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A Spray Of Shamrock (1909)

'Tis but a spray of shamrock green,
From Ireland's verdant sod,
The symbol of our holy faith,
"Three persons in one God ;"
The emblem of that far-off land,
To exiled hearts so dear
A tie, that binds us to the past,
A link, we love to bear.

What recollections crowd this breast,
As on its leaves I gaze.
Old Tara's hills before me rise ;
The fires upon them blaze ;
And from their heights, a saintly nuwi
Maikes clear to all around
The saving truths; by aid of thee,
Sweet spray, from Irish ground.

And now I see a land made bright
By charity's mild sway;
From other shores across the wave
Men come to learn and pray.
A welcome kind, they always find
A home, should they remain,
Far from the balmy air of France
And sunny fields of Spain.

The scene has changed, and sorrow's shade
Is o'er the blighted isle,
For robber hordes, from shore to shore,
Our sacred fanes defile.
The priest's red blood now swells the flood
From hilltops rushing down;
The shamrock's green, has changed, I ween,
To shade of ruddy brown.

And then long years of bitter woe,
Of struggles all in vain,
Of martyrs brave, who nobly tried
To snap the despot chain
Of treachery, and butchery,
And cruelties, so base
That they cried aloud for vengeance
To God in heaven's face.

And why was this? Because the Celt
Had loved his native sod,
Because his soul revered the spots
Where Patrick's feet oft trod;
Because he would not change the faith
His fathers held of yore--
Because to him 'twas sacred earth.
The green-clad shamrock shore.

Oh, shamrock spray, my heart to-day
Leaped up in glad surprise,
As from a sister's hand you came,
To greet my longing eyes,
you bore to me across the foam
The sportive voice of spring,
The smiling streams, the budding trees,
The song the wild waves sing,

The dear old home--and scenes I loved
Before my vision spread,
'Till mingled tears of grief and joy
Upon thy leaves I shed.
And treasured by this loving heart
For ever shall thou be,
Oh, thrice blessed spray of shamrock,
From Erin, o'er the sea.



From the NSW Weekly Newspaper the Catholic Press Thursday 18 March 1909 p. 30.

It is interesting to consider the situation when this song was published. 1909 saw the build up of military and legal preparations in Australia and the rest of the British Empire, preparations that were to propel the world into the catastrophic World War (1914-1918). Ireland was still ruled from London as was almost one third of the world. This song speaks volumes about the history of Ireland and the brutality of the "robber hordes" that annexed Ireland and ultimately led to the "Easter Rebelion" in the middle of the war in 1916.

No tune given but the verses seem to fit well with the tune of the very popular Irish exile ballad "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore"


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory