Article MT213

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

No. 30: Willie Reilly and his Colleen Bawn 11

The main aim of this series is, of course, to help unravel puzzles in the workings of the broadside ballad trade.  However, as in the case of other individual pieces considered in this series such as The Croppy Boy and Bonny Light Horseman, attention here has also been paid to sung versions in order to gain an impression of how printed text (in particular) may have progressed in time in stable form or how it may have been modified through oral means.  Willie Reilly is consequently examined in two separate articles, the first concentrating on broadside history and the second on sung versions.

The broadside text, popular amongst printers over a considerable period of time, goes under several alternative titles and has different name-spellings but, essentially, versions viewed here contain the story of Willie Reilly and his sweetheart, often named 'Coolen Bawn' or 'Colleen Bawn', and of how the two ran off together in face of parental opposition; how they were pursued by the father; Reilly taken and made to stand trial, condemned but saved and set free by the intercession of his sweetheart who also disproved a charge of theft of jewellery.

The element of abduction places the piece amongst a select handful in extant nineteenth century printed balladry - only five other texts in English broadside ballad repertoire deal with the same subject and, of these, four are set in northern Ireland and one of the five appears to be closely related to the Willie Reilly versions discussed here.2

This unusual regional concentration deserves note.  The spectacle of an eighteenth century ruling society in the north of Ireland in particular forever seeking marital alliances in order to secure wealth and property and to create successors is obviously relevant as context.  A P Malcolmson suggested that:

The abduction of heiresses, mostly very small-time heiresses, was a crime of common, though exaggerated, occurrence in eighteenth-century Ireland (and, apparently, Scotland)…
and quoted from Lecky who had noted briefly that 'More frequently, the perpetrators and the victims both belonged to the class of cottagers', conceding that:
it was by no means unusual for men in the position of gentlemen, and even for landed proprietors, to be concerned in them, and middlemen and squireens appear in this as in other forms of crime to have been prominent.3
Ultimately, this all might indicate that there is much more to be learned.  For example, one account indicates that in the south of Ireland during the late eighteenth century Lecky's observations are borne out.  The most frequent abductors were not men of the highest social station but lesser creatures, just at the top of and above an independent 'yeoman' stock, men seeking status but never able to share the patronage of the transposed English aristocracy which was constantly given land and titles so as to encourage support for particular governments in the English parliament and to cement English rule in Ireland.  As the century drew to a close and the nineteenth approached, instigators of abduction became more ruthless and were drawn from a slightly lower stratum in the social scale.4

Abduction was certainly a feature in English society too5, but as regards broadside balladry the foregoing remarks, if only in the most brief form, encapsulate known social practice in Ireland, the setting of the Willie Reilly story, and refer to known broadside ballad material.  In our examination, all five of the available abduction ballads turn out to involve agreement between the lovers against parental opposition and none describe the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century development of the violent taking away of heiresses for monetary gain.  John Moulden points out that in Britain at least the passing of the Marriage Act of 1753 led to a predominant usage of the term 'elopement'; and the Willie Reilly story certainly proceeds along these lines.6

Willie Reilly himself would seem to have had two social contexts, depending on which account of supposed historical events is found.  In the first he is seen as a small landowner with unacceptable amorous intentions in terms of his social standing and in the second he is more of a gentleman.  Broadside material usually places him in the former category.

In one historical account, Reilly (or 'Riley' as he was often named in text) was a minor Catholic landowner living at Carrickahorna at the foot of the Bricklieve mountains just to the north-west of Ballinafad, who had set his sights on one Helen Ffolliott, daughter of a local Protestant squire at Hollybrook House on the shores of Loch Arrow (these locational details can be spotted on maps).  The elopement and trial took place somewhere around 1796.  'The noble Fox', Luke Fox, who is a key character in ballads in presiding over Reilly's trial, was certainly a real figure, appointed to the bar in 1784, whose area of influence was in the north-western circuit.  He was made Justice of the Common Pleas in 1800, created a KC in 1795, and became an MP.  The reference to a Ffolliott family in Sligo, though, has not been confirmed in historical terms.7

In a second account, involving the same Ffolliott family, the location is Wardtown House, County Donegal - near to Ballyshannon and not a million miles from Sligo - which is meant to be the setting of Erin's Lovely Home, another abduction song that is claimed to be nothing less than the 'true' story of Willie Reilly and the title properly to have been Erne's Lovely Home.  The dating of the historical occurrence in this case is thought to have been early in the nineteenth century although the Ffolliotts had left Wardtown House at the end of the eighteenth century.  Collectively, these details may have bearing on the descent in time of distinct versions of text.8

In these twin appearances, perhaps springing from historical fact, whilst the revelation of the Willie Reilly character and story in historical terms is itself fascinating it does not constitute the main thrust of this article which, to re-iterate, is to examine text as printed.  Those who find the historical circumstances of interest may well continue to investigate background.  But the supposed history of Willie Reilly has, undoubtedly, given rise to a clear origin for text in Ireland (below).

This becomes apparent when the name of the heroine is taken into account.  'Caillin ban' is simply an Irish language description, literally translated as 'young girl white', 'caillin' being an affectionate term.  The double 'l' and following 'i' together almost make the sound 'y'.  There is a long, rounded emphasis on the 'a' in 'ban' - but not quite 'aw' - which word, in English language versions of the song, becomes 'bawn'.  We can see how 'caillin' could be transposed either as apprehended by the eye or the ear into 'colleen' (one piece below has 'collyeen') though hardly 'coolen', the latter possibly a misreading, not a mishearing, of previous attempts to render the name.

One may add that Anglicisation of 'ban' especially, appears in other English broadside printings - as, for instance, 'Peggy Band' ('Peggy Bawn') in a text of the same name beginning 'As I walked over highland hills… '; and 'Molly Band' ('Molly Ban') in versions of the song otherwise known amongst collectors, as The Setting of the Sun (Baring-Gould) or The Shooting of his Dear (Sharp).9

Hugh Shields wrote succinctly about the circulation of Willlie Reilly material indicating that it provided:

… a classic story dating from the 1780s… of Willy Reilly and his 'Colleen' or 'Cooleen Bawn', the daughter of a squire ffolliott of co.  Sligo… 'but the people always pronounce it Folliard'.  The events were the subject of a narrative sequence in three parts - Reilly's 'Courtship', 'Trial', and 'Releasement' - the parts repeating some of the same information… The parts of 'Willy Reilly' circulated together and separately in print, but part two has had the longest life in tradition… 10
We might argue the date but can follow the hints here and, in terms of English printing, we have a choice of titles to pursue.  However, the text that concerns us is Hugh Shield's 'part two', Trial of Willie Reilly… or, alternatively, Riley and Colinband, also involving Reilly's trial.  Based on the premise that 'Colinband' would have been a secondary interpretation of the name, 'Caillin Ban' - probably through the intermediary designation of 'Colleen Bawn' (or Hugh Shields' 'Cooleen Bawn') - we examine Trial… as the first of the two sets of texts although it must be said at this point that Riley and Colinband looks to have been the first text to appear in England (see more below).

A word or two should be inserted as to the kind of coverage given here.  It is well enough known that printers of broadsides were frequently careless in terms of orthography.  But it is surely not enough simply to dismiss such errors as always and inevitably the product of inattention to previous text or to a story and an anxiety to make the most of text in basic monetary terms.  Persistent 'offence' may well begin to delineate a characteristic practice of a particular printer and might not necessarily trouble us.  Sometimes, though, a slightly different perspective of a printer emerges, perhaps less in the evident depredation than in changed phraseology, where we begin to see an alternative rendering of text.  One might tentatively set this alongside the introduction of changes of wording made by singers - the very act of change that we hold to be a feature of oral dissemination.

As the example of, say, Harkness, provides a distinctive slant on text is not infrequently encountered.  One adduces the Harkness printings of Fanny Blair and of Bonny Light Horseman as offering changes in direction of text when compared with copy from other printers; to a lesser extent his printings of Botany Bay and Van Diemen's Land; and then his individual contributions to execution literature - although in this case choice of subject is the key: it is to be expected that one particular subject will encourage particular treatment.  And, of course, Harkness does not always change matter - some texts such as General Munroe, Mouth of the Nile and Convict Maid parallel others closely.  The very inconsistency here underlines those occasions where differences occur.11

Further, the prospect of northern English versions of text, including some from Harkness, as opposed to a London-driven corpus of a particular text has already been discussed in this series.  This slight difference in perspective is, too, if only to a limited degree, the case in the present discussion. 

Similarly, the idea of a historical hierarchy in issue should not be disregarded.  We know that printers imitated and filched material and we know that Pitts and Catnach reigned supreme at one time; roughly during the 1830s.  Printers operating afterwards or during this reign could well have taken their cues from Pitts and Catnach.  It seems unlikely that all printers had access to independent sources, particularly oral ones.  At the same time, Pitts and Catnach have antecedents in, say, Jennings and Davenport; and contemporaries such as Fordyce, all important in their own right.  Pitts and Catnach may not have initiated text.  Relationships amongst printers are therefore worth attention as a help in establishing not just the continuing popularity of a text and the form it took as time passed but in working towards an understanding of which printers may have been involved in the first issue of text and even who may have copied from whom.

