Listen to Óró Sé Do Bheatha Abhaile, especially performed for Ireland's Favourite Folk Song by Lumiere, Sibéal and Nicola Joyce, above, and read all about the song below.
This rousing marching song is well known to many of a certain generation. For decades this stirring ‘clan march’ could be heard pouring from school windows as the youngsters prepared to march up the street playing the tune on tin whistles in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. It was Patrick Pearse who composed the lyrics we are familiar with today. He understood the value of an inspiring marching song, one that could stir the blood of a nation. When he wanted to create a rousing song to fit his idea of an invigorated Ireland fighting for its freedom, he looked to this ‘ancient clan march’ in the Stanford-Petrie collection of Irish tunes published in 1855.
This song was originally associated with the Scottish Jacobite rising of 1745-6 when Bonnie Prince Charlie attempted to regain the throne for the House of Stuart. The old Gaelic order might be restored under a Stuart king. Patrick Pearse was aware of the song’s history. Pearse replaced Bonnie Prince Charlie with a great Gaelic warrior, the famous pirate-queen Gráinne Ní Mháille known as Granuaile. He eliminated the French and Spanish soldiers from the old lyrics replacing them with loyal Gaelic warriors. In this way Pearse created a new song to fit the new political scene using a female chieftain from the sixteenth century as a symbol of Ireland’s ancient struggle against the invader.