College Hymn

Hymn to Saint Brigid

The Hymn to St Brigid, composed in 1932, is our official College hymn. It is sung at the end of Assemblies and large gatherings…most Kilbreda girls since would still remember it once the tune begins!

Archivist’s Notes

I’ve often thought that students and staff might be wondering about the hymn’s peculiar rhymes. The original hymn had a distinctly Irish feel originally, having been composed for a very different audience. It has been adapted over the years into the version we know now, complete with its lack of rhyme and altered sense.

Alterations, made to modernize the hymn, removed archaisms such as ‘thee’ and ‘thy’, replacing them with ‘you’ and ‘your’. This results in the tenth line ending in ‘sea’ apparently rhyming with ‘you’ in the twelfth. Interestingly, by 1999, most of the archaisms remained, except for the ‘all your children’ at the start of the second verse. This ninth line has undergone the most change over the years. Composed by Mother Cecilia of Goresbridge Convent in Ireland around 1911, for a distinctly more Irish audience, as mentioned earlier, the line originally ran ‘Sweet, St Brigid, Erin’s children, far and near, o’er land and sea’. When I first sang the song in the 90s, ‘Erin’s children’ had become ‘all your children’ and nowadays we sing ‘all your people’, which is indicative of the modern desire to be inclusive of all.

A further change, which alters the rhyme, occurs in the final lines of the hymn, which asks St Brigid to ‘shield the weary tempted soul’. In the original, this rhymes perfectly with the final word ‘goal’. The intent being that our beloved patroness will guide us to ‘the bright and happy goal’ of everlasting joy in Heaven, as my grandmother would have put it.

Another change, replacing the Latin phrase ‘Sancta Mater’ with the English ‘Sainted mother’ in line 5, reflects the diminishing role of Latin in the modern church. A further change in line 4, has St Brigid casting a mother’s smile instead of turning one in the original version.

The change which irks me most, is the total change of sense made by the modern writer, who, perhaps unknowingly, changed the tense of ‘Send’ in line 8 to ‘Sent’. (More than a change of tense it is a change from Imperative mood to an Indicative past participle). This section is pleading to Brigid to send ‘faith and hope and holy love’ to us from where she is in Heaven above. The modern version implies that ‘Sweet Saint Brigid, Spouse of Jesus’ was sent to us from Heaven above, which I do not believe was the author’s intention.

Damian Smith

Hymn Lyrics

Far above enthroned in glory,
Sweetest saint of Erin’s isle,
See your people here before you,
Cast us on a mother’s smile.

Sainted mother, hear our pleading,
Faith and hope and holy love,
Sweet St Brigid, spouse of Jesus,
Sent to us from heav’n above.

Sweet St Brigid, all your people,
Far and near, o’er land and sea,
‘Mid the world and in the cloister,
Fondly turn with love to you.

Sainted mother, soothe the mourner,
Shield the weary tempted soul,
Sweet St Brigid, guide your people,
To your bright and happy home.

Sainted mother, soothe the mourner,
Shield the weary tempted soul,
Sweet St Brigid, guide your people,
To your bright and happy home.