“Eileen McMahon”


"One night as I lay on my pillow, A vision came into my view, Of a ship sailin' out on the ocean." On deck is a beautiful girl "banished from Erin's green shore." She talks of her life as an exile. The singer wakes from his dream to see his mother's face


Frank Harte, in his notes to "Granuaile" [from Grace O'Malley](on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte," Hummingbird Records HBCD0027 (2001)) writes: "The older Gaelic poets when they wished to write on the wrongs that Ireland has suffered at the hands of the English since the invasion of Ireland in 1169, they often adopted the type of poem called 'The Aisling'. In the 'aisling', the poet is found reflecting on Ireland's woes .... He sometimes falls asleep, and in his sleep the vision of a most beautiful woman ... appears to him. The vision tells him that she is 'Ireland' ...." Zimmermann, pp. 54-55, notes that "in allegorical songs, written according to the aisling form or otherwise, the personification of Ireland is often individualized and humanized enough to be called by a proper name; this helps to identify her as a real woman.... In the eighteenth century there were many other names, but it is often difficult to decide whether a song was written originally about some particular person and acquired only later an allegorical meaning, or directly to the country known as Sile Ni Ghadhra [Sheela na Guira], Caitilin Trial [Kathleen Thrail], Caitlin Ni Uallachain [Kathleen Ni Hoolihan]..." Eileen McMahon seems to fit the pattern.

Fred McCormick comments on the "strange offering from Margaret Barry, Eileen McMahon, which turns out to be a recasting of the aisling, 'Erin's Green Shore'." (Musical Traditions site _Voice of the People suite_ "Reviews - Volume 4" by Fred McCormick - 29.1.99) The only connection I see is that both are in the aisling pattern. - BS

Plus the mentions of "Erin's green shore." When listening to the song, I was instantly reminded of "Erin's Green Shore" [Laws Q27]. The tune, however, is closer to the "Botany Bay" family.

I note that this song appears to be known only from the repertoire of Margaret Barry, though most of the themes are common.

For more on aislings, see the notes to "Granuaile." - RBW

Cross references


  • Margaret Barry, "Eileen McMahon/Green Grow the Rushes" (on IRMBarry-Fairs)
  • Margaret Barry and Michael Gorman, "Eileen McMahon" (on Voice04)


  1. Roud #9282
  2. BI, RcEilMcM


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1953 (recording, Margaret Barry)
Found in: Ireland