Article MT220

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

No. 33: Erin's Lovely Home1

There is a reasonable spread of broadside printings of Erin's Lovely Home indicating popularity (and an extensive group of sung versions) but none that can be ascribed to the best-known printers such as Catnach and Pitts - nor is there any reference to the ballad in Catnach's 1832 list and Pitts' 1836 list when these printers could be considered to have been at the height of their glory and an influence on the stock of other printers.  Further, because there is a school of thought that suggests that Erin's Lovely Home is a version of the 'true' story of Willie Reilly we might have expected that copy had been issued near to the events that are supposed to have taken place in the 1790s.2  However, the appearance of the ballad was at a distance in time from events and, under the imprints that we do discover and in its various forms, there is an intriguing progression of issue.3

The story is, by reason of association, as already noted, like that told in the song Willie Reilly.  Whether an audience contemporary with issue would have recognized that is almost impossible to determine.  It is perhaps more likely that a generic ambience in narrative would have engaged attention.  The story concerns a young man intent on securing his bride but coming from a socially different level; and who falls foul of her father, his employer; is involved in elopement; is captured, imprisoned and accused of theft and then released on her testimony.  It is a story, then, full of appeal to the imagination. 

And there are differences in aspects of the narrative compared with the Willie Reilly tale as vested in copy already discussed on this site (Trial of … and so on).

Firstly, for instance, this protagonist is 'servant to a gentleman' not an independent small landowner.  This aspect is immediately clear in London in Ryle copy that gives us a version paralleled by all other London printers - which version, it should be said immediately, we do not find in copy from further north in England.4  Ryle begins as follows:

WHEN I was young and in my prime, my age just
When I became a servant to a gentleman;
I served him true and honest, it's very well known,
But cruelly he banished me from Erin's lovely home.
Disley, Paul, Fortey and Such all have this opening stanza with its peculiar absence of rhyme in the first two lines ('twenty-one', a sort of half-rhyme, does appear in some broadside versions discussed below).5

Ryle continues:

The reason he did banish me, I mean to let you hear,
I own I loved his daughter, and she loved me as dear;
She had a heavy fortune, but riches I had none,
And that's the reason I must go from Erin's lovely home …
and again all other London printings have the stanza set out in this way (although Disley leaves out the internal commas).  In all London printings the rest of the ballad, too, is laid out in the same way except at the end.  The fuller narrative line, then, may be abstracted from Ryle text where he has the lovers meeting in her father's garden and:
She said my dearest William, if with me you will roam,
We'll bid adieu to all our friends, and Erin's lovely home.
'That very night', a 'bright' one 'by the moonlight we both set off alone', travelling to Belfast 'by the break of day'.  Belfast is not a location associated with the Willie Reilly (Sligo) story discussed already on this site.  In these London printings, too, the girl 'Five thousand pound she counted down' for passage.  At length, the father arrives and the boy says:
And marched me off to Omer (sic) gaol, in the county of Tyrone
And there I was transported from Erin's lovely home.6
Again, the place of imprisonment is different to that in the 'other' Willie Reilly story - namely, Sligo - and Ryle detail reflects the supposed origins of the piece which, we recall, has as its setting Wardtown Castle in County Donegal.7  We should also note the arrival of the father on the scene of elopement 'a few hours after' the lovers get to Belfast.  Printers outside London have a different time-scale, as will be seen.

When the sentence was passed 'it grieved my heart full sore' and parting from his true love grieved the boy 'ten times more'.  'I had seven links on my chain, and every link a year' before he could return; but the girl comes to the gaol the day before he is due to sail and says:

Bear up your heart, don't be dismay'd, I will not you disown,
Until I return again to Erin's lovely home.
Fortey copy has the same text.  Disley has 'Until you do return again' in the last line.  Paul's last line is badly printed and confused - it appears as 'in don't return again to Erin's lovel home' (sic).  Such copy is equally badly printed, ending up as 'Until I do return again lovely home'.

Despite these latter anomalies, the consistency of narrative in the ballad is clear.  The clutch of printers in evidence indicates that in London the text appeared quite late on in comparison to the supposed dates of the events (1790s), a matter of thirty years or more, in the 1830s and 1840s. 

