Morning Music: Gormlaith’s Grieving

List O'Neill - Pothole in the Sky

I don’t remember what the context was that Sheep introduced Lisa O’Neill, but she’s much more the kind of artist I could become obsessed with. She creates beautiful music that she melds to singing and lyrics that are intelligent, sad, and angry.

The appeal of dark music comes from our knowledge of the nastier sides of life. Nothing ossifies a depression like a friend trying to cheer you up. But nothing helps as much as a friend sharing your pain. And that, I think, explains the appeal of Lisa O’Neill.

That and the fact that her work is gorgeous in its simplicity.

Gormlaith ingen Murchada

We are listening today to “Gormlaith’s Grieving.” It appears to be about the Irish Queen Gormlaith ingen Murchada. History is not my thing. And Irish history is even more not my thing. All the names run together. For example, this is apparently the first reference we have to her death, “The Daughter of Murchad son of Finn, queen of Munster, dies.” I want to run for the hills.

Luckily, Wikipedia helped me out a bit. When she was a teen, Gormlaith was married to Amlaíb Cuarán when he was roughly 50. He died soon after when she was only 20.

She then married Brian Boru who would eventually become High King of Ireland (and could have already been when they married, but probably not).

According to fiction written far after her death, Gormlaith then married Irish King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, who was made King (again) after Boru died. (There is no evidence this marriage ever took place.)

Gormlaith got around a lot. And by “got around,” I mean that she was involved in a lot of diplomacy, given this is what all this is about.

Gormlaith’s Grieving

The song takes a more personal approach to Gormlaith. We find her at the funeral Brian Boru in 1014, when she would have been in her mid-50s.

She talks about how her brother and son want to send her away:

Saying I’m bad luck, Brian
It’s dangerous lying beside me.

The tone is sad but determined throughout. Early on she says, “I’ve laid down for many men.” I take this to mean that she’s done what she needed to before and that she will continue to do so. Hence the refrain, “I’ll dance from the grave.”

I might be totally wrong about this. I can’t find the lyrics anywhere and I’m not great understanding accents. But it’s a lovely song.

Lisa O’Neill’s website contains a bunch of her videos that are well worth checking out. Here is her playlist from her YouTube channel:


Pothole in the Sky album cover taken from Amazon under Fair Use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *