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The Mountains of Mourne

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The lyrics to the song "The Mountains of Mourne" were written by Irish musician Percy French. It is normally sung to the traditional Irish folk tune Carrigdonn or Carrigdhoun as it is sometimes spelt. This was the same tune used by Thomas Moore (1779–1852) for his song "Bendemeer's Stream".


The song is representative of French's many works concerning the Irish diaspora. The Mourne Mountains of the title are located in County Down in Northern Ireland.

The song is a whimsical look at the styles, attitudes and fashions of late nineteenth-century London as seen from the point of view of an Irish labourer from a village near the Mountains of Mourne. It is written as if the singer is sending a message to his true love back home. The "sweep down to the sea" refrain was inspired by the view of the mountains from Skerries in north County Dublin.

It contrasts the artificial attractions of the city with the more natural beauty of his homeland.

Notable versions

  • Spanish composer and guitarist Fernando Sor set the melody in the second section of opus 6 number 11, one of a set of his celebrated studies for guitar, first published in 1815.
  • During World War I, the song "Old Gallipoli's A Wonderful Place" used phrases from this song as a basis for some of its verses. Verses in the Gallipoli song include: "At least when I asked them, that's what they told me" and "Where the old Gallipoli sweeps down to the sea."
  • Baritone Australian singer Peter Dawson popularised this song in the 1920s.
  • The song featured on the 1958 album, The Immortal Percy French, featuring the voice of Irish tenor, Brendan O'Dowda.
  • It was used in the jingle of Ulster Television's first logo appearing in 1959.
  • The Kingston Trio recorded the song in their 1960 album "Sold Out." Nick Reynolds sang the lead.
  • Singer-songwriter Don McLean, of "American Pie" fame, recorded a version of this song titled "Mountains O'Mourne" on Playin' Favorites; it also appears on many of his Greatest Hits collections.
  • Folk singer Charlie King recorded the song on his album "Somebody's Story" in 1979.
  • The song was also recorded by Tarkio, an alt-country band led by Colin Meloy later of The Decemberists fame for their self-released EP "Sea Songs for Landlocked Sailors" in 1998, and also included on Omnibus, a collection of Tarkio's recordings released by Kill Rock Stars in 2006.
  • Finbar Furey of The Fureys covered the song on the album Chasing Moonlight: Love Songs of Ireland in 2003.
  • In 2008 Celtic Thunder released the song on their debut album, also named Celtic Thunder. Their recording is adapted from Don McLean's version of the song. The song is performed by Keith Harkin.
  • Lyrics

    "The Mountains of Mourne" by Percy French (1896) Oh, Mary, this London's a wonderful sight, With people all working by day and by night. Sure, they don't sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat, But there's gangs of them digging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that's what I was told, So I just took a hand at this digging for gold, But for all that I found there I might as well be Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. I believe that when writing a wish you expressed As to know how the fine ladies in London were dressed, Well if you'll believe me, when asked to a ball, They don't wear no top to their dresses at all. Oh I've seen them meself and you could not in truth, Say if they were bound for a ball or a bath. Don't be starting such fashions, now, Mary, mo chroí, Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. I've seen England's king from the top of a bus And I've never known him, but he means to know us. And tho' by the Saxon we once were oppressed, Still I cheered, God forgive me, I cheered with the rest. And now that he's visited Erin's green shore We'll be much better friends than we've been heretofore When we've got all we want, we're as quiet as can be Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. You remember young Peter O'Loughlin, of course, Well, now he is here at the head of the force. I met him today, I was crossing the Strand, And he stopped the whole street with a wave of his hand. And there we stood talkin' of days that are gone, While the whole population of London looked on. But for all these great powers he's wishful like me, To be back where the dark Mournes sweep down to the sea. There's beautiful girls here, oh never you mind, With beautiful shapes nature never designed, And lovely complexions all roses and cream, But let me remark with regard to the same: That if of those roses you venture to sip, The colours might all come away on your lip, So I'll wait for the wild rose that's waiting for me In the place where the dark Mournes sweep down to the sea.


    The Mountains of Mourne Wikipedia

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