O’Donnell Abú


Proudly the note of the trumpet is sounding
Loudly the war cries arise on the gale
Fleetly the steed by Lough Swilly is bounding
To join the thick squadrons on Saimer’s green vale
On, every mountaineer, strangers to flight of fear
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh
Bonnaught and Gallowglass, throng from each mountain pass
Onward for Erin, O’Donnell Abú!

Princely O’Neill to our aid is advancing
With many a chieftain and warrior clan
A thousand proud steeds in his vanguard are prancing
‘Neath the borders brave from the banks of the Bann
Many a heart shall quail under its coat of mail
Deeply the merciless foeman shall rue
When on his ear shall ring, borne on the breeze’s wing
Tirconnell’s dread warcry: “O’Donnell Abú!”

Wildly o’er Desmond the war wolf is howling
Fearless the eagle sweeps over the plain
The fox in the streets of the city is prowling
And all who scare them are banished or slain
On with O’Donnell, then, fight the old fight again
Sons of Tirconnell, are valiant and true
Make the proud Saxon feel Erin’s avenging steel
Strike for your country, O’Donnell Abú!

The O’Donnells were clan chiefs in Tirconnel, which once covered what is now County Donegal. The song’s references to sixteenth-century heroes made it especially applicable as a rallying cry for many occasions and periods.

The words are the work of Michael Joseph McCann, a professor at St Jarleth College, Tuam, County Mayo, and first appeared under the title The Clan Connell War Song in The Nation in 1843. It is sung to music written by a military bandmaster from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.

When the first Irish Government was voting on a national anthem, O’Donnell Abú ran a close second to The Soldiers Song.

Abú means onward in Gaelic.