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Irish Bodhrans

Very old poem about Cushendun by John McCambridge

If only I were in Articoan


John McCambridge


If only I were in Articoan,

Near that mountain that is far away,

O King! My visit would be light-hearted

To the Cuckoos’ Glen on Sunday.


Chorus             Agus och, och éirí ‘lig is ó

Éirí lionndubh is ó

‘Sé mo chroí atá trom is é leonta. 

(My heart is heavy and wounded).


Many’s a Christmas I would be,

In Cushendun when young and foolish,

Hurling on the white strand,

My white hurl in my hand.




Am I not miserable here by myself,

Not hearing the voice of cock, blackbird or corncrake,

Sparrow, thrush, or even the snipe,

And I do not even recognise Sundays.




Many’s the sight that I saw

From Garron Point to the Moyle,

A great fleet driven by the wind;

And King Charlie’s armada.




If I were in Cushendun

Where all my friends are,

I would find music there, drink and games,

And I would not die alone.




May seven curses on the world,

It is more treacherous than death;

It lured me from my own people,

As the lamb would be lured from the sheep.




If only I had a skiff and oar

I would row upon the flood-tide,

Hoping to God to arrive safely,

So that I will be in Ireland where I die.








A background to the song Ard a’ Chuain:


This is the best-known and probably the finest Gaelic song that has survived fromCounty Antrim.  It has a lovely air that has survived a drawing-room English language semi-translation and trained singers.


This song was composed in the 19th century by John McCambridge, from Glendun, in the Glens of Antrim.  According to the story, he had been considering emigrating to the Mull of Kintyre, which is so close to the Antrim coast that you can see individual houses on a clear day.  In this version of the story, McCambridge stood on the top of Articoan, imagining himself over in Kintyre looking back on his native soil, and wrote this song of exile.  The song made him so homesick that he decided not to go, and spent the rest of his days in Ireland.  There is some poetic truth in this story but, inevitably, it seems to be more complicated that that.


John McCambridge (1793 – 1973) was born in Mullarts, near Glendun, and is buried in Layde churchyard between Glendun and Glenballyeamonn.  His tomb is partly in Irish.


The townland of Articoan is a mile west of Cushendun, rising north from the River Dun to a height of about 500 feet.  There is a multiplicity of Gaelic versions of the placename, and an equal multiplicity of interpretations: Airdí Cúing, Ard a’ Chúíng, Aird an Chúmhaing, Ard a’ Chuain, Airdí Chuain, Ard Uí Choinn.  The first element, no matter how it is spelt, probably means a height; all the trouble arises from the final element(s).


Dr Pat McKay of the Placenames Project in Queens University Belfast says that there is no authoritative version of the name, but tentatively recommends Ard a’ Chuain – the height of the harbour, or the height of the bay (Cuan in Scottish Gaelic also means the sea).  Seán Mac Maoláin argues for Áird a’ Chum[h]aing (= the height of the narrow strip of land) because the townland is well back from the sea, and follows the narrow defile at the head of the glen, reminds us that the noun ‘cúng’ also means a narrow defile between two heights.  The townland itself is long and narrow, and there is an Alticoan in the next glen.

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