origin a lament for the death of Seán Ó Riada.[7]



  1. ^ "Hail to the Chieftains". Billboard. 24 December 1994. p. 14. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  2. ^ Angela Bourke (2002). The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Volume 4. NYU Press. p. 285. ISBN 9780814799062.
  3. ^ William David Coulter (1994). "Traditional Irish folk music, the Ó Domhnaill family, and contemporary song accompaniments". University of California: 79. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ John O'Daly (1866). Reliques of Irish Jacobite Poetry, with metrical translations by the late Edward Walsh, Second edition. p. 31.
  5. ^ Ua Duinnín, Pádraig (1902). Amhráin Sheághain Chláraigh Mhic Dhomhnaill. Baile Átha Cliath: Connradh na Gaeilge. p. 12.
  6. ^ "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 Riada's Vision – Seán Ó Riada, the Cúil Aodha choir and 'Mo Ghile Mear'". The Journal of Music. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Ó Riada's Vision – Seán Ó Riada, the Cúil Aodha choir and 'Mo Ghile Mear'". The Journal of Music. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 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
  8. ^ "Mo Ghile Mear (Seán Clárach MacDomhnaill)". Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  9. ^ James Last & Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann – Mo Ghile Mear (My Darling Gallant). Polydor. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  10. ^ "James Last – In Ireland". Discogs. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  11. ^ "A Stor's A Stoirin – Padraigin Ni Uallachain". Hot Press. 14 December 1994. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012.
  12. ^ "Album Reviews – The Chieftains". Rolling Stone. 6 October 2008. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008.
  13. ^ "The goods, the ads and the music". Irish Times. 30 January 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2020.