On the fifth day of our journey, we went to visit Lillis Ó Laoire at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is a Séan-nos singer and Head of School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. While preparing for the filming we had found a video on the internet where he sings A Stór mo Chroí. He also knows a lot about the background of the song. It was a very interesting interview. Lillis sang several songs for us and explained their origins.
A Stór mo Chroí (Treasure of my Heart) was written by Brian O’Higgins (1882 – 1963) at a time when emigration was very prevalent. He used the melody of an Irish air, Bruach na Carriage Báine. It was published in his collection of verse Glen na Mona, in 1929. Other songs, for example Bruach Dún Réimhe by a South Ulster poet called Art Mac Cooey, (died in 1773) use a very similar melody.
There is some interesting background information in Lillis’ book “Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song Man” by Sean Williams, Lillis Ó Laoire (Chap. 5, pg. 132-135). Joe Heaney made the song quite popular as an emigration anthem.
We asked Lillis what would be an appropriate spot to film the air. He suggested we go to the iconic Benbulben in county Sligo. This is a magnificent rock formation that was said to be home of the Fianna, a band of warriors from the 3rd century. Who knows, this melody may even have been sung here in those days!
In the afternoon of that day, after filming Buachaill ón Éirne, it looked like we were going to have a beautiful sunset. We drove around in the Sligo area to find a nice spot near the sea. We did find a spectacular place next to a camping site. But rain set in. Yet we had enough time to record one good take of A Stór mo Chroí.