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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
John Moulden Peace in Ireland: A Song Challenge (152* d) RE: Peace in Ireland: A Song Challenge 18 Mar 00

A long way above, Eoin O Buadhaigh posted the final verse of the song "Peace in Erin" by a 19th Century poet called Hugh McWilliams. He was born in Glenavy, Co Antrim in about 1783, went to teach on north county Down in about 1800 and published one book of poems when he lost that job in 1816. Another book was published in 1831 at which stage he was in mid-Antrim - Clough - and had been since 1819. He is extraordinary because of thirty two songs in that second book, no fewer than ten can be traced into oral tradition, including "When a man's in love" and "The trip over the mountain" which became widespread. It seems he had a real grasp of what people would want to sing. However, when I first saw the book I was struck by the way in which one set of words I had never heard sung, summed up my views and those of most of those I knew. It was directed to be sung to a tune named as "Rattling Guns" - this I surmised was a distortion of the usual name for Buirns' Ode to Autumn "When westlin' winds and slaughtering guns" - which some will know from the singing of the Voice Squad and others from that of Len Graham. Oddly enough, Len had got his air for the song from, Tommy Kelly, a singer at Newtowncrommellin in County Antrim - almost beside where Hugh McWilliams was, as research showed, living around 1831. The words and air fitted. I started singing the song and as one always should do with a song, gave copies to them as asked and to them as didn't. I now hear it from all sort of places and all sort of people. Áine Uí Cheallaigh has recorded it and I seldom get the chance to sing it these days because someone else in the company gets there before me.

It's a song which despite its age, speaks directly to our time and especially to those who value traditional idiom.

One small explanation is needed ... To Clough or to the Glens hard by ... is a reference to the fact that in the north of Ireland protestants tend to occupy the towns, villages and lower ground while, certainly in the country, catholics live higher up, where it's less fertile; a survival of the forced population movement at the time of the Plantation - however, High McWilliams showed no bitterness and nor should we.


Tune - Rattling Guns.

Were all mankind disposed like me,
To live in love and unity,
No more contention there would be,
Upon the plains of Erin.
Originally we are sprung,
From Father Adam, old and young,
These words should flow from every tongue,
We'll cherish peace in Erin

We're formed by one Deity,
To worship him, let's all agree,
And live in love and harmony
With every class in Erin.
On Sunday, if our roads do lie,
To Clough, or to the Glens* hard by,
It should not weaken friendship's tie,
Amongst the sons of Erin!

What shore can boast so pure an air?
Or sons more brave or girls more fair,
Or who were e'er esteemed in war,
Before the boys of Erin ?
Their courage far abroad is known,
In the field of mars their glory shone;
Then let us cultivate at home,
The laws of peace in Erin !

Would freedom fair and commerce smile,
Upon my dear, my native isle,
Not Egypt with her flowing Nile,
Could equal thee sweet Erin;
Fine silver lakes and pearly springs,
And verdant groves where music rings,
And health, with healing in her wings,
Do bless the land of Erin.

'Tis principle that shows the man,
This is the best, the only plan,
And one that I have built upon,
As passing through old Erin.
Then let us at the present day,
Drive prejudice and spleen away,
Far, far beyond the Atlantic sea,
And all shake hands in Erin!

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