Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ralph McTell: From Clare To Here

Back in 1963, Ralph McTell heard an Irish worker in England make a comment “It’s a long way from Clare to here.” Being that his coworker was from County Clare on the western side of the island, it really was a long way to his home. The phrase stuck with McTell and he built a song around the theme.

Released on his “Right Side Up” album in 1976, it is considered Ralph’s second most covered song and it has been done by The Furey Brothers, Nanci Griffith, and others; however, my favorite version is McTell’s original. I wonder which of his songs was the most covered. I would guess that “Streets of London,” which was my first experience with McTell’s music probably was his most often covered song.

The reference in the first verse to “the craic” was a Middle English term referring to conversation that was borrowed by the Irish. The original spelling was “crak” which evolved to “crack” was Gaelicized as “craic.” It is the current preferred English spelling.


There's four who share this room and we work hard for the craic
And sleeping late on Sundays I never get to Mass


It's a long way from Clare to here
It's a long way from Clare to here
It's a long, long way – it grows further by the day
It's a long way from Clare to here

When Friday comes around Terry's only into fighting
My ma would like a letter home but I'm too tired for writing


It almost breaks my heart when I think of Josephine
I told her I'd be coming home with my pockets full of green


And the only time I feel alright is when I'm into drinking
It sort of eases the pain of it and levels out my thinking


I sometimes hear a fiddle play or maybe it's a notion
I dream I see white horses dance upon that other ocean


It's a long, long way from Clare to here.

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