Some English printers outside London - Livsey in Manchester, Harkness in Preston, Forth in Pocklington, Ross in Newcastle, Stewart in Carlisle plus Sanderson in Edinburgh and Lindsay in Glasgow - have text that offers a familiar narrative outline but that differs in detail to the London versions.8  Livsey's first stanza, for instance, reveals the kinds of change (my italics):

When I was young and in my prime just aged twenty-one,
Then I became a servant to a noble gentleman,
I served him honestly, and well 'tis known,
It's nought but cruelty, he banished me from Erin's lovely home.
The age of the protagonist here is an obvious change in comparison to London text although hardly volcanic in effect.  Further, though, the name of the protagonist is given as 'Willy' not 'Willie' or 'William' as in London texts.  Further still, in the second stanza, the girl has a 'handsome' fortune; in the third stanza, the second line is 'When all things to be pleasant the flowers in full bloom'; and the fourth stanza is
'Twas in that night I gave consent which proved my overthrow,
That from her father's garden along with her to go,
The moon shone bright as from the garden we did roam,
And we thought we had got clean away from Erin's lovely home.
The Belfast scene follows, with the girl paying down only 'Five 100 pounds' for passage money, and in the next stanza, when the girl's father catches up with the couple it is after two or three days, not hours as in London printings, and then 'He march'd me off to -- jail, the county of Tyrone', the hyphened gap an obvious printer's ploy for further issue and for contribution by a 'reader' (indicating that printers must have been aware how text, in local guise, was disseminated).  Later on still in the story, a 'cab man came to the jail yard' to take the prisoners away.  In London printings it is 'the rout' - a term that seems to have disappeared during the nineteenth century.  The girl, at any rate, declares that, in the boy's absence, 'for you I would die alone'.

Finally, there is a new twist in a ninth stanza (London printings stop at eight):

Farewell unto Old Ireland for the space of seven years,
And those I left behind me be wailling (sic) in their ears;
But if once more I do return I never again will roam,
But hope to live with her I love in Erin's lovely home.9
Differences between this printing and London ones have mounted up.

Thus, in terms of changes rather than narrative progress, Forth, in a remarkably clean copy, has a comma before 'the flowers in full bloom', for instance, along with one or two other punctuation marks added or subtracted, none altering the sense … and what appears to be a mistake in rhyming in stanza eight in the third line: 'Cheer up y????  heart, be not afraid, for you I would die'.  More importantly, Forth leaves out the 'Old Ireland' stanza.10

Ross has 'When I became a servant … ' in his line two.  In his Belfast stanza he has 'I said, "prepare my jewell (sic) our passage for to pay"'; and '£500'; one or two minor punctuation changes; and, more interestingly, because it mirrors London copy, 'Cheer up your heart, be not afraid - you I'll ne'er disown … '.  Ross, like Forth, leaves out the Old Ireland stanza.11  Overall, Ross suggests that 'borrowing', as we may put it, was from more than possible source and could include invention.

Stewart's narrative line as compared to those discussed already is intact.  Actually, his text is commensurate in most respects with Ross - though, like Forth, he includes the line-ending, 'for you I would die'; and leaves out the Old Ireland stanza.  Stewart also always has the erratic form, 'erins lovely home' (sic).12

In Harkness copy13, whilst, to reiterate, the narrative line is not altered, minor details vary as they did in other northern text.  For exqmple, Harkness, in comparison with London texts, has 'and riches I had none', not 'but riches'; and a hyphen before 'the flowers in full bloom' instead of a continuous line; and then 'all in their youthful bloom; 'along with me you'd roam' instead of 'you will roam' in Ryle and Paul and 'you'll roam' in Disley and Such; 'five hundred pounds' not 'five thousand' in all London text; seven links 'all in my chain' rather than 'on my chain' in Ryle, Paul and Such and 'on every chain' in Disley.  More radically, though, Harkness does include the opening stanza as found in other northern texts with that change of age of the protagonist and, even more interestingly, that ninth Old Ireland stanza. 

