27 May 2022

Watch: Inish May Day song for Ukraine

Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh joined by the Henry Girls in 'Samhradh! Samhradh!'

On this, May Day, Inishowen musician and artist, Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh, has dedicated this performance of 'Samhradh! Samhradh!' (Summer! Summer!) to the people of Ukraine.

Seoirse was joined by the internationally renowned Henry Girls of Inishowen: Lorna, Karen and Joleen McLaughlin, on the recording, and Aidan McLaughlin and Thérèse McKenna, added what he described as "further colourful inputs".

Speaking to Inish Live, Seoirse said: "Happy May Day to you all. This is for all our Ukrainian friends.

"'Samhradh! Samhradh!' is an ancient Irish May Day song, Lá Bealtaine. It has been beautifully compiled here by John Ward of the Racontour (

"Fittingly, the song has some Ukrainian references. When I was recording my album Crimson Moon (2018) I got the idea of interpolating a Tchaikovsky piece into the arrangement. This came about when I realized that several melodic phrases in the introductory part of the Andantino simplice to his First Piano Concerto were almost identical to phrases in the song.

"The Russian composer frequently used Ukrainian folk tunes in his works. In this case, he uses a simple, expressive melody beautifully decorated like the floral offerings of the Irish May-Day children. Tchaikovsky’s music, like the song itself, is absolutely glittering in sunshine. The recording is further enhanced by the superb musicianship of the Henry Girls: Lorna, Karen and Joleen McLaughlin," said Seoirse.

According to Seoirse, 'Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn' ('Samhradh! Samhradh!') was sung by groups of children in 1662 to welcome the Duke of Ormond to Dublin as the Lord Lieutenant after the Restoration.

"It was sung again in 1689 when Patrick Sarsfield and King James landed at Kinsale.

"Although it displays a certain modernity, derived from continuous oral tradition, the medieval origins of this May Day song are plainly visible. Musically, it resembles the French estampie and verelai. Its wide melodic leaps of a sixth are typical of other music from the medieval period. 

In County Louth, this song, within living memory, used to be sung by the youths and maidens on May Eve while they carried around the  Bábóg na Bealtaine (May Baby) from house to house.


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