It’s a momentous weekend in Ireland as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in our nation’s capital, Dublin. The Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916.
The Rising was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798.
There were many songs written during and about this eventful time in Irish history, with emigration being another big theme in song as many people were forced to leave their native land for foreign soils, never to return.
One of these was Michael Considine, born around 1850 near Spancil Hill, which lies between Ennis and Tulla in County Clare in Ireland. Like millions of others, Considine was forced to leave his homeland because of the potato famine which devastated Ireland in the mid-19th century. He went to Boston in 1870 but only stayed for a few years before moving to California.
Spancil Hill is the true story of Considine’s dreams of returning to his homeland to be reunited with his ‘first and only love’. It is thought his plan was to earn enough money to be able to bring his true love over to America to join him. Her name was Mary MacNamara. Considine refers to her in the song as “Mac the ranger’s daughter and the pride of Spancil Hill”.
As the song became popular over the years, the name became changed to Mag or Nell ‘the farmer’s daughter’. When Considine was about 23, however, he fell ill and realised he hadn’t long to live. He wrote Spancil Hill so it could be sent home to express his feelings to all who knew him, especially, of course, his beloved Mac.
We hope you enjoyed learning the story behind this song. Check out John’s wonderful performance of Spancil Hill and we wish you all a Happy Easter.
Last night as I lay dreaming of pleasant days gone by
My mind being bent on rambling to Ireland I did fly
I stepped on board a vision and I followed with the wind
And I shortly came to anchor at the cross of Spancil Hill
It being the 23rd June the day before the fair
When lreland’s sons and daughters in crowds assembled there
The young and the old, the brave and the bold their journey to fulfill
There were jovial conversations at the fair of Spancil Hill
I went to see my neighbours to hear what they might say
The old ones were all dead and gone and the young one’s turning grey
I met with the tailor Quigley, he’s a bould as ever still
Sure he used to make my britches when I lived in Spancil Hill
I paid a flying visit to my first and only love
She’s as white as any lily and as gentle as a dove
She threw her arms around me saying “Johnny I love you still
“Oh she’s Nell the farmers daughter and the flower of Spancil HiII
I dreamt I held and kissed her as in the days of yore
She said, “Johnny you’re only joking like many’s the time before”
The cock he crew in the morning he crew both loud and shrill
And I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill.