This is another of those great old folk songs that has several versions. The first one is below, and the music that you are listening to, is Barry Taylors version. My best guess at the version that Sting recorded with The Chieftains is the second. (The web site that contains all of Sting's lyrics says that the words are "Conjectural".)

What is known is that the original Gaelic version was writen by the 18 th century poet Sean Clarach MacDomhnail. It is one of many Irsih Jacobite songs written in honour of Prince Charles Stewart, who was known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie". The air is, appropriately, of Scottish orgin, a version of "The White Cockade" by Jim Connell, a 19 th Century Irish exile in Scotland, originally set the words of "The old Red Flag" to the same tune.

It is also well known that this song is sung like an anthem in many pubs at closing time. I suspect that it is a method of extracting a few extra minuets of drinking time.

A while ago, a thoughtful visitor to the site, Cullyn Mac Farlane, sent me a message saying, "When I had heard the chieftains version of "Our Hero aka Mo Ghile Mear" I always thought that the word the used was gentle mien, in other words a nice face." which seems logical.



Written by Sean Clarach MacDomhnail


Seal da rabhas im' mhaighdean shéimh,
'S anois im' bhaintreach chaite thréith,
Mo chéile ag treabhadh na dtonn go tréan
De bharr na gcnoc is i n-imigcéin.

'Sé mo laoch, mo Ghile Mear,
'Sé mo Chaesar, Ghile Mear,
Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin
Ó chuaigh i gcéin mo Ghile Mear.

Bímse buan ar buaidhirt gach ló,
Ag caoi go cruaidh 's ag tuar na ndeór
Mar scaoileadh uaim an buachaill beó
'S ná ríomhtar tuairisc uaidh, mo bhrón.

Ní labhrann cuach go suairc ar nóin
Is níl guth gadhair i gcoillte cnó,
Ná maidin shamhraidh i gcleanntaibh ceoigh
Ó d'imthigh uaim an buachaill beó.

Marcach uasal uaibhreach óg,
Gas gan gruaim is suairce snódh,
Glac is luaimneach, luath i ngleo
Ag teascadh an tslua 's ag tuargain treon.

Seinntear stair ar chlairsigh cheoil
's líontair táinte cárt ar bord
Le hinntinn ard gan chaim, gan cheó
Chun saoghal is sláinte d' fhagháil dom leómhan.

Ghile mear 'sa seal faoi chumha,
's Eire go léir faoi chlócaibh dubha;
Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin
Ó luaidh i gcéin mo Ghile Mear.


Grief and pain are all I know

My heart is sore

My tears a'flow

We saw him go ....

No word we know of him...


A proud and gallant cavalier

A high man's scion of gentle mean(?)

A fiery blade engaged to reap(?)

He'd break the bravest in the field


Come sing his praise as sweet harps play

And proudly toast his noble frame

With spirit and with mind aflame

So wish him strength and length of day


Mo Ghile Mear


Written by le Seán Clárach Mac Domnhnaill (1691-1754 AD)


MacDonnell was a great Tipperary bard, of whom there are many interesting tales. He was a laborer by trade, but educated in the "hedge-schools." He was a great poet.

He was literate in Gaelic, Greek, Latin, and English, and this song (Gile Mear) reflects that literacy, with its Classical references to Caesar, Phoebus (Apollo), Mars and Cupid, as well as the references to Celtic gods and heroes such as Lugh, Fergus, etc.

It is said that he once entered an upper-class book seller's in Cork, and was looking at a leather-bound, gilt-edged, folio copy of the Iliad in the original Greek. He was holding it upside down, which gave the owner and assembled gentry great amusement to see the "illiterate peasant with the marks of the sty on his brogues."

He asked the owner; "Beggin' ye pardon, yer Honour, but how much is this book here?"

The owner, greatly amused, said; "50 guineas Paddy, but if ye can read it, you may have it."

MacDonnell then turned the book around and began reading from it in fluent Greek. The dumbfounded owner was bound to his oath, and the assembled gentry got even greater amusement at his considerable expense! (50 guineas was a huge sum in those days.)

In his declining years, word was mistakenly circulated of his demise before the actual event. One of his competitors composed a moving poetic elegy. MacDonell was said to have responded tartly to the effect that while he appreciated the sentiment, he preferred if the poem was released only after his actual death! (It was.)

This song was composed c. 1746 AD. It is a rosg-cathadh (in Scottish Gaelic, brosnachadh), a battle hymn or incitement. (These correspond to the "paen" sung by ancient Greek warriors going into battle, which may indicate an even more ancient Indo-European tradition.)

It was intended to invite Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who had but recently fled Scotland after the failure of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, to return, and to incite the Irish to join in another Rising.

