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The Hills of Greenmore / The Granemore Hare

[ Roud 2883 ; Henry H12 ; Ballad Index MorU042 ; trad.]

Terry Woods sang The Hills of Greenmore in 1970 on Steeleye Span's first album, Hark! The Village Wait. This track was later included on at least seven Steeleye Span compilations. The sleeve notes commented:

A mighty song! But a little known one. This saga of hare hunt and its variant The Granemore Hare hail from around Keady in County Armagh. In the song the only one to get the rough end of the stick is the “pussy”. Do we detect a Monigan in the hunt? Ashley Hutchings: “This is Irish - Terry brought it in.”

The Irish Country Four sang The Granemore Hare in 1971 on ther eponymous Topic album of songs, ballads and instrumental tunes from Ulster, The Irish Country Four. A.L. Lloyd noted:

The song was written by Owen McMahon of Tassagh, Co. Armagh, a great place for hunting the hare. The poet W.R. Rodgers, himself an Armagh man, says: “In our split community hare-hunting was the only social activity in which both Catholic and Protestant participated. Why? Because it was older than either faith. Its roots ran back to prehistoric times.” Arrian of Nicomedia, eighteen centuries ago, wrote: “There would never have been a hare coursed in Greece had not the first hound been brought from Ireland.” Beagle hound, no doubt. Hares are chased on foot, with beagles, according to strict ritual, and with no pink-coated snobbery. A common folks’ sport, giving rise to common folks’ songs, and all the better for it.

Anne Briggs recorded Hills of Greenmor in 1973 but the ensuing album was shelved only to be released in 1996 as Sing a Song for You. She noted:

A Northern Irish song which I feel justified in singing as my mother came from Derry. It should be the Green Hills of Keady nor Kielder as I sing it. “Puss” is a local idiom for a hare. It's probably a fox hunt (i.e. no horses) that is celebrated in the song. I like the visual image of “dogs black and yeller and dogs black and white” flowing across the landscape.

Dick Gaughan sang The Granemore Hare on his 1977 Highway / Trailer album Kist o' Gold.

Al O'Donnell sang The Granemore Hare in 1978 on his Transatlantic / The Leader Tradition album Al O'Donnell 2.

Patsy Flynn sang The Grangemore Hare to Keith Summers, Jenny Hicks and Willie Clerkin in the latter's cottage near Magheraveely on August 4, 1980. This recording was included in 2014 on the Musical Traditions anthology of “football, hunting and other traditional songs from around Lough Erne's shore” collected by Keith Summers, The Hardy Sons of Dan. Rod Stradling noted:

Sam Henry published a version of this song—as The Hare of Kilgrain—in 1924, from the singing of William Sloan, from Dundooan, Co Donegal. Peter Kennedy recorded it for the BBC from Jimmy McKee, in Armagh, in 1952, as The Granemore Hare, as did Robin Morton from Frank Mills, of Milltown, Co Tyrone. It would seem to be an Armagh song, given the mention of Keady, and indeed, Granemore is a townland in the west of the parish of Keady.

Kevin Mitchell sang The Granemore Hare on his 1996 Greentrax CD I Sang That Sweet Refrain.

Martin Simpson sang Granemore Hare in 1999 on his live CD Bootleg USA and in 2007 on his Topic CD Prodigal Son.

James Yorkston sang Hills of Greenmor in 2009 on his CD Folk Songs.

Ciarán Boyle sang The Granemore Hare in 2012 on his Hallamshire Traditions CD Bright Flame. He noted:

I learned this from my late father Tommy. He was a fine singer. This is one of the first songs I learnt from him. i was inspired to sing this song again after many years when I saw a hare running whilst out on a walk in fields near my home.

This video shows Jon Loomes singing The Granemoor Hare in January 2015:

Niall Hanne, the grandson of Tyrone singer George Hanna, sang The Granemore Hare in 2017 on his CD Autumn Winds.

Lyrics

Steeleye Span sing The Hills of Greenmore

One fine winter's morn my horn I did blow
To the green fields of Keady for hours we did go
We gathered our dogs and we circled around
For none loves the sport better than the boys in the dell.

And when we arrived they were all standing there
We set off for the fields, boys, in search of a hare
We didn't get far till someone gave the cheer
Over high hills and valleys the sweet puss did steer

As we flew o'er the hills, 'twas a beautiful sight
There was dogs black and yellow, there was dogs black and white
As she took the black bank for to try them once more
Oh it was her last look o'er the hills of Greenmore.

