The headstone of the famous Lusmagh man Edward Dolan has returned home and a ceremony was held in Kilmachunna Cemetery on Sunday to mark the event.
Edward (Ned) was the author of the famous song “The Lusmagh Fields So Green”, a lilting, attractive song which is very popular in the local community.
His headstone had been in a graveyard in Australia for many years but it had to be brought back to Ireland because of a rule in the Australian graveyard which states that plots are removed if there is no living relative.
Local historian Margaret Barton told the gathering in Kilmachunna that Ned emigrated to Australia from Lusmagh 110 years ago. He was born on the 24th of February, 1886, she said, the son of Thomas Dolan and Margaret Melody.
“We mostly remember Ned because of his famous song. He worshipped in Lusmagh catholic church, where we worshipped this morning, and he went to school in Lusmagh Hall, where we will be going for refreshments after this.
“A momentous time in his life occurred in 1908 when his uncle Dan returned home for a visit from Australia. Ned decided to emigrate to Australia with his uncle. We can tell from his song that Ned, like many emigrés, was a bit lonely and down in the dumps for a while in his new country. The girlfriend he left behind him in Lusmagh was Rose Kelly. Rose eventually married Michael Sullivan and they settled in Lusmagh.”
Margaret talked about the various names referred to in his song. “He talks about ‘the Deerpark stile.’ This was on Deerpark Hill where, according to legend, the Tuatha Dé Danann, after the Battle of Moytura came to bathe and be healed. It’s from this legend that the area got its name ‘The plain of healing herbs’. He mentions the ruins of a mill in the area.
“He talks about Cruachan Street. In Cruachan there is a children’s burial ground, where unbaptised children were buried because they weren’t permitted to be buried in consecrated ground. There are a number of unbaptised children’s graveyards in the area. There is a large number of them scattered across Ireland. Fr Michael Kennedy blessed some of them in moving ceremonies over the years. I think it would be a fitting, appropriate thing to do to place a plaque at those sites.”
She said Ned grew up in a village of 22 to 24 houses in Lusmagh. Now there are only a few houses left in that area.
She said she was certain that Ned’s spirit was present with us during the ceremony in Kilmachunna. “Two years ago we erected a plaque here to local man Michael Larkin, one of the Manchester Martyrs. The ancestors of Mary Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind, also lived in the area.
“We are very happy to be welcoming home Ned’s headstone. It’s only appropriate that it should be here in the place where his heart was. A lot of work went into getting his headstone back to Lusmagh from Australia, work carried out by the members of his step family in Australia.”
Fr Michael Kennedy also spoke during the unveiling. He asked for “the Almighty’s blessing on this stone. Ned greatly loved Lusmagh. It was where his heart was. We all know the strong draw to our homeplace, to the place where we grew up. It’s one of the strongest urgings, one of the strongest impulses, of the human heart. The cliché is true – home is where the heart is. Many emigrants badly wanted to return to their homeland but sadly they never got the opportunity to return. Ned sadly was one of those. He would have empathised deeply with Daniel O’Connell who asked on his deathbed that his body go to Ireland, his heart to Rome and his soul to heaven. Daniel O’Connell knew the importance of prayer. If we forget to pray then our gestures, our statements don’t hold much sincerity. As we stand in graveyards the people from beyond the grave seem to be saying to us, ‘Remember me, remember me.’ Well in Lusmagh we certainly haven’t forgotten Ned.”
“The Lusmagh Fields So Green” is in seven verses. In the first verse the songwriter says, “In London town I do lie down upon my bed to sleep. / When I think of home and how I must roam across the waters deep, / I can’t sleep a wink whene’er I think of home and my colleen / Will I ever more see you astor or the Lusmagh fields so green.” Johnny McEvoy sings a nice version of the song, on YouTube.