Below, then, some of the major changes (and errors) are singled out.  It would be tedious to list all differences and one would have to admit that several do not matter except as examples of routine mistakes - bad type-face, obvious inattention to previous text and the like - since narrative is rarely impaired and the essence of stories survived and flourished: this, in turn, attesting to the strength of the narrative attraction and something of the conservative nature of dissemination. 

Finally, whilst attention is paid here to English and Irish single sheet broadside printings there exist several Irish antecedents in booklet form and, indeed, printings in Scotland that date, generally, from around 1805.  It has not been possible to accommodate all these in the discussion below but they anticipate English printings.12

The bigger difference in printings of the Willie Reilly story in England will become clear enough.  So - we return to consider the two separate versions in some detail.


Catnach issued copy of the Trial Of Willy Reily For running away with Coolen Bawn (note the spelling of both names).13  Catnach, we remind ourselves, printed from 1813 up until 1838, not then contemporaneously with supposed events.  His copy begins with the voice of the sweetheart whose name is given as 'Coolen Bawn' thus immediately suggesting something alien to ordinary English usage, a misinterpretation, as noted above, of Irish language, standing out as being seemingly harder to copy from a sung version than from a printed one and suggesting that Catnach had come across previously printed versions:

O Rise up Willy Reily, and come away with me,
For I do mean to go with you and leave this country,
To leave my father's dwelling, his houses and free lands,
And away goes Willy Reily with his dear Coolen Bawn
There is also a clear degree of complicity between the principals in the story thus bearing out the contention that such an occurrence was in the nature of an elopement rather than a violent abduction, although there are several hints throughout copies of text from Catnach and others that those on the outside thought the first way or that each 'crime' was unacceptable - as Catnach has it, with Willie Reilly 'stealing the fair Coolen Bawn' and a threat of hanging for the offence.

A second stanza gives what becomes a standard stanza in printings:

Over hills and lofty mountains along the lonesome plain,
Through shady groves & valleys her presence to obtain,
Her father followed after her, and with an armed band,
Soon taken was poor Reily, and his fair Coolen Bawn.
A third stanza tells how the daughter was 'in her chamber bound' whilst Reily was 'laid in Sligo jail' in order to 'stand at the bar' and where, in the next stanza, we learn that in the 'cold' prison, he was bound hand and foot, 'Confin'd like a murderer' and even 'tied' to the ground.  Yet he was 'Expecting to be saved by dear Coolen Bawn'.

Then, in a fifth stanza, the 'gaoler's son' calls on Reily to 'rise up' in order to meet 'The great Squire Ralliand's anger'.  The name is significantly different to that found in copies of Riley and Colinband, our second variety of text, where it is often found as 'Fowler' or 'Furlow' (below).  There follows a slight hiatus in text, specific to this Catnach issue:

This is the news Reily last night I heard of the (sic)
says the ballad.  Further, though, there are lines indicating that Reily's sweetheart's oath will either hang him or save him.  In the next stanza, her character is expanded on:
This lady is sensible, though in her tender youth,
If Reily has deluded her, she would declare the truth,
Now like a moving angel bright before them she did stand
You're welcome here my heart's delight, my dear Coolen
'Her father' appeals to the jury (in an eighth stanza) and, in the face of 'The impudence of this inferior', if he does not get his way, he will 'leave this Irish land'.  It is not clear what kind of threat this might carry - was it simply personal pique or was it that his absence could cause economic problems in the district? It is never quite safe to dismiss such possibilities since balladry sometimes adopts shorthand and, of course, misses much out from any actual situation.  It is worth mentioning, in this respect, how, in Willey text (below) there is a similar set of lines.

The ballad continues:

Then out spoke noble Fox, as at the table he stood by,
Gentlemen of the jury look on this extremity,
To hang a man for love it is murder do you see,
Let's save the life of Reily, and banish'd let him be.
Up speaks the sweetheart - in a tenth stanza - declaring that the fault was not Reily's but that she takes all the blame for the elopement because 'I lov'd him out of measure'.  In the eleventh stanza, the 'noble judge' then asserts that the prisoner could be let go because 'She has released her own true love'.  The Squire, however, in a twelfth stanza, insists 'good my lord' that Reilly had stolen jewels from 'her', a matter of costing the Squire some 'five hundred pounds', a figure that appears consistently in all printings of Trial… .  Therefore, he would 'have the life of Reilly' even if it cost 'ten thousand pounds'.  Once more (in a thirteenth stanza) the girl speaks up declaring that she had given the jewels to Reilly 'in token of true love' and that she'd leave them all when they parted:
Have you got them Reilly, pray bring them back to me,
I will my loving lady, with many thanks to thee.
There's a ring amongst them I allow yourself to wear,
With thirty shining diamonds well set in silver, clear,
As a true lover's token, to wear on your right hand, [land,
? that you think upon me when you're in a foreign
The 'thirty shining diamonds' becomes something else in several texts although the intent of the lines remains constant.

This is the essential story, in a relatively long exposition, found in Catnach copy and then in other English broadside ballad text.  Pitts, for example, repeated it in copy although his text is continuous rather than being split into separate stanzas.14  Pitts' wording and punctuation are like those of Catnach save for one line that helps make full sense (Catnach had a confusing line as noted above) where in Pitts copy the gaoler's son says that 'This is the news Reily last night I heard of thee' (my italics).  If earlier source there was, it looks to have been the same one for both printers.  If not, one surely copied the other - the rivalry between the two is well known. 

Also in London, Hodges (he began printing in 1839) is close in text to Pitts - Hodges even claims on copy to have text from Pitts - given the odd difference in punctuation and a layout combining each set of two four-line stanzas into one.  Names are given as 'Willy Reily', 'Coolen Bawn' and 'Squire Ralliand'.  Fox speaks out on behalf of Reily and a 'noble judge' says that he can be let go.  Such copy is laid out as that of Hodges, with exactly the same differences as compared to text from Catnach (inclusive of 'dear, dear Coolen Bawn'.  In Fortey, who claims on copy to be directly in line with the Catnach Press, there are only three disparate elements: when, firstly, after the jailer's son's assertion that it all would depend on the lady's oath, Reily (and that is how Hodges has it in the title), is willing to stand trial, hoping to be saved by 'his dear dear Coolen Bawn'; when the Squire objects and:

… said to the jury, take pity on me now,
This villain came amongst us our family to disgrace
and when the 'noble Judge' declares Reily to have been cleared by his sweetheart's testimony and 'That her honour grant may gain his state, and raise his fame… '.  In the latter two cases we suspect inattention to previous copy.  The narrative is intact.  The Squire's name in Fortey is given as 'Ralliand'.  Fox pleads with the jury and a 'noble judge' says that Reilly can be let go.15  Thus, all these London printers offer a very similar text even if elements of layout, some phraseology and some punctuation are different; and we have a form in which text travelled through the mid-century years. 

After London issue, a crop of northern printings - from Armstrong, Fordyce, Ross, Stephenson and Walker - give us our next perspectives, Armstrong printing Trial of Willy Reily For running away with Cooleen Bawn, Fordyce (et al) Trial of Willy Reily For Running Away With Coolen Bawn, Ross with the same title and spelling of the name, Stephenson Trial Of Willy Reilly, For running away with Coolen Bawn and Walker simply asTrial of Willy Reilly.

Armstrong's Trial16 (printed, be it marked, 'for' Armstrong; an engaging puzzle as yet incapable of pursuit) set out as a continuous piece yet with separate stanzas implied by indented first letters of first lines in four, is at one with the Catnach printing in most respects.  There are a few minor changes in layout and in wording, none drastic enough to change the tenor of the story and only one inviting special attention, where the Squire's name is given as 'Falliand' as opposed to Catnach's 'Railland' though in this case, since it is the only example in all printed copy, one would favour error.  Otherwise, the heroine's name is given as 'Cooleen Bawn', and, as in Catnach, Fox is first to plead Reily's case with the jury and a 'noble judge' urges his release.

Armstrong printed from 1820 onwards at Banastre Street, Liverpool but this gives us no help in establishing printing succession in historical time - Armstrong after Catnach, say - unless we assume - a little drastically, perhaps - that Catnach printed his version before 1820.  As always, we must not discount the possibility that Armstrong came across his text independently; but here the closeness of expression and the known tendency of printers to copy, one from another, suggest that his text was conceived as a result of acquaintance with existing text and that, in England, has a limited compass - in fact, Catnach looks to have been the only printer of Trial… before Armstrong unless Pitts squeezed his text out during 1819-1820.

