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St Kevin and the Gander
(Roud 8001)
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded in singer's home, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Howley

Saint Kevin once was travelling
Through a place called Glendalough
He chanced to meet with King O’Toole
And he asked him for a shough.*
Said the king [saint]: ‘You are a stranger
For your face I never seen.
If you’ve any taste of weed
I shall lend you my dúidín.’**

With me fal de rol, de ride do,
With me fal de ral de ree,
With me fal de rol, de ride do,
With me fal de ral de ree.

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

‘And are you crying for the gander,
You misfortunate auld goose.
Dry up your tears with future
Sure the devil take the use!
Said the saint, ‘What will you give me
If the gander I’ll receive.
Said the king: ‘I’ll be your servant
All the days that I’m alive.’

‘I shall cure him,’ said Saint Kevin,
For I want a servant man.
But I shall not make too bold in you,
I’d like a bit of land.

‘In troth, I will and welcome,
I will give you what you ask.
And the saint bid him bring the gander
And he’d begin the task.
The king went to the palace
To fetch him out the bird.
Though he hadn’t the least intention
For sticking to his word.

Saint Kevin took the gander
From the arms of the king.
And he first began to twist his beak,
And then to scratch his wing.
He whooshed him up into the air
And he flew thirty miles around.
Said the saint, ‘I thank your majesty
For the little bit of ground.’

Sure the king to raise a ruction,
Faith he called the Saint a witch.
And he sent for his six big sons
To throw him in a ditch.
Ó, ná bac leis,’ said Saint Kevin
I shall settle those young ?
He turned the king and his six sons
Into the seven churches.

Now King O’Toole had suffered
From his dishonest doings;
And the saint now left the gander
For to guard around the ruins.
If you go on the summer day,
Between twelve and one o’clock,
You shall see the gander flying around
The Glens of Glendalough.

Now I think I have a model [moral] good
Attached to this song,
To punish men who think are right
Whenever they do wrong.
A poor man may keep his word
Much better than the folk that’s grander,
For the king begrudged to pay
The curing of his ould gander.

*A draw of a pipe
** A pipe


“This is said to explain the origins of the Seven Churches of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. It is attributed to a James Kearney who also wrote '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. Lover’s rather patronizingly ‘oirish’ version is to be found in his ‘Legends and Stories of Ireland (10th ed.) London (N.D.).”
Jim Carroll

See also
St Kevin and the Gander sung by Micho Russell

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