John O'Dwyer of the Glen
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This ballad was originally Gaelic, Seán Ó Duibhir a' Ghleanna. These words are a translation by Frank O'Connor.

According to William Cole the song originated in the donotuse-seventeenth century. The O'Dwyers were from County Tipperary. Their woodlands were cut down by Cromwell's forces to prevent guerilla warfare.

The tune appears in Edward Bunting's A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music (1796).

According to Cuisle an Cheoil and Songs of the Irish Seán Ó Duibhir was the son of Diarmaid Ó Duibhir (died 1629). Diarmaid was chief of the O'Dwyers of Kilnamanagh who lived in Cloniharp Castle in County Tipperary. Seán Ó Duibhir may have fought in southeast Ireland with his uncle, Colonel Éamann Ó Duibhir, against Cromwell. In 1651 Éamann Ó Duibhir surrendered. Along with 4,500 of his men, he joined the Spanish army fighting the French. Colonel Éamann Ó Duibhir was killed at Arras in August 1654.*

The glen that John O'Dwyer took his name from may have been the Glen of Aherlow at the base of the Galtee Mountains.**

When once I rose at morning
The summer sun was shining,
I heard the horn awinding
And the bird's merry songs;
There were badger and weasel,
Woodcock and plover,
And echo repeating
The music of the guns.
The hunted fox was flagging,
The horsemen followed shouting;
Counting her geese on the highway
Some woman's heart was sore;
But now the woods are falling
We must go over the water-
Sean O'Dwyer of the Valley
Your pleasure is no more.

There's cause enough for grieving,
All the woodlands falling,
The north wind comes freezing
With death in the sky;
My merry hound's tied tightly
From sporting and chasing
That would life a young lad's sorrows
In noondays gone by.
The stag is up in Carrick,
His antlers high as ever;
He can enjoy the heather,
But our day is o'er;
Let the townsmen cease they prying,
And I'll take ship from Galway-
Sean O'Dwyer of the Valley,
Your pleasure is no more.

The homes of Coomasrohy
Have neither roof nor gable,
In Strade where birds are silent
No man recites its praise;
From Clonmel along the river
There is no shade or shelter,
And hares amid the clearings
Run safe all their days.
What is this thud of axes,
Trees creaking and falling,
The sweet thrust and the blackbird
In silence everywhere?
And - certain sign of trouble -
Priest and their people
Flying to mountain valleys
To raise the word of prayer?

My only wish on waking
Is that I had ceased from caring
Before my own demesne lands
Were cause for my grief;
For through long days of summer
I rambled through their orchards
And oakwoods all green
With the dew on the leaf;
And now that I have lost them
And lonesome among strangers
I sleep among the bushes
Or mountain caves alone,
Either I'll find some quiet
To live as best contents me
Or leave them all behind me
For other men to own.

Related Links
Information From
Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
See Bibliography for full information.
*From The Mudcat Cafe and
**Traditional Irish flute playing of Eoghan MacAogáin