This 'Old Ireland' stanza is the outstanding difference where its absence in London printings and its inclusion in those northern ones, Ross, Forth, Stewart and Harkness, is concerned.  It should be said that the presence of an Old Ireland stanza does not necessarily indicate genuine Irish genesis any more than reference to Irish towns in other ballads - Ardee, 'Gortein' (presumably 'Gurteen') and so on - admits more than rhyme or other convenience; and where there are then straightforward mistakes in apprehension or again, where, in another instance, the term 'Irish girl', seems to have been used for an exotic effect. 

What does emerge in respect of all northern texts here described is that they appeared quite late in comparison to the supposed date of the events on which the story was based - indeed, most likely during the 1840s if the known dates of activity of the different printers is assembled.  This is rather when London printers also concentrated on the text.  The 'Irish' reference, then, is late in appearance and, as will be seen, no such stanza is found in any text printed in Ireland.  It is a peculiarly English addition, thus compromising any possible suggestion that English text originated in Ireland.

Pratt in Birmingham, in comparison to other printers, does present slightly altered text again (though the incidence of change is less than it is in similar circumstances of change in his text of Riley and Colinband, discussed in the previous set of 'elopement' articles in this series).  Firstly, he changes the standard four-line stanza into one of eight shorter lines.  He has, in his first stanza, 'It is cruelty that banished me' and, in his next, 'The reason why they banished me'.  His third stanza is as follows:

As I was in his garden,
    All in the month of June,
His daughter she came up to me,
    All in her youthful bloom;
She says, my dearest Willy,
    If along with me you'll roam,
Never mind for those you leave
    In Erin's lovely home.
One recalls that northern text as described above has 'Willie' and London text 'William'.  Pratt also has 'It was on that night I gave consent'.  More obviously, he has a new, early, place in his text for the 'Cheer up … ' lines:
When we arrived at Belfast,
    Just by the break of day,
My true move did come to me,
    And thus to me did say -
Cheer up your heart, be not dismay'd,
    For you I'll ne'er disown,
I hope to see your face again
    In Erin's lovely home.
The next stanza begins:
But to my great misfortune,
    As quickly you shall hear …
And - the only copy so to do - Pratt has 'He marched me off to Armagh gaol' - which puts a different geographical interpretation on location, rather inconsistent with Tyrone and, clearly demonstrating how text can change in time, maybe accidentally and maybe with purpose or, at least, deliberation.  It is, further, a 'cab', not a 'cab man' that comes to the 'gaol' (not the 'jail yard'); and then, uniquely in printings, the 'Cheer up … ' lines as associated with Belfast above are repeated:
Cheer up your heart, be not dismay'd,
    For you I'll ne'er disown …
and so on before Pratt ends with the 'Farewell unto old Ireland … ' stanza.14

Pratt, then, does not quite adopt either the London or any northern form of text but that Old Ireland stanza does link him with northern printings and, considering his printing dates, 1840 on, emphasizes the stanza's late appearance.

In Scotland, Lindsay (Glasgow) has the same narrative line as all other printers, with the same mixture of small changes - for example, 'When all things seemed most pleasing, and flowers were in full bloom'; no specific jail mentioned; and a 'coach' to take the prisoners away.  However, he put in a new first stanza that seems designed to spice things up:

Come all young men I pray draw near that's at your liberty,
A sad and dismal story I mean to let you hear;
In foreign countries I languish Its (sic) there I sigh and moan,
When I think on the days I spent in Erin's lovely home.15
Interestingly, Sanderson in Edinburgh has, as it were, the most complete text: the narrative familiar from English copy plus a first stanza, beginning 'Come all you young men at liberty I pray you to draw near', thus indicating that Lindsay may well just have made an error, as it were, in setting out his rhyme.  Sanderson includes the farewell to Old Ireland stanza as his last.  Changes in phraseology appear - the father is a 'rich gentleman' and the boy 'served him with true honesty'; and, further on, 'Says I, Prepare, my jewel, our passage for to pay' - the girl contributing 'Five hundred pounds'.  The boy is eventually 'march'd' to 'Omagh jail' and it is 'the route' (sic) that 'came to the jail-yard'.  Sanderson's copy might even be seen as a kind of summary of how the text, in broadside terms, had fared but whether this appearance was previous to other printings or subsequent is hard to tell since Sanderson's printing dates cover much of the period of all printers so far discussed.  As it happens, he worked form several locations and there is nothing on copy to pinpoint exactly where at the time the printing was issued.16

