Sweet County Down

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter VII

Downshire’s noble county is known as “Sweet County Down,” and the appellation has inspired a song by Rev. David Gordon, bearing the same title, to the old Irish air of “Robin Adair.” Mary Banim in “Here and there through Ireland,” relates how in passing by a National School she heard the pupils singing this song, of which the following is the first verse:—

“Dear are thy hills to me

Sweet County Down;

Lov’d thy glens are to me

Dear County Down;

Wherever I wander

I grow but the fonder

Of thy wave-like hills,

Sweet County Down.”

It has also another claim to distinction in being the burial place of the apostle of Ireland and two others of its greatest saints.

“In Down three Saints one grave do fill,

Bridget, Patrick, and Columbkille.”

This is the rhyming translation of an ancient Latin distich made at the time of the “discovery” of the remains, as related by Giraldus Cambrensis, who was here in that year (1185). A different English version of the distich is given in Thomas Wright’s translation of “The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis,” (1881):—

“Patrick, Columba, Brigit, rest in glorious Down;

Lie in one tomb and consecrate the town.”

This is rather diffuse and not nearly so close to the Latin original as the first from Harris’s “Ware,” 1736.