Category Archives: songs

Saint Brigid’s cross

Last night I performed my latest song for the audience at Saint Brigid’s parish, Cabinteely.  New Dublin Voices were doing a concert to raise money for a charity called Preda that helps children in the Philippines.  The priest had suggested that it would be nice to have a new hymn composed for the occasion and I took on the challenge.

Saint Brigid's cross

I didn’t know much about Brigid, but quickly discovered that she is patron saint of four main groups: babies, farmers, travellers and a last set to do with creativity and fire.  This last group – comprising blacksmiths, poets, scholars and printing presses – was interesting to me.  Some of the ideas associated with Brigid’s day come from the ancient pagan goddess of the same name.  She was considered a goddess of fire and was thought to manifest herself through poetry (seen as the ‘flame of knowledge’ in ancient Gaelic culture), song and craftsmanship.  Brigid’s day (the first of February) is the first day of Spring in the Irish tradition and Saint Brigid crosses are made.  It would have been common in some households to burn the cross from the previous year in a symbolic act of renewal.

I wanted the song to be for the listeners, an invocation to think about the people, now and through the ages past, for whom Brigid was a source of inspiration and hope.  Consideration, appreciation and love of others is something we can all strive for and practice.  With or without words.

(click on the title to play…)

Saint Brigid’s cross

Burn like a mother’s love
For her newborn child
And its tiny beauty.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for the tiny children.

Burn like a farmer’s limbs
When the work is done,
When the day is over.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for the farmer working.

And the simple cross
Hanging on the wall
Can remind us all
Of springtime’s promise. (repeat)

Burn like the stars above,
Guiding trav’llers home
From a tiring journey.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for their safe return.

Burn like a great idea,
One that thrills the ear
And delights the mind.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for the truth to shine.

And the simple cross
Hanging on the wall
Can remind us all
Of springtime’s promise. (repeat)

(lyrics and music © Jonathan Wilson 2009)

two new recordings

These tracks were recorded by my talented friend Paul Donnan in the beautiful entrance hall of Powerscourt in County Wicklow.  I have a fascination, inherited from my father, with Irish ‘Big Houses’.  Powerscourt has its own special sadness – it was destroyed by fire in 1974 – and this is never far from one’s thoughts within its bare-brick interior (restored in 1996).  I dare you to examine unmoved the photos of the house from before the fire that are displayed inside.

It was a real treat to be playing my songs in that place while the winter night seethed with jealousy outside.

I chose two: my latest song, ‘Face in a frame’ and a song I wrote about five years ago which I call ‘Little boy’.  I realise now that it’s finally recorded that it’s as much about the little girl…any ideas on what it should be called?  (Paul called it ‘Tonight’.)  Click on the titles to listen.

Face in a frame

Carry my love over the ocean; bring him back here, back to my arms.  Accuse me of greed – I don’t care for reason – I just know I need him keeping me warm.  The neighbours are kind – they smile and make small talk – but I politely decline when they ask to tea.  I couldn’t help counting the chairs at the table.  The catch in my throat: “No, everything’s fine”.  Your face in a frame (last summer’s vacation).  Your coat on a hook on the back of the door.  I walk in the rain reliving old memories; each line on your face the same as before.  Our boy’s growing tall, he’s stronger each day now.  He asks me no questions, I tell him no lies.  I can see in his face that he wants to protect me.  I wonder can he see the same thing in mine?  Your face in a frame (our boy on your shoulders).  Your coat on a hook on the back of the door.  I’ll try to explain when he’s a bit older.  Oh why can’t things stay the same as before?

Little boy

Little boy, what have you done?  Little boy, what have you done?  You’re so big and strong.  You’re so big and strong.  Little girl, what have you done?  Little girl, what have you done?  You’re so beautiful.  You’re so beautiful.  Tonight the angels rejoice over you.  Little boy, what have you done?  Little boy, what have you done?  I’ll wipe your tears away.  I’ll wipe your tears away.  Little girl, what have you done?  Little girl, what have you done?  I’ll wipe your tears away.  I’ll wipe your tears away.  Tonight the angels rejoice over you.