Confirmation of most of the discussion above can be found in a series of texts without imprint and in one or two copies from Ireland but none of them get us any further in dating or finding source.  One copy is almost certainly from Disley, following the known Disley copy in absolutely every detail - even the header block is the same; but not, then, offering us any development from printings as described above.  A second copy without imprint has the London narrative - with the protagonist's age given as 'twenty-four', the girl possessing a 'heavy' fortune, the couple (note, in contrast, the London emphasis simply on 'her') 'viewing of those flowers all in her youthful bloom', the payment of 'five thousand pounds' for passage, 'Omer gaol' and 'the rout' coming to take away the prisoners - ' 'Omer' and rout', we recall, being London words.  There is no old Ireland stanza.  We might conclude that this particular printing followed the London line.17  A third copy, though, has the narrative set in form according to Lindsay, with that additional opening stanza and including the same variants in detail such as when a 'coach' came to fetch away the prisoners.18

Overall in English and Scottish printings, there is little to gather about genesis.  Narrative remains consistent over a considerable period of time.  But the starting point for printing is, except possibly for Sanderson, way after the time when the events were supposed to have taken place and this starting point may have been simultaneous in different locations during the 1830s and 1840s.  The anomalies cannot be resolved except in very general terms.  One supposes that oral versions made their contribution.  There is no obvious evidence that English copy derived from anything in Ireland.  If, too, the piece is another version of the Willie Reilly story there is detail enough in a reasonably consistent naming of jails to support the notion that, though these jails were hardly convenient to Wardtown House in Donegal, the supposed setting of the story lies somewhere in the background.  And this, in turn, might preclude connection between the text of Erin's Lovely Home as it appeared in English printings with the other - Sligo - version of events. 

Finally, given the differences that have emerged in certain texts discussed above, the very consistency of storyline indicates a strong hold on imagination, especially during the middle years of the century, a point to remember when extant oral versions are considered. 

We turn now to Ireland where Birmingham copy is identifiable from name and beginning 'All you that's at your liberty I hope you will draw near … '.  In this it echoes Sanderson without reproducing words exactly; and it differs from all English copy. The boy's age is given as '17', not 'twenty-four' as in London copy or 'twenty-one' in northern English copy, in Pratt, and in Lindsay and Sanderson; and he declares of himself and his master, a 'gentleman', that 'I served him true and honestly, and very well its known' until 'With cruelty' the gentleman banished him.  Whilst the narrative line is the same as it is in English copy and there some details the same too - 'dearest William', the night being bright 'with moonlight', the girl possessing a 'heavy fortune' - there are, equally, differences such as the boy saying that for loving the girl 'that was the reason I was sent' from Erin's lovely home).  Similarly, though the girl pays down '500/', the father 'it did appear', not 'he' (most probably a simple example of carelessness).  The usual final line in copy, 'Until you do return again to Erin's lovely home', is missing - and this applies to two other Birmingham copies where, also, 'break of day' in one Birmingham copy becomes 'brean of day' in the others and in those further copies the third line of the final stanza (Birmingham's last) declines into nonsense, the first copy examined having 'Cheer up your heart be not dismayed I'll not you disown' and others 'otn I'll disown': this, one would think, being attributable to bad printing.19

Copy from Nicholson in Belfast is a very tidy product in appearance.20  Further, in a first stanza that also appears in both Lindsay and Sanderson copy, Nicholson has 'While in a foreign country I now must sigh and moan' (put slightly differently to Scottish text) - no languishing here.  In the second stanza he has 'I served him, too, in honesty … '.  The girl had a 'princely fortune' whilst 'of riches had I none'.  The encounter between the lovers took place in the father's garden 'Where everything was pleasant, and flowers all in bloom'.  In Belfast 'She said - prepare my jewel, our passage for to pay' although it is she who lays down five hundred pounds.  The rest of the ballad is as it appears in English copy whilst maintaining that mention of a 'coach' coming to the 'jail-yard' to take away the prisoners.  There is no farewell to Old Ireland.  This stanza, it would seem, stands in relation to other text in the same way as did the Child-ballad descriptive stanza of Willie Reilly, discussed in a previous elopement piece in this series: an imaginative touch (and, to re-iterate, without offering any connection to genesis in Ireland).  Nicholson also has the legend in title - 'The Old Popular Irish Ballad' - which may retain a grain of truth but, in printing terms, is not so judging by the relative dearth of ballad copy and, as will be seen, sung versions in Ireland.

