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Click on this image to order the CD!You can purchase this album in two ways:

To order a physical copy of the CD from Kunaki.com, click on the album image.

To download a digital copy or to purchase individual MP3's from BandCamp.com, click on the green BUY button on the player on the right.

To listen to the tracks, simply click play on the song that you want to hear.

To see the song information and lyrics, scroll down to the lyrics section and click on the song that you are interested in.



 Lyrics

 

1. Spancil Hill

The story of Michael Considine, who emigrated to the United States around 1870. Spancilhill is a place which, today, is little more than a crossroads, four miles from Ennis in County Clare, Ireland..  but was once the site of one of the largest horse fairs in the British Isles. Unlike this popularized version of the song, the original lyrics tole of Michael's sweetheart as 'Mack the ranger's daughter', Mary MacNamara. Though it was his intention to bring Mary over to the new world to wed her, he never managed to save enough money. Plagued by ill health and knowing that he had little time left to live, Michael wrote the song and sent it back to his family in Ireland shortly before his death in 1873. Remaining faithful to his memory, Mary never married.

Last night as I lay dreaming of pleasant days gone by
My mind being set on roving, to Ireland I did fly
I stepped on board a vision, and followed with the wind
'Till at last I came to anchor at the cross of Spancilhill

Delighted by the novelty, enchanted by the scene
Where in my early childhood so many times I'd been
I thought I heard a murmer, sure I think I hear it still
T'was the gentle stream of water that flows through Spancilhill

To amuse a passing fancy I lay upon the ground
And I saw my school companions, they shortly gathered 'round
As we were home returning, we danced with bright goodwill
To the pipes of Martin Connohan at the cross of Spancilhill

It being the twenty-third of June, the day before the fair
When Ireland's sons and daughters in crowds assembled there
The young, the old, the brave and bold, their journeys to fulfill
There were jovial conversations at the field of Spancilhill

I stepped up to my neighbours, to see what they might say
The old ones, they were dead and gone, the young ones turning grey
I met with tailor Quigley, he's as bold as ever, still
Sure, he used to make my britches when I lived on Spancilhill

I paid a flying visit to my first and only love
She's as fair as any lily and as gentle as a dove
She threw her arms around me, saying "Johnny, I love you still"
She's Ned the farmer's daughter, and the pride of Spancilhill

I dreamed I held and kissed her as I did in days of yore
She said, "Johnny, you're only jokin' as so many the time before"
The cock crew in the morning, he crew both loud and shrill
I awoke in California, many miles from Spancilhill

2. Irish Boy

A delightful but somewhat obscure anglicized version of a Scottish traditional ballad that has defied most of my attempts to find out more about its origins. Some sources place it as being from southwestern Scotland in the region of Wigtownshire, and as a song about a Scottish girl lamenting her betrayal by the Irish boy that she loved, who managed to pass himself off as Scottish due to the similarity of the languages of Scots and 'Galoway Irish'.


In yonder wood there is a bird
They say he's wild as he can be
Oh, how I wish that bird was me
Since my true love has left me

    CHORUS
And oh, what a foolish young girl was I
Who fell in love with an Irish boy
An Irish boy he may well be
But he spoke Braid Scots when he courted me

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
I wish I were a maid again
But a maid again, I ne'er shall be
Till an apple grows on a rowen tree

    (Chorus)

The song of birds may glad the world
Yet bring to mind a sorrow key
For he is gone, now I must bide
Would I had love instead of pride

    (Chorus)

3. Leaving of Liverpool

1ST ONE
Often it seems that even the most upbeat trad songs that come out of the British Isles have a certain measure of sad tidings buried in their subject. This is the widely popular 'jolly' version of the song that is what you're likely to get, if you request your local Irish band to play it for you.

