Mudcat Café message #3619997 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4808   Message #3619997
Posted By: Jim Carroll
18-Apr-14 - 08:36 AM
Thread Name: Where is Spancil Hill?
Subject: RE: Where is Spancil Hill?
Don't know whether any of this was mentioned in the aforementioned article, but I've just written a note to a version of the song which will be put up on Clare County Library website in the next few months, along with another 400-odd songs we've recorded in Clare over the last 40 years.
The Library staff are making wonderful job of the song-site - looking forward to it being finished.
Jim Carroll

Spancil Hill Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan
Note to Maureen the song documented under this title in the Roud Index is in fact a version of 'Sullivan John', not 'Spancil Hill' which doesn't have a Roud number.

The composer of this song was Michael Considine from Spancilhill, who was born around 1850 and emigrated to the USA at around 1870. Considine went with the intention of bringing his sweetheart over and for them to be married when he had made enough money for the passage. She was Mary MacNamara, known as 'Matt the ranger's daughter'; the ranger's house was within sight from the Considine home as was the tailor Quigley's, mentioned in the song.
At the age of 23, he began to suffer ill health, and after some time, realising he hadn't long to live, he wrote the poem Spancilhill, to be sent home in remembrance of his love, It was kept safe by his six-year old nephew, John Considine.
It is said that Michael Considine died sometime in 1873 and may have been buried in the Spancilhill graveyard, though these dates are disputed, not least because Mary MacNamara (usually referred to as "Matt, the Ranger's daughter, but in Straighty's version, "Nell, the farmer's daughter), who is said to have remained faithful to his memory and never married, would only have been 8 years old when Michael died.
The story goes that, in the late 1930s or early '40s, Robbie McMahon announced he was going to sing Spancilhill, when the woman of the house, Moira Keane, a relative of Michael Considine, handed Robbie McMahon the original text of the song saying "If ye are going to sing that song ye might as well sing it right." This text was confirmed some time later, around 1953, at another session, when Robbie was asked to sing it and a local, man first resisted him, saying: "Don't sing that song." When asked why not, the old man replied "because ye don't know it". Robbie sang the song anyway using the version given to him by Moira Keane. As he got into the song, he noticed the old man paying more attention, fiddling with his cap and looking a little flustered. When the song was finished the old man asked: "Where did you get that song?" McMahon told him and the old man seemed both perturbed and pleased at the same time. The old man was John Considine, the nephew of the songs' composer. John was 76 at that time and had kept his uncle's song safe for 70 years. He gave his approval to Robbie's performance after hearing that he had sung the original version.
'Straighty's' air is different to the one usually associated with the song, suggesting that he learned it from print rather than from another singer; he uses the same one for several of his songs.