This song speaks of Penal Days when the Mass was
celebrated in secret at remote gatherings. The
"Carraig" was the "Mass rock" used as a meeting-place
and altar. According to native Irish "sean nos"
singers, the words appear as a love song, "Were you at
the Rock and did you see my Valentine?" (meaning either
the priest or the Host). However, it was a code
addressed to a disguised priest or congregant, so the
enemy would not grasp the true meaning even if he spoke
Irish. Death was the penalty for those caught at Mass.
In Penal Times, a price of 30 pounds was offered for
the head of a priest or hedge-school master, the same
as for that of a wolf.
At first glance, "An Raibh Tś ag an gCarraig" appears
to be a series of questions and answers about a young
woman, but in reality it contains a coded message. A
traditional air from the 1796 collection of "Ancient
Irish Music" of Edward Bunting. The coded message is
Were you at the Mass? I was at the Mass;
Did you see the Virgin Mary? I saw the Virgin Mary
Did you take communion? I received communion,
And say the rosary? and said the rosary
Did you see the chalice? I saw the chalice,
Did you see the sacrifice of the Mass? and saw the
sacrifice of the Mass
Did you practice the faith? And I practiced the
Are we being persecuted as they are saying? we are not
being subdued as they are saying.
Although this work was originally written for Folk
Instruments, I created this arrangement for Flute &
Celtic or Concert (Pedal) Harp.