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The Flower of Finae

[ Roud 25067 ; Ballad Index HMHS163B ; Mudcat 58153 ; Thomas Davis]

Anni Fentiman sang The Flower of Finae in 1993 on her and Dave Webber’s album Together Solo. They noted:

Words by the Irish poet Thomas Davis concerning the war of the Spanish Succession, Battle of Ramillies 1706. Anni was given the song by Nuala Harris of Dublin.

Niamh Parsons sang Flower of Finae in 1999 on her Green Linnet album Blackbirds & Thrushes. She noted:

Written for “The Nation” by Thomas Davis some time between 1842 and his death in 1845; John Moulden tells me it is a song of the Irish Brigade. It mentions the Battle of Ramillies when the Duke of Marlborough defeated the Spanish during the War of Spanish Succession in 1706. I learned this from a beautiful singer Nuala Harris who recorded it on the first Goilín tape in the 1980s. Thanks to Robbie Overson for the inspiration.

Karan Casey and John Doyle sang The Flower of Finae in 2010 on their Compass album Exiles Return. Karan Casey noted:

John suggested this extraordinary song to me and so I went off and learnt it from the equally extraordinary singing of Niamh Parsons, a wonderful Dublin singer whom I have admired for years. It was written by Thomas Davis, the great Irish patriot and poet, who was born in Mallow in 1814. Davis established “The Nation” newspaper in October 1842. He wrote many songs including The West’s Awake and dedicated his life and work to Nationalism. Sadly he only lived to thirty when he died from TB.

Niamh Boadle sang The Flower of Finae in 2015 on her WildGoose album Maid on the Shore. She noted:

A fascinating song I learned from Karan Casey whilst studying for a semester at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick. Written by Thomas Davis in the 1840s (a founding member of the Young Irelanders) its setting is the Battle of Ramillies in 1706, when the exiled Irish, the ‘Wild Geese’ led by Lord Clare, fought alongside the French against the British and Dutch armies. Seen through a love story, it reprises themes of Irish courage and resistance, with the intention of inspiring a new generation.


Niamh Parsons sings Flower of Finae

Bright red is the sun o’er the waves of Lough Sheelin,
A cool gentle breeze from the mountains is stealing,
While fair round the islets the small ripples play
But fairer than all is the flower of Finae.

Her hair is like night and her eyes like grey morning,
She trips o’er the heather as if it’s touch scorning;
But her heart and her lips are as mild as May Day,
Young Eily McMahon, the flower of Finae.

But who down the hillside like wild deer runs fleeter?
And who on the lakeside is hastening to greet her?
Who but Fergus O’Farrell, that fiery young gay,
The darling and pride of the flower of Finae.

One kiss and one clasp, and one wild look of gladness,
But why does it change all a sudden to sadness?
He has told his sad fortune he can no longer stay,
He must leave his poor Eily alone in Finae.

For Fergus O’Farrell was true to his sire-land
But the strong hand of tyranny drove him from Ireland;
He joins the brigade in the wars far away
But he vows he’ll return to the flower of Finae.

He fought at Cremona—she hears of his story,
He fought at Cassano—she’s proud of his glory;
Yet sadly she sings Siubhail a Ruin all the day
O come home my darling, come home to Finae.

Eight long years have passed till she’s nigh broken-hearted,
Her heel and her rock and her flax she has parted;
She sails with the Wild Geese to Flanders away
And leaves her sad parents alone in Finae.

Lord Clare on the field of Ramillies is charging,
Before him the Sasanach squadrons enlarging,
Behind him the Cravats, their sections display,
Beside him rides Fergus and shouts for Finae.

On the slopes of La Judoigne the Frenchmen are flying
Lord Clare and his squadrons the foe still defying;
Out numbered and wounded retreat in array,
And bleeding, rides Fergus and thinks of Finae.

In the cloisters of Ypres a banner is swaying
And by it, a pale weeping maiden is praying;
That flag’s the sole trophy of Ramillies’ fray,
This nun is poor Eily, the flower of Finae.