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Micho’s Dozen: Traditional Songs from the Repertoire of Micho Russell, Doolin, Co. Clare

13. Saint Kevin in Glendalough

This piece of 19th century whimsy explains the origins of the Seven Churches of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. It is attributed to a James Kearney who also wrote the more well-known ‘Courtin’ In The Kitchen’. Although Kearney says he based his song “on the Legend of Samuel Lover” he in fact added on the motif in which the King’s sons are changed into churches. For Lover’s account of the legend, in the most dreadful “stage-Oirish”, see the ‘Dublin Penny Journal’ (Vol. 1, no. 1, [June 30th, 1832], p.p. 6-8).

Micho learned it from his mother who does not seem to have had all the verses. For the sake of completeness I append the last three verses as given in Hardings ‘Dublin Songster’ (Vol. 2, no. 15, [n.d. ca. 1850], p. 350).

Micho’s Dozen: Traditional Songs from the Repertoire of Micho Russell: Saint Kevin in Glendalough Musical Notes

And as St. Kevin once was passing through
A place called Glendalough
He met with King O’Toole
And he asked him for a shough.
Said the saint: “You are a stranger
And your face I never have seen.
But if you have the taste of weed
I’ll lend you my dudeen.”

With me fal de dal, de die do,
With me fal de dal de dee,
With me fal de dal de die do,
With me fal de dal de dee
With me fal de dal de dido
With me fal de dal de dee,
With me fal de dal, de dal, de dal,
De dal, de dal, de dee.

While the Saint was kindlin’ up the pipe
The monarch gave a sigh:
“Is there anything the matter,” sez the Saint,
“That makes you cry?”
Said the King: “I had a gander
That was left me by my mother
And this morning he has cocked his toes
With some disease or other.”

“So you’re crying for your gander,
You misfortunate old goose.
Dry up those tears and frettings
The dickens take their use!
If you think so much about the bird
I’ll cure him,” said Saint Kevin,
“If you give to me a piece of land
That the gander will fly around.”

“Troth, I will and welcome,”
Said the King, “Give what you ask.”
He bid him bring the gander
And they would begin the task.
He whooshed him up into the air -
He flew thirty miles around.
Said the Saint, “I thank your majesty
For the little bit of ground.”

The King to raise a ruction,
He called the Saint a witch.
He sent them for his six big sons
To heave him in a ditch
But the Saint turned him and his six big sons
Into seven churches
And he left the gander there
To guard about the ruins.

[From Hardings ‘Dublin Songster’]

The king, to raise a ruction, faith, he called the saint a witch,
And sent in for his six big sons to heave him in a ditch;
“Nabocklish” says St. Kevin, “Now I’ll settle these young urchins” -
He turned the king and his six sons into the Seven Churches!

Thus King O’Toole he suffered for his dishonest doings;
The saint then left the gander there to guard about the ruins:
If you go there on a summer day, between twelve and one o’clock,
You’ll see the gander flying around the Glen of Glendalough.

Now I think there is a moral good attached unto this song,
To punish men I think is right whenever they do wrong;
A poor man may keep his word much better than folk that’s grander,
For the king begrudged to pay the saint when he cured his ould dead gander.

v.1.4. “shough” pron. “shock”. A draw (of a pipe).

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