Something of the what was said on Armstrong may be said, too, of the Fordyce contribution.17  On this printing the initials of both William and Thomas are given, indicating a period after 1832 (according to the Bodleian library and the British Book Trade Index) and, therefore, a few added years for a possible Catnach or Pitts (or Armstrong) printing to have circulated before Fordyce got to work.  Copy of Trial… from Fordyce follows Catnach closely, there being but a handful of changes in punctuation and wording, nothing to upset the storyline as it unfolds and only one major change when the girl's father, referring to her jewels, declares that:

They cost me, in bright guineas, not less than twenty score,
I'll have the life of Reily, should it cost ten thousand more.
The spelling of 'Coolen Bawn' in the title might, in terms of ballad printing, suggest adherence to Catnach.  And in Fordyce the Squire's name is given as 'Railand', close enough to Catnach (one recalls Armstrong's 'Falliand' with its suspicion of faulty recasting).  Further, as in Catnach, it is Fox who first pleads with the jury and a 'noble judge' who urges it to let Reily go.

Stephenson's copy18, in comparison to that of Catnach, has but one or two different punctuation marks and a change or two in spelling and phrasing.  The name of the heroine is given as 'Coolen Bawn' and that of the Squire as 'Ralliand'.  Fox speaks to the jury and a 'noble judge' urges the release of Reilly.  The narrative is intact.  As for dating, the Bodleian Library gives the particular Stephenson as William, who operated between 1821 and 1850, printing out of Gateshead.  The former date for commencement of activities of is also given by the British Book Trade Index.  This allows sufficient scope for Catnach copy - say - to have circulated as it could have done in the case of Armstrong and, certainly, Fordyce but, rather lamely, we can get no nearer the possibilities for imitation and can obviously discount innovation.

Ross's copy of Trial… , although it was issued in more than one guise - for example, on a sheet of ballads as well as a single ballad19 - is, again, hardly different from that of Catnach… with the expected few changes of punctuation and expression.  The salient names are given as 'Willy Reily', 'Coolen Bawn' and 'Squire Railand'.  Fox urges the jury to 'save the life of Reilly' and it is a 'noble judge' who says that the prisoner may be let go.  Ross printed between 1847 and 1852 and there are obvious possibilities inherent in the amount of time available for imitation or change of earlier issues whereas, in fact, he does not actually deviate in any significant way from previous copy.  One copy of Ross came from himself, Stewart of Carlisle and Dalton of York (Stewart issued a separate copy - below) and a second from Ross and Stewart together.  There is a coupling on both of Old Erin's Green.  The differing sheets clearly show continuing issue.

Walker's text20, like those discussed above, parallels the Catnach narrative closely.  There are the usual kinds of differences, of course - such as 'come along with me as opposed to Catnach's 'away' and 'To leave his dwellings' whereas Catnach has 'To leave my father's dwelling', both in the first stanza - more notably the adoption of the spellings 'Reilly' and of 'Coolen Bawnd' (sic - this spelling is repeated throughout copy); and punctuation is frequently abandoned or changed.  The Squire's name, as in Catnach, is given as 'Ralliand'. 

There are, though, contradictions inherent in the dating of copy.  It would appear to be from either George Walker senior, printing between 1797 and 1834 or James Walker (some J Walker copy in the Bodleian Allegro archive has been given a date of c.1818).  However, an 1838 list of slip songs from George Walker junior includes it (and the list includes Walker's Answer… discussed briefly at the end of this article); and, further, Walker junior is credited by the British Book Trade Index as printing up until 1888, thus leaving us with a huge canvas.  Yet on present copy the printer's name is given in italics as 'Walker Printer, Durham' and this is characteristic of the earlier Walkers - on some copy the words are in full capitals - whereas Walker junior's address is given in full on his printings (the British Book Trade Index gives an address in Sadler Street, Durham for both George Walkers).  Other clues for dating include the header block on present copy which looks to be from wooden type and is uncircumscribed by decoration whilst much Walker copy, especially that from Walker junior, often has encircling decoration and drawing done in fine detail, presumably achieved through the use of metal typeface.  At the same time, this development of type can be seen on copy from George Walker senior and did, in fact, begin to appear also under the auspices of 'J.  Walker'.  This leaves us with a tangled set of references and there is an absence of corroborating detail - for instance, anything that might link the elder George Walker with J Walker or a positive identification of J Walker style in font.  With what we know, it might just seem that the piece was issued at an earlier rather than a later date: our choice, if there is one, is with George Walker senior.  Potentially, Walker copy may even have been issued at the same time as that from Armstrong.

Whatever the resolution of the tangle discussed above, the combined dates given here for northern English copy, ranging from c.1820 up to 1852, indicate continued popularity for the piece and possible hierarchies in issue.  But there is another, different, aspect to consider.  The fact that the texts of Trial… considered immediately above are northern English printings and that they do not deviate from Catnach or Pitts copy in any serious way shows that the much of the progress of the text nationwide - not quite all, as will be seen - is in a consistent form. 

A group of copies without imprint compounds the strength of the Catnach-type issue.21  The first (though no date order is implied) has but a couple of differences.  The boy's name is given as 'Willy Reily', the girl's name as both 'Coolen Bawn' and 'Cooleen Bawn', the Squire's name as 'Ralliand' and the ballad is set out as one continuous piece - which latter may suggest just acquaintance with Pitts copy.  However, in this regard, there are, as in Catnach but not in Pitts, confinement lines: of Reily,

… in the cold prison his hands and feet were bound
Confined like a murderer and tied down to the ground…
And, as in Catnach, there are lines spoken by the 'gaoler's son':
This is the news Reily last night I heard of thee,
The lady's oath will hang you or else will set you free…
It is the 'noble Fox' who first pleads on behalf of Reily and a 'noble judge' who asks the court to let the prisoner go.

Another printing shows some fidelity to Catnach text - in four-line stanza form, for example; but the Squire's name is given as 'Railland' the girl's name as 'Cooleen Bawn' in the title and both 'Cooleen Bawn' and 'Coolen Bawn' in text.  There are two other instances of alteration.  Thus, firstly, the 'gaoler's son' declares that:

This is the news Reilly.  Last night I heard
The lady's oath will hang you, or else will set you free…
- a very clear exposition.  Secondly, the girl's father speaks up to complain, beginning 'But goods, my lord… ' (Reilly stole) before giving a description of those goods - the jewellery.  A third copy looks to be merely just that since it mirrors the second exactly.  Fox and the 'noble judge' put in their familiar appearance.

All three texts discussed above carry the full title of The Trial of Willy Reilly For running away with Cooleen Bawn.  The narrative line is the same as it is in Catnach copy.

Two copies carry the (shorter) title of The Trial of Willy Reilly.  In one copy, the first line of the second stanza is 'Over hills and lofty mountains along the lonely plain' - different to Catnach's 'lonesome plain'.  Both copies have the girl's name as 'Colleen Bawn' and the Squire's name as 'Railand'.  It is the 'jailor's son' (sic) who speaks to Reilly and he says:

This is the news Reilly, last night I heard of thee,
The lady's oath will hang you or else will set you free…
There is, in both copies, even a printed mistake in the word 'senible' describing the girl.  Fox and the 'noble judge' do their regular duty.  Both copies are the same in every other respect including punctuation and look to be different issues of the same text.  The narrative line does not differ from that in Catnach.

In essence, the narrative line in all copy surveyed so far is the same.  Changes are usually minimal and could generally but not quite always be held to be to do with inattention to previous copy.  Overall, there is a more or less consistent text that can be seen to progress through the century up until production from Such and Fortey.  There is no evidence of the printing of single ballad issues of Trial… after Such (strangely, there appears to be no clear definition of Such's dates of operation available but 1882 is the last date given by the Bodleian) although the piece did make an appearance in various songsters.  We will need to look at sung versions to see how the piece continued to travel.

We come then to a clutch of single ballad printings from Ireland.  These consist of copy from Nugent and Brereton in Dublin and Haly in Cork plus copy without imprint.  Nugent's copy is close to Catnach with nothing at all to alter the storyline.22  The few differences are, firstly, in the title - Willy Reilly, and his dear Cooleen Bawn - sometimes 'fair Cooleen Bawn' in text and, once, 'my Cooleen Bawn' - and then, where the cost of jewellery is concerned, in a unique change in all broadside text save in copies without imprint discussed briefly below, giving a figure of '400 pounds'.23  Otherwise, as in London copy, it is Fox who pleads for Reilly and a 'noble judge' who urges the jury to let the prisoner go.  Apart from these features, in comparison to, say, Catnach, Nugent's punctuation is very sparse. 

J F Nugent's printing dates extend from c.1843 right up until 1881and there is one copy (amongst several) in the Bodleian Allegro archive that has an address - supplied by the Bodleian and not visible on copy - as follows: 'Steam-Machine Pinterrs (sic) & Publishers, 35, New-Row Street, Dublin'.  John Moulden gives one reference for Nugent's operations 5though not an address) to Bradshaw's street directory of 1865.  The header block on other Nugent copy in the Bodleian is the same as it is in copy as described above but we have, as yet, no way of knowing if such copy predates 1865 or if it represents continuing issue. 

