Is the 16th-century song Róisín Dubh a metaphor for Ireland or about a Franciscan led astray by a woman’s beauty?

Was Róisín Dubh truly a song about Ireland or was it about a friar’s love for a woman! The question will be raised by former RTE Director General Cathal Goan as a keynote speaker at the Micheal O’Cleirigh Summer School in May.

He will examine if the 16th-century song Róisín Dubh – Black Rose - is truly a metaphor for Ireland or a song of a Franciscan led astray by a woman’s beauty.

The song has references to friars out on the brine and to the Erne, which passes through the County Donegal town of Ballyshannon, close to where Franciscan Brother Micheal O’Cleirigh was born at Creevy.

Goan, whose family has links to Creevy, may reveal a unique insight to the song. His wife, traditional singer Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill, recorded Roisin Dubh.

Her aunt, Neili Ni Dhomhnaill, also recorded a version of the song which Mr Goan said gave him the idea for the title of his address: “Roisin Dubh – the story of Ireland or a Franciscan led astray.”

Micheal O’Cleirigh’s role as head of the Four Masters who worked from 1632 to 1636 to produce the all-encompassing annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, is annually remembered at the Summer School.

The fifth school will take place in Rossnowlagh, County Donegal, from May 11 to 13 in the local Franciscan Friary hall and the nearby Sand House Hotel.

The school, whose chairperson is keen historian and Belleek pottery designer Fergus Cleary, includes the first official gathering of Clan Cleary. They will come from families named Cleary, O’Cleirigh, Clery and Clarke.

Theme of the school this year is “Annals and Earls” and there will be focus on the Earls of Tir Chonaill and Tir Eoghain.

James O’Neill, author of best-selling book “The Nine Years War: 1593-1603”, will outline on day two of the school how Aodh Rua O’Neill and the O’Donnell clan, backed by Phillip 11, King of Spain, fought the forces of Elizabeth 1 in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of Ireland.

Website details at mocleirigh.ie.

Read more: The incredible life of Ireland's last bard - Turlough O'Carolan

RTE Director General Cathal Goan, keynote speaker at the Micheal O’Cleirigh Summer School.