The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48023   Message #718774
Posted By: Alice
28-May-02 - 11:10 AM
Thread Name: DTStudy: Spancil Hill
Subject: RE: DTStudy: Spancil Hill
Subject: RE: Where is Spancil Hill?
From: Frank McGrath
Date: 28-Apr-98 - 10:17 AM

Robbie McMahon promised to start writing out his history and stories relating to the song "Spancilhill" but here is a little sample just to keep the thread current. The song I will have in two days and the full history in another a week or two.

The author of "Spancillhill", Michael Considine, was born around 1850 and emigrated to the USA from Spancillhill around 1870. Working in Boston for about two years, he went to the USA with the intention of bringing his sweetheart over and for them to be married when he had made enough money for the passage. "Johnny you're only jokin'...." a line from the current version, in the original, of course, reads... "Mike you're only jokin' " His sweetheart was "Matt the Ranger's Daughter" and not Matt the Farmer's daughter as in the popularised version. The Ranger's house was visible from Michael Considine's house as was the Taylor Quigley's.

He stayed in Boston for two years or so before moving to California. He suffered from ill health for a long time and, knowing he hadn't long to live, he wrote the poem "Spancilhill" to send home in rememberence of his love and it was kept safe by his 6 year old nephew, John Considine.

Michael Considine died sometime in 1873. And it seems he go home somehow (I don't know yet whether it was dead or alive) as he is buried in Spancilhill garveyard, close to where Robbie has a little plot chosen. Robbie reckons there will be a mighty session in Heaven and Spancilhill when that day comes around (hopefully a long time from now).

In the late 1930's or early 40's, Robbie was in a neighbours house with some friends singing when someone suggested singing "Spancillhill". The woman of the house, Moira Keane, left the room and when she came back said, "If ye are going to sing that song ye might as well sing it right" and she gave Robbie the original song.

Some time later at another session in the parish Robbie was asked to sing "Spancilhill" when a gruff voice in the corner growled out "Don't sing that song". When asked "why not?" the voice barked back " 'Cos ye don't know it."

Robbie, however insisted he did and launched into the version he'd gotton from Moira Keane. After singing a few lines Robbie noticed the gruff man sitting up and paying attention. As Robbie progressed with the song the gruff man foostered more and more with his cap and became agitated. When the song ended, the gruff voice in the corner demanded "Where did ya get that song?". The gruff old man seemed both perturbed and pleased.

Robbie explained the source. Moira Keane was the gruff man's aunt and the gruff man was 76 year old John Considine, who had kept his uncle Mike's song safe for 70 years.

Robbie has given me permission to put his address and phone details here for anyone who wants to contact him directly. (But please be mindful of the time differences and don't phone him at unsocial hours.) He has his own cassette tape (no CD yet) which he sells for £5 (1 Irish Pound = US$ 1.38 approx.) plus postage (price in 1998).

Robbie McMahon
Co. Clare

Ph: 065 29874
Ph: 011 353 65 29874 (from the USA)
Frank McGrath
Nenagh Singers Circle
A newspaper article published in 2002 in the Irish Independent identified Robbie McMahon as 75 years of age, making his birth date approximately 1927. If this is true, his meeting with John Considine happened when he was quite young - or it conuld be an indication of possible discrepancies in his story. -JRO-