Sliabh na mBan - Brendan Begley accompanied by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin on piano.

Follow me up to Carlow - John Spillane with Danny and Bob Grace (Keltic Cats) and Donnacha Gough on bodhrán (Danú). 

Boolavogue - Anthony Kearns.

Last episode in this dreamlike journey through the wonder of the Irish songlines and so we head for Tipperary, Carlow and Wexford and this song detective investigates three major ballads that tell of Irish rebellions against the English forces of occupation. Both 'Sliabh na mBan' and 'Boolavogue' were written about the 1798 rebellion. 'Sliabh na mBan' was written at the time, in Irish, by a man who was there. It's a beautiful Gaelic melody and a stirring first hand account of the defeat of the insurrectionists at the hands of the yeomanry on Carrigmoclear, near 'The Mountain of the Women'. I feel as if I am coming very close to the soul of Ireland as I reach the summit of that lonely hill.  

And then to Boolavogue, that vast, expansive, majestic melody. It's a fascinating piece of song history that it was only when the words of 'Boolavogue' were married to it's third and present melody, known as 'Youghal Harbour', that it took off as a song. Like many of the most famous songs about 1798 it was written on the one hundreth anniversary of the rebellion, in 1898. As a songwriter myself this leads me to the possibility that some of the greatest songs about 1916 may well be written this year in 2016. I am delighted that I have already composed two big 1916 numbers this year, fair play to me! Irish Tenor and proud Kiltealy Wexfordman Anthony Kearns pours out a wonderful heartfelt and powerful version of Boolavogue for us here on Na Bailéid. 


In Carlow town I get to horse out a thundering version of 'Follow Me Up To Carlow' with Donnacha Gough on bodhrán and two Keltic Cats Bob and Danny Grace. This song was composed by P.J. McCall and celebrates the battle of Glenmalure in 1580. I can't believe that I have gotten to actually visit all the places in these songs. How strange to wander through the golden fern of Glenmalure in the beautiful Wicklow mountains at the site of this bloody battle.


Thanks to all the wise, ancient and brilliant musical and historical experts who have guided us on our musical journey around the Irish songlines, including Professor John A. Murphy from Macroom, the town that never raised a fool, Peter Browne, Pádraigín Caesar, Niall Ó Cíosáin, that great maestro Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Billy Clancy of Upperchurch, Liam Ó Duibhir, Brian Ó Maoileoin, the foremost authority on the Irish broadsheet ballad John Moulden and many more. Go raibh míle, míle, maith agaibh a cháirde Gael.


Especial thanks to Tony McCarthy of ForeFront Productions who came up with the idea for this series, and to Proinsias Ní Ghráinne, commissioning editor for TG4, to cameramen Barry Donnellan, Colin Morrison, Andy Smyth and Piaras MacCionnaith, to sound engineers Steve McLoughlin, Uwe Schiller and Donncha Moynihan, to Jean Crowley and Joe McCarthy of ForeFront, to editor Tony Murphy, to Leanne Ní Mhurchú, Ciara Hyland and to all the team that came together to make this brilliant series. Thanks to all the viewers who have been pouring praise upon us through social media etc. and lastly thanks to all the wonderful musicians and singers we have had the honour of visiting on our search through Ireland's beloved ballad lands. Go raibh míle, míle, míle, míle, míle, míle maith agaibh go léir! John Spillane, An Pasáiste Thiar, Contae Chorcaí, Deireadh Fomhair, 2016


Published on 20th October 2016


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