A Celtic Classic

The Parting Glass

Bristol Beacon, 7th July 2012, solos from Kat Coles & Helen Spilsbury.

The Parting Glass originated in Scotland in the 17th century, and made its way over to Ireland with Scottish settlers in the early 19th century. As with most songs of this age, many different versions appeared in print, in various broadsheets and ballad collections.

Its popularity in more recent times stems from a delicate 1959 recording by Irish folk revivalists The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. It was later picked up by The Dubliners and became a staple of their repertoire, performed in their rather lustier style. The Pogues turned it into a real drinking song in the 1980s.

The most thigh-slappingly blokeish verse (‘Her rosy cheeks, her ruby lips…’) clearly presents a challenge for female singers of the song. Canadian trio The Wailin’ Jennys leave it out, Irish singer Cara Dillon substitutes a verse from an older traditional version of the song, and Sinead O’Connor just sings it anyway.