Brereton copy, perhaps surprisingly in view of his reputation for errors, is very close to both Nugent and Catnach.  The title, though, as on Nugent copy, is Willy Reily And His Dear Colleen Bawn (no comma after 'Reily'), and the following are the major changes, none of them, it must be said, altering the run of narrative.  Brereton, in a comparison with Catnach, has 'Reily' in both title and text alongside (in text) 'Relly' and 'Reilly', attestation to his carelessness; 'Cooleen Bawn' and 'Coollee Bawn'; 'Squire Railland'; and Fox and the noble judge acting out their parts as in London copy.  There are one or two orthographic differences.  Thus Brereton, like English printers, fiddles with but hardly burns narrative and phraseology away.24

Peter Brereton printed c.1867 through until 1875 and possibly for a short while after.  The address on copy, given as 'Lower Exchange Street' dates copy of Trial… to the years 1867-1869.  He is, as a printer, still late in historical time and, in view of the closeness of his text here to those found in England that preceded it, he must be accounted a follower rather than an instigator. 

There are three copies without imprint from Ireland, the first of which is entitled Willy Reilly, and his dear Cooleen Bawn and which follows known Nugent text exactly down to every punctuation mark and inclusive of the sum of '400 pounds'.  The header block is different, fairly obscured on copy, but suggesting a picture of someone on horseback, with followers, and a ship in the background.  Fancy might suggest that this is a neat enough summary of the course of events in the story with the ship implying banishment.  More prosaically, if this is Nugent copy then it indicates the possibility of continuing issue as broached above.

A further copy, in NLI, also follows Nugent closely, although the title is Willy Reilly, and his dear Colleen Bawn, the name as spelled here repeated once in text and, thereafter, given as 'Cooleen Bawn'.  One stanza found in other text, where the girl says that it was she who gave Reilly her jewellery, is missing.  The header block is of one man pointing a pistol at another.  It is not possible to identify the printer but there is no doubt about the closeness of this text to the one noted directly above and to those from Nugent and Brereton.

Yet another copy, also from NLI, is quite close to the others in layout although there are one or two changes as follows: the Squire's names is given as 'Raynold' (unique in text - one has no comment to offer); and, after the stanza in which the girl takes the blame for Reilly's behaviour, we jump to that in which the Squire complains about theft and there is no stanza with the girl admitting that she gave her jewellery to Reilly.  Instead 'out spoke the noble Judge' on Reilly's behalf: in the two texts discussed above and in Nugent and Brereton the phrase is 'Then said the noble Judge' (my italics).  The header block is of a rider, with tri-corn hat, drawing a conveyance, with a church in the background.  It is not possible to say with certainty that the print is Irish but the title, we note, is given, simply, as Willie Reilly And His Colleen Bawn - not quite how other Irish texts have it but not like English titles either; and the sum quoted by the Squire as the cost of jewellery is '400 pounds' and this sum does not appear on English printings.25

When we come to Haly copy we find that it deviates from the increasingly standard text.26  There is unique title in the Irish assemblage of single ballad printings - William O'Reilly And his dear Mourneen Bawn - and then several minor changes.  The third stanza, for instance, is as follows

And when they were taken, her father wept bitterly
(Saying,) - that inferior came amongst us to disgrace out
This grievous vexation I am not willing so to stand;
I'll have the life of 0'Reilly, or leave my native land…
(there is more on this stanza below).  There is no stanza with the girl's father's name in it.  It is only after Fox's plea to the jury 'look on his extremity' (Reilly's, that is) that the description of Mourneen Bawn 'in her tender youth' appears and it is in the next stanza that she accepts the blame for Reilly (it is worth recording that Haly refers to both 'Reilly' and 'O'Reilly').  One notes, too, the stanza following:
Goods, my lord, he stole from her, both jewels and gold
Her watch and silver buckles, & other precious things,
Which cost me in value above two thousand pounds,
I'd have the life of Reilly, or my estate it shall be sold.
One notes the distinctive 'two thousand pounds' as opposed to '400 pounds' in copy discussed above.  A final line as it refers to the girl claims that 'her honour great may gain estate and everlasting fame' (my italics).  On most copy Reilly is the beneficiary.  Catnach, to remind ourselves, has:
She has released her own true love, and renew'd her own name
That her honour great may gain his state, & raise his future fame…
These lines are substantially the same in all English copy although Such, for instance, has 'raise his fame' and one of the English copies without imprint has 'and gain him fame' - which all other Irish copy also has.  Haly is unique, too, in all Irish and English printings in placing these lines at the end of his text rather than ending with the ring stanza and Reilly in a foreign land.

Haly copy, though, does not damage the story.  What is more interesting is that there is a much earlier printing in booklet form (amongst others in the same format)27 - not single ballad form as in Brereton and Nugent - in which the title is given as 'William O'Reilly' and the same designation of 'Morneen Bawn' (sic) had been used.  There is, though, one change in the position of stanzas.  Haly's stanza three beginning

And when they were taken, her father wept bitterly
(Saying,) - an inferior came amongst us to disgrace our
is placed after a stanza six in the earlier text that describes how the Goaler's son' (sic) informs Reilly that he must face squire 'Folliard's' anger.  We note that Haly does not even name the squire.  Nonetheless, Haly phraseology mostly parallels this earlier text.  It is interesting in this regard that this copy ends in the same fashion as does Haly albeit the lines are slightly abrogated:
She has released her own true love and has renewed his flame,
That her Honor great may gain great Estates and always me…
Overall, the Haly imprint seems to reflect the version of the ballad as it appeared in booklet form.  A line of inheritance is possibly exposed - but it stops there and is superseded by an apparently mainline appearance of text, in Brereton and Nugent and in copy without imprint, already discussed, which also parallel text in England.  Finally, the early printing dates from 1796, contemporary with events as they were recounted in the Sligo story of Willie Reilly.  This would appear to confirm the idea that this text and others like it are the progenitors of all subsequent text, English and Irish.


Initial encounters with printed issue in England of the first supposedly historical Reilly story - the Sligo one above - involves us in more speculation.  Davenport's copy of William Riley And Colinband28 employs the long 's' and although this is not an infallible sign of age, the printing is from Joshua Davenport whose dates of operation, 1790-1808, look to place copy as frontrunner in production of printings of Riley and Colinband in England.  Davenport copy certainly predates a Pitts printing issued from 6 Great Andrew Street (the same address for Pitts' issue of Trial… ), after Pitts had moved premises from number 14 in 1819 (there are no Pitts printings of Riley and Colinband from his earlier address).  If these details have validity as a body then English broadside ballad texts of Trial of Willie Reilly for Running Away with Coleen Bawn would have been a second version of the story to appear.  We have already seen how Catnach was the first English printer to offer a Trial… text as far as can be ascertained and how, otherwise, there is a printing of the Trial… version of the story before or contemporary with Davenport that is specifically from Ireland and has the title of Willie Reilly and his Mourneen Cooleen Bawn, thus predicating definite Irish sources for the first appearance of any printed text.  A certain hierarchy in time of issue of both texts looks to be emerging if in slightly convoluted fashion and it will also be seen that they were clearly issued at one and the same time. 

We do note in Davenport copy the spelling of the protagonist's name as 'Riley' (not 'Reilly' as is the usual case in Trial… ) and this appears in all other copy of the same text bar in one instance, that of Pratt in Birmingham (below).  All Riley and Colinband texts give the Christian name 'William' (not 'Willie' as in Trial… copy).  'Colinband', it has already been suggested, is a derivative from an earlier version of the Irish 'caillin ban'; again the usual spelling although Harkness - alone - has 'Colinban' (below). 

Text itself in Davenport copy begins with the girl speaking:

Rise up William Riley come along with me,
For I mean to go with you and leave this country…
but then the viewpoint appears to change briefly - 'To leave thy father's dwelling, houses and free land' - and again: 'Away goes William Riley, and his dear Colinband'.  A second stanza describes elopement and a chase:
O'er hills and mountains, long the loniome (sic) lane,
Thro' groves and vallies (sic) bad company to rafrain (sic)
Her father he purfu'd her and with a chofen band,
Taken was poor Riley with his Colinband.
In a third stanza the girl is 'bound' in her 'clofet' and Riley is 'put in Sligo goal (sic)' whereupon he declares that:
All the toil and flavery I'm willing to ftand,
Still hoping to be faved by my dear Colinband.
There is then a description of Riley in confinement:
Now I am in cold irons my hands and feet are bound
Handcuffed like a robber and chain'd to the ground
before there is a repeat of the two 'toil and flavery' lines given immediately above.  Following this, 'Down came the goaler's son' (sic) to advise Riley that he must stand to face the anger of 'squire Fowler' and that the son had heard 'laft night' that the lady's oath would either save Riley or hang him…
If that be fo, faid Riley, her pleafure I will ftand
In hopes to be faved by my Colinband.
Although un-named, someone (we might take him to be the girl's father since he has already been introduced into text) then complains that 'This rascal came among us to difgrace my family' and that 'The impudence of this inferior I am not fit to ftand' and that should he not get satisfaction then he would leave 'this Irifh land'.  The lady then interjects declaring that the fault was none of Riley's but was her own in persuading him to go away with her, for 'I lov'd him out of meafure which proves our deftiny'.

Then 'out fpoke the noble Fox' standing by a 'table' to plead with the jury that 'To hang a man for love, is it not murder you fee' so that they should save Riley's life and banish him.  The un-named person objects that Riley 'ftole her jewels and rings' that had cost him 'more than 500 pounds', and that 'all thefe things were on Riley found'.  Again the girl speaks up, saying that she had given 'them' to Riley 'as a token of true love', asking Riley to return them, whereupon he says 'I will my loving lady, with many thanks to thee'.  She then gives to him one ring 'With thirty locks of diamonds well fet in filver fair' to wear as a token on his right hand to remind him 'That you are mine, and my heart is broke when you're in fome foreign land'.

Fox concludes the ballad insisting that 'you may let the prifoner go' for the lady's oath' has saved Riley and 'She has releas'd her own true love, has renewed his name'; 'For her honour great might gain an eftate as (?) ever rose to fame'.

It is clear that, however Riley and Colinband came into existence, Davenport gives us the storyline as it is also found in printings of Trial… .  There are even lines and images that can be found in copies of Trial… although they are not always present in other issues of Riley and Colinband.  Differences between this text and those of Trial… include the stanza as found in Davenport describing Riley's confinement, for example:

Now I am in cold irons my hand and feet are bound
Handcuffed like a robber and chain'd to the ground
But all the toil and flavery I am willing to ftand;
Still hoping to be faved by my dear Colinband,
- the odd use of punctuation in the final two lines here underlines peculiarities shared by many printers, in this case not even making sense in the face of the normal employment by printers of a comma to indicate the end-stopping of lines with a semi-colon as runner-up.

Further, Davenport does not name any squire and it is Fox who does all the business with the jury: no 'noble judge' as we found in copies of Trial… .  This leaves us with the possibility of Davenport taking material from another existing version of the story or initiating text that was subsequently used for two different versions; and, again, of Riley and Colinband text that was printed subsequently that adheres only in part to Davenport text, thus suggesting that independent acquisition and thinking amongst printers may have coexisted alongside imitation.

After Davenport, in a tentative hierarchy of printings of Riley and Colinband as noted above, we encounter Pitts29 whose opening to Riley and Colinband (we note the same spelling of the names, 'Riley' and 'Colinband' as in Davenport) is as follows:

Rise up William Riley & come along with me
I mean to go with you and leave this country
O leave your father's blessing and free lands
Away go William Riley and his dear Colinband.
One altered word ('blessing' for 'dwelling') is already visible.  There follow lines involving a journey through hills and lofty mountains and - another change - 'along the lonesome plain' where it is necessary 'Bad company to refrain' and where the Squire's party consists of a 'chosen band'.  Pitts text then follows that of Davenport… When the lovers are taken she is in a 'closet' bound and he is 'put in Sligo jail'; but where Davenport had a whole descriptive stanza devoted to Riley's confinement, Pitts jumps from the Sligo jail phrase and employs but the two final lines of that confinement stanza - 'All this toil and slavery… ' and so on.  There follows the stanza where:
Down came the jailor's son (sic)
Rise you William Riley you must appear today
To face Squire Fowler's anger quiet you must
In hopes to be saved by your dear Colinband
The jailer's son's second set of lines in Davenport text is also absent from Pitts copy.  After this, an un-named person interjects (again, as in Davenport, we would take this to be the girls' father):
Ye gentlemen of the jury with pity look on me
This rascal came among us to disgrace our family
The impudence of this inferior I am not pleased
      to stand
If I receive no satisfaction I'll leave this Irish land
One notes 'pleased ' instead of 'fit' as in Davenport.

Pitts continues as did Davenport:

The lady she spoke with tears repiled she (sic)
The fault is none of Riley's the blame is all on me
I forced him for to leave this place and go along
      with me
I loved him out of measure which proved our desti
Out spoke the noble Fox at the table he stood by (ny
Ye gentlemen of the jury look on this extremity
To hang a man for love… it is not murder you see.
To take the life of Riley should he leave this coun-
The outstanding feature immediately above is in the phrase 'it is not murder you see', at first glance a reversal of intended meaning and one doubts if it was so meant: surely, the implied sense is really in the form of a question - 'is it not murder… ' - as we find it in copies of Trial… and, of course, in text from Davenport. 

The un-named person now speaks again:

Good my Lord he stole her jewels
Her gold watch and buckles and other precious
      things,             (pounds
Which cost me in bright guineas more than 500
And all the things were on Riley found.
Guineas and pounds here are unique in text surveyed, once more illustrating aprinter's idiosyncracy.  The girl replies:
Good my Lord I gave them as token of my love
And when that we are parted he will no more
      remove             (me
If you have them Riley pray send them home to
I will my loving lady with many thanks to thee
There is one ring that you yourself
      may wear             (hair
With thirty locks of diamonds well set in silver
There is a token of true love wear it on your right
      hand       (are in some foreign land
That you are mine and my heart is broke when you
Out spoke the noble Fox you the prisoner may let go
This lady's oath is clear the jury all must know
he (sic) has releas'd her own true love and ?edowed
      his name
For honour great might gild on ?tate of high fame
Pitts, we note, has the ring that the girl bequeaths to Riley incorporating 'thirty shining diamonds' as opposed to Davenport's 'thirty locks'.  Other copy, as will be seen, varies in employing such phrases.  The last couple of lines are more confused by bad printing than anything and it is not possible to decipher them accurately but we are able to see that Riley is the recipient of the girl's honesty (as in Trial… ).  The overall storyline is clear enough and is the same as that in Davenport copy. 

It would be tedious to continue to enumerate all changes in every text just as it was in the case of Trial… Nevertheless, changes there are and the discussion above indicates kind.  Perhaps we should not always equate them with carelessness.

For example, Batchelar's Riley and Colinband30 parallels Pitts closely although there are several differences in lettering; the result, one would think, of bad printing.  But can we dismiss the crucial element involving Fox's address to the jury when, in Batchelar, he asks if hanging a man for love - 'is it not murder… ' as a case of inattention to previous text? It would seem that Batchelar made a conscious effort to make sense - although this does not turn Batchelar text into a beacon of enlightened change. 

Batchelar, like Pitts, has the Squire's name as Fowler.  We recall that Davenport does not either name a squire or identify the girl's father.  Batchelar, like Pitts, does not have the whole confinement stanza that we found in Davenport but parallels Pitts text as described above.

The Batchelar in question would have been Thomas, printing out of Long Alley, the address given on copy, between 1807 and 1828; but it is a strange convolution that has Batchelar also acting as agent for Catnach.  We might remember that Pitts was not printing out of the address on copy given above until after 1819; and that Davenport had already followed a slightly different path.  It may be that the roles should be reversed and Batchelar be seen as precursor to Pitts, printing Riley and Colinband, therefore, between 1807 and 1819 and perhaps even taking a cue from Davenport.

In terms of consistency, copy from Phair31 is very clearly in the Davenport and Pitts mould with but a few instances of difference.  Nor does Phair's copy offer any threat to the narrative line.  But one notes that the Squire's name is given as 'Fowler' as in Pitts and Batchelar - does this imply more adherence to these two printers as opposed to Davenport? Was printing of the story 'in the air'? Phair's dates are not available (so far) but he was certainly printing in 1838 according to copy in the Bodleian Allegro archive. 

The text then disappears from London view: no Disley, Paul, Fortey, Hodges or Such… . 

Moving geographically to Manchester, we see that in Swindells copy32 the girl declares that 'I will leave my father's dwelling'; the second stanza includes 'groves and valleys' (the Pitts line) but 'along the lonesome lane' not 'lonesome plain' as in London copy; and the third tells us that Riley 'was put in Sligo goal (sic)', the kinds of changes that we have come to expect: a matter, it seems, of error of a certain indifference to other text and printers.  Narrative as we have so far encountered it, otherwise, looks to be intact so far.  However, the fourth Swindells stanza gives a description of Riley's confinement that we find in Davenport (but not in Pitts); and there are certainly other changes of an orthographic nature and in some phraseology - '; 'I mean for to go… ' in stanza one, for example; the addition of 'houfes' to the father's 'free land' in the same stanza; 'her closet' in stanza three; 'Down came the gaoler's son' to speak to Riley in stanza five; 'at' rather than 'on this extremity' in stanza nine; 'silver buckles' in stanza ten as well as 'And all these fine things they were on Riley found'; and when the lady speaks up in the next stanza regarding Riley's possession of her jewellery she says 'And if you will but fave him I foon will them remove'.  In the next stanza, where a particular ring is concerned, she says - as a slight variant on other texts:

There is a ring amonft them I allow yourself to wear
With thirty locks of silver fet in diamonds clear… 33
And, next, 'As a token of true love', Riley must wear the ring on his right hand; and, in the last stanza, 'She has released her own true love', 'renewd (sic) his name' and, finally, in a peculiar twist, 'That his honour great M'Ginifty may ever rife to fame'. 