REPRISE
Often it seems that even the most upbeat trad songs that come out of the British Isles have a certain measure of sad tidings buried in their subject. This is my alternate mellow or 'lullaby' arrangement of what is usually a bouncy, high energy song.  Its pretty, somewhat melancholy tone is one that I find a little more fitting to the subject material.


Fare thee well, my own true love
For I am going far away
I am bound for California
But I know that I'll return someday

    CHORUS:
So fare thee well, my own true love
When I return, united we shall be
It's not the leaving of Liverpool that's grieving me
But, m'darling, when I think of thee

I am sailing on a Yankee ship
The Davey Crockett is her name
And the captain's name is Burgess
And they say she is a floating shame

    (Chorus)

The sun is on the harbour, love
And I wish that I could remain
Cause I know it'll be a long, long time
Before e'er I see you again

    (Chorus x2)

4. The Least of my Kind

A roleplaying-derived song of Cat's that I chanced to learn a number of years ago, little suspecting that it would grow to be adopted as a personal anthem by several groups of friends across Canada and the US.


Covered in dirt and mud, aching and spitting blood,
Cursing, you stir to rise and groan
Muffled in yet-to-come, mutters a battle drum
Wolves don't usually walk alone

    CHORUS:
Think on the battle-cost; this time, the wolf has lost
Beaten and broken and blind
Better beware, my lord; better prepare, my lord;
I was the least of my kind

Prying my switchblade cold out of my fingers' hold
Pause to take stock, reflect, and rue
Look on the damage done here by a single one
What do you think the full pack will do?

    (Chorus)

Careless, I came by chance, joining in battle's dance
Slain in a fight I could not win
Far off, a wolf pack hears; heads turn, with pricking ears
Thought you, my lord, that I had no kin?

    (Chorus)

5. Lament for Ogun

This is the first half of one of the tales of Ogun, one of the Loa of African mythology and religion. The Loa are similar in many ways to gods or saints, Ogun being the patron spirit of fire, blacksmithing, and (involuntarily) war. The tales of Ogun  hold several parallels with greek myths, in this one particularly that of Demeter, in the way that the world suffers at his displeasure when he takes offense.


Under the hammer of the sun on our backs
On the anvil of Earth we were made
Our bodies hard crafted by toil on the land
Lacking simplest of tools for our trade
Without hammer or ploughshare or blade

When the evening drew, we all fled to our homes
Where our youngest would tremble and weep
For the night was the time of the lion and wolf
And, to them, we were no more than sheep
And the beasts came for us in our sleep

Ogun heard our cries as He worked at His forge
And He turned thoughtful eyes to our plight
And, with one calloused hand, grabbed a brand from the fire
For to bring us the flame and the light
For to draw back the veil of the night

At the mountain, He taught us to dig for black iron
And to craft it with hammer and hand
Now, with tools for the farm, we were lords of the field
And, with spearheads, the lords of the land
And the beasts would soon learn to fear man

But, for some, the land's bounty was never enough
And we turned greedy eyes to our kin
And the gifts of the gods would be warped by our hands
For the greed and the glory of men
Damn the pride of the kingdoms of men!

We sharpened the tools that we'd used in the fields
And we harvested men like the grain
With the gifts of Ogun, we let out their bright blood
And we watered the fields like the rain
With each death, we sang out Ogun's name

Ogun heard those cries, and He looked from His forge
With disgust at the carnage we'd wrought
For, in banishing fear, we'd become fear itself
Tenfold worse than the beasts we had fought
And undone all the good He had sought

Ogun's hammer, He cast from His hand to the dust
And He let the fires cool on the hearth
To the forest He left, with a curse on his lips
For the men who's corrupted His worth;
Who now buried their kin in the earth

We returned from out battles, our victories sweet
But to find that our fires had grown cold
And our fields had lain fallow while we were away
We had nothing to eat but the gold
That we'd robbed from our neighbours of old

With the Maker now gone to the forest, we found
That we had not the will to rebuild
Though we prayed to Ogun, all our wells remained dry
And our fields lay unplowed and untilled
And the pits of our bellies unfilled

