Wild Geese (1) (The)

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WILD GEESE [1], THE (Géanna Fiáine (Na)). AKA and see "Gage Fane," "Origin of the Harp," "Old Ireland Rejoice," "Armstrong's Farewell," "Old Head of Denis (The)," "Meeting of the Waters (1) (The)," "Todlin Hame," "My Name is Dick Kelly," "Bacah Buidhe (An)," "Cana Draigeann Eille (An)," "Tis believed that this harp." Irish, Slow Air (3/4 time). A Major (O’Neill, O’Sullivan/Bunting): G Major (O Canainn). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. This Irish air dates back to the mid 17th century and has often been used as a song tune. Perhaps the first lyrics were written in 1670 by John Fitzgerald, son of the Knight of Glin. In the next century a version called in Irish "Na Geandna Fiadaine" had its title mangled into English as "Gage Fane" and appeared in several collections. The given title commemorates the thousands of Irish soldiers who fled to France and Spain after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, preferring an honorable exile to remaining in their country when their cause was lost. These exiles sustained the national reputation afterwards under the name of the Irish Brigade in the wars on the Continent.

A legend has it that the air was sung by the women assembled on the shore at the time the troops embarked after the defeat of the Gaelic chiefs. O'Sullivan (1983) points out this is poetic license for the exodus was gradual, and not an embarkation along the lines of Dunkirk in this century, but (quoting MacGeoghan, who states in his History of Ireland {p. 599}) "within the 50 years which followed the Treaty of Limerick 450,000 Irish soldiers died in the service of France." O'Sullivan also adds the title "Na Geadna Fiadhaine" is a translation of the English "The Wild Geese," and not vice versa, but that even the Gaelic-speaking majority at the time referred to these men as "Wild Geese," for they flocked before taking flight.

Source for notated version: Bunting noted the tune from Patrick Quin, the harper, in 1803.

Printed sources: Holden (Collection of Favorite Irish Airs, vol. 2), 1806; p. 26 (appears as "Gage Fane"). Mulholland (Ancient Irish Airs), 1810; p. 5 (appears under the erroneous title "The Wild Swan"). Neale (Celebrated Irish Tunes), 1724; p. 24 (as "Gye Fiane," two settings). Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 51, pp. 46–47. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 170, p. 30. O'Sullivan/Bunting (Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland), 1983; No. 113, pp. 162–164. Thompson (The Hibernian Muse), c. 1770–1790; No. 60, p. 37 (appears as "Irish Air").

Recorded sources: Island ILPS9432, The Chieftains – "Bonaparte's Retreat" (1976). RCA 09026-61490-2, The Chieftains – "The Celtic Harp" (1993).

See also listing at:
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [1]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]




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