The Squire's name here is given as 'Fowler'.  Fox, in Swindells copy, is the one who first pleads on Riley's behalf and then later asks the jury to 'let the prisoner go'.  There is no 'noble judge'.

Swindells copy, then, adhering to the essentials of familiar narrative, yet illustrates how one printer might copy from another but yet introduce changes that just alter the perspective as a whole, sometimes through what we take to be error and sometimes 'straightening' the sense - but then, in this case, bewildering us with a strange insertion as above - M'Ginifty' - and, moreover, creating anticipation in stanzas four, five and six, by omitting each final phrase: ending, firstly, with 'Still hoping, &c.', secondly with 'I hope you'll be faved, &c.' and, thirdly, 'In hopes to be, &c.'.  The onus is on the reader - if we may call any recipient of the text that - to make the necessary links and this bespeaks confidence on the part if the printer that those readers would be able to do so through acquaintance with broadside practice and with the story itself as it may have emerged in oral form. 

The Swindells firm printed the piece as Riley and Coliband, and the long 's' was employed even if, as is often the case with copy discussed on this site, inconsistently.  There is nothing otherwise except hypothesis to help place the piece amongst the earliest of Swindells printings and, in a general survey, we find that a great number of pieces bearing the imprint were issued simply from 'Swindells, Manchester', occasionally with the name in capitals.  Still, many of these pieces may have been put out under the auspices of Alice, widow of George, who was himself first in line, and her dates of operation are given as being between 1796 and 1828.  Otherwise, we have to wait for the figure of John Swindells, printing, as far as is known, after 1838 - in fact, there is a gap of attribution between 1828 and 1838.  The firm continued to print after 1838 through John whose own last date is given as 1841.  The bulk of issue comes within the parameters of Alice's involvement.  and it would be reasonable to think that copy of Riley and Colinband is no exception.

Ford in Chesterfield (working between c.1830 and c.1835) printed Riley and Colinband in familiar fashion to London printers, including 'William' as the hero's name but, in a development not previously encountered, giving the name of the Squire as 'Furlow'.34  Ford includes the phrase 'violet groves and plains' in his second stanza (as opposed to the 'lonesome lane' of both Swindells and Harkness (the same change can be found in the printings from the south of England as discussed below).  There is no confinement stanza.  It is the 'morning of the assizes' when the 'jailer's son' addresses Riley - quite a significant change where other text - some already discussed, some to be discussed - simply has 'Down came the gaoler's son' (Davenport, Pitts, Batchelar, Swindells, Harkness, Hurd, Pratt) or 'It was late in the evening' (Bentley and Chilcott, for example).  It is a 'Noble Lord' who asks that the jury 'spare the life of Riley' and as 'learned judge' in a final stanza, urges the court to 'let the prisoner go', not 'Fox' (as in copies of Trial… ).  Riley also says that 'I never injured my dearest Colinband', the only printing to employ this phrase.  The introduction of 'Furlow' and these other changes marks Ford out as being allied to text other than that from Davenport, Pitts, Batchelar and Phair.  Ford, as we can see, printed after Swindells.  So where were Ford's antecedents?

Harkness printed the piece as Riley and Colinban.35  His text is close to that of the Davenport and Pitts issues; inclusive, then, of the full story, with the usual slight expressive divergences and altered lines.  However, one of these is in the third line where, as opposed to Davenport, Pitts, Batchelar and Phair - who have the admonitory 'O leave your father's blessing' (or 'dwelling') - Harkness, like Swindells, has 'I will leave my father's dwelling', a small difference, maybe, but one that temporarily alters viewpoint (my italics).  The groves are 'quiet' in stanza two.  A pertinent inclusion is that of the description of William Riley in gaol which, we will see, is also found in Davenport and Swindells copy though not in Pitts nor Ford but always in printings of Trial… :

Now I'm in cold irons, my hands and feet are bound,
Handcuffed like a robber, and chained to the ground…
(my italics since this word varies - 'robber' in, say, Davenport, Swindells and Harkness and 'murderer' in Pratt copy, the latter echoing all copies of Trial… ).  Like Davenport, Harkness has 'Down came the gaoler's son' to speak to Riley.  The Squire's name is given as Fowler.  Fox, in this copy, is named as he who first pleads for Riley and then asks that the jury let him go.  'Broches' become 'buckles' once more.  It seems, too, that Harkness had access to both Trial… and Riley and Colinband in earlier manifestations since he was not printing until 1840.  The point is that his changes may contradict any assumption that they are inevitably the result of carelessness.  All told, in Swindells and Harkness copy, we are beginning to see a slight northern flavour in text.  Ford, in this connection, is not necessarily linked, having followed something of an independent line, but all three printers can be seen to have issued text different to that promulgated in London printings.

To emphasise the possibilities of conscious change in text apart from small signs especially in Harkness and Ford we turn next to the text issued by Bentley in Bradford.36 where a much more startling presentation comes into view.  For here, whilst the full narrative of the trial is still recounted as it has been found in Davenport, Pitts and the rest, Bentley has eased the text into a slightly more polished state whilst yet introducing some salient changes - and lapses - of his own.  Thus, in the second stanza, Bentley has:

Over hills and lofty mountains, through violet groves and plains,
Over hills and lofty mountains bad company to refrain…
The lady, says, Bentley, was taken and in 'her chamber bound'.  William Riley, meanwhile; 'was sent to prison in the same town':
… there to await the assizes, when his trial does come on,
For stealing his good lady darling Colinband.
There are no other lines describing Riley's confinement.  And it is 'on the morning of the assizes' ('the assizes' is also found in Ford, Chilcott, Willey and Wright but here its double mention is unique) that the jailer's son spoke to him:
They say that Squire Furlow's anger is hard to stand,
I fear that you will suffer dearly for your dear Colinband.
He, the jailer's son, goes on to say that it was 'late in the evening' that he heard 'them' say that the lady's oath might hang Riley 'or else will set thee free'.  Riley then declares that he is sure that he would never be hurt by 'my dear Colinband'.

The next Bentley stanza has the Squire complaining about the villain:

Besides he is impertinent and not fit to be found,
I'll have the life of Riley if cost ten thousand pounds.
'Up spoke a noble lord' suggesting that to hang a man for love would be murder so that the jury should spare Riley and merely banish him.  The Squire immediately objects:
I'ts (sic) good my lord but he stole from her among other things,
Gold watches, broches (sic), and several diamond rings,
Those goods my lord he stole, they are not to be found,
I'll have the life of Riley or I'll leave this Irish ground.
Stanza order, then, as it was found in other text has been changed.  Thus it is now, after the Squire's objections, that the lady is declared to be sensible and would speak the truth and Riley himself insists that he is happy for Colinband to speak.  It is then that:
The lady she was sent for, to come immediately,
While Riley stood at the bar expecting for to die,
Just like a moving beauty bright before them she did stand,
You're welcome here my heart's delight, my dearest Colinband.
The girl indicates that the problem was one that she caused, that she insists on Riley wearing one particular ring that has 'seven and twenty diamonds' (in contrast to 'thirty locks of diamonds' in other texts) 'on your right hand' whilst in exile; and then 'Up spoke the learned judge' to say that the lady's oath had cleared Riley:
He has released her own true love, and renowned be his name,
Her honour being bright, true love has risen (?) Riley's fame.
So Bentley's version includes familiar narrative lines but has differences that still offer the prospect of an aggrandisement of the story.  Bentley's use of the Davenport and Pitts title may suggest acquaintance with previous text.  On the other hand, his changing of the Squire's name to 'Furlow' is more clear and could hardly have arrived accidentally as a derivative of 'Fowler'. 

And one wonders where Ford comes in respect of this particular alteration of name because Bentley's dates of operation are not clear.  In the Madden collection one Bentley piece has been dated to 1851 on the strength of its title, The Great National Exhibition of 1851.  It has to be said that no records of such a date have yet been found in street directories.  Indeed, around that date only two references have been found - one to 1856 when a Joseph Bentley is described as Bellman, bill poster and furniture dealer agent and this from 52 Market Street - a less obvious choice of source for text - but where, in the same directory, a Joseph Bentley is also listed as Bookseller, stationer and News Agent, this time at 48 Market Street, the address from which 'our' Bentley is known to have issued printings.  We have the further information from the Bodleian Allegro archive that several printings under the Harkness aegis were sold by Bentley in Bradford (amongst other agents from elsewhere), dates being given as between 1840 and 1866.37  Such evidence is inconclusive as regards Bentley's individual operations - he does not, for example, follow Harkness where Riley and Coliband is concerned though having sold Harkness text - but the Riley and Colinband piece can be clearly seen to have appeared long after the Davenport and Pitts issues of the narrative.  We might, therefore, assume some sort of influence from the earlier copies of text even though Bentley clearly went his own way.  It certainly looks as if Ford - who, it will be remembered, included the name 'Furlow' in text - predated Bentley, but Bentley's text does not parallel Ford's.  Whatever the case in hierarchical terms, the distinctiveness of Bentley copy of Riley and Colinband as described above marks him out even more clearly as an innovative printer of the particular text.