Good friends, forget not that the strengths of Ogun
Are all lent you with kindness and trust
And that all you might gain from a gift that's abused
In the end, seldom outweighs the cost
Of the strengths and the honour that's lost

For, the spirit of work is more precious than gold
And the blessing of craft is its boon
All the glory and wealth of the kingdoms of men
Are all dust without the sweat of Ogun
For the spirit of work is Ogun
For the spirit of work is Ogun

6. Ye Jacobites by Name

Originally a scathing criticism of the Jacobites in particular, this later and more popular version of the song has been adapted into a more general criticism on the dangers of romanticizing war. In 1689, James VII of Scotland (James II of England) was deposed from the throne of England for his unpopular political stances. During the sixty years that followed, there were five attempts to restore James and his descendants to the throne. Three of these uprisings were major, and following the last of these in 1745, the Jacobite movement and its leaders never fully recovered.

Ye Jacobites by name, lend an ear, lend an ear
Ye Jacobites by name, lend an ear
Ye Jacobites by name
Your faults I do proclaim
Your doctrines I must blame, you shall hear, you shall hear
Your doctrines I must blame, you shall hear.

What is right, and what is wrong, by the law, by the law?
What is right and what is wrong by the law?
What is right, and what is wrong?
A weak arm or a strong
A short straw, or a long, for to draw, for to draw
A short straw, or a long, for to draw.

What makes heroic strife famed afar, famed afar?
What makes heroic strife famed afar?
What makes heroic strife?
To whet th' assassin's knife,
And lose a Long child's life in bloody war, bloody war
And lose a Long child's life in bloody war?

Then leave your schemes alone, in the state, in the state
Then leave your schemes alone in the state.
Then let your schemes alone,
Adore the rising sun,
And leave a man undone, to his fate, to his fate.
And leave a man undone, to his fate.

7. Foggy Dew

This song refers to the Easter Uprising of 1916, when a handful of ill-equipped Irish fighting men struck out against the oppression and occupation of the British Empire. Given the odds, the outcome was predictably disastrous in terms of their losses.. and large parts of the city of Dublin, often hailed as one of the fairest cities in  Europe, were reduced to smouldering rubble. However, the bravery of those who fought in protest inspired many others to fight for the freedom of their nation. The song was written around 1919 by Canon Charles O’Neill, a parish priest of Kilcoo and, later, of Newcastle, County Down.


T'was was down the glen one Easter morn
To a city fair rode I
When Ireland's lines of marching men
In squadrons passed me by
No pipe did hum, no battle drum
Did sound it's fierce tattoo
But the Angelus Bell o'er the Liffey's swell
Rang out in the foggy dew

Right proudly high over Dublin town
They flung out a flag of war
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
Than at Suvla or Sud el Bar
And from the plains of Royal Meath
Strong men came hurrying through
While Brittania's sons with their long range guns
Sailed in through the foggy dew

Oh, the night drew black and the rifles' crack
Made perfidious Albion reel
'Mid the leaden rail, seven tongues of flame
Shone out o'er the lines of steel
By each shining blade, a prayer was said
That, to Ireland, her sons be true
And when morning broke, still the war flag shook
Out its fold in the foggy dew

T'was England bade our Wild Geese go,
That small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Suvla's waves
or the fringe of the grey North Sea
Oh, but had they died by Pearse's side
or had fought with Cathal Brugha
Their graves we'd keep where the Fenians sleep
'Neath the shroud of the foggy dew

But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell
Rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide
In the springtime of the year
And the world did gaze with deep amaze
At those fearless men and true
Who bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew

And back through the glen did I ride again
And my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
Whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go
And I kneel and pray for you
For slavery fled, oh glorious dead
When you fell in the foggy dew

8. Under the Gripping Beast & Into the Fire

A long awaited duet, combining the haunting original by Cat Faber, and its answering song by Michelle Dockrey. I had known and loved both of these songs already, but when I first heard Michelle and her band, Escape Key, perform, I knew that this collaboration with her was something that I definitely wanted to see happen. As one who often finds finding inspiration to be a challenge, I found these songs about musicians that risk their souls for love and inspiration particularly evocative.


