> June Tabor > Songs > Donal Óg

Donal Óg (Young Donald)

[ Roud 3379 ; Ballad Index K031 ; Mudcat 14957 ; trad.]

Paddy Tunney sang Donall Óg in 1975 on his Topic album The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcocks Crow.

Joyce Fisher sang Donal Ogue (Young Dan) accompanied by her brother Archie on the Fisher Family's 1966 album on the Topic label, Traditional & New Songs from Scotland. Norman Buchan noted:

This was learned by Archie from the singing of Bob Clancey of Carrick on Suir. It is a translation by Frank O'Connor of an old Irish Gaelic song. The vestiges of the epic and of an aristocratic tradition cling to it, both in the references “The Greek king's daughter” and in the imagery. They sang, says Frank O'Connor, “with their heads in the clouds of romanticism” and good luck too, if it produces verses like that:

For you took what's before me and what's behind me.
You took east and west when you wouldn't mind me.
Sun and mood from my sky you've taken
And God as well, or I'm much mistaken.

A full version of the text can be found in Frank O'Connor's Kings, Lords and Commons.

Al O'Donnell sang Donal Óg in 1978 on his Leader Tradition album Al O'Donnell 2. He and Tom Munnelly noted:

One of the most movingly told Irish songs of a girl's total obsession with her lover young Donal (Donal Óg). Even if he travels widely in the world she dearly hopes he'll return eventually to her. (A. O'D.)

On of the ‘big’ Gaelic songs it is also found in Scots tradition. Basically the theme is simple, a girl is rejected by young Donal whom she loves, but so myriad are the versions of this song that a full book has been written on it alone (Donal Óg by Seosamh Ó Duibhginn, Dublin 1960).

A number of translations are sung today and this stunningly poignant version Al learned from Séamus Ennis. (T. M.)

Roger Nicholson played Donal Óg in 1976 on his, Jake Walton's and Andrew Cronshaw's Trailer album Times and Traditions for Dulcimer.

June Tabor sang Donal Óg unaccompanied in a BBC Radio 1 John Peel session recorded on 25 January1977 and broadcast on 22 February 1977. This was published in 1986 on the EP The Peel Sessions.

Martin Simpson played Donal Óg in 1985 on the Dambuster album Buttons & Bows Volume 2: A Further Celebration of British Tunes.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Donal Óg on their 2000 album A Thousand Miles or More.

Maureen Jelks sang Donal Ogg in 2000 on her CD Eence Upon a Time. She commented:

There are many versions of this beautiful song; this one is from Al O'Donnell. I heard him sing this on my first visit to the Edinburgh festival in the late 1970's. I love his singing and versions of songs. This is one of the ‘big’ Gaelic songs which is also found in the Scots tradition. Al learned this stunningly poignant version from Séamus Ennis. It is a story of a girl's obsessive love for the young Donal and his rejection of her.

Jackie Oates sang Young Donald in 2008 on her CD The Violet Hour. She commented in her liner notes:

I first came across this song on a record by Irish singer Al O'Donnell. An Irish love song where the young girl seems obsessed with her former lover young Donald and is struggling with her grief.

Maggie Boyle sang Donal Óg in 2012 on her WildGoose album Won't You Come Away. She commented:

Here is song from my mentor, Oliver Mulligan of Co. Monaghan (and longtime London resident). About 45 years ago, my Dad brought Oliver to our home in Battersea—to teach me some serious traditional singing. I did my homework; it was no chore. I adore this song.

The Haar sang Dónal Óg on their 2022 album Where Old Ghosts Meet. They noted:

This is directly from the heart of the girl; it’s like a voice message left late at night for a lover, a message that we sense was never heard. Dónal Óg is an 18th century Irish ballad, but also appears in the Scottish tradition.


Al O' Donnell sings Donal Óg

O Donal Óg when you cross the ocean
Take me with you when you are going
At fair or market you'll be well looked after
And you shall sleep with the Greek king's daughter

O lad of fairness, O lad of redness
O lad so fair my mind's in sadness
When I think of another in your name calling
The top and the bottom of my hair starts falling

My mother ordered me to shun you
Today, tomorrow and on Sunday
Too late, in vain o'er spilt milk grieving
Closing the door on a bygone thieving

O you said you would meet me, but you were lying
Beside the sheep shed as day was dying
I whistled and called you, twelve times repeating
But all that I heard was the young lambs bleating

If you come at all, come when stars are peeping
Rap the door that makes no squeaking
My mother will ask you to name your people
And I'll say you're a sigh of the night wind weeping

I got the first kiss and from no craven
I got the second atop the stairway
The third kiss came as down you laid me
But for that one night, be still a maiden

The last time I saw you was a Sunday evening
Beside the altar as I was kneeling
It was of Christ's passion that I was thinking
But my mind was on you and my own heart bleeding

For you took what's before me and what's behind me
Took east and west when you wouldn't mind me
Sun, moon and stars from me you've taken
And God as well if I'm not mistaken