Collar of gold

In Brief

The phrase "when Malachi wore the collar of gold" comes verbatim from the song Let Erin Remember the Days of Old (1808), by the Irish Catholic songwiter Thomas Moore.

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The lyrics, which Moore set to the tune of an existing song called The Red Fox, evoke the days of Irish kings before the coming of the Anglo-Normans:

Let Erin remember the days of old
Ere her faithless sons betrayed her;
When Malachi wore the collar of gold
Which he won from the proud invader;
When her kings, with standard of green unfurled,
Led the Red Branch Knights to danger
Ere the emerald gem of the western world
Was set in the crown of a stranger.

Malachi, or Máel Sechnaill (948-1022), was the High King of Ireland at the end of the 10th century. For many years he fought to expel the Norsemen centered in Dublin, sometimes in concert with his rival Brian Boru (Brian Boroimhe). In "Irish Folk Songs in Joyce's Ulysses" (PMLA 71.3, June 1956), Mabel Worthington notes that Malachi took the collar of the Norwegian prince Tomar from his neck after killing him (325).

JH 2016
Small enamel-on-copper portrait of Thomas Moore, after an oil painting by Thomas Lawrence. Source: Wikimedia Commons.