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Ned of the Hill

[ Roud 8136 ; Samuel Lover]

Joe Heaney sang Éamonn an Chnoic (Ned of the Hill) to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger at their home in Beckenham in 1964. This recording was included in 2000 on Topic's Joe Heaney anthology The Road from Connemara, but due to problems with the original tape it was necessary to omit the first verse. Joe Heaney commented:

“Well, he came to his sweetheart’s door and of course he thought whatever happened that she would stand up for him, but when he came to the door she was more afraid of the, shall I say, the English than she was fond of him. So she told him that she couldn’t let him in and the final word he said, that if he couldn’t get a friend, if she let him down, he’d emigrate somewhere else—and that’s what he did.

I think there’s a translation but I was never a man for the translations myself so I never learned it.

and Fred McCormick noted:

After the defeat of the Irish Jacobite army at the Boyne, Aughrim and Limerick in 1691, many young soldiers found themselves living in the hills and woods as fugitive outlaws, preying on the Williamite and Cromwellian settlers who had taken their inheritance. These desperate men were known as rápairí or “raparees” and Éamonn Ó Riain (Edmund Ryan) of Cnoc Maothail in the parish of Templebeg in Co Tipperary is one of the most famous of them all. Having seen his father killed by the new settlers and their lands taken from his family, Famonn took to the hills to wreak revenge. He fought at the Siege of Limerick and with Sarsfield and ‘Galloping’ Hogan at the celebrated ambush of Ballyneety. After the war, he returned to the desperate existence as a rápaire and many stories of his exploits and daring adventures were related in the folklore of Tipperary.

In this beautiful song, one of the most well-known in the Irish tradition, the raparee seeks shelter at the house of his love, but she, fearing the consequences of harbouring an outlaw, turns him away and he resolves to escape to the Continent where many of his comrades in arms had gone before him. This was not to be however, as Éaamonn was treacherously slain in 1724 by a neighbour and erstwhile friend, Páidí Ó Duibhir, who hoped to collect the £200 reward on Éamonn’s head. This being a Munster song, it occurs to me that Joe may well have learnt it at school.

Alan O'Donnell sang Ned of the Hill in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album Al O'Donnell.

Jean Redpath sang Ned of the Hill in 1975 on her eponymous album Jean Redpath. She noted:

Although this song has a double entendre, I think of it, and sing it, as a love song. Edmond O'Ryan, in supporting the Stuarts, was outlawed after the defeat of James II, and his estates confiscated. As in other songs, the ‘Eileen’ spoken of here can also be understood as Ireland herself.

Samuel Lover (1797-1868) was the composer of this, and of the better known Low-Backed Car and Rory O'More.

Graham and Sheila Nelmes sang Ned of the Hill in 1983 on their Traditional Sound album High Is the Tower.

Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts sang Ned of the Hill in 1995 on their album Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts.

John Wright sang Ned of the Hill on his 1999 album A Few Short Lines.

Dougie Mackenzie sang Ned o' the Hill in 2019 on his Greentrax album with Brian Miller, Along the Way.

Lyrics

Joe Heaney sang Éamonn an Chnoic (Ned of the Hill)

“Cé hé sin amuigh a bhfuil faobhar ar a ghuth
Ag réabadh mo dhorais dúnta?”
“Mise Éamonn an Chnoic atá báite fuar fliuch
Ó shíorshiúl sléibhte ‘s gleannta.”
“A lao ghil 's a chuid, céard a dhéanfainnse dhuit
Mara gcuirfinn ort binn dhe mo ghúna;
Tá púdar go tiubh á shíorshéideadh leat,
Ó beidh muid araon múchta!”

Is fada mise amuigh faoi shneachta ‘s faoi shioc,
Ní raibh dánacht agam ar aon neach.
Mo sheisreach gan scor, mo bhranar gan cur,
Gan iad agam ar aon chor.
Níl caraid agam ‘s danaid liom sin,
A ghlacfadh mé moch nó déanach
‘S caithfidh mé dhul thar farraigí soir,
Ós ann nach bhfuil aon dhe mo ghaolta.

Ó a chumainn ‘s a shearc, ó rachaidh me seal
Fó choilltí ag spealadh na drúchta
Mara a bhfaighidh mé an bheach nó an lon ar a nead,
An fia 's an broc (poc) ag búireach.
Na héiníní binne ar ghéagíní ag seinm
'S an c(h)uaichín ar bharr an iúir ghlais,
Go brách brách ní thiocfaidh an bás inár ngaire
Ó, cois na coille cumhra.

“Who is that outside, whose voice is so urgent
Pounding my closed door?”
“I am Éamonn an Chnoic, drenched, cold and wet
From constantly travelling the mountains and glens.”
“Dearest love! My treasure! what can I do for you
Unless I were to put the lap of my dress on you.
Gunpowder blows thickly in your direction
And we will both perish!”

Long am I outside in snow and frost
Not daring to approach anyone;
My horse team still tied, my fallow field not sown
And I no longer have them at all,
I have no friends, alas!
Who would harbour me early or late
And I must go East across the sea
For it’s there I have no kindred.

My dear and my love, I will go awhile
To the woods scattering the dew
Where I will find the bee and the blackbird on its nest.
The doe and badger (stag) bellowing;
The little birds singing on the twigs
And the cuckoo on the top of the green yew
And for ever and ever death will never
Come near us in beside the fragrant wood.

Jean Redpath sings Ned of the Hill

Oh, dark is the evening and silent the hour
Oh, who is that minstrel by yon shady tower?
Whose harp is so tenderly touching with skill
Oh, who could it be but young Ned of the Hill?
And he sings, “Lady love, will you come with me now?
Come and live merrily under the bough—
I'll pillow your head where the light fairies tread
If you will but wed with young Ned of the Hill.”

Young Ned of the Hill has no castle or hall,
No bowmen or spearmen to come at his call.
But one little archer of exquisite skill
Has loosed a bright shaft for young Ned of the Hill.
It is hard to escape to this young lady's bower
For high is the castle and guarded the tower,
But where there's a will there's always a way
And young Eileen is gone with young Ned of the Hill.