Sunday, September 04, 2005

A song for the Gypsy Chief

While rummaging in Pandora's costumes, I found this absolutely fabulous hat - it makes me feel like Stevie Nicks. So I sang this song for the Gypsy Chief - it's by English folksinger Ewan McColl, who wrote it sometime back in the 60s. I was amazed that a man who was not born a traveller could express our feelings so well - ah, the magic of the true poet. I first heard it performed by the Dubliners in a smoky Manchester folk club. You can listen to a snippet of it performed by the wonderful Luke Kelly at
I think the GC liked it, he came over all teary...

(Ewan McColl)

I'm a freeborn man of the travelling people
got no fixed address with nomads I am numbered
country lanes and by ways are always my ways
I never fancied being lumbered

Oh I've known the woods all the resting places
the small birds sang when winter time was over
then we'd pack our load and be on the road
they were good times for the rover

There was open ground where a man could linger
stay a week or two for time was not your master
then away you'd jog with your house and dog
nice and easy no need to go faster

Now and then you'd meet up with other travellers
hear the news or else swap family information
at the country fair we'd be meeting there
all the people of the travelling nation

Oh I've known life hard and I've known it easy
and I've cursed the life when winter days were dawning
but I've danced and sang through the whole night long
seen the summer sunrise in the morning

I've made willow creels and the heather besoms
lifted taties pu'd the berries and gaed hawkin'
and I've lain there spent happed up in the tent
and we listened to the old folks talking

All you freeborn men of the travelling people
every tinker rolling stone and gypsy rover
winds of change are blowing old ways are going
your travelling days will soon be over.


At 7:10 AM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

I liked this a lot!

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Megan Warren said...

Thank you for this post, I was raised with his music, my father was raised in Dublin and I grew up with the likes of the Dubliners and Luke Kelly. I met them on a couple of occasions. thank you for reminding me. My favourite song that Luke Kelly sang was Simplicity.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Gail Kavanagh said...

Wasn't he wonderful? I remember how hearing his voice affected me - so full of liufe and emotion. He was the greatest Irish folksinger. Did you know they named a bridge after him over the Tolka River?


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