Tuesday, 15 April 2014

My Lagan Love

Day 13 of the A to Z challenge and the letter M ... and also one in my series about old songs ....

Where Lagan streams sing lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
and the night is in her hair
and like a lovesick lenashee*,
she hath my heart in thrall
nor life I own, nor liberty
For love is lord of all




Have a listen to  My Lagan Love

One of my all time favourite Irish songs, My Lagan Love was written by Joseph Campbell (no relation) (1879 - 1944), also known as Seosaimh MacCathmhaoil or Joseph MacCahill.  He came from Belfast and his grandparents came from the Irish speaking region of Flurrybridge in South Armagh (source Wikepedia). In the early 20th century he started collecting songs along with Herbert Hughes and in 1904 came across the melody to which he put these words.  Joseph started the first Irish College in America after spending years in prison in the Curragh after the 1916 rebellion.   A wonderful documentary about his life was recently shown on TG4 here.



And often when the beetle's horn
Hath lulled the eve to sleep
I steal unto her shieling lorn
And thru the dooring peep.
There on the cricket's singing stone,
She spares the bogwood fire,
And hums in sad sweet undertone
The songs of heart's desire.

I've been singing this song from the year dot ….(I recorded it for the TV series Songbirds and it's  on my CD "Farewell To Cold Winter") …. it was a regular piece in feises and I won a few trophies for it … but the older I get, the harder the song is to sing….  I'm including lyrics at the end here that I found when researching this song ... and although I've often heard and sung a third verse, until recently have never seen the verse about the barge …. so I've added it on with a variation on the 3rd and 4th verse if that makes any sense!!!

*For clarity … a lenashee is a type of fairy - it should be written leanaun sidhe ..

Her welcome, like her love for me,
Is from her heart within:
Her warm kiss is  felicity 
That knows no taint or  sin
When she was only fairy-high
Her gentle mother died;
But true love keeps her memory warm
By Lagan's silver side.

The Lagan of the song, I was always told, was actually a stream in East Donegal rather than the river Lagan in Belfast. However the inclusion of this extra verse very firmly locates it on the River Lagan in Belfast - Lambeg is between Lisburn and Belfast and Drum was  a lock on the canal there.

The English is of a style that was much in use at the start of the 20th century … very flowery and with lots of references to mythology … an attempt at gaelicising the English that was in use at the time.  Both Herbert Hughes and Joseph Campbell were leading lights in the Gaelic Revival - an attempt to bring back Irish culture.   In fact Joseph's name was a gaelicisation of Joseph Campbell, rather than the other way around and the confusion over Joseph MacCahill was another anglicisation of the Irish name!   Confusing or what!!   Whichever, the language, for me, always added greatly to the mystery of this song coupled with the beautiful air which makes me think of turf fires and boggy landscapes.  

There are many great versions of My Lagan Love …both as written and with new words ....  the gypsy singer Margaret Barry was recorded by Ewan McColl in 1956 singing it - listen here.

But the loveliest I've yet found is from Kate Bush - with new lyrics written by her brother … here's a link to the video.

And then several folk artists sang it as "The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" which in essence is also the same song, different words..   Here's a link to the wonderful Sandy Denny singing that one.




Here are the alternative lyrics that I found which put a totally different spin on the song .... very interesting ..
Where Lagan streams sing lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
and the night is in her hair
and like a lovesick lenashee*,
she hath my heart in thrall
nor life I own, nor liberty
For love is lord of all

Her father sails a running-barge
'Twixt Leamh-beag and The Druim;
And on the lonely river-marge
She clears his hearth for him.
When she was only fairy-high
Her gentle mother died;
But dew-Love keeps her memory safe
By Lagan's silver side.

And often when the beetle's horn
Hath lulled the eve to sleep
I steal unto her shieling lorn
And thru the dooring peep.
There on the cricket's singing stone,
She spares the bogwood fire,
And hums in sad sweet undertone
The songs of heart's desire.

Her welcome, like her love for me,
Is from her heart within:
Her warm kiss is
That knows no taint of  sin
And, when I stir my foot to go,
'Tis leaving Love and light
To feel the wind of longing blow
From out the dark of night.


5 comments:

  1. Following from Blogging AtoZ.
    I'm writing "Things My Husband Has Broken" A to Z at http://AMomsPointOfView.com
    Come by and check it out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I sense Irish love for music and tales here. A lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never heard that song before, but what lovely lyrics!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love listening to Irish songs! They do have lovely lyrics.

    ReplyDelete

Do drop me a line ... I love to read your comments :)