Another copy, badly printed, differs more in printing mistakes than in substance and one might even hazard that it is from Brereton - 'I served him true and a nest', for instance … ; 'Its true i loved his daughter' … 'She had a hanps me I r??? question marks indicate illegibility' (interestingly, because unique, 'but I alas had none', the reason why 'I must go fro Erin's love y home' - sic).  The boy's age is given as '21' … The piece is actually entitled A New Song … and in the use of the word 'New', a regular device to attract attention, there is evidence of prolonged interest by whichever printer issued it.  Given the mistakes in orthography the remarkable thing is just how close the narrative line and the episodes are in comparison to English printings but with the proviso that the girl pays down five hundred pounds and the boy is taken to 'Omagh' (no jail is mentioned), both of these being features of known Irish text.  There is some degree of change, then, but in the end, as in London printings it is 'the rout' that comes to take the prisoners away ) and overall there is a strong resemblance here to London printings.21

A third 'Irish' copy would appear to have come from a songster of relatively late vintage and, whilst the overall pattern is as it is in London printings, it still has differences in its composition.  For example, the last line of stanza one notes how - of the father - 'With cruelty he banished me … ' and the first line of stanza two repeats this.  The usual Belfast stanza is also changed:

When we came back sure it was break
                                               of day,
My love she says we will surely have this
                                               for to pay …
And, in a final stanza, it is 'the recruit' who arrives to take away the prisoners.  There is no Old Ireland stanza.  We can assume change as a result of time passing and the emergence and disappearance of varied text but this is still a printing that bucks clear trends.22

There are two other curiosities.  Firstly, the Bodleian library has placed one printing of Erin's Lovely Home on a sheet with two other ballads, Pat of Mullingar and Paudeen O'Rafferty, a juxtaposition that might, at first glance, suggest that all three were printed in Ireland.  Actually, examination of the printing shows that it comes from Disley so no serious conclusion can be drawn from the appearance of the three ballads together.23  Secondly, another printing of the ballad has been set by the Bodleian with The Tanyard Side, again then, offering a slightly misleading path to follow.  There is no imprint but this is likely to have been someone's way of establishing his credibility as a printer of Irish material; this, as we know, a feature of several printers' stocks (amongst them Armstrong in Liverpool who has some fifty-four such ballads with a possible connection to Ireland).  In the particular case, The Tanyard Side is a rare printing, issued by Fortey and Such and one Thomas Brooks of Bath, possibly the same Brooks who also printed out of Bristol and purveyor of The Ship That Never Returned, itself written by Henry Clay Work in 1865 and so establishing a window or printing life for Brooks (and Brooks?); no better nor worse than copy in songsters.24

Otherwise, all copy thought to be from Irish printers lacks the Old Ireland stanza.  In all printings the girl paying down five hundred pounds (sometimes 500l) and all refer to 'Omagh' or 'Omagh jail'.  There are, as demonstrated here, the usual small differences in phraseology and punctuation.  Birmingham and Nicolson, known printers, have the boy's age as '17' (or 'seventeen'); the late copy described immediately above gives no age at all.25

It begins to look as if 'Irish' text was, in one way, disintegrating as each printer got to work.

The narrative pattern of all printings, though, as we have come to expect in broadside production is, in the end, constant - but just as interesting are the differences amongst printers from London and then the north of England, in Pratt in the Midlands, in Lindsay and then Sanderson in Scotland and these developments (or disintegration), mirrors the progress in Irish printings.  All sorts of copies without imprint support one or the other developments.  Printers made their individual impact, there is no doubt.  All this, we should emphasise, is late in appearance as compared to the supposed dates of the 'original' events.  It remains to be seen how sung versions fared.

Roly Brown - 22.1.09
Oradour sur Vares, France,


Article MT220

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