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Dawn on the Hills of Ireland
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, July 1984

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


Tom Lenihan

Ó t'anam an diabhal! But there it is,
The dawn of the hills of Ireland.
God's angels lifting the night's black veil
From the fair, sweet face of our sire-land.
Oh, Ireland, isn't it grand, you look
Like a queen in a rich adorning,
And with all the pent-up love of my heart
I bid you the top of the morning!

Tis one short hour pays lavishly back
For many a year of mourning;
No wonder the wandering Celt should think
And dream of you in his roving.
And doesn't old Cobh look charming there
Watching the wild waves' motion;
Leaning her back up against the rocks,
With the tips of her toes in the ocean.

For thirty Summers, a stór mo chroí,
Those hills I now fix my eyes on.
E'er met my vision save when they rose
O’er memory's dim horizon.
Even so, it was grand and fair they seemed
As the landscapes spread before me;
O, Ireland! don't you hear me shout?
I bid you the top of the morning!

Now fuller and truer the shoreline shows
Was ever a scene so splendid?
I'd almost venture another voyage,
There is so much joy in returning.
Old scenes, old songs, old friends again,
The vale and cot I was born in.
O, Ireland! don't you hear me shout?
I bid you the top of the morning!

“Tom got this song, which describes an Irish emigrant’s feelings on returning to his native home, from his parents. He described it as ‘an old, old song’ and told us it was lacking a couple of verses which he had tried to find, without success. It was written in 1877 by John Locke (1847–1889), a Fenian activist, exiled to the United States. He entitled it ‘Dawn on the Irish Coast’ but it is also known as ‘The Exiles Return’, ‘Morning on the Irish Coast’ and ‘The Emigrants Anthem’. It was inspired by a friend’s account of a brief return visit to Ireland. The aged gentleman described how he felt when the ship slowly approached the Irish coast as dawn broke. Standing on the deck, his weary eyes beheld a vision of beauty as the emerald green of the Kerry coastline came into view and for the first time in 30 years, he looked upon his native land. As an exile and one destined never to see Ireland again, Locke was deeply moved by the man’s emotional account of his return to the Emerald Isle.

Exiles Return, or Morning on the Irish Coast

D'anam chun De! but there it is—
The dawn on the hills of Ireland!
God's angels lifting the night's black veil
From the fair, sweet face of my sireland!
O, Ireland! isn't grand you look—
Like a bride in her rich adornin!
With all the pent-up love of my heart
I bid you the top of the morning!

This one short hour pays lavishly back
For many a year of mourning;
I'd almost venture another flight,
There's so much joy in returning—
Watching out for the hallowed shore,
All other attractions scornin;
O, Ireland! don't you hear me shout?
I bid you the top o' the morning!

O, kindly, generous Irish land,
So leal and fair and loving!
No wonder the wandering Celt should think
And dream of you in his roving.
The alien home may have gems and gold,
Shadows may never have gloomed it;
But the heart will sigh for the absent land
Where the love-light first illumed it

Ho, ho! upon Cliodhna's shelving strand
The surges are grandly beating,
And Kerry is pushing her headlands out
To give us the kindly greeting!
Into the shore the sea- birds fly
On pinions that know no drooping,
And out from the cliffs, with welcomes charged,
A million of waves come trooping.

For thirty Summers, a stoir mo chroidhe,
Those hills I now feast my eyes on
Ne'er met my vision save when they rose
Over memory's dim horizon.
E'en so, 'twas grand and fair they seemed
In the landscape spread before me;
But dreams are dreams, and my eyes would open
To see a Texas' sky still o'er me.

And doesn't old Cobh look charming there
Watching the wild waves' motion,
Leaning her back up against the hills,
And the tip of her toes in the ocean.
I wonder I don't hear Shandon’s bells—
Ah! maybe their chiming's over,
For it's many a year since I began
The life of a western rover.

Oh! often upon the Texas plains,
When the day and the chase were over,
My thoughts would fly o'er the weary wave,
And around this coastline hover;
And the prayer would rise that some future day-
All danger and doubting scorning—
I'd help to win for my native land
The light of young Liberty's morning!

Now fuller and truer the shoreline shows—
Was ever a scene so splendid?
I feel the breath of the Munster breeze,
Thank God that my exile's ended!
Old scenes, old songs, old friends again,
The vale and the cot I was born in—
O, Ireland, up from my heart of hearts
I bid you the top o' the mornin!”

Jim Carroll


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