Peter Cunningham-Grattan (The Roving Bard) was an enigmatic songwriter/poet and musician who travelled the roads of Wicklow until his death on 4th July 1956. He is buried in Rathdrum graveyard, just outside Rathdrum. Father Padraig McCarthy was a curate in St Mary and St Michaels Parish in Rathdrum in the early 2000, with the help of some Roundwood locals, he gather many a verse written by Peter Cunningham Grattan, the fruits of his research into this prolific man of the roads who kept his cards close to his chest as far as his origins were concerned.
Peter Cunningham-Grattan who was born, in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Northern England around 1884.
He was a prolific songwriter who signed his works with "The Roving Bard". He travelled in Ireland but spent most of his time in County Wicklow between about 1920 and 1956 when he died in St Colman's Hospital, Rathdrum. He would stay the winter months in the county home and for the summer months he would travel from village to village from fair to fair, to entertain the fair goers.
It is thought that he worked as a journalist in his younger days and that his father was a Doctor. He played a tin-whistle and a fiddle and he busked in Ireland. He may have been a veteran of World War One.
Thanks to Pauline and Bernadette for the information.
THE ROVING BARD "PETER CUNNINGHAM-GRATTAN
CAN BE SUNG TO THE AIR OF THE OULD ORANGE FLUTE
Come all you old misers wherever u be
Stop counting you dollars and listen to me
You may lengthen your days and all sorrows did dwell
Midst the soulful influence of Barry's hotel
It would do your heart good for to see the grand sights
When the good boys roll in on a Saturday night
With the dancing and singing sweet music so well
For you'd feel like a merchant in Barry’s hotel
There was Jordan Fitzpatrick and the O’Shaughnessy’s too
The boss and the bard just to mention a few
You may sneer at Old Nick from the safe side of hell
When you're moving in society in Barry’s hotel
There's a ring board at had if you're out of the game
If you hadn’t had practice you need not have shame
You can bring your own rings and the truth i will tell
There are two lovely barmaids in Barry’s hotel
If you every get married you nowhere to dine
Bring your sweetheart to Barry’s they'll treat you divine
With the table deluxe and your tummy to swell
Then of for a joy-ride from Barry’s hotel
When closing time comes you'll hear the boys hum
As homeward they're bound thought the streets of Rathdrum
Happy are they ‘Neath the magical spell
Neath the soulful influence of Barry’s hotel
Now here's to John Barry and his canary juice
His two charming barmaids so sprightly and spruce
To the gamester and songster who live for to dwell
On a Saturday evening in Barry’s hotel
THE BANKS OF AVONMORE
Air: Sweet Glaway Bay
The silvery moon shone bright and clear o’er Clara woodlands green.
A tender youth stood downcast near a weeping sad colleen.
The teardrops from the drooping eye each rosy cheek steamed o’er,
They’d met that night to say goodbye on the banks of the Avonmore.
He pressed her to his throbbing breast and murmured, “Sweetheart true,
This night my ship sails for the west, my heart I leave with you.
I’ll pray to heaven both night and day while on a foreign shore
To guard you, true love, far away on the banks of Avonmore.
‘Twas not the rustling of the trees, nor banshee’s eerie wail,
Nor yet the sighing western breeze that crooned through Clara Vale
That made her tender heart to mourn – the boy she did adore
Full well she knew would ne’er return to the banks of the Avonmore.
The scene had changed: proud England’s sons in Flanders stood at the bay;
Against walls of steel and thundering guns that allied ranks gave way.
From U.S.A. a strong convoy sped swiftly to the fore
And in their midst a Wicklow boy from the banks of the Avonmore.
Across the shell-torn plains of France the Prussian lines draw near;
In vain they met that wild advance by those exiled sons of Eire.
Victorious through that deadly fray the Stars and Stripes waved o’er
Where her true love fell far away from the banks of the Avonmore.
A few short years have come and gone; again the moon shines clear.
No more that maid strays sad and lone to shed a silent tear.
But faithful to her soldier love they’ve met to part no more
On a brighter land far far above the bank of the Avonmore
On a hallowed spot far o’er the wave, beneath the Belgique skies
A rude cross marks a soldier’s grave wherein her hero lies.
And by his native mountains steep on Erin’s lovely shore
His true love rests in slumber deep by the banks of the Avonmore.
Here’s to Wicklow hills and dales and colleens sweet and true;
Likewise those fearless stalwart Gaels no foe could e’er subdue;
Brave Michael Dwyer and Billy Byrne who roved the mountains o’er
And laughed their alien foe to scorn by the banks of the Avonmore.
The Banks of Avonmore. The story of death on an alien battlefield and broken hearts in Wicklow, written by the late Peter Cunningham-Grattan (The Roving Bard)