Uirchill a Chreagain
From "The Fiddler’s Companion"-
CREGGAN CHURCHYARD (Uir-chill a’ Chreagain). AKA - "The Fair Graveyard of Creggan." Irish, Air (3/4 time). Ireland, Northern Ireland. G Major. Standard. One part. According to O’Canainn (1978) this is one the great airs of the Northern tradition (it has been called ‘the National Anthem of South East Ulster’ by Maire Nic Domhnaill Gairbhi). It is a song of the ‘Aisling’ or ‘vision’ genre in which a maiden appears to the poet and prophesizes a return to Irish glory, and appears in Sean O’Baoighill’s "Cnuasacha de Cheoltai Uladh". Creggan is a large parish that contains portions of two counties in Ireland, Louth and Armagh. The churchyard contains the ancestral burial ground of the O’Neill’s, lords of Ulster.
The composer of the song "Uirchill an Chreagain" was Art MacCumhaigh (1738-1773), bard to the O’Neills of Dunraeva, who was called Art na gCeoltai. Henry Morris, in his book "The Modern Irish Poets of Oriel, Breffni, and Meath" (1906, County Louth Archeological Society) wrote that MacCumhaigh was on the run from the ‘powers that be’ and was bein actively hunted. He found refuge for a night in the O’Neill vault in Creggan graveyard, and thus the opening line (that he slept the previous night in Creggan Churchyard) is literally true. When MacCumhaigh died he was buried at Creggan and the last line of his famous song was carved on his headstone:
Gurbh ag Gaeil chumhra an Chreagain a leagfar me i gcre faoi fhod.
(That with the fragrant Gaels of Creggan I will be put in the clay under the sod.)
O’Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 113, pg. 96.
I transcibed this tune from Cillian Vallely’s playing on "On Common Ground" and have left it in Cmaj.
Probably no surprise that they hunted him if he went around calling people "fragrant".
‘c’ sent me this, two other versions differing mostly in the key and phrasing-
T: Ag Úirchill An Chreagáin
G4 AG | ED- D2 DE | G2 G2 B2 | A4 G2 | E4 BB | c4 BA | Bd- d2 BA | GG- G2 BB | A4 G2 | E4 BA |
G4 AG | ED- D2 DE | GG- G2 BB | A4 G2 | E4 BB | c4 BA | Bd d3 c | BG B3 A | G4 G2 | G4 |]
Cas Amhran – page 92
T: Úirchill An Chreagáin
B4 cB | G/G/F FG | BB- B2 cd | c4 B2 | G4 ze | e4 dc | df- f2 dc | BB- B2 cd | c4 B2 | G4 dc |
B4 cB | G2 F2 FG | BB- B2 dd | c4 B2 | G4 ze | e4 dc | df- f2 fe | dB d3 c | B4 B2 | B4 |]
They come from an illustrated collection of Irish compositions by Michael O’hEidhin, available at Litriocht, here-
A little more of a difference between these and the air that I transcribed from Cillian’s recording; more hesitant phrasing and slight reharmonization.
Setting # 2: Pôl O’Ceallaigh
plays Uir-Chill A’Chreagain lovely on the whistle here:
This man is awesome anyway!
Uirchill A’ Chreagain, X:3
An outline of the Seamus Ennis version, ‘The Clay of Kilcreggan’. The note lengths should be interpreted extremely loosely
Re: Uirchill A’ Chreagain
Oh and the last line of McCooey’s poem seems to be this
Gurb’ i gCill chumhra an Chreagáin a leagfar mé i gcré faoi fhód
That’s the "in the sweet-smelling [fragrant] churchyard of Creggan lay me in the clay…". Which makes more sense than fragrant Gaels. The latter I suppose comes from a version floating round which runs "ag Gaeil cumhra an Chreagáin". Variant readings eh?