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Published on Mar 10, 2010

AN SPAILPÍN FÁNACH / The Wandering Labouring Man

I had only limited success when trying to find images to go with the lively and spirited character of 'An Spailpín Fánach'. On the internet most of the images show a nation in trauma. The roots of the song lie in the hope for a successful rising by the United Irishmen (see verse three below).
Its failure in 1798 led to the abolition the Irish Parliament in Dublin.
The version recorded by Seán Ó Sé in the 1960s includes the memorable words:
"Agus bratacha na Fraince os cionn mo leapan agus píce agam chun sáite..."

("And the flags of France above my bed and a pike by me for thrusting...")

Note: 'spailpín fánach' ('spalpeen'): a seasonal labourer who often travelled far from home. The mass emigration from Ireland from about 1850 resukted in his travels taking him, his women and his children to the ends of the earth. That in its turn resukted in Saint Patrick's Day becoming, after Christmas, the best known and most widely celebrated festival in the world.

(From the CD 'Traditional Music and Song / Amhránaíocht agus Ceol Traidisiúnta' : www.liadan.ie)

(Translation follows the text in Irish):


1. Is Spailpin aerach tréitheach mise is bígí soláthar mná dhom,
Mar a scaipfinn an síol faoi dhó san Earrach in éadan na dtaltaí bána,
Mar a scaipfinn an síol faoi dhó san Earrach in éadan na dtaltaí bána,
Mo lámha ar an gcéachta a'm i ndiaidh na gcapall
agus réapfainnse cnoic le fána.

2. Is an chéad lá in Éirinn dár liostáil mise, ó bhí mé súgach sásta,
Is an dara lá dár liostáil mise ó bhí mé buartha cráite,
Ach an tríú lá dár liostáil mise, thabharfainn cúig céad punt ar fhágáil,
Ach dtá dtugainn sin is ar oiread eile ní raibh mo phas le fáil agam.

3. Is mo chúig céad slán leat, a dhúthai m'athar, is leis an oileán grámhar,
Is leis an scata fear óg atá 'mo dhiaidh ag baile a dhéanfadh cabhair orm in am an ghátair,
Tá Bleá Cliath dóite is tógfar Gaillimh, beidh lasair a'ainn ar thinte cnámha,
Beidh fíon agus beoir ar bord ag m'athair, sin cabhair ag an Spailpín Fánach.

4. Agus bhí mise lá breá thíos i nGaillimh is chuaigh an abhainn le fána,
Bhi an breac is an eascainn is an beairtín slat ann is chuile ní dá bhreátha,
Bhí na mná óga ann muinte mánla is iad a bhí tanaí tláithdheas,
Ach dheamhan bean óg dár shuigh mise léi nach gcuirfinn an dubh ar a mbán di.

5. Agus b'fhaide liomsa lá a mbeinn i dteach gan charaid ná dhá bhliain déag is ráithe,
Mar is buachaillín aerach meanmach mise agus' bhréagfainn an bhruinneall mhánla,
Is dhá bhean déag a bhí ag éad is ag iomaí liom, ag súil le tairfe mo láidhe,
B'é paidir na caillí nuair a théinn thar a' táirseach,
'Now behave your self, a Spailpín Fánach'.


1. I'm a lively and versatile Wandering Man and supply me with ladies,
Where in the Spring I'd scatter the seed twice over the white lands,
Where in the Spring I'd scatter the seed twice over the white lands,
I'd have my hands on the plough as I follow the horses
And I'd split hills open on the slopes.

2. And on the first day that I enlisted, I was tipsy and satisfied,
And on the second day I enlisted I was sadly tormented,
But on the third day I enlisted, I'd have given five hundred pounds to leave,
And even if I'd given that I'd hardly have got my pass to leave.

3. And my five hundred farewells to you, my father's district, and to the beloved island,
And to the crowd of young men behind me at home who'd help me in time of need,
Dublin is burnt away and Galway will be taken, we'll have flames on bonfires,
My father will have wine and ale on his table, such a help to the Wandering Man.

4. And one fine day I was down in Galway and the river was flowing down,
The trout and the eel and the pack of sticks were there and all such fine things,
The young women there were polite and gentle and they were slender, amiable and nice,
But there wasn't a young woman that I sat with that I didn't tell her that black was white.

5. And I long for the day I'd be in a house without a sweetheart for twelve years and three months,
For I am a lively spirited young fellow and I'd woo the gentle beauty,
And it was twelve women who were envying and contending for me,
all hoping to benefit from my spade,
It was the prayer of the old woman as I crossed the threshold,
'Now behave your self, you Wandering Man'.
Lead Vocals: Síle Denvir & Valerie Casey

For the origin of the name 'Liadan' go to: www.answers.com/topic/liadain

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