LivingTravelMo Ghile Mear - A Jacobite Love Song

Mo Ghile Mear – A Jacobite Love Song

Mo Ghile Mear (My Gallant Hero / Lad) is a haunting Irish song with a soulful melody, accompanied by Irish Gaelic text that most people cannot understand.

Even though it is sung in a language that is rarely spoken these days, a proper rendition of Mo Ghile Mear reduces strong men to tears. This emotional reaction is even stronger if you understand the message of the song.

But Mo Ghile Mear is not just an Irish song. The well-known tune connects Ireland and Scotland musically, has ties to the English musician Sting, as well as the prominent Irish folk group Chieftains and an unfortunate border collie.

The lyrics translated to Mo Ghile Mear tell a part of the story, but this is not simply a ballad about a lost love, and nothing more: it is a coded political message that was once considered high treason.

Popular since the 18th century, the song gained international attention again in the late 20th century, mainly due to a series of excellent recordings.

Mo Ghile Mear – la letra

For a while I was a gentle maiden,
And now I am a widow of character,
My spouse plowing the waves vigorously
Because of the hills and migrations.

He is my hero, my Swift One,
It’s my Caesar, Ghile Mear,
I did not find sleep or fortune
Oh my Gile Mear went away.

I will persevere in victory every day,
Crying hard’s predicting tears
As I released the living boy
And don’t count a report from him, my sadness.


A cuckoo does not speak cheerfully at noon
The voice of a dog in the woods of nuts,
Never a summer morning in foggy cliffs
Oh the living boy left me.


Proud young noble rider,
Stem without gloom es suairce snódh,
Take it swiftly, early in the night
Truncating the crowd and throwing a torrent.


An escalera is played on musical harps
There are card tins on board
With a high mind without chaim, without fog
For a life of health I have been left a lion.


Ghile mear is a sell under mourning,
All Ireland under black cloaks;
I did not find sleep or fortune
From afar mentioned my Quick Boy.


Mo Ghile Mear – a schematic translation

The original lyrics are interesting but difficult to analyze if you don’t speak Irish. For non-Gaelic speakers, Mo Ghile Mear could also mean “My Ghillie and Mare”, or be a recipe for a Guinness cake. To give you a better idea of the song, which is titled “My Dashing Darling” or “My Gallant Hero” in English, here is a short translation of the opening verses and choruses:

For a short time I was a gentle maiden,
Now I’m a wasted and wasted widow
my love has crossed the wild waves, has
gone too far.

He is my hero, my dear love,
He is my Caesar, my dear love.
I do not know rest, but only sorrows.
Since he went away, my love.

Every day I’m constantly sad
I cry bitterly and shed many tears,
because our young man alive has left us,
and unfortunately, we have no news of him.

Mo Ghile Mear: a love song?

At first it may seem that this is a straightforward love song about a disappearing man and a woman crying and pining for him. However, this is far from being a simple heartbreak song because those in the know would immediately associate the singer with the goddess Éiru, the personification of Ireland itself.

But who was the love for which the goddess lamented?

None other than Charles Edward Stuart, better known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, who led the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and then went by sea to Skye, continuing on to France, to live out his days as a pretender to the English and Scottish thrones. , finally finding his last resting place in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a tribute to the champion of Roman Catholic hopes.

Song history

Mo Ghile Mear was written, in Irish, by the poet Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill (1691 to 1754). A host of Mac Domhnaill’s poems reflect the longing for the arrival of a just and Catholic ruler, effectively conjuring up a “better Ireland” that will reverse the historical reality of the Glorious Revolution and the Battle of the Boyne. Stuart’s suitors were the real-life (though often unrealistic) focus of this longing.

Mo Ghile Mear became Mac Domhnaill’s most famous poem. The lament was written after the Battle of Culloden (1746), the final defeat of Prince Bonnie Charlie and the effective end of the Jacobite cause as a viable alternative to the kings of Hanover. Thus, one of Ireland’s most beautiful songs was born out of a political battle, rather than a true story of simple heartbreak.

Mac Domhnaill composed his Mo Ghile Mear almost according to the convention of the so-called Aisling poetry, in which Ireland haunts the dreams of the poet, in the form of a woman, mainly to lament the state of the island, but also predicting better times. Mo Ghile Mear deviates from this form of Aisling at one point: the lament is not related by the poet, but Ériu is supposed to be the poet.

Mo Ghile Mear – Recommended Recordings

There are two recordings of the song that are highly recommended: one is the effort of Irish and Scottish artists who wrapped up the sixth episode of the BBC ‘Highland Sessions’ (still available on DVD), singers include Mary Black, Iarla O’Lionard , Mary Ann Kennedy, Karen Matheson, Karan Casey, and Allan MacDonald. Then there is the version recorded by Sting along with the Chieftains on “The Long Black Veil.”

But for the fun of it (cut?) You can’t beat the commercial Specsavers had on TV for some time, featuring Mo Ghile Mear sung by Una Palliser, which is available to watch on YouTube.

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