Mountains of Mourne, The
DESCRIPTION: The Irishman in London writes home to Mary to tell her of the city. He describes how the local women dress (or, rather, don't dress). He watches the King of England. He wishes he were home with Mary "where the Mountains of Mourse sweep down to the see"
AUTHOR: Percy French (died 1920)
EARLIEST DATE: 1931 (recording, Peter Dawson)
KEYWORDS: love home separation homesickness clothes royalty
1903 - Visit of King Edward VII to "Erin's Green Shore" (mentioned in the song)
FOUND IN: Ireland Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Guigne, pp. 272-274, "The Mountains of Mourne (Mountains o' Mourne)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peter Dawson, "The Mountains O' Mourne"(HMV [UK] B-3772, 1931; HMV [UK] B-9114, 1940)
Monica Rossiter, "The Mountains of Mourne" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
cf. "The Green Hills of Antrim" (tune, lyrics)
cf. "Canny Newcastle" (plot)
The Green Hills of Antrim (File: HHH606)
When a poor bloody pilot goes down in the sea (Reginald Nettel, _Seven Centuries of Popular Song_, Phoenix House, 1956, p. 232, mentions this as being in John Moore's _In the Season of the Year_, 1954)
NOTES: Several sources say that the tune to this is properly known as "Carrighdhoun," but it is now much better known under French's title. The tune is reported by Robert Gogan, 130 Great Irish Ballads (third edition, Music Ireland, 2004), p. 12, to have been supplied by one Houston Collison.
The dating of the poem is more problematic. Gogan says that French is "reputed to have written it in 1896 on a very clear day when he could see the Mountains of Mourne from the Hill of Howth in North Dublin."
And yet there is the mention of England's King having "visited Erin's green shore." Now note that, in 1896, England *had* no King; the ruling queen was Victoria, and her husband Albert had died in the 1860s, when French was still a boy too young to notice girls. The first English King to visit Ireland in modern times was Edward VII, who did not ascend until 1901 and who made his visit in 1903 (and "was regarded as a friend of Ireland and was the first of his line to be so," according to Edmund Curtis, A History of Ireland. sixth edition, 1950 (I use the 1968 University Paperbacks edition), p. 402).
Edward VII did visit Ireland, but the year was 1903. So how could this song have been written in 1896?
Whatever the explanation, Edward's visit had little real effect; five of six histories I checked had no mention of the event (and some other reference apparently had the wrong date, since earlier versions of this Index gave the date as 1905).
But his trip did show an interesting change in Irish attitudes: quite a few radical nationalists were very upset about the visit, but the ordinary people seem to have loved it; Robert Kee (The Bold Fenian Men, being volume II of The Green Flag, p. 154) calls it an "outstanding success," and cites newspaper accounts of how he was greeted. Compare the song's mention of the singer "cheer[ing] with the rest."
Too bad the Easter Rebellion, and the British over-reaction, did such a find job of messing that up.
There was an interesting article about Percy French, who was an Irish-born engineer and entertainer, in Sing Out magazine, Volume 32, #4 (1987), pp, 18-20, It quotes extensively from James N. Healy, Percy French and His Songs, 1966, a book which I have not seen. - RBW
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