For a journal bound in leather fine, as soft as human skin,
A gripping beast embossed thereon and all the world therein,
I bargained with a Power; I need scarcely mention who,
And should I keep it till my death, the standard fee falls due.

        CHORUS:
 Under the gripping beast is all the price I'll pay,
 For I'm quits of all my bargain, if I throw the book away.
 But for that pain of parting, there can be no balm, nor salve;
 For just an hour longer, I will hold to what I have.

I sat there, that first evening, the book upon my knee.
I opened it, and held my breath, for fear of what I'd see.
The stuff of creativity, from Hell and Heaven wrung;
The ghosts of tales untested and of stories yet unsung.

    (Chorus)

As I read, my breathing raced to meet my heart's demand,
For scraps of songs and stories there were written in my hand.
I turned to seize a pencil and my eyes were fever-bright;
I slept but half an hour, but I wrote three songs that night.

    (Chorus)

My songs and stories brought me joy, honor they did win.
Without the book, I still would be an orphan looking in.
The thought that I must lose it is the sum of all my fears.
"For just an hour longer" I have held it fifty years.

    (Chorus)

I've tasted of creation and the time draws near to rest,
But I haven't finished writing, and the last must be the best.
I battle death by inches and too soon will know defeat
But I won't discard the book before my swansong is complete.

    (Chorus)

Beloved of the singer, I, and harper to her song
Yet time to time I sensed in her some strange and silent wrong
Though long our life together, and her songs we played with pride
She kept her secret pain from me until the day she died

    NEW CHORUS:
 Into the fire lies the path that I must tread
 For I swear I'll pull her from the flames or burn there in her stead
 Her gentle rest I could have borne, but now the price I know
 Into the beast's eternal grip I cannot let her go

The price she paid was shown me as I stood beside the bier
For I bent to give a farewell kiss and grief turned into fear
Two things clutched tightly to her breast that froze me where I stood
A journal bound in leather and a parchment signed in blood

    (Chorus)

I closed my eyes and laid my torch to the timbers of the pyre
Stood summoning my courage as I faced the blazing fire
With all the force of rage and grief I called Him in my mind
Then felt the flames engulf me and in blood-red strike me blind

    (Chorus)

There in His court I met His gaze, my blood a pounding drum
No words we spoke, He knew my mind, He knew why I had come
I flexed my aging fingers as I touched them to the strings
I held her face within my mind and then began to sing

A song of love so pure that it could reach through darkest pain
For tears shone on His face as we were freed from His domain
I marveled even through my joy as we left the fiery keep
Waterfalls could run uphill; Lucifer could weep

    (Chorus)

We said our last farewell and she stepped through the shining gate
I found myself at home again, the hour growing late
There on her empty pillow lay, and God knows what within,
A journal bound in leather fine, as soft as human skin.

9. Man Behind the Bow

The oldest of my original works. A comment on the sometimes difficult realities of fame, and both the hard truth that there will always be many that can never look past one's title or appearance to know the true person beneath.. and, more hearteningly, that there are a precious few who always will. On a lighter note, I owe this song's creation in large part to a Robin Hood themed music competition that I wanted to attend, and to my knowing not a single Robin Hood themed song at the time.


The deeds of Sherwood's outlaw band
Are felt by all within this land
And, far and wide, the tales are told
Of the man who wields the bow

The Norman soldiers fear your name
With every act, they cast the blame
On you, for all the sheriff's woes,
The man who wields the bow

The peasants hail you, brave Robin
The heart and soul of your merry men
But, as figurehead, how can they know
The man behind the bow?