In a field of wheat stubble this pussy did lie
And Rory and Charmer they did pass her by
And there where we stood at the top of the brae
We heard the last words that this sweet puss did say:

“No more o'er the green fields of Keady I'll roam
Nor trip through the fields, boys, in sport and in fun
Or hear the long horn that your toner does play
I'll go home to my den by the clear light of day.”

You may blame ol' MacMahon for killing the hare
For he's at his ol' capers this many's a year
On Saturday and Sunday he never gives o'er
With a pack of strange dogs round the hills of Greenmore.

Anne Briggs sings Hills of Greenmor

One fine winter's morning me horn I did blow
To the green hills of Kielder for hours did go
We gathered our dogs and we circled around
For who loves the sport more than the boys of the town.

And when we arrived they were all standing there
We set off for the fields in search of a hare
We didn't get far till someone gave a cheer
Over high hills and valleys the sweet puss did steer

As we flew o'er the hills, 'twas a beautiful sight
There was dogs black and yeller, there was dogs black and white
She took the black bank to try them once more
Oh it was her last lank for the hills of Greenmore.

In a field of wheat stubble this sweet puss did lie
And Rory and Charmer they did pass her by
And there where we stood at the foot of the brae
Oh, we heard the last words that this sweet puss did say:

“Oh, no more o'er the green hills of Kielder I'll roam
No skip through the fields in sport and in fun
Nor hear the loud horn your toner does play
I'll go back to me den by the clear light of day.”

You may blame MacMahon for killing the hare
He's been at his ol' capers this many's a year
Well, Saturdays and Sundays he'll never give o'er
With a pack of strange dogs round the hills of Greenmore.

Patsy Flynn sings The Grangemore Hare

On last Saturday morning our horns they did blow,
To the green fields of Tassagh our huntsmen did go.
For to meet the bold sportsmen from round Keady town,
None loved the sport better than the boys from Maydown.

Now when we arrived they were all standing there,
So we took to the green fields in search of a hare.
It was not very long 'til someone led a cheer,
Over high hills and valleys, this puss, she did steer.

With our dogs all abreast and this big mountain hare,
Sure the sweet charming music, it rang through the air.
Straight to the black bank for to try them once more,
This was her last sight round the hills of Grangemore.

These dogs they trailed on to where puss, she did lie;
Sure she sprang to her feet for to bid them good-bye.
Their music it ended, her cry we could hear,
Saying, “Bad luck to the ones brought you's Maydown dogs here.

“For last night as I lay content in my den,
It was little I was thinking of dogs or of men.
Ah, but early this morning at the clear light of day,

I could hear the long horn that young Toner did play.

“Well, now that I'm dying, sure the sport it is done,
No more through the green fields of Keady I'll run.
Nor feed in yonder valley on a cold winter's night,
Or return to my den when it's breaking daylight.

“I blame you MacMahon for bringing Coyle here,
You've been at this old caper for many's a year.
Each Saturday and Sunday, you never give o'er,
Bringing packs of strange dogs round the hills of Grangemore.”

Dick Gaughan sings The Granemore Hare

Last Saturday morning, the horns they did blow,
To the green hills round Tassagh the huntsmen did go
To meet the bold sportsmen from around Keady town,
For none loved the sport better than the boys from Maydown.

And when we arrived they were all standing there,
So we took to the green fields in search of the hare.
We had not gone far when someone gave a cheer:
Over high hills and valleys this ‘puss’ she did steer.

With our dogs all abreast and that big mountain hare,
And the sweet sounding music, it rang through the air.
Straight for the Black Bank for to try them once more
And it was her last sight round the Hills of Granemore.

And as they trailed on to where the ‘puss’, she did lie
She sprang to her feet for to bid them goodbye.
Their music, it ceased and her cry we could hear,
Saying, “Cursed be the ones brought you Maydown dogs here.”

“Last night as I lay content in the glen,
It was little I thought about dogs or of men.
But when going home at the clear break of day
I could hear the long notes that young Toner did play.

“And it being so early I stopped for a while,
It was little I thought they were going to meet Coyle.
If I had known that I'd have lain near the town
Or tried to get clear of those dogs from Maydown.

“And now I am dying, the sport is all done,
No more through the green fields round Keady I'll run,
Or feed in the glen on the cold winter's night,
Nor go home to my den when it's breaking daylight.

“My curse on MacMahon for bringing Coyle here,
He's been at his old capers for many's the year.
From Friday to Sunday, he'll never give o'er,
With a pack of strange dogs round the Hills of Granemore.”

Acknowledgements and Links

Steeleye Span version transcribed by Reinhard Zierke. Thanks to Bernard Leak for corrections.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Fields of Greenmore.