There is also one copy without imprint in the Lucy Broadwood collection with a title of William Riley and Colinband that is exactly the same as Bentley copy.  A further copy without imprint with the title William Riley and Colinband has exactly the same text as that from Bentley except that in the last line of stanza eleven the opening expression is 'I loved him beyond measure' (in Bentley copy it is 'she saved him beyond measure').  The Squire's name is given as Furlow.  Stanza order follows that of Bentley. 

Another copy without imprint entitled Riley and Colinband follows the same form in expression, the narrative being intact, although there are several predictable orthographic changes.  'I lov'd him beyond measure' is one example.38

There may even have been some sort of nexus involved here for none of those texts mentioned immediately above - that from Bentley and the three without imprint - carry the Riley confinement stanza.

One more copy without imprint entitled Riley and Colinband39 also has orthographic changes of the same kind as are found in the texts just discussed (we note, for example, 'the lonesome lane' as in Swindells and Harkness) and whilst the last seven or eight lines are practically indecipherable so that we can only assume a degree of parity with other text, the girl's father is nowhere named; and there is no Riley confinement stanza.  Fox it is who speaks to the jury but because of the damaged nature of copy it is not possible to gauge whether it is he or a judge who secures Riley's 'releasement'. 

There is another ravaged copy, Riley & Collinband, without imprint (the latter name mirrored only in copy from Hurd - below) and having its end stanzas unfortunately detached, that parallels Pitts in essentials although it has a unique phrase in 'lonesome way' for the initial action.40  Where the lines become obscured we can still find the girl's second justification of Riley's conduct, a little raggedly printed:

If have them Riley fend them back to me
I will my loving lady with many thanks to thee
There is a ring among them…
… and so on.  The final address to the jury comes next but the text has, unfortunately, 'disappeared' from copy.

This particular text, like the one discussed immediately above, has taken its own twists and turns.  On appearance alone - type-face and general deterioration of copy - it could be an early text - the long 's' may help to underline this but we have seen that this is not necessarily a reliable indication.  The spelling of 'Collinband' is another notable feature on copy (see also Hurd below) although the sound of the name is reproduced on other copy such as that of Chilcott, discussed below, as 'Collanband'.  Nowhere is the girl's father's name given, and text is considerably shorter than it is elsewhere.  This text is outstanding and so the principle of difference in text from different times and from different geographical locations is upheld here.

This is emphasised yet again by comparing Harkness and Swindells text with copy from Hurd41, one of three 'southern' country printers to issue Riley and Colinband, generally in the form that Davenport and Pitts employed.  There are expected adjustments but nothing to compromise narrative as found in other 'southern' text.  The girl's name is given in the title as 'Colinband' and in text as 'Collinband' (an interesting but probably accidental reflection of one spelling in one copy without imprint as discussed above).  The chase is across a 'lonesome plain' thus distinguishing the text from that of Swindells, Harkness and that copy without imprint described above.  The Squire's name is given here as Fowler: in Davenport line.  The goods that Riley was supposed to have stolen 'are not to be found' - no sum of worth is mentioned.  However, unlike - say - in Davenport - there is no detail of Riley's confinement.  The ring given to him by the girl, has 'thirty locks of diamonds'.  Again, the general adherence to the Davenport and Pitts line highlights changes here and also those as found in Swindells, Harkness, Ford and, especially, Bentley; and the similarities (the ring) actually do much the same.

Hurd's dates, so far assessed, mainly in street directories, reveal that he was printing in Shaftesbury in 1830 and up until 1867.  The name 'Shaftesbury' is given on copy where in other Hurd printings it is 'Shaston' but there is no evidence to show usage of one or the other at a particular period: rather the opposite - so there are no clues to dating in this double locational reference.  In fact, the two locations appear on copy throughout Hurd's output and during the whole period of his operation.  This information, whilst it may appear to be somewhat gratuitous, nonetheless, underlines the difficulties for dating of text.  It is not even clear when Hurd ceased to print but we can safely say that he operated during the hey-day of ballad-printing in the 1830s and into the 1840s at which time Riley and Colinband was being issued elsewhere - as with Phair, there may well have been an element of text 'in the air'. 

There is copy from Chilcott in Leominster42 entitled William Riley and giving the names of 'Collanband' and Squire Furlow.  We should note one line - when the father goes to bring his daughter back, 'William followed after with his dear Collanband', a unique phrase in the assemblage of texts discussed here.  Chilcott, unlike Hurd but like Ford, has the chase set in 'violet groves and plains'.  There is no confinement stanza.  The goods that Riley is supposed to have stolen 'are not to be found', as in Hurd copy.  Chilcott, though, has his ring made up of 'seven and twenty diamonds'.  Overall, there are sufficient differences in wording to suggest that Chilcott did not simply 'follow' Hurd or vice versa.

Chilcott, according to the British Book Trade Index, was printing between 1831 and 1855, right through the hey-day, then; and would, therefore, have had the chance to absorb previous and current text.  Perhaps the more notable aspect of Chilcott's printing is that it cleaves to a more or less standard pattern in text.

Willey in Cheltenham also issued a version entitled William Riley.  Like Hurd and Chilcott Willey subscribes to the usual narrative line but there is really nothing to indicate a southern English nexus here even if printing dates coincide… Roy Palmer indicates that no dating is possible for Willey ballads after 1837 and Chilcott's and Hurd's dates as given above are loose.43

Willey, in fact, has William taken along with his 'darling' Collanband in text discussed here (the spelling of the girl's name being commensurate with Chilcottt); and William, replying to the jailer's son's news that he must stand trial in front of 'Squire Furlow', says 'I'm sure I never injured my dearest Collanband'.  Willey, like Chilcott, has the chase set in 'violet groves and plains' which is not to be found in London text such as that of Davenport nor in Swindells and Harkness.  There is no confinement stanza.  The Squire, in this version, is not named and his first 'speech' begins quite abruptly:

O gentlemen of the jury some pity take on me,
This villain's come against us to disgrace our family…
It is 'a noble lord' who then addresses the jury before, in his second 'speech', the unnamed squire or father figure complains that:
It's my good lord he stole from me, amongst other things
Gold watches, other articles, and several diamond rings.
These goods, my lord, he stold (sic), they are not to be found
I'll have the life of Riley, or I'll leave this Irish ground.
When the lady's name is then invoked, Riley repeats his claim that he never injured Collanband.

The next stanza has no attribution although it is the lady speaking:

O, gentlemen of the jury, some pitty (sic) take,
The fault is none of william's (sic) the blame is all on me…
Further, when the lady declares that she gave Riley jewels, she says:
And if you have them William returd (sic) them back to me
I will your honoured lady be with many thanks to thee..
The ring she chooses, like that in both Hurd and Chilcott, has 'seven and twenty diamonds all set in gold so rare'.  When Riley wears it on his right hand he is to 'think of my broken heart when you're in a distant land'.  It is only then that the 'learned judge' insists that 'you may let the prisoner go… ' because 'her honour and great might has risen William's fame'.  Willey, then, has an individuality as printer of this text; not following any London line strictly, nor conforming to copy from Hurd and Chilcott.

If we are to suspend any idea of a 'southern' English nexus, we must equally reserve judgement on Birmingham printers particularly because there are certain startling features in one copy as set out below.  We consider, firstly, a printing from Wright, in Birmingham, who follows Davenport and Pitts narrative but with expected small changes - he has the chase set in 'violet groves and plains', there is no confinement stanza but he includes a ring with 'seven and twenty' diamonds in it.  Taylor, also in Birmingham follows what is fast becoming an alternative line.  Like Wright, though, Taylor sets the chase in 'violet groves and plains', omits the confinement stanza and has 'seven and twenty diamonds' in the ring.  And both, as did Hurd, Chilcott and Willey, use the phrase pertaining to Riley's supposed theft, that goods 'are not to be found'.44  Dating for Taylor is difficult.  The British Book Trade Index gives us an Edward Taylor printing between 1815 and 1875 but admits that this may be to conflate one of several Edwards.  On the other hand, it gives six different addresses, only the last of which is the one found on copy - 10 Upper Priory Street.  It is not possible to gauge when operations took place there. 

When we light on Pratt we find a distinctive voice: unique, in fact, amongst all text and, clearly, putting the lid on any notion of automatically shared text in Birmingham.