For, the fame of hero, bard, or king
Will them eclipse, with its shadow
The eyes of men too charmed to see
The man behind the bow

But there is one whose eyes are clear
A noble maid, of Norman birth
Who sees the man within the legend
More than any on this earth
So Robin, cast your bow aside
Your robber's hood, leave with your men
Tonight, you're not outlaw and maid
Just Robin and Marion,
Just Robin and Marion

Give all your love, true as your aim
And you will find hers is the same
If you but turn to her and show
The heart behind the bow

For, when your heart feels her love's touch
It will be pierced, but so made whole
And you will find it's -you- she loves,
The man behind the bow

10. The Ellen Vannin Tragedy

This song tells the story of the shipwreck of the SS Ellan Vannin on December the third in 1909. Captained by James Teare of Douglas, a seaman of 18 years experience, the ship set out in what began as untroubled waters but steadily grew into storm force 11 winds and 20-foot waves. Of the twenty-one crew and fifteen passengers, none survived the wreck. This version of the song is one that I learned from a father/daughter fiddler and flutist duo a number of years back, and is short by a verse from the full version penned by Hughie Jones of 'Spinners' fame. For completeness and in respect to Hughie, I include the last verse here, though it doesn't appear in the version that I sing.

You Manxmen now remember,
The third day of the month December
Of a terrible storm in Nineteen Nine
Ellan Vannin sailed for the very last time

Snaefell, Tynwald, Ben My Chree
Fourteen ships have sailed the sea
Proudly bearing a Manx name
But there's one will never again
Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company
Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

At one a.m. in Ramsey bay
Captain Teare was heard to say
"Our contract said deliver the mail
in this rough weather we must not fail"
Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company
Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

Ocean liners sheltered from the storm
Ellan Vannin on the waves was borne
Her hold was full and battened down
As she sailed towards far Liverpool Town
Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company
Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

With a crew of twenty-one Manx men
Her passengers, Liverpool businessmen
Farewell to Mona's Isle, farewell
This little ship was bound for hell
Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company
Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

Less than a mile from the Bar lightship
By a mighty wave Ellan Vannin was hit
She sank in the waters of Liverpool Bay
There she lies until this day
Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company
Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

11. Homecoming Song (Fields of the North)

A song of homecoming, written when I was just beginning my trek back to Vancouver, BC after much time spent abroad in far-flung corners of the United States. I've had several folk suggest that it would make a good anthem for An Tir, and while I don't expect it to ever be officially recognized as such, I would like to dedicate it to anyone that should find themselves distant for any length of time from the Pacific Northwest. The 'lions' mentioned in the fourth verse refer to the mountain peaks that overlook Vancouver, British Columbia.
 
For those unfamiliar with the SCA, 'An Tir' refers to an area that covers most of the Pacific Northwest.


From my planned and proper course, I falter towards the source
Of the road that I've traveled so long
With each passing mile I tread, I can't Help but be lead
By the wind and its homecoming song

    CHORUS:
 An Tir, my home, how far have I roamed
 Since the Day from your shores I set forth
 In my heart, I only yearn once more to return
 To the rolling green fields of the North

I remember well the day my path led me astray
From the place that I loved most on Earth
For my fortunes to be made, a bard and rover by trade,
Must I stride from the land of my birth

    (Chorus)

Good and merry friends I've found in each homestead, in each town
That I've stayed in to sing for my bread
But though kind is every face, they just can't take the place
Of the long distant home that I fled

    (Chorus)

I will see the Western shore, as so many times before
And the Lions' peaks dusted with snow
I will walk the wooded glens with my kin and long lost friends
And lament at the time I must go

    (Chorus)

When my pockets brim with gold, and my tales have all been told
Then perhaps I can rest on that day
But until that is arranged, my fates are unchanged
And I know that I long cannot stay

    (Chorus)

 In my heart, I only yearn once more to return
 To the rolling green fields... of the North