Article MT268

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Sarah Makem

As I Roved Out

Musical Traditions Records' sixth CD release of 2011, and second 3-CD Set: Sarah Makem: As I Roved Out (MTCD353-5) is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the record, or who might find the small print hard to read, I have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

Track Lists:

CD One:
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As I Roved Out
As I Roved Out
A Servant Maid in Master's Garden
The Canny Oul Lad
Leave Not Your Kathleen
A Man in Love
The Young Sailor Cut Down
The Armagh Nationalists
Farewell My Love
Derry Gaol
Derry Gaol Duet
The County Galway Girl
Jack Donohue
The Irishman
Mary of Kilmore
Now That the Winter is Over
You and I in One Bed Lie
The Banks of the Callan
I Courted a Wee Girl
The Peeler and the Goat
A Rich Farmer's Daughter
New Year's Song
The Jolly Thesher




CD Two:  CD Three:
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'Twas in the Month of January
Take Back the Engagement Ring
John Reilly
Keady Convent
Keady Town
The Factory Girl
Barbara Allen
Barney Mavourneen
Blow Ye Winds Hi-O
Annie Dear I'm Called Away
The Butcher Boy
Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold
Castleblaney Besoms
The Laurel Wear
The Cot in the Corner
The Mother of a Slave
Dobbin's Flowery Vale
John Mitchell
The Alphabet Song
Johnny Doyle
Love is Easing
Land of My Birth
The Magpie's Nest
The Magpie's Nest
My Name is Pat Clancy
Nothing's Too Good for the Irish




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My Love is Like a Red Red Rose
Erin's Lovely Home
The May Morning Dew
Mary of the Curling Hair
The Scutchers
Robert Burns and his Highland Mary
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Miss Jenny

The Banks of the Callan
Barbara Allen
Blow Ye Winds Hi-O
The Butcher Boy
The Canny Oul Lad
Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold
Castleblaney Besoms
Derry Gaol
Dobbin's Flowerey Vale
The Factory Girl
I Courted a Wee Girl
Johnny Doyle





Paul Carter who, with Seán O'Boyle, made the 1967 recordings for Topic Records' LP Mrs Sarah Makem, Ulster Ballad Singer (Topic 12T182) contacted me in late-2009 to say that he had some recordings which had not been used on that LP, and asking if I would be interested in using them in some way. Since Topic had only recently acquired the rights to the Peter Kennedy Archive, which contained quite a number of recordings of other songs by Sarah Makem, this seemed an opportune moment to pursue this project.

'Not much has been written about Sarah Makem, and some of what there is, is sadly inaccurate' wrote Aideen D'Arcy in the Acknowledgements section of her Case Study, compiled for the South Armagh Genealogy Project, in 2007. I can vouch for this; when I began assembling information for these CDs' booklet, all I could find were the same few paragraphs, recycled over a dozen websites.

Indeed, it was not until I stumbled upon the South Armagh Genealogy Project website ( that I found anything different or more substantial. Sadly, the Project closed down a few years ago, but I was able to trace their genealogist, Feargal O'Donnell, who managed to get me the full text of Aideen D'Arcy's article. This was indeed a real goldmine of information, and much of what follows is quoted directly from it (with permission), with additions from a few other sources.

Also, Fintan Vallely put me in touch with Stéphanie Makem, Sarah's great-grand-daughter, who sings many of Sarah's songs, and who was able to help with both photographs and recordings from the family, and some interesting recollections, which I have added to the D'Arcy text. These recordings are fascinating, since many were recorded when Sarah was in her seventies, or even early eighties (I would guess), and many are of local and unusual songs which, it appears, Sarah never recorded for any of the 'collectors' who visited her. They were made on various cassette recorders, so the technical quality is not very good (we have cleaned them up as much as possible), but they do enable us to hear another section of Sarah's repertoire, and allow us to fulfil MT Records' remit of presenting as full an account of a singer's musical life as is possible.

Further, Nicholas Carolan at the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin kindly supplied me with 33 recordings made by the American collector, Diane Hamilton, on reel-to-reel tape in the Makem family home in Keady, Co Armagh, in 1955, 1956 and 1962, together making up almost half of the songs on these records. As with the family recordings mentioned above, some of these are of songs not recorded elsewhere, again broadening our knowledge of Sarah's repertoire.

Finally, where the text below tells of the newly-weds 'Sarah and Peter lived up the Mountainy Road with a sister, until they got two rooms from Johnny Mone', it turns out that this was the grandfather of Seán Mone, who now lives in that very same house, just a few doors away from where the Makems finally settled. Seán knew Sarah when he was young, and kindly agreed to check through the D'Arcy text for accuracy ... he also consulted one of Sarah's grandsons who lived close to her, and who confirmed his recollections almost exactly. Seán's corrections have been incorporated into the text, and his comments inserted [in square brackets, prefixed SM:].

My sincere thanks to them and to everyone else who has been involved in this project.

Rod Stradling, Musical Traditions Records
Summer 2011


Sarah Makem
18th October 1900 - 20th April 1983

If the mere facts of Sarah Makem's life would fit comfortably onto one side of an A4 page, an assessment of her contribution to the history of folk music might run to several volumes. She was born, lived, and died, in County Armagh, spent hardly any time away from it, travelled little, spoke less, and wrote nothing at all, yet her name today is revered; for what Sarah did was to sing. She sang when she was happy and she sang when she was sad, and she sang when she was angry - you could always tell what mood she was in by the way she sang: "If you hear me singing loud, don't come in!" she'd warn. But what she couldn't do was to sing sitting down [SM: she would often sing while seated, but this was, perhaps, later in life], and very often when one of the song collectors who flocked to her house like bees round a honey pot stuck a microphone in her face, she couldn't sing at all. The words and the tune might leave her, and not come back 'til she was wandering about the house again, making a drop of tea for the visitors, with the hapless recording engineer following after her like a shadow.

She was, like many an Irishwoman of her generation, an ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift which might have gone un-noticed, had it not been for the burgeoning interest in folk music in the middle of the last century that brought her into the public eye. It is fortunate that the will and the means were there to preserve her legacy before the inevitability of mortality consumed it.

She was born with the century, on High Street, Keady, the daughter of Tommy Boyle, a plumber and tinsmith, and Margaret Greene, a noted singer, and like most people in the town, as soon as she was old enough to leave school, she went to work in one of the linen mills that thronged the lush valleys of the Clay and the Callan. Sarah was one of seven children, whose father died young, and her mother had it hard enough to rear her family, working as a winder, for which she could earn eleven shillings a week with a sixpenny bonus, for she was the best worker in the mill. She too loved to sing, and this love of music has passed down through the generations: via Jack, who sang and played the fiddle and the uileann pipes; Tommy, international ambassador for all that is best in the north; to the present day, with one of Sarah's great-grand-daughters, Stéphanie, singing in a voice that resembles her great-great-grandmother's.

Sarah enjoyed her schooldays. She loved the nuns who taught her, Sister Columba, Sister Bonaventure, Sister Malachy, and found no difficulty in learning, usually coming second or third in the class behind Agnes Loughran; but she looked forward to starting work. Early on she took a job brushing out the schoolrooms, but her first mill job was at the 'giving-in' where lengths of linen were presented for finishing. For this she earned two and sixpence (half-a-crown; 12.5 pence today) and it was her responsibility to ensure that each length was perfect. Sometimes the girls might be tempted to accept a piece with a tiny flaw, but if the cloth-passer noticed it when he double-checked it, retribution came in the form of docked pay!

From seven in the morning until six-thirty at night she and the other young women toiled at the shuttles or the looms, and as they walked to and from the mills, four miles over the hill path to Darkley or, like her, down into the village to where the old mill restaurant now stands, they sang. They sang at their work too, despite the noise from the machinery. Perhaps it was their way of drowning out the symphony of spindle and bobbin, or maybe their strategy for keeping their sanity intact. Sarah became a weaver, and though she might recall that the work wasn't too hard, we may be sure it wasn't easy - not quite as hard, maybe, as for the women in Darkley, who worked at the wet spinning; they worked bare-foot to save their shoes from the water - but tiring and tedious. They got a break for breakfast at eight-fifteen, a lunch break from one-fifteen until two, and then worked 'til half-past-six, more than ready to demolish the two or three cakes of bread they would bake for tea when they got home. In this atmosphere, songs were a lifeline, and if someone introduced a new one it was regarded as a priceless gift, with everyone eager to learn it. In their darkest days the Irish have always dug deep into their inner selves and discovered the healing power of music; a music that could celebrate, satirise, praise, or mourn, but that in some subliminal fashion, could always lift the heart.

Along with her love of singing, Sarah's mother passed on many of the songs she herself learned in her youth, some from her own mother; but Sarah acquired songs from anybody who came within her orbit, and if she didn't get all the words first time, she would make a point of checking them, sometimes making notes for herself. Music was in the family's genetic blueprint: the Greenes all sang, and there are recordings of Annie Jane Kelly (née Greene), both on her own and dueting with Sarah, in the BBC Community Archive; and according to Sarah, their Uncle Jimmy "could sing the birds off the bushes". Sarah's mother was a real character; she lived with Sarah in the latter years of her life and was quite political. During a riot in Keady, Maggie Greene was arrested for carrying stones in her apron to her brothers, to throw at the local constabulary and Orangemen. She was also part of a political group, 'The Swallows', who squatted in houses in Armagh to protest against absentee landlords. Sarah, too, was not above dabbling in politics; she housed families from Lisburn during sectarian riots there in the '30s.

