CREGGAN CHURCHYARD (Úir-chill a' Chreagáin). AKA - "Fair Graveyard of Creggan (The)." Irish, Air (3/4 time). Ireland, Northern Ireland. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. According to Ó Canainn (1978) this is one of the great airs of the Northern tradition (it has been called 'the National Anthem of South East Ulster' by Máire Nic Domhnaill Gairbhí). It is a song of the 'Aisling' or 'vision' genre in which a maiden appears to the poet and prophsizes a return to Irish glory, and appears in Sean Ó Baoighill's Cnuasacha de Cheoltai Uladh. Creggan is a large parish that contains portions of two counties in Ireland, Louth and Armagh. The churchyard contains the ancestral burial ground of the O'Neill's, lords of Ulster.
The composer of the song "Uirchill an Chreagain" (Úir-chill a' Chreagáin) was Art MacCúmhaigh (1738-1773), bard to the O'Neills of Dunraeva, who was called Art na gCeoltaí. Henry Morris, in his book The Modern Irish Poets of Oriel, Breffni, and Meath (1906, County Louth Archeological Society) wrote that MacCúmhaigh was on the run from the 'powers that be' and was being actively hunted. He found refuge for a night in the O'Neill vault in Creggan graveyard, and thus the opening line (that he slept the previous night in Creggan Churchyard) is literally true. When MacCúmhaigh died he was buried at Creggan and the last line of his famous song was carved on his headstone:
Gurbh ag Gaeil chúmhra an Chreagáin a leagfar mé i gcré faoi fhod.
(That with the fragrant Gaels of Creggan I will be put in the clay under the sod.)
Printed source: Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 113, p. 96.
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