O'Donnell Abú

"O'Donnell Abú" is a traditional Irish song. Its lyrics were written by Michael Joseph McCann in 1843. It refers to the Gaelic lord Red Hugh O'Donnell who ruled Tyrconnell in the late sixteenth century first with the approval of the Crown authorities in Dublin and later in rebellion against them during Tyrone's Rebellion.[1] The title refers to the Gaelic war cry of "Abú," "To victory," which followed a commander's name.


Stylistically the song draws on the romantic nationalism of the mid-nineteenth century, similar to those of McCann's contemporary Thomas Davis.


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 Saimear's green vale.
On, ev'ry mountaineer,
Strangers to flight or fear,
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh.
Bonnaught and Gallowglass,
Throng from each mountain pass.
On for old 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 ears shall ring,
Borne on the breeze's wing,
Tír Chonaill's dread war-cry, "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--
All who would scare them are banished or slain!
Grasp ev'ry stalwart hand
Hackbut and battle brand--
Pay them all back the debt so long due;
Norris and Clifford well
Can of Tirconnell tell;
Onward to glory--"O'Donnell abú!"

Sacred the cause that Clan Connell's defending--
The altars we kneel at and homes of our sires;
Ruthless the ruin the foe is extending--
Midnight is red with the plunderer's fires.
On with O'Donnell then,
Fight the old fight again,
Sons of Tirconnell,
All valiant and true:
Make the proud Saxon feel
Erin's avenging steel!
Strike for your country! "O'Donnell Abú!"[1]

  1. ^ O'Donnell Abú on http://homepage.eircom.net/~vod/songs.html .

The song portrays the rallying cry for the O’Donnell clan, called to assemble at a location on the banks of the River Erne. the Bonnaught and Gallowglass were Irish and Scots mercenaries employed by O'Donnell to guard the mountain passes. They are now summoned to join the rest of O'Donnell's forces, who await the arrival of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and the Borderers who protect his lands.[2]


In the 1930s it was adopted as the anthem of the Irish Blueshirts. In the 1960s the song was recorded by the Irish folk group Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers.

The air was chosen by Radio Éireann as the station ID signal for 2RN (Radio Athlone, its main transmitter) in 1936, after a poll of listeners. A music-box version of O'Donnell Abú remains the station ID signal for RTE Radio One to this day.

See also



External links

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