The Wexford Carol is one of Ireland’s oldest Christmas Carols and is one of the oldest surviving Carols in the European tradition. Dating back to the 12th century the Wexford Carol is also known by its first line “Good people, all this Christmas time.”
History of the Wexford Carol
Thought to have originated in Co. Wexford, hence its name, many traditions have arisen around the poem and song for example it was said that only men should sing it and this seems to have been the way for many years for example it has been sung by the likes of Tom Jones and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir although since regaining popularity in the 1990’s it has been sung by women like Alison Krauss and Julie Andrews.
Putting an exact date on the origin of this Carol is difficult as although it is also sung in Irish the words seem to be translated from the English version and it seems unlikely that an Irish worded Carol would originate from English speaking Co. Wexford.
The Wexford Carol is also known as the Enniscorthy Carol, this is due to Dr. William Henry Grattan Flood (1857 – 1928) who was the organist and music director at St. Aiden’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
He was said to have transcribed it from a local singer and had it published in the year of his death 1928.
After publication it was quickly included in Carol collections all around the world, giving it, its popularity today.
The Wexford Carol has often been associated too with Bishop Luke Waddings of Ferns and his collection of Carols, The Kilmore Carols first published in 1684, long before Dr. Grattan Flood’s translation.
Bishop Waddings, whose family came from Ballycogley Castle Co. Wexford, was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns from 1683 – 1692 and lived in Wexford town whilst he was a bishop, possibly where he first heard The Wexford Carol.
Whether it was published in 1648 or 1928 it is undoubtedly a beautiful Carol and today is still widely sung as part of a traditional Irish Christmas.
Lyrics to the Wexford Carol
Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day:
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.
The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.
But mark how all things came to pass;
From every door repelled alas!
As long foretold, their refuge all
Was but an humble ox’s stall.
There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star,
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay,
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah was,
They humbly cast them at his feet,
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
“Prepare and go,” the angels said,
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”
With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the Babe to find,
And as God’s angel had foretold,
They did our Saviour Christ behold.
Within a manger He was laid,
And by his side the Virgin Maid,
As long foretold, there was a blessed Messiah born.