Pratt's version, Reilly and Colinban45, after the obvious change of name, immediately offers small differences - in the first stanza his line is 'I'll leave my father's dwelling, his money and fine lawn'; in stanza two (unlike Wright, Taylor, Chilcott and Willey), 'thro' silent groves and plains' (in the use of which Pratt is his own man) and 'Through shady bowers and vallies (sic), all dangers to refrain'…

More radically, a third stanza, plunging forward, runs as follows:

And when they were taken her father wept bitterly,
Saying this inferior came amongst us to disgrace my family
This grievous vexation I'm not willing to withstand,
I'll have the life of Reilly or I'll leave my native land.
A fourth stanza is equally changed from what we had come to expect:
When this lady was rescued, O'Reilly (sic) had no bail,
And for the said offence, he was sent to Sligo jail,
Then to the bar of justice, before the Judge to stand,
For nothing but the stealing of his dear Colin Ban.
Riley's confinement is then described - 'handcuffed like a murderer… ' - and then we have some juxtaposed lines:
All this toil and slavery, I'm willing to withstand,
In hopes to be saved by my dear Colin Ban.
It is then that the 'gaoler's son' appears, reporting that Riley must face 'great Squire Ealstan's anger', a striking change of name, unparalleled in any other printed text.  The next stanza follows the usual course, indicating that the lady's 'oath' will either hang or save Reilly; and 'the noble Fox' speaks up, ending with a plea to the jury, 'Let's spare the life of Reilly to leave this country', our first hint in text so far of a straightforward link amongst event, judgement and subsequent effect.  The narrative is continued by reference to the youth of the lady and the supposition that 'If Reilly has deluded her', then she will tell the truth.  The 'moving beauty bright', as in other text, appears, claiming that the fault was hers; her father then objects, saying that Reilly had stolen her jewels… 'and other precious things' that had cost him 'above two thousand pounds' - another significant change that we will find amongst sung versions - and 'I'll have the life of Reilly or my estate shall be sold', this latter insertion intriguing in view of what might have appeared to be an idle threat in other copy… here there is a suggestion of desperation on the Squire's part. 

It is then Reilly who speaks, followed by the girl, in a kind of shorthand:

These goods my lord she gave me, in token of true love,
And as we now are parting, I'll have them all returned.
As you have them O' Reilly, pray send them home to me,
I will my loving lady, with many thanks to thee.
She insists that he have the one ring 'With thirty diamond lockets well set in silver hair' - quite different to the 'seven and twenty diamonds' in several copies discussed above but near to 'thirty diamond locks' as found in what appear to be early copies - so that Reilly 'may think of my broken heart, in a foreign land'; a two-edged gift, then.  Finally, the 'learned Fox' argues that 'This lady' has 'freed O'Reilly':
She has released her true love, and has renewed his name,
May her honour great gain estate and everlasting fame.
The nuances, the shifts of attention and emphasis, in this piece, and the names of the protagonists themselves, render the story in something of a different light to that to which we had become accustomed.  This does not change the familiar narrative progress and outcome but certainly warns us not to take for granted the regular imitation - filching - that printers indulged in.  Pratt's is, as noted, a very individual copy, neither adhering to the Davenport line nor that of Bentley and different again from Swindells and Harkness and from Willey and Chilcott and Hurd.  We have not got a Birmingham nexus but we do have copy with such marked differences to other copy that consciousness of intention is a strong possibility.

Despite this outstanding Pratt text, we are, nevertheless, able to discern two main routes of progress in printings of Riley and Colinband, one closely allied to that of Davenport, who does look to have been progenitor of the text and one that diverges in phraseology at times (in contrast, copy of Trial… maintains form throughout the century).  In these two routes there are several lines unique to a particular printer - like Chilcott's 'William followed after with his dear Collanband' and Bentley's double reference to the assizes - but they do not substantially alter the direction of copy.  Overall, we note the Squire's name being given as Fowler - the Davenport and Pitts camp - and then Furlow.  It may seem strange, therefore, that Pitts had changed the name from 'Ralliand' as it was included when he issued copy of Trial… to Fowler in his Riley and Colinband text (or vice versa).  This may even confirm his use of, say, Catnach text - or at least previous text - for Trial… and also a sharp eye to possibilities in issuing the Riley and Colinband text, even if preceded by Davenport: perhaps even because of the success of Davenport's ballad text.  It must underline Pitts' business eye!

The full provenance of one or the other - Trial… or Riley and Colinband - as first appearance of the narrative, is still uncertain and we must return to the initial suggestion that the change in spelling of the girl's name could be the factor that dictates the notion that Trial… came first.  Other than that, in the progress of the text of Riley and Colinband, Swindells and Harkness copy do hover on the brink of producing a northern variation of text and Willey a notion of another local pattern whilst Ford, Bentley and Pratt surely confirm individual attention to story and a degree of what looks like conscious innovation.


Finally, in the complex of Reilly stories that concern 'Colleen Bawn' or Coolen Bawn', as set out briefly by Hugh Shields and quoted at the beginning of this article, we should refer to copy of The Cooleen Bawn!, not to be confused with another ballad of the same name - that one actually, Colleen Bawn, printed by Brereton ('Limerick is beautiful as everybody knows… ') and, on copy without imprint, with an alternative title of A Favourite Song Called Coleen Bawn.  There is also A New Version On the Colleen Bawn in texts without imprint in the form of a panegyric to the beauty of the girl in question:

In the golden vale of Limerick
Beside the Shannon's stream
The maiden lives who holds my heart
And haunts me like a dream…
'Our' printing of The Cooleen Bawn! turns out to be exactly the same in form as Nugent's Willy Reilly and his dear Cooleen Bawn, even unto punctuation, although the Bodleian Allegro archive offers the particular issue without imprint.  We can, therefore, probably include it in the Trial… assemblage.46

There is also an Armstrong printing entitled Willy Reily's Courtship, With Cooleen Bawn47 that is couched in conventional terms, beginning:

'Twas on a pleasant morning, & in the blooming spring,
When as the cheerful songsters in consort did sing;
The primrose and the daisy bespangled every lawn,
In arbour I espied my sweet Cooleen Bawn…
and thus encapsulating an idyllic English pastoral scene - daisies, though, do appear elsewhere in ballad text from Ireland.  The courtship progresses and Willy Reily hires with the girl's father, a wealthy man, serving 'a twelvemonth' before asking for the girl's hand in marriage.  The father, enraged, dismisses Willy - 'here's your wages, and so get you out of town' - 'For it is our young squire shall have my Cooleen Bawn'. 

The matter of Reily's (sic) hiring in this text may even, in some fashion, link it with the Wardtown House version of the trial story.  The two lovers eventually ride away (elopement rather than abduction) - 'We had no other remedy', 'stumpling once' (sic); and then there are a few lines that appear to have crept in from the familiar narrative:

  Yet quickly we remounted, and swiftly rode away,
O'er hills and lofty mountains without the least delay,
Her father he pursu'd us, with a well-armed band,
So taken was poor Reily, and his fair Cooleen Bawn.
  Committed straight to prison, to weep and to bewail,
And utter my complaints to the gaol;
Loaded with heavy irons till my trial it comes on,
But I'll bear with utmost malice, for my dearest Cooleen
The piece ends with Reily hoping that it might be his fortune to be set free once more and, 'Spite of her father's anger', to be wed to 'my heart's delight'.

It seems to be the only such extant English version and is set on the same sheet as Armstrong's Trial… (actually printed 'for' Armstrong - this puzzle, as noted earlier, without any solution).  Armstrong, like Pitts, may have had more than one aspect and version of the story at his command and it looks as if he had cognisance of the whole Reilly story as Hugh Shields described it - in three parts.  We can say that, whatever the complexity surrounding the text, it is not either a version of Trial… or of Riley and Colinband as we have found them in extant copy.

Pannell, like Armstrong printing in Liverpool, did issue Answer to Riley & Colinband, a returned lover ballad in which there is a dialogue between 'a handsome comely lass' and a man who, as in the course of other such ballads - The Plains of Waterloo is a well enough known example - professes to know William Riley and tells the girl that Riley is a married man.  She, distraught, 'down she fell & gave a bitter cry', swearing to die, whereupon 'He said, my dearest Colinband, I am your William' - and the couple marry.48


There is little need to rehearse the stability of storyline in Trial… or the myriad small changes.  The text of Trial… as it travelled is consistent with only Haly standing out by reason of a possible view of a much earlier booklet text and Haly not, in any case, 'followed' by other text.  Riley and Colinband followed two routes though neither compromised the narrative in the other nor in relationship to Trial… but we have to take account of texts from Bentley and Pratt and, to a lesser extent, Willey and then Ford, Harkness and Swindells.  The collective differences seem to suggest that printers were not content just to follow precedent.  The text, over a period of time, is slightly less stable than that of Trial… .

Finally, at this stage it is only possible to suggest that Trial… came before Riley and Colinband in date order (we recall the changed spelling of names of protagonists that indicate Anglicisation and the makeup of the ring that degenerates from consistency in Trial… ).  There are no definitive dates of issue that would put one text before the other in historical time.  Both Pitts and Walker issued different texts at (approximately) one and the same time.  The early date for Davenport copy of Riley and Colinband is certainly interesting in terms of progenesis.

And, overall, the existence of the 1796 Irish booklet copy of Trial… (and other such material) allows hypothesis in terms of first issue of any text.

Roly Brown - 9.2.08
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Article MT213

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