Johnny Greene, who lived beside them when they were growing up, gave her the lovely ballad Derry Gaol, and her younger sister Molly sang for Cardinal Logue when he visited the Convent where she was a pupil; her rendition of My Irish Molly-O earned her half-a-crown, which bought a length of Darkley linen to make new pinnies for herself and her sisters.

"When I was young we used to have dances in the street to the music of a mouth organ, or if the mouth organ wasn't available then someone had to lilt. Well, at these street dances anyone was likely to be asked for a song, so I always tried to have one or two ready and I kept learning as many as I could from my mother singing around the house. Aye, and a good few away out in Derrynoose."

Another rich source was discovered in the travellers or merchants from England or Scotland who dealt with the thriving manufacturers in the area, along with the radio or gramophone records, so her store of songs increased exponentially without conscious effort. She only had to hear a song once or twice to remember it perfectly, though her memory was not remarkable in any other way, and once she learned a song she never altered or amended it.

Her repertoire seems also to have been added to through her family and friends' contact with the USA; quite a number of her songs are either of American provenence, or have lines or whole verses taken from American versions.

Sarah seldom 'performed' in public, though singing was more natural to her almost than speaking, but it was part of the fabric of her life rather than something she did at certain times or in certain circumstances. Her exceptions were parish fundraising variety concerts, the parochial halls in Derrynoose and Keady, and the Market House in Keady. She did not believe that public houses were the place for women, so she stayed well away from them. However, her house was a ceili house in which all visitors were made welcome. Sarah was very much part of her community.

David Hammond considered her to be one of the best traditional singers in the world, with a voice that was low in pitch, assured and lyrical, effortless and celebratory. Her talent was to lay bare the emotion that underpinned the writing, the ecstasy or the pathos, the story behind the song, and her motivation was simply the love of singing. If she had any message to impart it was this: "Always be proud to sing your own songs", for she valued the traditions and the country that shaped her. She didn't see herself as a woman with a mission, nor did she set out to preserve the rich heritage of folksong, for as son Tommy remarked, "She wouldn't have recognised a folk ballad if it had jumped up and bit her." It's just that some people are born to lead and some to follow, some to rise, others to fall. Sarah, it seems, was born to sing.


But for the force of true love, Keady might have lost Sarah altogether and, in another setting, her voice might not have reached as wide an audience as it ultimately did. An awful lot of people from South Armagh had emigrated to Dover, New Hampshire, finding work in the cotton mills there, no doubt encouraged by one Tommy McKearney who came over from the States on a recruiting mission for the industry, lured by the fame of the Keady workers. Amongst these were some of Sarah's siblings, and, as each one made a bit of money, they would send home for the next in line, enclosing the fare. By the time it came to Sarah's turn, she had met Peter Makem from Derrynoose, probably at one of the impromptu dances on The Parade [SM: a local name for the public foot-path] that made up an evening's entertainment, where, if there was no musician handy, someone would lilt or play the spoons. Not that there was any shortage of musicians as a rule, for Francis Hughes would often be there or Sarah's own cousin, Maggie Greene (Mrs Coulter), to play the mouth organ, and those neighbours who didn't want to dance brought out stools to sit and listen to the music. It was an infectious rhythm that they provided, and many a time the policemen came out of their barracks on the corner of the street and joined in the dancing.

The two young lovers decided that it would be an awful pity to waste good money on the journey to America when they could stay at home and use it to get married. It is not recorded what the relatives thought when they heard that their hard-earned cash was taking the younger sister to the altar rather than to the docks, but the Irish have always had a soft spot for lovers. We don't know whether she ever regretted not 'taking the boat', but emigration took far too many away from these shores, and for every one who made good in their new home there was at least one other who did not. It has not gone unnoticed that there are many sad emigration songs, but very few happy ones. They say that Sarah actually got as far as packing her case, but Peter came along and took it from her, indicating that she should stay where she was. Her song The Scutchers is pertinent here, since its 'proper' title is We Will Stop Where We Are.

The decline of the linen trade after the war opened the emigration floodgates again, so that what was once a trickle became a stream, and there are men in Keady today who remember how it was in the 1950s after the mills shut down: suitcases piled forlornly two or three deep round the Kirk monument - appropriately enough, since it was the enterprise of William Kirk that put the area on the map in the previous century - while the men spent their last few minutes in the public houses saying goodbye to their friends, before the bus came to take them to Belfast on the first stage of a journey that for many of them was undertaken on a one-way ticket.

But Sarah did eventually make four journeys to the States, including one trip on the luxury liner the Queen Elizabeth from Southampton, which she described as "a holiday in itself." She liked Dover, finding it bigger but not so very different from her home town, but New York didn't appeal to her at all. She couldn't think of one single thing she liked about it, unless it was the memorable occasion when she was among the crowd in Carnegie Hall who gave the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem a standing ovation. She was amazed at their popularity, remembering later how "they were killing each other to get in; sure there were more people outside than in at the finish; they were fighting to get tickets." When pressed by the interviewer to express how she felt on that evening, she admitted to being "a kinda proud!"

After her wedding on 9th July 1918, with Maggie Nugent as her bridesmaid, they had a bit of a party in Woods's pub and then went on to her sister's house for a big night. It mightn't have lasted just as long as the hooley in Mary Anne's when someone produced a bottle or two of potín, and nobody went home before six in the morning - but it was good craic all the same. Sarah and Peter lived up the Mountainy Road with a sister until they got two rooms on Victoria Street from Johnny Mone, which they furnished mainly with wedding presents, then finally came to live further along Victoria Street at No.44, the site of the house where her own mother had been born, and set about rearing their family: Jack, Mona, Peggy, Nancy, and Tommy.

Very much a woman of her time, she believed in folk cures, knew how to wash and lay out a corpse, dealt with mumps by getting the sufferer to don a donkey's blinkers, and saw off a sty by gathering nine gooseberry thorns, then pointing each one in turn at the infection before burying them in the earth. [SM: An old folk cure for mumps involved the patient being led around a dish of water while wearing a donkey's or horse's winkers. But Sarah did not have this cure, neither did she have the one for a sty in the eye]. She had only the minimum of formal education, but was a very bright woman with a talent for form-filling, and she loved to read: her favourite author was Annie M P Smithson, an Irish writer popular throughout the '20s and '30s who could weave a fine romance with a dash or two of the supernatural for good effect. She knew all that was happening in the area, and the wider world as well, for she listened to the radio, and hers was one of the first houses to have a television set. The neighbours would gather in to watch a boxing match or the results of an election, and as usual Sarah would be in the thick of it, making tea and singing. She was a good cook, and her grandchildren remember her soup with dumplings, so tasty that you wanted to eat them quickly, yet so good that you didn't want them to be finished! She was houseproud, always busy 'redding up', and she used to do a bit of sewing on an old treadle sewing machine - naturally enough, a Singer.

Husband Peter was an accomplished musician, playing the fiddle, the flute, and the drum, when he wasn't working as a scutcher, or more precisely a dresser, the second man in the team, hard and dangerous work, separating the outer layers of the flax from the inner fibres at the start of the manufacturing process. It was so dusty that if you held your hand out at arm's length in front of you, you could scarcely see it, and most of the workers finished their days with their lungs in a sorry state; Peter himself always short of breath. You were taking your life in your hands if you entered the scutching mill unannounced for more than one reason: the atmosphere was so dry that the men used to roll up a chaw of tobacco in a wee wad of tow and pop it inside their cheeks to keep their mouths moist, and you could never predict where a spit would light! The youngsters used to bring them down their 'piece' or a can of tea, but in later years the workers built a shanty down at the mill where they made a fire inside a structure made from a few bricks laid on their ends like a small chimney; when the fire was well alight these were removed and you had a perfect means of brewing your own tea. Here they held lying contests, which attracted a great deal of interest, and not just from the scutchers! Sarah might not have approved of them, though. "No good in telling a lie and the truth beside it", she once said.

Peter remained a mill-worker until the 'Belgian scutchers' - mechanical ones - took over, and he was in and out of different jobs for a while, but he was always happy to open his house to visitors. David Hammond remembers the couple's hospitality and warmth, and Tommy Makem recalls his father sitting slightly off-side vis-à-vis the action during recording sessions, not over-awed, though maybe a bit bemused by all the attention, yet smoking and tapping his pipe to the rhythm of the songs when he wasn't called upon to play.

Tommy's earliest memory of his mother is of her singing, and he imbibed a love of it, one might guess, from his first breath, though there were times as children when they got a bit tired of the constant musical accompaniment to their every action! He recounts the story of her singing to him as she rocked the wooden cradle with her foot, and then, thinking him asleep, quietly getting up to steal away and get on with her work, but halted by a voice from within: "Sing another one, Mammy!" And that was no hardship to Sarah.


Sarah's emergence into the limelight is usually attributed to her rendition of As I Roved Out (Seventeen Come Sunday) being used as the theme tune for the radio programme of the same name in the early 1950s. David Hammond, who made a short biopic of Sarah in 1977, credits this programme with the revival of interest in Irish folk music that gathered momentum throughout the '60s and '70s, and is still alive and thriving today, but of course it didn't happen overnight, and was itself part of a larger picture.

Peter Kennedy, whose father had helped found the English Folk Dance and Song Society, introduced Sarah to Seán O'Boyle, a noted scholar and folklorist, who taught in Armagh College, and he soon recognised what a treasure trove was there on his own doorstep as he started to record her songs. She never wrote any of them down herself, though she once compiled a list of titles, and it was only when more and more people started turning up at her door that those around her, including her son Tommy, began to appreciate and preserve them too. Estimates of the extent of her repertoire vary from five hundred to one thousand different songs, but she herself would admit that she could rattle off four hundred without effort.

Tommy went off to the USA to try his luck as an actor, even though he had had an offer from the Old Vic, but he decided that he might have better success on the other side of the Atlantic. So it was to prove, but success lay in a quite different direction when he teamed up with the Clancy Brothers to do a bit of singing, made a by-now historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, and took America by storm. It is worth noting that his success and his mother's growing celebrity flowed along in tandem rather than piggy-backing off each other. He came home once for a holiday, hired a car, threw his suitcase and banjo onto the back seat and headed for Keady. He was probably looking forward to a quiet night with the family, but he found the kitchen occupied by a class from a well-known university in mid-western America, students and tutor draped over every possible chair and table, Sarah weaving in and out amongst them, singing and making tea while they wrote down everything she sang.

On another occasion he called in to the offices of Tradition Records in New York to see Paddy Clancy, and began rooting through a box of cassette tapes. He came across one of his mother's and a glance at the play-list revealed three songs that he had never heard her sing, including The Butcher Boy, a very fine ballad and one that he performed many a time since. His mother's songs formed part of his repertoire throughout his long career, sometimes more, sometimes less, but always there. The first song he ever sang in public was The Little Beggarman, at a concert in Keady Town Hall where his sisters were appearing in the Convent choir. Perhaps conscious of his indebtedness, he made sure that whenever he made a new record, Sarah got a copy, and she herself had several long-playing records to her credit, notably Sarah Makem Sings, and Sarah Makem, Ulster Ballad Singer.

When Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger got to hear of Sarah and her songs, she accepted their attention with equanimity, though in later years she would concede that their interest surprised her a bit. She may not have realised that Seeger and The Weavers were already achieving almost legendary status in the world of song collecting, but it wouldn't have bothered her. Jean Ritchie, Diane Hamilton, Pete Seeger, or wee Joe Molloy from Darkley - who was passing the door one night when a session was under way, and paused to peep in the window to see the craic: "Come in and look out, Joe, and while you're at it, lilt us a bit of a song" - it was all the same to her. Her attitude was "Let them all come and talk away. Sure you wouldn't turn anybody away from your door." Jean Ritchie found this to be very much the case when she made Sarah's acquaintance in 1952. This is her recollection of their first meeting:

"It was like being at home in Kentucky when Sarah opened her door to us and welcomed us in. Neat as a pin, wearing an apron and not worried about that, smiling, outgoing, as though we were close neighbors dropping in.

Sarah immediately put the kettle on, then seated us near the kitchen table, chatting and asking interested questions (where do you live? do you have kin in our parts? do you like Ireland?) while she got the big bacon slab onto a sideboard, cutting slices and, when the talking dwindled, went about making the tea, frying the bacon and tomatoes, singing and humming all the while. Of course, George had the Magnacorder set up by then, and you can hear her, under the song, walking about the kitchen, slicing the meat, and her song going over it all:

As I roved out on a May morning.
On a May morning right early,
I met me love upon the way,
O lord but she was early.
And she sang, lilt-a-doodle,
Lilt-a-doodle day
And she ha'ed-along-a-day,
And she ha'ed-along-a-day
And she l'ahndie.

(Note: I give the sound of the words; never thought to translate them!)

Later she rounded up a roomful of neighboring friends bearing pipes, fiddles, banjos; her sons Jack and Tommy and daughter Nancy came by, husband Paeder (sic) got his fiddle down, and Sarah joined in the singing. Never throughout the evening was she weary, in body or in spirit, and we all, including Sarah, thoroughly enjoyed the music far into the night. She encouraged various folks to sing, or play a tune, and the only hard work she did was to see that everyone was having fun.

I could see that her family was very important to her, as was her home and her place in the community. She valued her place there, and her main love besides her nearest and dearest was the music. The music to her, as it has always been to me, (in Kentucky and wherever else I have been in the world), a wondrous accompaniment to the series of events, hardships, sorrows and joys which made up her life."


Sarah embodied the values of an age that is gone: courtesy, open-handedness, a sense of place. She was a woman of strong Christian principles firmly rooted in the Ulster soil that gave her birth, completely unaffected, perhaps even unattracted, by the trappings of fame, whose name today evokes accolades like 'warm', 'lively', 'intelligent', 'generous', 'hospitable', and indeed she was all of these things; but the over-riding impression is of a kindly woman with a sense of humour. It was probably this, along with her songs, that kept her going when times were tough. She took great delight in singing to aggravate, and if she got a red-hot Republican within earshot she would let rip with a rousing Orange ditty, but if Dr Dorman came by, the same doctor who had carried out the medical examination required before she was allowed to take up her job in the mill, she would sing the most fiery rebel song she knew. [SM: I can't imagine her singing a rebel song for Dr Dorman - it would be considered bad manners ... even offensive]. Once, when Peter was working for the Electricity Board, 'The Twelfth' was to be held in Keady and some of his colleagues, he knew, would be there to participate. Sarah told them they needn't think of coming to Keady unless they called for a drop of tea after the parade, which they did.

"Give us a song, Sarah," said one, and she was happy to oblige, responding to the good-natured challenge to "sing an Orange one - if you know one!" She did. In fact she knew several, and she readily performed The Aghalee Heroes, followed by Dolly's Brae, and then told them she wouldn't let them out of her house until she had taught them Kevin Barry!

When Tommy was a lad he was in the choir and was smitten with a sore throat. This occasioned a visit from the Canon, a man of great self-importance with a habit of enunciating his every word with great clarity and emphasis as if he were practising for an elocution exam.

"The boy must see the doctor," he counselled Sarah in stentorian tones, "and if he says his tonsils must come out, why then, they must come out; and if he advises that they must stay in, then they must stay in."

We can picture the devilish twinkle in her eye as she responded pleasantly, "Ach, what odds, Canon, sure he can't sing anyway."

She was modest about her celebrity, and knew that the crowds in Carnegie Hall were not for her: there'd be too many faces looking back at her, she said, and she was genuinely surprised at the extent of her reputation: "My name's farther than my feet'll ever take me", she remarked wryly to David Hammond; but it was always the songs she loved.

Sarah continued singing to her dying day, and if in the latter times her memory faded a bit, it still retained the songs. She might not remember what she had for her dinner - might have forgotten that she had eaten at all - but start her off on The Banks of the Callan and she would give it to you word for word. There is a heart-warming vignette of her lying in hospital, near the end of her life, when she spotted two of her grandchildren coming to visit. She decided that she had better lay off the oul' songs and sing something a bit more modern for them. It being 1983 it was the most natural thing in the world to choose - Alexander's Ragtime Band!

Sarah sang love songs and romantic ballads, but many of her songs grew out of local incidents, or were songs of loss, poverty, and harsh experience, desolation, occupation, and want - many with roots that could be traced back four hundred years or more - and there was a time when we as a nation wanted to forget these things and move on. Now we understand that these experiences made us what we are today, and we finally have enough self-belief to celebrate them for what they are: a record of a people in the making.


Clancy, Liam: Memoirs of an Irish Troubadour, London, Virgin Books, 2002 (also published under the title: The Mountain of the Women)

Gillespie, Elgy: Mrs Sarah Makem, Irish Times, 7th October 1978

Hammond, David: Sarah Makem, An Appreciation, Irish Times, 10th May 1983

Johnston, Neil: Sarah's Memory Will Live On, Belfast Telegraph, April 1983

McHardy, Ann: With a Handful of Songs, The Guardian, 16th February 1979

Makem, Peter: The Point of Ripeness, Belfast, Appletree Press, 2002

O'Hare, Fergus: From Armagh to the World, in Fortnight, May 1983

Armagh Observer, 20th August, 1955 & April 1983

Evening Herald, 8th July, 1968

Irish Press, 8th July, 1968 & April 1983

Sunday Independent, 24th April 1983

The Sunday Press, 24th April, 1966

Ulster Gazette & Armagh Standard, 28th April 1983, Obituary.

The Songs:

Roud numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud. Currently containing over 323,000 records between them, they are described by him as "extensive, but not yet exhaustive". Copies are held at: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London; Taisce Ceol Duchais Eireann, Dublin; and The School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh. The Folk Song Index is also accessible on-line at: They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK. E-mail:

Child numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, Boston, 1882-98. Laws numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, Philadelphia, 1957. Reference is also made to Sam Henry's Songs of the People, Eds. Huntingdon, Herrmann & Moulden, University of Georgia Press, Athens and London, 1990.

We have assembled some 92 recordings of Sarah Makem's songs - 21 of these appear on the Topic Records' CD TSCD674 and four others will be on other Topic CDs in their New Voice of the People series. The remainder are on these three MT Records CDs. They have been drawn from the following sources: Paul Carter's 1967 Topic recordings, made in association with Sean O'Boyle; recordings from the Peter Kennedy Archive; recordings from the Makem family, kindly supplied by Stéphanie Makem; and finally, a large number of recordings made by Diane Hamilton in 1955. These latter have been kindly supplied by Nicholas Carolan at the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin.

Sarah Makem was one of 'The Singing Greenes of Keady', as were her mother, Maggie, uncles Johnny and Jimmy, and her cousin Annie Jane Kelly, all mentioned in the booklet text ... one would imagine that others in the family also sang, but we don't know their names. To give a fuller picture of the family song repertoire, we have included recordings of Annie Jane Kelly, a couple of songs where Sarah is joined by her son Tommy, and son Jack on whistle.

Where we have more than one recorded performance of a song, the transcription of the text may contain lines, or even verses, found in the other recording(s). Similarly, Stéphanie Makem supplied me with transcriptions of a number of her great-grandmother's songs ... sometimes these include extra verses, which are shown in italics.

We have given what we think are the 'best' versions first - then, after a 10 second gap, some of the duplicate recordings. Our judgement as to which are these 'best' recordings is, of course, a personal one, and the duplicates should not be considered inferior, or unworthy of your attention. There remain a further seven duplicate recordings for which there is insufficient space - even on four CDs!

In the following Song Notes, all Topic Records' CDs are referred to only by their Catalogue Numbers (i.e. TSCDxxx), as are all Musical Traditions Records' CDs (i.e. MTCDxxx) and Veteran CDs (i.e. VTxxx). The names of all other CD publishers are given in full.

CD One:

1 - 1 As I Roved Out (Seventeen on Sunday) (Roud 277, Laws O17)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

As I roved out on a May morning
On a May morning right early
I met my love upon the way
Oh, Lord but she was early.

And she sang lilt-a-doodle, lilt-a-doodle, lilt-a-doodle-dee,
And she hi-di-lan-di-dee, and she hi-di-lan-di-dee and she lan-day.

Her boots were black and her stockings white
Her buckles shone like silver
She had a dark and a rolling eye
And her ear-rings tipped her shoulder.

"What age are you my bonny wee lass
What age are you my honey?
Right modestly she answered me
"I'll be seventeen on Sunday."

"Where do you live my bonny wee lass
Where do you live my honey?
"In a wee house up on the top of the hill
And I live there with my mammy.

"If I went to the house on the top of the hill
When the moon was shining clearly
Would you arise and let me in
And your mammy not to hear you?

I went to the house on the top of the hill
When the moon was shining dearly
She arose to let me in
But her mammy chanced to hear her.

She caught her by the hair of the head
And down to the room she brought her
And with the butt of a hazel twig
She was the well-beat daughter

"Will you marry me now my soldier lad
Will you marry me now or never?
Will you marry me now my soldier lad
For you see I
'm done forever"

"I can't marry you my bonny wee lass
I can
't marry you my honey
For I have got a wife at home

And how could I disown her?"

A pint at night is my delight
And a gallon in the morning
The old women are my heart break
But the young ones is my darling.

Tommy Makem added the last verse.

A very popular song with 296 instances in Roud's Folksong Index from all over the British Isles, USA, Canada and Australia; there are 25 from Ireland. It appears with numerous titles, among the most appealing of which is Flash Gals and Airy, Too - used by both Win Ryan and Caroline Hughes. Obviously it has remained a favourite with country singers, and particularly Travellers, into the present era, since there are 59 sound recordings.

Beyond singing at local dances in her youth, Sarah Makem never became a public performer, but she came to the attention of a wide audience in 1950 when she sang the introductory song As I Roved Out to the radio programme of the same name. For some reason, she sang only the first two verses of the song to Peter Kennedy when he recorded it, and it has passed into the annals that this was all she knew. Fortunately, her great-grand-daughter, Stéphanie Makem, was able to supply me with transcriptions of many of Sarah's songs, including this one, and so we find that she actually had a very full version, with a further eight verses, shown above in italics.

Other versions currently on CD: Joe Heaney (TSCD651 and TSCD518D) Mary Delaney (MTCD325-6), Bob Hart (TSCD660 and MTCD301-2), Bill Smith (MTCD351); Walter Pardon (MTCD305-6), Stanley Robertson (Elphinstone Institute EICD 003 Rum Scum Scoosh), Jumbo Brightwell (Veteran VT154CD), Jean Orchard (Veteran VT151CD), Fred Jordan (Veteran VTD148CD), Seamus Ennis (Saydisc CD-SDL 411).

1 - 2 As I Roved Out (Seventeen on Sunday) (Roud 277, Laws O17)
Sung by Annie Jane Kelly
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Seán O'Boyle, 1952

For notes, see the previous track. Compare and contrast the two cousins.

1 - 3 A Servant Maid in her Master's Garden (The Broken Token) (Roud 264, Laws N42)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

Oh, a servant maid in her master's garden
A gentleman he was passing by
And for to view her he stepped up to her
And he says "Fair lady, would you fancy I?"

"I am no lady, kind sir" she said
"But a poor girl of a low degree;
So there afford you some other fair one
For I'm not fit your servant maid to be."

"Oh, you are not fit my servant maid to be
But you are far fitter my bride" said he
"So it's come with me, I'll make you a lady
And will have servants to wait on thee."

"Oh, it's seven years since I had a sweetheart
And seven more since I did him see
And seven more I will wait upon him
For if he's alive he'll return to me."

"If it's seven years since you had a sweetheart
Perhaps in this time he's dead and gone
So, my pretty maid, I'd have you to marry
And wait no longer on any man."

"Well, if he's sick, sure I wish him better
And if he's dead I do wish him rest
And if he's alive he'll return to see me
For he is the only one that I love best."
Well, when he saw her so constant and loyal
He thought a pity to see her lost
He says "I'm your love and your single sailor
That often did the wide ocean cross."

"Well, if you're my love and my single sailor
Your face and features are strange to me
But it's seven years make an alteration
The raging seas between you and me."

Sarah sings this to the same tune she has made famous as Derry Gaol (tracks 1-10 & 1-11) - you will find that she often uses one tune for several of her songs.

Also known as The Broken Token or The Young and Single Sailor, this is probably one of the most popular of all the 'broken token' songs, in which parting lovers break a ring (or some other token) in two, each half being kept by the man and woman. At their reunion, the man produces his half as a proof of his identity.

Robert Chambers, in his Book of Days, 1862-1864, describes a betrothal custom using a 'gimmal' or linked ring:

It boasts 405 Roud entries, the great majority of which come from North America; England has 65, and Ireland 30. Of these, 17 singers are named.

There are 82 sound recordings listed, and those by: Sarah Anne O'Neill (TSCD660); Mary Cash (MTCD325-6); Maggie Murphy (MTCD329-0 and VT134CD); Harry Brazil (MTCD345-7); Harry Holman (MTCD309-10); Fred Jordan (VTD148CD); Viv Legg (VT153CD); Daisy Chapman (MTCD308); Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); Johnny Doughty (TSCD662); Harry Upton (TSCD652); Nova Baker and Elsie Vanover (MTCD341-2); Cas Wallin (MTCD323-4); Texas Gladden (Rounder CDs 1500 and 1800) remain available on CD.

1 - 4 The Canny Oul' Lad (Marrowbones) (Roud 183, Laws Q2)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

Ah, there was lady in this town,
And in this town did dwell
And she loved her ould man dearly
But another man twice as well

An me rickety rorum borum
An me rickety rorum dee
An me rickety rorum borum
And a canny oul' lass was she.

Oh, she went unto the doctor
To see what she could find,
Saying "Doctor, give me something
For to set me ould lad blind."


"Oh, boil him eggs and marrowbone
And make him sup them all
And it won't be very long after
'Til he can't see you at all."


So she boiled him eggs and marrowbone
And made him sup them all
And it wasn't very long after
'Til he couldn't see her at all.


"Oh, I'm tired of me life,
And I'm tired of me wife,
And I think I'll go and drown myself
And that will end all strife."

Chorus ... and a canny oul' lad was he.

"All for to drown yourself, John,
You know it would be a sin,
But, sure I will go along with you
And help to throw you in."


So they walked and they talked
'Til they came to the river brim.
Says the canny ould lad "I won't drown myself
Unless you throw me in."


Then she placed him on the water edge
Took a raise to throw him in
But the canny ould lad he stepped one side
And she went tumbling in.

Then she hauled and she bawled
'Til she came to river brim
But the Canny oul' lad with the point of his stick
He dibbled her farther in.


Well, when she was near drownded
He took her out on land
Saying "I'll bet you the notion's out of your head
To flip in another man."


A very well-known song, with 181 Roud instances, although more than half of these are from the USA and Canada. Only 24 are from Ireland, although important names like Elizabeth Cronin, Thomas Moran, Joe Heaney and John Reilly are amongst them. Unusually, in Sarah's version, the murderous wife is saved in the final verse.

There are 55 sound recordings listed, but only the following are still available on CD: Joe Heaney (TSCD518D); Red Mick McDermott (MTCD 329-0); Jimmy Knights (12TS 375 and Helions Bumpstead NLCD 14); Maggie Parker Hammons (Rounder CD 1504/05); Sidney Sandell (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 54).

1 - 5 Leave Not Your Kathleen (incomplete) (Roud 13875)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

Oh, it's leave not your Kathleen
There are none left to cheer me
Alone in this wide world
Unpitied she'll sigh.

For scenes that were loveliest
When now were but near
Recalls this old vision
Of days long gone by.

'Tis in vain when you sail out
That you ne'er will forget me
To the land of the shamrock
You'll ne'er return more.

Far away from my side, love
You will cease to regret me
You'll soon forget Kathleen
And Erin go bragh

Oh it's leave not the land
The sweet land of your childhood
Where joyously passed
The first days of our youth.

Where together we wandered
Over valley and wild wood ...
(spoken ... "I can't get on with it now")

A very rare item, this, which may have been inspired by the well-known song You Would not Leave your Norah. Written as You'll Soon Forget Kathleen by W Langton Williams (William Langton) c.1832-1896. Roud has only four instances, three of which are late-19th century songsters ... the other shows the song to have been in the vast repertoire of Henry Burstow of Horsham, Sussex.

It appears in about ten 19th/20th century songsters - evenly divided between Irish and American. Again, McCall's scrapbook has a copy - probably from one of them.

1 - 6 A Man in Love (Roud 990, Laws O20)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

Oh, a man in love, he feels no cold
Like I not long ago
Like a hare rode bold
For to see my wee girl
I went out through frost and snow
Where the blue maiden moon
She showed me light
All on my wearied way
Unto I came to that sweet spot
Where all my treasure lay.

Oh, I knocked at my love's window-sill
"Arise and let me in."
And it's slowly, slowly
The door she unlocked
And slowly I stepped in.

This was written by Hugh McWilliams, a county Antrim schoolmaster who published two volumes Poems and songs on various subjects in 1816 and 1831. This song, directed to be sung to the air Moses gathering the children, was originally rather more florid and has been published under John Moulden's editorship in Songs of Hugh McWilliams, Scoolmaster, 1831 (Portrush, 1993).

Another night-visiting song; not a particularly well-known one, with only 36 Roud entries, almost all of which are from Ireland, and mostly from the North. Every named singer is well-known, and this in itself is unusual - there are usually some unfamiliar names in such lists. It must have remained popular with singers since 23 of the entries refer to sound recordings but, again unusually, only one - that by Paddy Tunney (TSCD651) - is available on CD.

1 - 7 The Sailor Cut Down in his Prime (Roud 2, Laws Q26)
Recorded by Michael O'Donnell, 1968

As I went a walking
Down by the Royal Avenue
Dark was the morning
And cold was the day
Who did I meet -
Only one of my shipmates
Wrapped in a blanket
More colder than clay.

He asked for a candle
To light him to bed
Also some flannel
To tie round his head
His poor head was aching
His poor heart was breaking
For he was a sailor
Cut down in his prime.

At the foot of the street
You will see two girls standing
Says the one to the other
"Here comes a young man
Here comes a young sailor
Whose money we squandered
Here comes a young sailor
Cut down in his prime. "

His poor aged father
His poor aged mother
Often they told him
Of his past life
Along with his flash girls
His money they squandered
Along with his flash girls
That was his delight.

So beat the drums o'er him
And play the fife lively
And sound the Dead March
As we carry him along
Lay him in the church yard
Fire three volleys o'er him
For he was a sailor
Cut down in his prime.

An extremely popular and widespread song throughout these islands and North America - in fact, almost two thirds of Roud's 355 entries are from the USA. There are only 8 Irish instances, accounting for just 4 singers - Mary Doran, Bill Cassidy, Tom Lenihan, and Sarah's is the only one available on CD. It's an old song, but doesn't appear in many broadsides (only 15), though it has been included in a few books - 154 to be exact!

There are 106 sound recordings, and those by: Harry Brazil (MTCD345-7); Harry Holman (MTCD309-10); Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); Bill Ellson (MTCD320); Hobert Stallard (MTCD344); Texas Gladden (Rounder CD1500); Fred Jordan (VTD148CD); Johnny Doughty (TSCD662); Harry Upton (TSCD652); Viv Legg (VT153CD); Moses 'Clear Rock' Platt and James 'Ironhead' Baker (Rounder CD1821) remain available on CD.

1 - 8 The Armagh Nationalists (Roud 22753)
From the Makem Family recordings

You Nationalists of famed Armagh
I hope you will attend.
And likewise pay attention
To these few lines I pen.
It does concern a meeting
'Twas held near Keady town
All by our gallant Nationalists
To pull the Tories down.

On the seventeenth of February
We all will mind the date
That day shall be recorded
As long as '98
They assembled in their thousands
As they often did before
To tell the Tory government
We're Paddys ever more.

There was a band from Middletown
And Madden was there too
And several other contingents
Most splendid for to view
And when they came to Keady
They would fill your heart with joy
You'd think they were the soldiers on
The march for Fontenoy.

The noble men of Anvale
And famous Caramoyle
Came there to prove that they were true
To Erin's cause and soil
The Granemore Bold Defenders
Came forth that day to show
That they dearly loved old Ireland
And the shamrock green and gold.

The millers from Belleek (?) was there
(The Derrynoose band they played it grand)
I hear the people say
Playing Garryowen, The White Cockade
And Tories Clear the Way
The gallant men of Keady
Who stood foremost in the van
To advocate old Erin's cause
Together they did stand.

Their banner bore St Patrick
The apostle of our isle
That blessed Saint who banished
All serpents from our soil
Who taught our pagan fathers
The truthful laws of God
And thus inspired our Celtic hearts
To love their Irish sod.

Long life to Father Vallely
Who took the noble stand
It was he presided in the chair
That noble clergyman
To address our Irish people
That day he did not fail
He stood like Dan O'Connell
While pleading ne'er it failed.

Now, to conclude and finish
I mean to end my song
For unity is strength, they say
And to do nothing wrong
And may the Lord who rules above
His choicest blessing share
With the Reverend Father Vallely
And every soul was there.

Written by Nugent when in prison in Dover, New Hampshire, USA. John Moulden says: This is an evidently local song and not likely to date from after about 1870. Songs with the degree of historical allusion found here were written by middle-class revolutionaries before 1850, but by the less educated only after popular education had got a grip.

1 - 9 Farewell My Love, Remember Me (Our Ship is Ready) (Roud 2995)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

Our ship she's ready to bear away
Come, comrades o'er the stormy sea
Our snow white wings they are unfurled
And soon she'll wave in a watery world.

Do not forget love, do not grieve
The heart that's true cannot deceive
My heart and hand I'll give to thee
So farewell my love, remember me.

Farewell my love, so bright as pearl
My lovely dark haired, blue eyed girl
And when I'm crossing the deep blue sea
I hope, in Ireland, you'll think of me.

Emigration songs are common enough in Ireland, but too many of them are written to a stereotyped nostalgic pattern, full of references to beloved scenery and beautiful maidens left lamenting. This fragment recorded by Mrs Makem has all the simplicity of diction that comes from a full heart, and only in the last line do we discover that the emigrant is setting out from Ireland. This one is widely represented in Irish libraries on a Ballad Sheet printed around 1870 by Peter Brereton of Dublin, A much admired song entitled The Emigrant's Farewell to his country.

Roud has just 15 instances of this lovely song and, sadly, none of the other sound recordings by Robert Cinnamond, Mikeen McCarthy, or Mary Toner is available on CD.

1 - 10 Derry Gaol (Roud 896, Laws L11)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955 or 1962

Oh, it's after morning there comes an evening
And after evening, another day
And after a false love there comes a true one
It's hard to hold them that will not stay.

My love he is as nice a man
As e'er Nature framed or the sun shone on
And how to gain him I do not know
He has got a sentence for to be hung.

As he went walking up the streets of Derry
I'm sure he marched up right manfully
He was more like a commanding officer
Than a man to die on the gallows tree.

The very first step he went up the ladder
His aged father was standing by
"Come here, come here, my old aged father
And speak one word to me before l die."
The very next step he went up the ladder
His aged mother was standing by
"Come here, come here, my old aged mother
And speak one word to me before I die."

The very next step he went up the ladder
His blooming colours began to fail
With heavy sighs and with dismal cries
"Is there no releasement from Derry gaol."

The very next step he went up the ladder
His loving clergyman was standing by
"Stand back, stand back, you old prosecutors
I'll let you see that he will not die.

"I'll let you see that you dare not hang him
'Til his confession unto me is done,
And after that, that you dare not hang him
'Til within ten minutes of the setting sun."
"What keeps my love, she's so long a-coming
Oh what detains her so long from me
Or does she think it a shame or scandal
To see me die on a gallows tree?"

He looked around and he saw her coming
And she rode swifter than the wind,
"Come down, come down,
off that weary gallows
For I bear pardon all from the Queen.

"Come down, come down, off that weary gallows
For I bear pardon all from the Queen.
I'll let them see that they will not hang you
And I'll crown my Willie with a bunch of green."

This great ballad may be seen as a localised variant of The Maid Freed from the Gallows (Roud 144, Child 95), but I believe it merely uses a similar central theme, and is sufficiently different to be considered a separate ballad. Eleanor R Long, in her article 'Derry Gaol' in From Formula to Narrative Theme in International Popular Tradition (Jahrbuch für Volksliedforschung, 20, Jahrg 1975, pp. 62-85) agrees, stating: 'Laws L11 intrinsically belongs to a similar [to Child 95], but distinct, inter-national ballad tradition.'

Clearly, it is one of Sarah Makem's finest contributions to the canon. Yet it's an unusual one in that, out of Roud's 41 instances, most are from Canada or the USA. Only 11 are from Ireland ... and 5 of those refer to Sarah! It would also seem that her first verse has wandered in from another song - possibly from The Sweet Bann Water (Roud 179, Child 248) - as none of the other singers use it. Also in this recording Sarah sings a second verse which none of us have ever heard before.

The only other named Irish singers are Mrs J De Vine from Belfast, Peter Donnelly from Co Tyrone and the great Eddie Butcher from Magilligan, Co Derry - none of whose performances appear to be available on CD.

1 - 11 Derry Gaol (Roud 896, Laws L11)

Sung by Sarah Makem and Annie Jane Kelly

Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Seán O'Boyle, 1952

For notes, see the previous track.

1 - 12 County Galway Girl (Roud 9307)

Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

Ara hush, mavourneen, hold your tongue

And I'll praise the girl that's fair and young

Sure, me thoughts are on her night and day

Since first I met her in Galway.

For she is me fancy, neat and trim
She's rosy cheeks and dimpled chin
And her footsteps light as any squirrel
She's me rattling County Galway girl.

If you seen her on Saint Patrick's Day
Preparing whiskey for the day
And her hair tied back with ribbons green
You would think she was an Irish queen.


And if I could only her caress
In Irish style I'd her address
And I'd change her name to Mrs Tyrell
But still she'd be my Galway Girl.


The only other instance of this song in Roud is the 1952 BBC sound recording by Peter Kennedy of John MacLaverty, in Belfast. The first line of his version is transcribed in the BBC Index as "Ah be there hush, and hold your tongue" and is evidently a rendering of the Irish "Bí i do thost" or "Be quiet".

The song appears in Harding's Dublin Songster under the title The Galway Girl and with the subtitle 'Sung by Paddy Clarke at Crampton Court'. John McCall's Scrapbook, mentioned in connection with The Irishman, has a copy of this version.

1 - 13 Jack Donohue (Roud 611, Laws L22)
With Sarah's son Jack on whistle.
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962.

In Dublin Town I was brought up,
That city of great fame.
My parents reared me tenderly,
And many know the same.
For being a bold United boy
I was forced to cross the main,
For seven long years to New South Wales,
To wear a convict's chain.

I had not been but six long months
Upon the Australian shore,
'Til I turned out a bold Fenian boy
As I often did before.
There was Captain Mackey in yonder woods,
And MacNamara too,
They were the chief associates
Of bold Jack Donohue.

Oh, Donohue was taken
For a notorious crime,
His sentence was for to be hanged
Upon a gallows high.
But when they went to Sydney jail,
He left them in a stew,
And when they went to call the roll
They missed old Donohue.

Oh, Donohue made his escape,
To the woods he made away,
Where tyrants dare not show their faces
Either night or day
And every week in the newspaper
There's something published new
Concerning that bold Fenian boy
They call Jack Donohue.

Strangely, for a song with a story starting in Ireland and ending up in Australia, Roud's list of 53 entries contains only two Irish (Elizabeth Cronin and John Maguire) and four Australian ones - most are from North America. The only English entry is Roy Palmer's recording of Ned Costello (an Irish name), in Birmingham in 1971.

Of the 11 sound recordings, only one seems to be available on CD: Edwin Goodwin, collected by John Meredith, on Sharing the Harvest: Field Recordings from the Meredith Collection in the National Library of Australia, no issue number, issued 2001 by the National Library of Australia, Canberra. Meredith also collected Dennis O'Reilly, Sixteen Thousand Miles from Home and The Wild Rover from this singer, which may indicate an Irish background.

1 - 14 The Irishman (Roud 17109)
From the Makem Family recordings

The savage loves his native shore
Though rude the soil and chill the air
And well may Erin's sons adore
That isle which nature formed so fair.
What flood reflects a shore so sweet
As Shannon great or pastoral Bann,
And who a friend or foe can meet
So generous as an Irishman.

His hand is rash, his heart is warm,
But honesty is still his guide.
None more repents a deed of harm,
Nor none forgives with nobler pride.
He may be duped, but won't be dazed
More fit to practise than to plan
He dearly earns his small reward
And spends it like an Irishman.

If stranger poor, for you he'll pay,
And guide to where your safe may be.
If you're his guest while e'er you stay
His cottage holds a jubilee.
His inmost soul he will unlock
And if he make your secrets scan,
Your confidence he scorns to mock,
For faithful is an Irishman.

There in love land from age to age
Be thou more great, more famed and free.
Let peace be thine and shouldst thou wish
Defensive war ... victory.
His inmost soul he will unlock
And if he may your secrets scan,
Your confidence he scorns to mock
For faithful is an Irishman.

By honour bound in woe or weal
What e
'er she bids he dares to do
Try him with bribes, they won
't prevail
Prove him in fire, you
'll find him true
He seeks not safety, let his post
Be where it ought, in danger
's van
And if the field of fame be lost
It won
't be by an Irishman.

The original was written by James Orr (1770-1816) a weaver poet of Ballycarry, Co Antrim. Orr fled to the USA after being implicated in the 1798 rising, but returned a few years later. The only Roud entry for this song is from the John McCall MS songbook, a late 19th century piece collected on the borders of Co Carlow and Co Wexford - the singer is not named.

Orr's poem appears in several 19th century songsters published in America, Ireland and England. It also appears in a rather nice chapbook in the Leslie Shephard collection held by ITMA.

1 - 15 Mary of Kilmore (Roud 2918)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

Ye gods of love I pray draw near
And lend to me your aid
For here I am endeavouring
All for a comely maid
She is proper tall and handsome
She has wounded my heart sore
And she is that lovely fair one
They call Mary of Kilmore.

"Oh Mary, lovely Mary,
Would you give to me your hand?
My father has fine property
Of houses and free land,
And besides you are the only girl
My parents do adore,
For they said that they would do
All they could for you, Mary of Kilmore."

"Oh, I say, young man be easy
And don't praise me so high.
There is one request I ask of you
And that's to pass me by.
My father often told me
With you to court no more
And I think I will be advised by them
And remain round sweet Kilmore."

On the evidence of published collections, this is a rare song which has been documented only a handful of times. Sarah has only three verses of the five or six which others sang. Robin Morton, who published the longer version he recorded from John Maguire of Tonaydrumallard, Co Fermanagh (Come Day, Go Day, God Send Sunday, 1973), commented, 'this song has the stamp of the school-master's pen or some other learned versifier'. No broadside versions have been found.

Sarah's grandson, John Makem, remembers: 'I did hear Granny singing Mary of Kilmore; a vague memory. I don't know anything about the song, but I suspect she got it from her mother who also had a fine collection of songs.'

1 - 16 Winter it is Over (Farewell He) (Roud 803)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962

Winter it is over, aye, and summer's coming on
I'll sing and I'll be merry since my true love he is gone
I'll sing and I'll be merry like a small bird on a tree
I can get my choice of twenty; let him go, farewell he.

Let him go home and keep his mother's mind at ease
For I'm told she is an old woman very hard to please
And that for talking ill of me I hear she's never done
And it's all for keeping company a wee while with her son.

Some of his friends they have a very good kind wish for me
Other of his friends they could hang me on a tree
But soon I'll let them see my love and soon I'll let them know
That I can get a new sweetheart on any ground I go.


Well, the first place I met my love was in a shady grove
He smiled in my face and he handed me a rose.
I told him for to keep his rose and that's to let him see
I deny him, I defy him; let him go, farewell he.


Well, since it's no better, thank God 'tis no worse
I have money in my pocket, I have silver in my purse
I can walk as shy by my true love as he does by me
And thank God that my mind is a kingdom to me.


What a wonderful song! By far the best version of this I've ever heard, with its great chorus and stunning final line. It may be seen as a localised variant of Farewell He / Fare Thee Well Cold Winter, but perhaps it merely uses a similar central theme and text phrases, and is sufficiently different to be considered a separate song.

Like some of the other songs on these CDs, this version seems to be heavily influenced by American versions. Only verses 1 and 3 are found regularly in English or Irish versions; the chorus, and verses 2 and 4 are all stanzas which have crystallised in America. This may, in part, be due to the fact that Sarah's siblings (along with many other Keady linen weavers) had gone to the USA to work in Dover, NH, and elsewhere - so there was a continual round of transatlantic visits within the community, in both directions, over many years. And where people go, their songs go with them.

Of Roud's 35 instances of Farewell He, most are from England - and Sam Henry's only entry is (textually, at least) almost identical with many English versions. No other sound recordings are available on CD.

1 - 17 You and I in One Bed Lie (Captain Wedderburn's Courtship) (Roud 36, Child 46)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962

"Ara, go, begone young man," she says,
"And do not bother me.
Before I lie one night with you,
You must grant me wishes three;
Three wishes you must grant to me,
Supposing I lose the fall,
Before you and I in the one bed lie
At either stock or wall.

"You must get for me me breakfast
A bird without a bone,
You must get for me me dinner,
A cherry without a stone,
You must get for me my supper,
A bird without a gall,
Before you and I in the one bed lie
At either stock or wall."

"Oh well, when the bird is in the shell
I'll vow it has no bone,
And when the cherry is in its blossom
I vow it has no stone,
The dove she is a gentle bird,
She flies without a gall,
So it's you and I in the one bed lie
And I'll lie next the wall."

Like Riddles Wisely Expounded (Child 1) and The Elphin Knight (Child 2), this ballad concerns a would-be suitor who can only gain his love by performing certain tasks; in this case by answering riddles. While the riddling form of song is extremely ancient, it has been suggested by B H Bronson, among others, that the courtship narrative in this ballad is a comparative latecomer. He described it as having been 'thoroughly overhauled in quite modern times'.

As well as in this present form, it has been found in numerous guises: as a nursery rhyme (Perrie, Merrie, Dixie, Dominie); a straightforward love song (I Gave My Love a Cherry); and in the South West United States as a cante-fable. A version from the Lower Labrador Coast entitled The Devil and the Blessed Virgin Mary introduced a religious aspect into the plot, but all other versions seem to have been secular.

Quite a popular ballad, with 153 Roud instances, mostly from Scotland and the USA - Ireland has 23, including lots of the big names. Although there are 35 sound recordings, few remain available on CD: Pat MacNamara (MTCD331-2); Maggie Murphy (VT134CD); Willie Clancy (TSCD651); Thomas Moran (CD 1775); Joe Rae (MTCD313).

1 - 18 The Banks of the Callan (Roud 22851)
From the Makem Family recordings

As I went a walking
One morning in June
The small feathered songsters
Their notes they did tune
I spied a wee damsel
And her fame's handed down
On the banks of the Callan
Near sweet Keady town.

I addressed this fair female,
And I asked her her name,
Her place of dwelling
And from where she came.
She quickly made answer,
"My dwelling is found
On the banks of the Callan
Near sweet Keady town. "

Then said I "My wee damsel
If you will agree,
We'll both join in wedlock
And married we'll be;
I'll dress you in satin
And your joys I will crown
On the banks of the Callan
Near sweet Keady town."

"Well, to marry, to marry,
Kind sir I'm too young.
My old aged parents
For me they would mourn,
But I'll meet you
Some other evening,
When strolling around
On the banks of the Callan
Near sweet Keady town."

John Moulden says: 'My friend, the Armagh singer, Pat Prunty, recorded a version of this on her CD The banks of the Callan: a collection of traditional songs of County Armagh, [no number]. Her version, very like this, she heard from Seán Mone, and she states that Roseanne Carr and Jimmy Boylan, both from Keady, also sang it. On the same CD she also sings a longer version called Sweet Keady Town which she got from a notation 'in the handwriting of the song collector', the late Rachel Cornett, of Moss Road, Darkley.'

Robin Morton collected a version, On the banks of a river near Blackwater town, from Frank Mills, Benburb, Co Tyrone. Robin's collection has been digitized by ITMA and may be heard there.

The final verse of this song demonstrates what a technically adept singer Sarah Makem was. The line: 'But I'll meet you some other evening' has only 9 syllables, whilst the 'standard' line has 12, and so requires a modification of the tune to accommodate it. Sarah does the job effortlessly, and beautifully!

1 - 19 I Courted A Wee Girl (The False Bride) (Roud 154)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

Oh, I courted a wee girl for many's a long day,
And I slighted all others that came in my way.
And well she rewarded me to the last day,
For she went and got wed to another, another,
She went and got wed to another.

For the bride and bride's party, to church they did go,
And the bride she went foremost; she bore the best show.
And I followed after with a heart full of woe,
For to see my love wed to another, another,
To see my love wed to another.

Then the first place I saw her, she was standing in church
Gold rings on her fingers, her love by the hand,
And the man she is wed to has houses and land
He may have her since I couldn't gain her, gain her,
He may have her since I couldn't gain her

Then the next place I saw her she was sitting at meat,
And I sat down beside her, not a bite could I eat,
I thought my love's company far better than meat,
For love was the cause of my ruin, ruin,
Since love was the cause of my ruin.

Then, the next time I saw her she was all dressed in white,
And the more I gazed on her she dazzled my sight.
I lifted my cap and I bade her good night.
Adieu to all false-hearted lovers, lovers,
Adieu to all false-hearted lovers.

Oh, dig me a grave and dig it down deep,
And strew it all over with the red rose so sweet,
And lay me down silent no more for to weep,
For love was the cause of my ruin, ruin,
For love was the cause of my ruin.

There are 140 Roud entries from all over the English speaking world (except the USA, strangely), with England and Scotland each accounting for about a third of the total, while Ireland boasts only 12 entries. The Week Before Easter seems to be the preferred English title and False / Forsaken Bride / Lover the Scots. In fact, I had always thought that these two songs were actually considered by musicologists to be separate entities despite sharing a number of verses and images. The Irish titles are all different.

Other versions available on CD: Danny Brazil; (MTCD345-7) Lizzie Higgins (MTCD337); Pop Maynard (MTCD309-0); Maggie Murphy (VT134CD); Harry Burgess (TSCD665); Duncan Williamson (Kyloe101); John Strachan (Kyloe107); Elizabeth Stewart (Elphinstone EICD002); Gordon Hall (Country Branch CBCD095); Geordie Hanna (The Fisher's Cot CD).

1 - 20 The Peeler and the Goat (Roud 1458)
With Tommy Makem
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956.

As Bansha peelers were one night
On duty a-patrolling O
They met a goat upon the road
Who happened to be a-strolling O
With bayonet fixed they sallied forth
And caught her by the wizen O
And then they swore a mighty oath
They'd send her off to prison O

"Oh mercy Sir," replied the goat
"Pray let me tell me story O,
I am no rogue nor Ribbonman
No Croppy, Whig, nor Tory O.
I'm guilty not of any crime
Of petty or high treason O
And I'm sadly wanted at this time
For this is the milking season O."

"It is in vain you do complain
Or give your tongue such bridle O.
You're absent from your dwelling place
Disorderly and idle O
Your hoary locks will not avail
Nor your sublime oration O
For Grattan's Act you will transport
By your own information O."

"This parish and this neighbourhood
Are peaceful, quiet, and tranquil O.
There's no disturbance here, thank God,
And may it long continue so.
Your oath I don't regard a pin
To sign for my committal O
For my jury will be gentlemen
To grant me an acquittal O."

"I'll soon chastise your impudence
And insolent behaviour O
Well bound to Cashel you'll be sent
Where you will find no favour O.
Impartial Billy Purefoy
Will sign your condemnation O
And from there to Cork you will be sent
For speedy transportation O"

"The penal laws I've ne'er transgressed
By deed or combination O
I have no fixed place of abode
Nor certain habitation O.
Bansha is my dwelling place

Where I was bred and born O
Descended from an honest race
Therefore your threats I scorn O."

"Let the consequences be what will
A peeler's power I'll let you know
I'll fetter you at all events
And march you off to prison O.
You villain, sure, you can't deny
Before a judge and jury O
That I and you found two long spears
Which threatened me with fury O."

"I'm certain if you weren't drunk
With whisky, rum, or brandy O
You would not have such gallant spunk
To be so bold or manly O.
You readily would let me pass
If I be sterling handy O
To treat you to a poison glass
Oh, 'tis then I'd be the dandy O."

Come, fill us up a flowing bowl
We'll drink a grand libation O
And toast a health to each true son
Throughout this grand old nation O
We'll toast brave Ireland three times three
With pride and acclamation O
May all our people be made free
By speedy separation O.

