Finvola, the gem of the Roe, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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In the land of O’Cahan where the dark mountains rise,
O’er their rugged tops where the dusty cloud flies,
Deep sunk in that valley a fair rose did grow
And they called her Finvola, the gem of the Roe,
And they called her Finvola, the gem of the Roe.

From the Fair isle of Scotland appeared in my view
A lad clad in tartan as plain as it’s true,
With the star on his breast and unslung was his bow
And he sighed for Finvola, the gem of the Roe, &c.

No more up the mountain our maidens shall hie
Where wind the cold cheek that bedims the blue eye,
In silent affection our sorrow will flow
Since gone is Finvola, the gem of the Roe, &c.


The ‘land of O’Cahan’ centres on the district of Limavady and Dungiven, with which the song is associated. The text first appears, to my knowledge, in a book by Archibald M’Sparran, who was a native of Drumsurn near Dungiven and died in America in 1848. M’Sparran may have been the author of the poem: neither its text nor Eddie’s air, taken straight out of one of Moore’s Melodies, has much traditional character. Yet the local esteem in which the song is held earns it a place here: see p. 13. M’Sparran tells us that Finvola O’Cahan married a McDonnell of the Isles and died in Scotland in the early fourteenth century. Her body was brought home and buried at the Priory of Dungiven, and our poem is given out to be a translation of the lament sung by ‘the family bard to his harp’, Turloughmore O’Cahan, over the bier.