Editor's Note: Shane MacGowan, the iconic frontman for The Pogues, died on November 30, 2023. We're resharing this piece, first published in 2022, in tribute to him.

Shane MacGowan and Christy Moore's "Spancil Hill" duet brought together two of the most formidable forces in Irish music.

Introducing the legendary singers for their "Late Late Show" duet was Gay Byrne, a pioneer of Irish television and radio who died in 2019.

In this clip from 1994, Moore, sporting a simple black top, and MacGowan, donning his dark sunglasses and holding a cigarette, shake hands before launching into their emotive rendition of "Spancil Hill."

"Myself and Shane are going to have a go at a song from a long time ago," Moore says and he begins strumming his guitar.

"I'm gonna sing his version and he's gonna sing my version," Moore said, which was met with laughs.

The song "Spancil Hill" was composed by Michael Considine (1850–73), who was born in Spancil Hill in Co Clare and later migrated to the US. 

The ballad bemoans the plight of the Irish emigrants who so longed for home from their new lives in America. This song is sung by a man who longs for his home in Spancill Hill, Co Clare, his friends, and the love he left there. All the characters and places in this song are real.

Considine spent his first few years of emigration in Boston before moving west to follow the gold rush in California. He fell into bad health at the very young age of 23 and it was during this time that he wrote the poem of Spancil Hill which then turned into a ballad. Considine did not see past his 23 years and died in 1873.

Before he succumbed to death he managed to send his ballad to his six-year-old nephew John Considine in Clare who kept it safe.

In the ballad, we hear the emigrant pine for the girl he left behind. In Michael Considine’s case, he left Spancil Hill for America with the intention of bringing his sweetheart over when he had made enough money but, sadly it never materialized.

An immensely popular song, "Spancil Hill" has been recorded by Christy Moore as well as The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones, The Corrs, and more.

"Spancil Hill" lyrics

Last night as I laid dreaming of the pleasant days gone by,
My mind being bent on rambling and to Erin's Isle I did fly.
I stepped on board a vision, I sailed out with a will,
And I quickly came to anchor at my home in Spancilhill.

Enchanted with the novelty, delighted with the scenes,
Where in my early childhood I often times have been.
I thought I heard a murmur, I think I hear it still,
'Tis that little stream of water at the Cross of Spancilhill.

And to amuse my fancy I laid upon the ground,
Where all my school companions in crowds assembled 'round.
Some have grown to manhood, while more their graves did fill,
Oh I thought we were all young again at the Cross of Spancilhill.

It being on a Sabbath morning, I thought I heard a bell,
O'er hills and vallies sounded, in notes that seemed to tell,
That Father Dan was coming his duty to fulfill,
At the parish church of Clooney, just one mile from Spancilhill.

And when the ceremony ended, we all knelt down in prayer,
In hopes for to be ready to climb the Golden Stairs.
And when back home returning, we danced with right good will,
To Martin Moylan's music at the Cross of Spancilhill.

It being on the twenty third of June, the day before the fair,
Sure Erin's sons and daughters, they all assembled there.
The young, the old, the stout and the bold came there to sport and kill,
What a curious combination at the Fair of Spancilhill.

I went into my old home, as every stone can tell,
The old boreen was just the same and the apple tree over the well,
I missed my sister Ellen, my brothers Pat and Bill,
And I only met strange faces at my home in Spancilhill.

I called to see the neighbors, to hear what they might say,
The old were getting feeble and the young ones turning grey.
I met with tailor Quigley, he's as stout as ever still,
Sure he used to mend my breeches when I lived in Spancilhill.

I paid a flying visit to my first and only love,
She's as pure as any lily and as gentle as a dove.
She threw her arms around me, saying: Mike I love you still,
She is Mack the Ranger's daughter, the Pride of Spancilhill.

I thought I stooped to kiss her, as I did in days of yore,
Says she: Mike you're only joking, as you often were before,
The cock crew on the roost again, he crew both loud and shrill,
And I awoke in California, far far from Spancilhill.

But when my vision faded, the tears came in my eyes,
In hope to see that dear old spot some day before I die.
May the Almighty King of Angels His Choicest Blessings spill,
On that Glorious spot of Nature, the Cross of Spancilhill.