often the case that great songs are written by people at a time when they are
experiencing great personal tragedy in their lives.
The classic Irish ballad, Spancil Hill, is a perfect example of this. It was
a written by a young man called Michal Considine at a time when he knew he
didnít have long to live. He wanted the song to be a memorial to him and a
celebration of the people he had loved in his life.
Michael Considine who was born around 1850 near Spancil Hill, which lies
between Ennis and Tulla in County Clare in Ireland.
Like millions of others, Considine was forced to leave his homeland because
of the potato famine which devastated Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. He
went to Boston in 1870 but only stayed for a few years before moving to
Itís thought his plan was to earn enough money to be able to bring his true
love over to America to join him. Her name was Mary MacNamara. Considine refers
to her in the song as ďMac the rangerís daughter and the pride of Spancil HillĒ.
As the song became popular over the years, the name became changed to Mag or
Nell ďthe farmerís daughterĒ.
When Considine was about 23, however, he fell ill and realised he hadnít long
to live. He wrote
Spancil Hill so it could be sent home to express his feelings to all who
knew him, especially, of course, his beloved Mac.
The lyric tells how he was dreaming one night when he ďstepped on board a
visionĒ which took him all the way to Spancil Hill back in Ireland.
Spancil Hill was the scene of a horse fair every year and Considine arrives
the day before itís about to take place. Once there he sees the familiar faces
and sights of his youth. All the people named in the song are thought to be real
people rather than fictional characters.
The most emotional reunion is with Mac, his ďfirst and only love.Ē She throws
her arms around him and he dreams that he kisses her ďas in the days of yoreĒ.
The joy is short lived, however, as very soon the cock crows and he awakes from
his reverie. Once awake, he is no longer in Spancil Hill but back in the real
world, thousands of miles away in California.
Considine died shortly after writing the song and sadly was never reunited
with his beloved Mary MacNamara. She remained true to his memory and never
For some people Spancil Hill is a little too sentimental but for others it is
a perfect expression of love and devotion. Few people now know of the personal
tragedy behind it but the moving lyrics and the beautiful melody mean this
classic Irish song remains popular throughout the world.
Spancil Hill to be played on our broadcast using our online request system!
Last night as I lay dreaming of pleasant days gone by
My mind been bent on rambling to Ireland I did fly
I stepped on board a vision and followed with a will
Til next I came to anchor at the cross in Spancil Hill
on the twenty-third of June the day before the fair
When Irelands 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
Delighted by the novelty, enchanted by the scene.
Where in me early boyhood where often I had been.
I thought I heard a murmur. I think I hear it still.
It's the little stream of water that flows down Spancil Hill.
a passing fancy, I laid down on the ground.
And all my school companions, they shortly gathered round.
When we were home returning, we danced with bright good will
To Martin Monahan's music, at the cross at Spancil Hill.
to see me neighbours to see what they might say
The old ones were all dead and gone, the young ones turning grey
But I met the tailor Quigley, he's as bold as ever still
Ah, he used to make me britches when I lived at Spancil Hill
I paid a
flying visit to my first and only love
She's as white as any lily, gentle as a dove
And she threw her arms around me, saying Johnny I love you still
Ah, she's now a farmer's daughter and the pride of Spancil Hill
I knelt and kissed her as in the days of yore
Ah, Johnny you're only joking as many the time before
Then the cock he crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill
Used with permission from