The Wexford Carol (Irish: Carúl Loch Garman, Carúl Inis Córthaidh) is a traditional religious Irish Christmas carol originating from County Wexford, and specifically, Enniscorthy (whence its other name), and dating to the 12th century.[unreliable source?] The subject of the song is that of the nativity of Jesus Christ.
"The Wexford Carol," sometimes known by its first verse, "Good people all this Christmas time," is one of the oldest extant Christmas carols in the European tradition. The song achieved a renewed popularity due to the work of William Grattan Flood (1859 - 1928), who was organist and musical director at St. Aidan's Cathedral in Enniscorthy. He transcribed the carol from a local singer, and had it published in the Oxford Book of Carols, putting Enniscorthy into most carol books around the world.
Bard Francis, of the SCA medieval society comments:
This lovely tune, remarkable for its haunting Mixolydian mode form, is unlikely to be 12th century. The words are maybe older than the tune, which likely came from the wave of Irish Music during the late 18th and through the entire 19th century, American Civil War period. Such rhyming words and tune structure had not been invented sufficiently in the 12th century, and it looks more like the 16th if it can be proven to be earlier than the 18-19th.
The Mixolydian mode can be played with only two chords one step apart on lute or guitar, which makes it an easy and wonderful performance piece for good singers but beginning players. Celtic Woman does it in D and C chords, though there are variations out there.For the most likely oldest Christmas hymn, I suggest it may be "O Gladsome Light" with words from the 3rd century, tune possibly the 8th as a Nunc Dimittis. Source "Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal," by Pollock. Also the still popular "O Come Emmanuel" may have been written about that time. The main problem is that these ancient Christian tunes, unlike the Celtic tunes, usually had a long oral tradition in the church before musical notation became understandable around the 14th century.
Traditions abound concerning the song. For many years, it was felt that only men should sing it. It was only during the current revival of all things Irish that this has changed. Many popular female artists, such as Julie Andrews in 1966, and Loreena McKennitt in 1987, have recorded versions of the “Wexford Carol." Michael McDonald (singer) covered it on his 2009 album, "This Christmas" as a duet with his wife Amy Holland, using only the first three of the traditional verses.
- Good people all, this Christmas time,
- Consider well and bear in mind
- What our good God for us has done
- In sending his beloved son
- With Mary holy we should pray,
- To God with love this Christmas Day
- In Bethlehem upon that morn,
- There was a blessed Messiah born.
- The night before that happy tide,
- The noble Virgin and her guide
- Were long time seeking up and down
- To find a lodging in the town.
- But mark right well what came to pass
- From every door repelled, alas,
- As was foretold, their refuge all
- Was but a humble ox's stall.
- Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
- Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
- To whom God's angel did appear
- Which put the shepherds in great fear
- Arise and go, the angels said
- To Bethlehem, be not afraid
- For there you'll find, this happy morn
- A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.
- With thankful heart and joyful mind
- The shepherds went the babe to find
- And as God's angel had foretold
- They did our Saviour Christ behold
- Within a manger he was laid
- And by his side a virgin maid
- Attending on the Lord of Life
- Who came on earth to end all strife.
- There were three wise men from afar
- Directed by a glorious star
- And on they wandered night and day
- Until they came where Jesus lay
- And when they came unto that place
- Where our beloved Messiah lay
- They humbly cast them at his feet
- With gifts of gold and incense sweet.
- Ó, tagaig' uile is adhraigí
- An leanbh cneasta sa chró 'na luí
- Is cuimhnígí ar ghrá an Rí
- A thug dár saoradh anocht an Naí.
- 'S a Mhuire Mháthair i bParrthas Dé,
- Ar chlann bhocht Éabha guigh 'nois go caomh,
- Is doras an chró ná dún go deo
- Go n-adhram' feasta Mac Mhuire Ógh.
- I mBeithil thoir i lár na hoích'
- Ba chlos an deascéala d'aoirí,
- Go follas don saol ón spéir go binn
- Bhí aingle 'canadh ó rinn go rinn.
- "Gluaisig' go beo," dúirt Aingeal Dé,
- "Go Beithil sall is gheobhaidh sibh É
- 'Na luí go séimh i mainséar féir,
- Siúd É an Meisias a ghráigh an saol."
- December 2005 Emerald Reflections - Sing an Irish Christmas Song
- Enniscorthy Carol
- "Ceol na Nollag" issued in Dublin by Cló Chaisil in cooperation with Foras na Gaeilge