(The 1745 Rising had taken place in Scotland and England, when Prince Charles Edward Stuart landed and attempted to regain the throne of his grandfather, James VII and II of Scotland and England and Ireland respectively, for his father, who was James VIII and III in the Jacobite reckoning.

James VII / II had been unseated by the Dutch ruler, William of Orange in the coup known by the Whigs and their successors as the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-89, which was followed by the first Jacobite War {1689-91}. William, who was married to James' daughter Mary, was invited to assume the throne by a cabal of English and some Scots magnates, due to the open Catholicism of James and his unpopularity, esp. with the more radical Protestant elements in Britain. There were other abortive risings, in 1715 and 1719.)

Ireland had played little part directly, although most of the "French" troops who landed in support of the Rising were made up of Irish mercenaries in the French service.)

From internal evidence, it was probably written shortly after the Rising failed, as some of the metaphors seem to reflect Charles Edward's escape after Culloden. Charles may have been in France, or still on the dodge in Scotland. The general tone being one of his having "left," as opposed to his coming or presence. Also, the verses reflect a desire that the "dashing darling" come again, as opposed to a first coming.

Although many of the Gaels in Ireland and Scotland viewed them as the true heirs, the Stuarts had never been particularly kind or useful to the Gaels in either country, especially the Catholic Irish.

Jamie Baggie-breeks (the Sixth of Scotland, First of England and Ireland) had been particularly UN-kind, "planting" Ulster with Scots Protestant settlers who became the "Ulster Scots", aka the "Scotch-Irish", sowing the seeds of troubles that continue to this day.

Despite this and other deeds, the Irish rose in the Stuart cause in the English Civil War, and again in the first Jacobite War, as well as serving as mercenaries in the French levies sent to Scotland in the latter wars.

Of course, it must be remembered that one of the reasons James VII / II was deposed in the first place was because he had openly converted to Catholicism and had an heir who was likely to be raised Catholic. This gave the Catholic Gaels both in Ireland and Scotland (and there still were a fair number of Catholic Gaels in Scotland at that time) the hope of more just treatment under a Catholic monarch as opposed to a Protestant monarch.

Couched as a love song, it is one of the poetic "code songs" so common in a time and place where patriotic sentiments could lead to death, imprisonment, or exile.

The "Gile Mear" was Prince Charles Edward Stuart. Charles Edward is compared favorably to Caesar, Apollo, Lugh, and other Classical and Celtic gods and heroes. For example, the phrase; "Is cosuil e le h-Aonghus Og" means lit.; "T'is "like-eye" he with Angus Og," (i.e.; he is "like unto" Angus Og, an ancient god of youth and beauty.)

The title is translated variously as "shining {or dashing} darling."

Fr. Dineen's authoritative dictionary says "gile" means; "brightness, whiteness, a term of endearment... and gives the term "a ghile" as; "dearest" and na ghile as; "great. brightest, beloved" so the meaning is fairly clear.

{Sometimes it is translated as "dashing or shining lad," due to the word Gile sometimes being mistaken for "giolla" or "gillie" a boy. However, all old written versions I have seen, particularly Hyde's authoritative version, are rendered "Gile", and the tradition bearers I have spoken with on this were unanimous on this being the word and meaning}.

"Mear" also has many meanings, but among the first are; "swift, sudden, lively, active, valiant, joyous, giddy, raging, mad, and wild." It can also mean "produce {of the land}, "offspring" or "descendants" and "fosterling" or "pet." This word is also related to "mearcach," which has the meaning of impetuousness, even to the point of rashness.

This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the meaning of produce and offspring can be connected to Charles as the "true king" who, in Celtic belief, was the one who would bring fertility and productiveness to the land and people (probably derived from the old "Corn King" beliefs).

This is reinforced by the mention of the cuckoo not singing, or the cries of the hounds not being heard - i.e.; all nature was off-balance awaiting the advent of the true king who would cause the land to be productive again. (It is interesting also to note that Scotland, at least, had suffered harsh weather and bad harvests for two years preceding the '45. This would not have escaped the bard's notice.)

Likewise, the meaning of fosterling is important because the closest and most important relationships in Celtic culture were those of fosterage, as in the old Gaelic proverb; "Blood to 10 degrees, fosterage to 100." A warrior or chief's shield-brother was normally his foster-brother.

This is all very typical of bardic heroic poetry - they make runs and use words with multiple meanings and levels for those "in the know" - as all their audiences would have been then.

I once had the entire set of verses from Douglas Hyde's great book, "Love Songs of Connaught", given to me in Cul Aodh (Co. Cork) by the local seannachaidh, Sean Dineen. Unfortunately, the briefcase containing my only copy was stolen. The below is a pastiche of the best words and verses I could find or remember, with some alternate versions or words. Some of the translations are my own, except where the extant translation was already suitable. The translations are meant to be comprehensible, not poetic, and hopefully (with the notes) still give the flavor of the Gaelic.

