Heading home from the Parnell summer school on Wednesday afternoon, I decided to revisit a spot I had not been in for a while in the Vale of Avoca. It’s known as the Meeting of the Waters and it has been immortalised in Thomas Moore’s song. I have discovered on the website of the Library of Congress an old recording of the ballad. It was made in Camden, New Jersey in April 1919 by contralto Merle Alcock for Victor records. The harp is played by Francis J. Lapitino and the conductors are Charles Adams Prince and Josef Pasternack. Credits: Source of original recording: Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara. Inclusion of the recording in the National Jukebox, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.
Thomas Moore was born at Aungier Street in Dublin on May 28th 1779. He was educated at Trinity College. His time at Trinity came amidst the ongoing turmoil following the French Revolution and a number of his fellow students such as Robert Emmett were supporters of the United Irishmen movement, although Moore himself never was a member.
Moore is considered Ireland’s National Bard and is to Ireland what Robert Burns is to Scotland. He is commemorated in several places: by a plaque on the house where he was born, by busts at The Meeting of the Waters and at Central Park, New York, as well as by a large bronze statue near Trinity College Dublin. Many composers have set his poems to music. They include Gaspare Spontini, Robert Schumann, Hector Berlioz, Charles Ives, William Bolcom, Lori Laitman, Benjamin Britten and Henri Duparc.
The Avoca River starts life as two branches, the Avonmore (Abhainn Mhór, meaning “Big River”) and the Avonbeg (Abhainn Bheag, meaning “Small River”). These join together at the Meeting of the Waters in the Vale of Avoca, which is considered a local beauty spot, and was celebrated by Thomas Moore in the following verses:
“There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet, As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet; Oh, the last rays of feeling and life must depart, Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.”
The village of Avoca is situated on the river. The Avoca flows into the Irish Sea at Arklow where it widens into a large estuary, giving the town its name in Irish: An t-Inbhear Mór (the big inlet).