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Grá Geal Mo Croí
(Laws M23; Roud 1020)
Peggy McMahon
Cloonlaheen, Doolough

Recorded in singer's home, October 2000
Carroll Mackenzie Collection


I am a young lover who’s sorely oppressed,
I’m enthralled by a fair one, and can’t find no rest.
Her name I’ll not mention, though wounded I be,
By Cupid’s clean arrow, she’s grá geal mo croí.

I determined to tell this fair innocent dove,
All by a fond letter, that she was my love.
Expecting next morning, with pleasure to see,
Some token of love from my grá geal mo croí.

But that false deceiver, whom I did entrust,
Above all men breathing, he was surely the worst.
He proved a deceiver, and a traitor to me,
He ne’er gave a letter to grá geal mo croí.

When he got the letter, he ran out to hand,
And went to her father, and told him the plan.
When the old man had read it, he swore bitterly,
That he’d alter the case between grá geal and me.

He called on his daughter with pride and distain,
Saying, ‘Here is a letter from your darling swain.
You cannot deny it, for it’s plain to be seen,
He titles you here as his grá geal mo croí.’

This tender young maiden fell down on her knees,
Saying, ‘Father, dear father, do as you please.
And if by wild horses, I strangled will be,
I’ll never deny he’s my grá geal mo croí.’

The horse was got ready without no delay,
And to some foreign country her love sent away.
‘And if I don’t find him, I’ll mourn constantly,
And my last dying words will be grá geal mo croí.’


“This powerful song of love, betrayal, parental opposition, determination and, eventually, threat of exile if the young woman refuses to succumb to her father’s wishes, has not turned up very often in Ireland, or anywhere else, for that matter. It was found among the manuscript notebooks of P.J. McCall (1861-1919) in Dublin and the air only was published in Petrie’s ‘Ancient Music of Ireland’ (1855); it appeared on a broadside in the middle of the 19th century. The only other version of it in this form was recorded from Peter Reilly of Cullyhanna, Armagh in 1952. Other than these, it has been found a few times in print in the United States and Newfoundland under titles such as ‘Gay Girl Marie’, ‘Groygel McCree’ and ‘Sweet Gramachree’.

American scholar, McEdward Leech wrote of it:
‘This is a very rare song. So far as I can find, the air has never before been collected. Randolph has a text and also Flanders-Barry, with a borrowed tune. The Flanders-Barry text is from a manuscript of c.1800 in the Barry collection. The Randolph version calls the girl "gay girl Marie"; the Flanders-Barry title is Sweet Gramachree, evidently obtained from a broadside; but the text as printed calls the girl "sweet Cramocre." The suggestion is that these are various corruptions of Irish a ghradh mo chroidhe, "O love of my heart".’

A love song of a totally different nature (Roud 2329) but with the same title was included in Colm O Lochlainn’s Irish Street Ballads.”

Folk Ballads and Songs of the Lower Labrador Coast, McEdward Leech, National Museum of Canada, 1965.
Jim Carroll

See also
Grá Geal Mo Croí sung by Nora Cleary

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