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Updated 03/07/2017


Let Erin Remember the Days of Old

The melody of Let Erin Remember the Days of Old is based on "The Red Fox".  The lyrics by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852) tell the story of heroic Malachi, the 10th century King of Ireland, who successively defeated two Viking champions in hand-to-hand combat taking a collar of gold from the neck of one, and carrying off the sword of the other, as trophies of his victory.

Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill (948 - 2 September 1022), also called Máel Sechnaill Mór, Máel Sechnaill II, anglicized Malachy II, was King of Mide and High King of Ireland. His great victory at the Battle of Tara against Olaf Cuaran in 980 resulted in Gaelic control of the Kingdom of Dublin.   Olaf Cuarán, King of Dublin, summoned auxiliaries from Norse-ruled Scottish Isles and from Man and attacked Meath, but was defeated by Máel Sechnaill at Tara. Reginald, Olaf's heir, was killed. Máel Sechnaill followed up his victory with a siege of Dublin which surrendered after three days and nights.

The Red-Branch Knights were a hereditary order of the chivalry in Ulster.  Military orders of knights were very early established in Ireland: long before the birth of Christ we find an hereditary order of Chivalry in Ulster, called Curaidhe na Craiobhe ruadh, or the Knights of the Red Branch, from their chief seat in Emania, adjoining to the palace of the Ulster kings, called Teagh na Craoiobhe ruadh, or the Academy of the Red Branch; and contiguous to which was a large hospital, founded for the sick knights and soldiers, called Bronbhearg, or the House of the Sorrowful Soldier."

Lough Neagh, sometimes Loch Neagh, is the largest freshwater lake in Northern Ireland.  Its name comes from Irish: Loch nEachach, meaning "Lake of Eachaidh”.  The origin of the lake and its name is explained in an Irish tale that was written down in the Middle Ages.  According to the tale, the lake is named after Echaid, who was the son of Mairid, a king of Munster. Echaid falls in love with his stepmother, a young woman named Ébliu. They try to elope, accompanied by many of their retainers, but someone kills their horses. In some versions, the horses are killed by Midir. Óengus then appears and gives them an enormous horse that can carry all their belongings. Óengus warns that they must not let the horse rest or it will be their doom. However, after reaching Ulster the horse stops and urinates, and a spring rises from the spot. Echaid decides to build a house there and covers the spring with a capstone to stop it overflowing. One night, the capstone is not replaced and the spring overflows, drowning Echaid and most of his family, and creating Loch n-Echach.


Lyrics by Thomas Moore

Let Erin remember the days of old,
Ere her faithless sons betray'd her;
When Malachi wore the collar of gold,
Which he won from her proud invader;
When her kings, with standard of green unfurl'd,
Led the Red-Branch Knights to danger;
Ere the emerald gem of the western world
Was set in the crown of a stranger.

On Lough Neagh's bank as the fisherman strays,
When the clear, cold eve's declining,
He sees the round towers of other days
In the wave beneath him shining;
Thus shall memory often, in dreams sublime,
Catch a glimpse of the days that are over;
Thus, sighing, look through the waves of time
For the long-faded glories they cover.