John F Headen: The history behind the great Laois song ‘The Skies O’er Ballyroan’

first_imgSkies O’er Ballyroan LyricsI love the sunny shores of FranceI love the Italian skiesWhere beauty beams o’er fields and streamsAnd nature reigns sublimeI love the Alps, the winding RhoneThe classic Po and RhoneBut ten times more do I adoreThe skies o’er BallyroanThe golden sun ne’er shone uponA sweeter little townThe purling rill that runs the millThough hazel shades run downThe moat high crowned with noble treesIts origins unknownIts silver grays illume the placeFor miles round BallyroanThe chapel spire high over allPoints to the crystal skyThe vesper’s chimes proclaim the timeWhen evening worships nightAnd home the hearty workman hikesHis hour of toil now flownWith songs of cheer and Scully’s beerEnlivens BallyroanOh Ballyroan, me native homeWith grief my heart is soreWithin my breast and you oppressedI’d act the hero’s partIf I should fall for Ireland’s causeLike Emmett and Wolfe ToneThen my last sigh to God on highWould be for BallyroanBallyroan Gaels celebrate after winning the SFC final at O’Moore park in 2006. Picture: Alf HarveyBallyroan Gaels celebrate after winning the SFC final at O’Moore park in 2006.Picture: Alf Harvey.Martin Scully who was originally from Ballyroan was Mayor of Conneticut in the USA from 1914 to 1918Scully’s Skies O’er Ballyroan pub in the village of BallyroanSEE ALSO – Remember the Game: Ballyroan-Abbey win Leinster club title in 2008 TAGSBallyroanSkies Oer Ballyroan Home Columnists John F Headen: The history behind the great Laois song ‘The Skies… Columnists Facebook Pinterest By John Headen – 29th March 2020 One of the most popular Laois songs is The Skies O’er Ballyroan. Written nearly 150 years ago, it has been recorded by various artists including Dolores Keane, Danny Doyle, Sean Tyrrell, Chris Andretti and othersDolores Keane credits Thomas Hodges, a schoolmaster in Ballyroa,n with writing the song in the 1870s. Hodges emigrated to Waterbury in Conneticut a city about 80 miles north east. of New York, bringing the song with him.Waterbury is known as the Brass capital of America because of Brass ware manufacturing. Hodges’ family had a Brass and Bell foundry at 99 Middle Abbey St in Dublin in the mid 19th century.Waterbury was the emigration city for the parish of Abbeyleix in the years after the famine.A book by American author Janet Maher called From the Emerald Isle to the Brass City published in recent years records the links between Ballyroan,Abbeyleix and Waterbury.Martin Scully born in Mount Eagle in 1856 was the Lord Mayor of Waterbury from 1914-18. His son Vincent was Lord Mayor from 1940-43.The graveyard in Waterbury records a lot of  names from Abbeyleix ParishThe Skies O’er Ballyroan was a popular song amongst Laois emigrants in nearby New York city and in the 1920s  Phil Fitzpatrick, a policeman with the NYPD, and a native of Aughavas, Co Leitrim liked the song so much that he wrote his own words to Hodges song which he called Lovely Leitrim. Phil Fitzpatrick sadly lost his life on duty during a botched robbery in 194.Larry Cunningham recorded Lovely Leitrim in 1965 and it was in Ireland’s Top 10 for four weeks.Thomas Hodges qualified as a physician and moved to Chicago where he died.The Skies O’er Ballyroan still remains a favourite with Laois people worldwide.It also an anthem for Ballyroan folk at times of celebration – see photos below from the 2006 Laois senior football final won by Ballyroan Gaels when the song was belted out in O’Moore Park.There was also a rendition of the song when Mary Sweeney (nee Scully) was re-elected to Laois County Council last May. Pinterest RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR John F Headen: The history behind the great Laois song ‘The Skies O’er Ballyroan’ Previous articleLaois County Council takes the lead to assist citizens during Covid-19Next articleSunsets, Hannah Montana and The GOAT – It’s all in our Tweets of the Week John Headen Twittercenter_img News Bizarre situation as Ben Brennan breaks up Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael arrangement to take Graiguecullen-Portarlington vice-chair role Laois Councillor ‘amazed’ at Electric Picnic decision to apply for later date for 2021 festival Electric Picnic Facebook Electric Picnic organisers release statement following confirmation of new festival date WhatsApp Electric Picnic Twitter WhatsApplast_img read more