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Our Alma Mater's Call

letter_t.pnghe melody of the school rally, 'Alma Mater’s Call', has its origin in an early 19th century Irish march tune composed by Joseph Haliday, a bandmaster of the Cavan Militia. He was from Carrick-On-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland. In 1810, he patented the keyed bugle, with five keys and a compass of twenty-five notes, calling it the 'Royal Kent Bugle'. He died in 1846 at the age of 71 in Dublin.

In 1843, Michael Joseph McCann (1824-1883) from Galway gave lyrics to the tune and published it in The Nation (an Irish nationalist weekly newspaper founded in 1842) as 'The Clan Connell War Song'. It was also known as 'The Tyrconnell War Song', but was more popularly known as 'O’Donnell Abu' (translates to O’Donnell Forward or O’Donnell To Victory).

McCann’s lyrics portray the call-to-arms of Irishmen in the Nine Years War (1594 – 1603), when Hugh O’Neill (2nd Earl of Tyrone) and Hugh Roe O’Donnell (Lord of Tyrconnell) challenged Elizabethan rule in Ireland.

Written at a time of the Great Famine that ravaged the countryside and in a century that was marked by an intense resistance against British rule, the song was a rebellious cry to change the status quo. When Ireland gained her independence from Britain in the early 1920s, the song nearly became Ireland’s National Anthem, losing only to 'The Soldiers’ Song' on votes.

Alma Mater’s Call is an adaptation of O’Donnell Abu. The lyrics were written by Irishman Bro. Marcian James Cullen (1869 – 1938). He was the Principal of St. Joseph’s College, Hong Kong, in the early 1910s; Director of St. Xavier’s Institution, Georgetown, Penang and St. Michael’s Institute, Ipoh; and Director of St. Joseph’s Institution, Singapore, from 1922 to 1927. A picture of him can be found on page 51 of the book Living The Mission: The SJI Story, 1952-2002. He passed away at the age of 70 and his remains were laid to rest in the Christian Brothers Mausoleum in Happy Valley, Hong Kong. One of SJI’s current four fraternities is named after him.

The original version of Alma Mater’s Call has four verses.

Verse 1

All through (our college), a voice is resounding,
Promptly respond to your duty’s sweet call ;
Harken you all for the trumpet is sounding
Your mater’s proclaiming her watch words to all


Forward her children dear*,
Ever with hearts sincere,
Render with joy to your mater her due!
All that is vile reject, Heaven will e’er Protect
Son of (St Michael’s) valiant and true!

Verse 2

Onward and upwards in life’s earnest battle,
Joyously bearing the brunt of the fight;
Nobly forgiving for aught that may pain you
And bravely defending the cause of the right.

Verse 3

“Labour Will Conquer” your motto still bearing,
Forward with courage in ways that are just
True to your standard, be doing and daring,
As faithful (Michaelians) in Heaven you trust.

Verse 4

Lift up your hearts for a kingdom awaits you,
Honour and Virtue with courage defend;
Serve Him in life, who in death can reward you,
And vow to be faithful and true to the end.
Alternate words sung by other schools :
* Forward not flinch nor fear
** Labour and Virtue