Some of the translations I am unsure of - no one person can lay a claim to the only interpretation of what is very archaic poetry. I am open to other interpretations, and hope some others will eventually pop up.

Wherever possible, I used the older forms of Irish (prior to the "reforms" of the 1950s), since these often have clues to the real meanings. Some of the words may still need diacritical marks. I haven't quite gotten them finished.

Mo Ghile Mear Seal da rabhas im' mhaighdean shéimh, 'S anois im' bhaintreach chaite thréith, Mo chéile ag treabhadh na dtonn go tréan De bharr na gcnoc is i n-imigcéin. (For a while I was a gentle maiden {lit.: "in my state of being a maiden"} And now a spent worn-out widow My spouse ploughing the waves strongly Over the hills and far away) 'Sé mo laoch, mo Ghile Mear, 'Sé mo Chaesar {Shaesar}, Ghile Mear, Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin {alt.; Ní bhfuaireas féin aon tsuan ar séan} Ó chuaigh i gcéin mo Ghile Mear. (He is my hero, my dashing darling He is my Caesar, dashing darling. I've had no rest from forebodings Since far away went my dashing darling. ) Bímse buan ar buaidhirt gach ló, {" ló " - dialectical poetic form of "latha / La" - day} Ag caoi go cruaidh 's ag tuar na ndeór Mar scaoileadh uainn an buachaill beó 'S ná ríomhtar tuairisc uaidh, mo bhrón. (Each day I am constantly sad Weeping bitterly and shedding tears Because our lively lad has left us And no news from him is heard, my sorrow!) Ní labhrann cuach go suairc ar nóin Is níl guth gadhair i gcoillte cnó, Ná maidin shamhraidh i ngleanntaibh ceoigh (leoigh) Ó d'imthigh uainn an buachaill beó. (The cuckoo sings not pleasantly {lit; "affably"} at noon And the voice of hounds is heard not in nut-filled woods, Nor summer morning in misty glen Since he went away from us, the lively boy.) (Alternate): Ni h-aoibhinn {haoibhinn} cuach ba shuairc ar neoin Taid fior-chaoin uaisle ar uathadh spóirt Taid saoithe is suadha i mbuairt 's i mbrón Ó scaoileadh uainn an buachaill beo ({the} pleasant cuckoo is not singing affably at noon T'is they are truly {affable, gentle}, noble, on solitary sport {also pleasure} They are good, generous {men/warriors/scholars}, and cultured {learned}, it {is a} sorrow and a pity. {Both are actually words meaning deep sorrow} Since departed from us the lively boy.) {Note: uathadh can mean "solitary" or "slaughtering" - here, paired with "sport", perhaps; "hunting" ?} This alternate verse seems to me to be the union of two disparate verses - the metaphors don't seem to hang together properly, nor do they seem to fit. Níor éirigh Phoebus féin ar cóir Ar chaoin-chneas {chaomhneas} ré tá daol-bhrat bróin {bhróin} Tá saobhadh ar spéir is spéirling mhór Chun {sleibhe / sléibhte} i gcéin mar d'éalaigh {or; d'éaluig / ealas} an leon No more is rising Phoebus {Apollo} himself, in truth {i.e.; The sun is no longer rising} In companionship {with the} moon {he} is {in} a mourning suit of sorrow Tis confusion in {lit.; on} {the} sky {heavens} and great storms Until in it is seen, like a swan, the lion. {Perhaps a metaphor for Charles Edward in a ship, the white sails being the "swan." - or poss.; "Until (the} mountain sees like (his?) escape"?} Níl séis go suairc ar chrua-chruit cheoil, Tá an éigse i ngruaim gan uaim 'na mbeol; Táid beathaithe {béithe} buan ar buaidhirt {buairt} gach ló, Ó théarnaigh uainn an buachaill beo. (Not a delight the pleasant {hard- or possibly bent ?} harp of music T'is the satirist {is} gloomy, without "poetic diction" * They are in constant sadness each day Since the escape from us of the lively lad) * {line 2 of this verse is more literally; "{poetic} alliteration {esp. of the important last 2 lines, the "ceangal" or binding used by the old bards} ) Is glas a shúil mhear, mhúirneach, mhodhúil Mar leagadh an drúchta ar chuimhais an rois Tá Mars 's Cúipid dlúth i gcómhar {gcóir} i bpearsain úir 's i ngnúis mo stóir Tis {a} green-eyed darling,with eyes full of love, mild-mannered Like melting {of} the dew on {the} {covering or face of} the rose Tis Mars and Cupid {in} close cooperation a new person, and it {in} the visage {face} of my treasure {The poet seems to mean that Mars and Cupid cooperated on making Charles Edward, a new type of person personifying both war and love, and / or those traits meet in his features.