Theresa O’Connor

Spancil Hill — Irish History in Song

Michael Considine’s melancholy song of an emigrant longing for his home in County Clare, “Spancil Hill” has long been a favorite among the Irish diaspora. You can read all about it in The Story Behind Spancil Hill, at Wikipedia and at The Session.

Yours Truly, at Spancil Hill

Yours truly, while on our honeymoon.

Last night as I lay dreaming of pleasant days gone by
My mind then bent on rambling, to Ireland I did fly
I stepped on board a vision and I followed with a will
’Till next I came to anchor at the Cross of Spancil Hill

Bein’ on the twenty-third of June, the day before the fair
When Ireland’s sons and daughters and friends assembled there
The young, the old, the brave and the bold came their duty to fulfill
At the parish church in Clooney, a mile from Spancil Hill

I went to see my neighbors, to see what they might say
The old ones were all dead and gone; the young ones turning gray
I met the tailor Quigley — he’s as bald as ever still
He used to make me britches when I lived in Spancil Hill

I paid a flying visit to my first and only love
She’s as white as any lily, as gentle as the dove
She threw her arms around me saying, “Johnny, I love you still”
Ah, she’s Ned the farmer’s daughter and the pride of Spancil Hill

I dreamt I knelt and kissed her as in the days of yore
“Ah, Johnny, you’re only joking, as many’s the time before”
Then the cock he crew in the morning ah, he crew both loud and shrill
And I woke in California many miles from Spancil Hill

The original version was much longer — the lyrics below are the more common, shorter version, which is what you’re much more likely to hear played in pubs the world over.

Here’s an MP3 of the song from my cousin Danny Gill’s band, The Old Brigade.

Speaking of which, The Old Brigade are playing at my cousin John Donohue’s pub in Watertown on St. Patrick’s Day — if you’re in the Boston area, definitely check them out! My other cousin Danny (Shea) tends bar there.