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The Blackbird of Sweet Avondale
(Roud 5174)
John Joe McMahon
Leeds, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in Leeds, August 1987

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


By the bright bay of Dublin, while carelessly strolling,
I sat myself down by a clear crystal shade.
Reclined on the beach, as the wild waves were rolling,
In sorrow condoling, I spied a fair maid.

Her hopes changed to mourning, that once were so glorious.
I sat in amazement to hear her sad tale.
Her heartstrings burst forth in wild accents deploring,
Saying, ‘Where is my blackbird of sweet Avondale?’

‘Through the counties of Wicklow, Kerry, Cork and Tipperary,
The praises of Ireland, my blackbird did sing.
But woe to the hour, when with heart light and airy,
That heaved from my arms, to Dublin took wing.’

‘All the birds in the forest their notes there to cheer me.
Not even the song of the sweet nightingale.
Her notes so encharming fills my heart with alarm,
Since I lost my blackbird of sweet Avondale.’

‘Oh the peelers waylaid him in hopes to ensnare him,
While I here in sorrow, his absence bewail.
It grieves me to think that the walls of Kilmainham
Surrounds my poor blackbird of sweet Avondale.’

‘Oh, Erin, my country, awake from your slumbers.
And bring back my blackbird, so dear unto me.
And let everyone see, by the strength of your numbers,
That Ireland, a nation, would like to be free.’


“This is said to be an imitation of a seventeenth century song ‘The Lady’s Lamentation’ a copy of which is housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford University. One of the most popular figures in Irish National politics, Charles Stewart Parnell was given the nickname ‘The Blackbird of Avondale’ after his birthplace, Avondale in County Wicklow in 1846. Another member of the family, Charles’s sister Fanny Parnell, was also involved in politics; she was known as the Patriot Poet, most of her poetry being about Irish nationalism (see note to Miss Fanny Parnell).”
Jim Carroll


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