} Is cas a chul 's is cursach coir Is dlaitheach {dlathach} dlúith 's is búcladh bórr Is feachach fionn ar lonnradh an óir Ó bhaitheas {bhathas} úr go com mo stóir Tis {cas a chul - a "difficult case", "foot behind" or "slender foot"?} and a just cause Tis {battlefield or ruin} (swift or ashes} and t'is {ringlets or buckles} {great, haughty} Tis {feachach - firm step or a spade} fair on plundering the gold {"O" or "Since"} {"new life" - a health?} {go com - equally ?} my treasure Another toughie! This seems to represent a typical bardic set of alternatives or possibly comparatives - possible takes: Tis a difficult case and a just cause Tis a swift battle{field} and great {or "haughty", i.e. noble ?} buckles Tis a firm step fair on plundering the gold O new life equally to my treasure He could equally be saying things like "swift ruin". Obviously, some difficult choices here. Other interpretations would work. Is cosúil é le hAonghus Óg, Le Lughaidh mac Chéin na mbéimeann mór, Le Cúraoi ard mac Dáire an óir, Taoiseach Eireann tréan ar {an} tóir (T'is "like-eye" he with Angus Og (i.e.; he resembles Angus Og, a Celtic god) With Lughaidh mac Cein of the great blows With Cu Raoi, high son of Derry of the Gold Leader of Erin, brave in the pursuit.) (Lughaidh, Cu Raoi, and the rest below are legendary Celtic heros and demi-gods) Le Conall Ceárnach bheárnadh póirt, Le Fearghas fiúntacht fionn mac Róigh, Le Conchubhar cáidh mhac Náis na nós, Taoiseach aoibhinn Chraoibhe an cheoil. With Conal Cernach in the fortress gap With Fergus, fair, worthy son of Roigh With Conor, modest son of Nessa of the traditions {Conor is the king of Ulster in the Táin} Leader, pleasant tree of the music {i.e.; a sponsor of bards and musicians} Ní mhaoidhfead féin cé hé mo stór, Tá insint scéil 'na dhéidh go leor, Ach guím chun Aoin-Mhic Dé na gcomhacht Go dtige mo laoch gan b{h}aoghal beo. I am not boasting {cé - "who"?} {hé - ?} my treasure Tis telling a story of the {wish, concern} enough But a conspiracy until {the} almighty One Son of God {To or through} {the "thick of the fight" or "home"} my young hero without danger {to his ?} life (A few more tough choices here! Still wrestling with this one as well) Marcach uasal uaibhreach óg, Gas gan gruaim is suairce snó{dh}, Glac is luaimneach, luath i ngleo Ag teascadh an t-sluaigh {t-slóigh} 's ag tuargain treon. (Noble, proud young horseman Warrior unsaddened, of most pleasant countenace A swift-moving hand, quick in a fight, Slaying the enemy host and smiting the strong.) (Ach) Seinntear stáir ar chláirsigh cheoil 's líontair táinte cárt ar bórd, Le hinntinn ard gan cháim, gan cheó Chun (chuir) saoighal {saoil} is sláinte d' fhagháil dom leómhan. (Let a strain be played on musical harps And let many quarts be filled With high spirit without fault or mist For life and health to toast my lion. ) Cúrfá 2: Ghile mear 'sa seal faoi chumha, 's Eire go léir faoi chlócaibh dubha; Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin Ó luaidh i gcéin mo Ghile Mear. (Dashing darling for a while under sorrow And all Ireland under black cloaks Rest or pleasure I did not get Since he went far away, my dashing darling. ) Cúrfá (alternate): 'Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear, 'Sé mo Shaesar, gile mear; Mo chruatán féin a luadh tré léan Mar chuaigh i gcéin mo ghile mear ! (He is my hero, my dashing darling He is my Caesar, dashing darling. My {chruatan} {mention, milling} {through} {follow} As far away went my dashing darling)

Also found this sheet music, but unsure of whose version it is - I strongly recommend going with Micheál O Domhnaill's excellent version. (On his Relativity album of the same name and on the compilation, "The Celts Will Rise Again".

(I am still working on the music.)

(The Sting version, whatever can be said for his talent otherwise, is bloody awful, completely untrue to the piece, the period, or the Gaelic, though I do commend him somewhat for even attempting the piece. He certainly popularized it, anyway. I just wish he had troubled himself to do a better job of it.)

The delivery should be strong, slow, spirited, and passionate. It is a rosg-cathadh (in Scottish Gaelic, brosnachadh), a battle hymn or incitement. These correspond to the "paen" sung by ancient Greek warriors going into battle, another ancient I-E tradition.

This page features music from Taylors Traditional Tunebook.

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