Originally written by Jeremiah O'Ryan (Darby Ryan) of Bansha, Tipperary, over a century and a half ago, The Peeler and the Goat was inspired by a number of factors affecting 19th century Ireland. The Penal Laws had been passed with the intent of persecuting the Irish Catholic population and Sir Robert Peel had been appointed Secretary of Ireland by the British Government in 1812. Creating a police force as one of his first acts (an action thought of by the population of Ireland to simply be further interference with their liberties by Britain), his new officers were soon nicknamed Bobbies, and Peelers, after their creator - nicknames that continue to this day.

The original song gave rise to a number of imitations and parodies, including the song entitled The Peelers and The Pig which was published in Kidson and Moffat's collection, A Garland of English Folk-Songs. In Sarah's version, the replacement of 'Peel's Act' by 'Grattan's Act' seems to alter the meaning dramatically. Not a very well-known song in the oral tradition, if Roud's 12 instances are a complete account. Only one sound recording is listed - but at least it's available on CD: Martin Reidy (MTCD331-2).

1 - 21 A Rich Farmer's Daughter (Roud 2930)
Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967

Oh, there was a rich farmer's daughter
And she loved a poor farmer's son,
And her father's only care was
To match this nice young man.
Well matched was he, and sent to sea,
Where the billows do loudly roar.
"Oh, alas," cried he, "oh, where is she?
Will I ever see her more?"

It was on the twelfth day of July
The battle it began,
And right in front of the enemy
They placed this nice young man.
'Til he received a deadly wound
That nearly pierced his heart.
"Oh, alas," cried he, "oh, where is she?
Come quickly to my heart."

Oh, when this young man got wounded
To the cabin he was brought.
And in this little cabin
There dwelled a nice wee maid,
And every time she turned around
He viewed her in every part.
"Oh, alas," cried he, "it was one like she
Was mistress of my heart."

"Oh," she says, "young man,

you are quite right,
I approve of your discharge.
Here is five hundred pounds in gold
To free yourself at large.
And go unto the captain,
And he will set you free,
And we'll both sail home to old Ireland
Across the stormy sea."

Ah then, when they came to her father's gates
They tarried there for a while.
When out came her father
Saying, "Here is my only child.
The child that I have been looking for
This twelve long months or more,
And the lad I've been in search of
Is the villain that has sailed o'er."

Then he took her by the lily white hand
And bade her to come in.
"Oh no, kind honoured Father,
Unless that you bid him.
It was for his sake I went away,
And proudly faced the war.
You may think your gold is a treasured thing,
But love it beats it far."

This song has had a long and illustrious history in print going back to the 17th century. Roxburghe has what is probably the original, The Valiant Virgin, but there is another Roxburghe 17th century ballad with exactly the same story The Bristol Bridegroom or The Ship Carpenter's Love to the Merchant's Daughter. Pitts and Catnach both printed it as The London Heiress.

A version of this song under the title The Lady Heiress and the Farmer's Son is sung by John Maguire on Come Day, Go Day. According to Diane Dugaw (Warrior Women, pp.56-62) it is a late derivative of the ballad as above, The Valiant Virgin or the Constant Lovers of Worcestershire, was cut down as The Bristol Bridegroom and again as the London Heiress, from which this, and John Maguire's song, derives. It is also sung by the Copper Family; they call it The Brisk and Lively Lad. It is quite rare in oral tradition, with only 35 Roud entries.

1 - 22 A New Year's Song (Roud 22854)
From the Makem Family recordings

Oh, my country men awaken right
The world begins anew.
For mingled voices rent the skies
With hearts both firm and true.
We've nobly fought and bravely brought
Our little green isle through,
But, oh my men, there's something yet
For Irishmen to do.

For as long as Ireland hears the clink
Of base ignoble chains.
As long as one detested link
Of foreign rule remains.
As long as our rightful debt
The smallest crack can view,
Oh, so long my boys (as)
There's something left
For Irishmen to do.

For too long we've borne
Their servile yoke,
Too long their slavery chain.
Too long thy feeble accent spoke
But never spoke in vain.
Our wealth has filled the spoilers' net
With a gorgeous Saxon crew.
But we'll let our songs teach England yet
What Irishmen can do.

For the olive branch is in our hand
And the green flag floats above.
Peace, peace, proclaim the unity
Our crowd forgiving all
Are we not men as well as them
Aye, men and Christians too
And prepared to do for Ireland yet
What Irishmen should do.

Originally, and with two additional verses, by Denis Florence McCarthy and entitled A New Years Song (See H H Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy, London, 1887, pp.107-8). It was widely published in the Spirit of the Nation collections and in Barry's Songs of Ireland. McCarthy was one of the poets of 'Young Ireland', publishing widely in The Nation around 1845. It is likely that this and the several other songs of literary origin in the collection were learned by Mrs Makem at school.

1 - 23 The Jolly Thresher (Roud 19)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

It's of a noble sportsman went out to hunt one day
He met a jolly thresher upon the highway
With his flail across his shoulder and his bottle full of beer
He's as merry as a lord has ten thousand a year.

"Oh thresher, dear thresher, will you come tell to me,
How do you maintain your poor wife and family?
Your work it is so heavy, and your wages is so small
Ara, how do you maintain your poor family at all?"

"Well, sometimes I reap, other times I do I mow,
More times a-hedging and a-ditching I do go.
When a mist it comes across me, I harrow and I plough
And I earn all my bread by the sweat of my brow."

"When a poor man comes home at night, wet and weary as you'll see,
He takes the youngest baby and he'll dandle it on his knee,
While the oldest one comes round him with its prattle and its noise,
And sure, that's all the comfort a poor man enjoys."

"Well now that I see you're so loyal to your wife
Forty acres of good land I'll give you during life
And if I see you mind it, and of it takes good care,
I'll bestow it for life both to you and your heirs."

This is very much an English song - more than half of Roud's 141 versions are English - and only 4 Irish singers are noted: John Millan, Nicholas Hughes, Catherine Devlin, and Sarah - all from the North, and 'Pops' Johnny Connors, from Co Wexford. It is sung here to a variant of The Enniskillen Dragoon. In the conjunction of words and tune, it illustrates one salient fact about Sarah Makem's repertoire and, indeed, about the folk singing of North-East Ulster. In this part of Ireland, the tradition is inextricably mixed. Three streams of traditional music and verse converge - the native Irish, the English and the Scots, and this convergence is most marked in small market towns like Keady, whose rural character was gradually modified during the nineteenth century by the introduction of manufacturing industry.

There are 18 sound recordings, but only those by: Harry Holman (MTCD309-10 and TSCD670); Frank Hinchliffe (MTCD311-2); Ron Copper (TSCD534); and Eleazar Tillett (Appleseed APR CD 1035), remain available on CD.

CD Two:

2 - 1 'Twas in the Month of January (The Forsaken Mother and Child) (Roud 175, Laws P20)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

It was in the month of January
The hills were clad in snow
When over hills and valleys
My true love she did go
It was there I spied a pretty fair maid
With a salt tear in her eye
She had a baby in her arms
And bitter she did cry.

"Oh cruel was my father
That barred the door on me
And cruel was my mother
This dreadful crime to see
Cruel was my own true love
To change his mind for gold
And cruel was that winter's night
That pierced my heart with cold.

"For the taller that the palm tree grows
The sweeter is the bark
And the fairer that a young man speaks
The falser is his heart
He will kiss and embrace you
'Til he thinks he has you won
Then he'll go away and leave you
All for some other one.
"Now all ye pretty fair maids
A warning take by me
And never try to build your nest
On top of a high tree
For the leaves they will all wither
And the branches will decay
And the beauties of a false young man
Will all soon fade away."

This is considered by many to be Sarah Makem's greatest contribution to the annals of folksong. In a way, it's surprising that it should be so revered, since it's only really two verses followed by two floaters. But Sarah's emotional yet controlled singing of a truly glorious tune ensures that it will be long remembered.

It treats one of the oldest themes in traditional song - the story of a young girl betrayed and abandoned by her lover and cast by cruel parents into the snow. Herbert Hughes prints a fragmentary version of this song, called The Fanaid Grove, in Irish Country Songs. Vol.1. For an augmented text see Kennedy, Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland.

It's not a particularly well-known song, with only 33 Roud entries; it goes by many titles, but none is more prevalent than the others. It has been sung all over these islands, and North America, but is most common in Ireland, with singers Geordie Hanna, Paddy Tunney, Tom Lenihan, and Dan MacGinty being named as well as Sarah. Although 15 sound recordings are listed, only those by Geordie Hanna (The Fisher's Cot CD) and Paddy Tunney (TSCD656) are still available on CD.

2 - 2 Take Back the Engagement Ring (Roud 15951)
From the Makem Family recordings

One night a year ago
A blue-eyed lass and lad
With tear-dimmed eyes and footsteps slow
Their hearts were low and sad
As through a quiet lane they strolled
The maiden drooped her head.
She gave this lad a band of gold,
And softly to him said,

"Take back the ring you gave me,
Take it back, Jack, I pray.
Oh, for it might deprive you
Of more than I am today.
To make me your bride it would wrong you,
Grief to your heart 'twould bring.
So do take it back, I beg of you, Jack,
Take back the engagement ring."
"I love you, Nell, and you love me"
The faithful lad then said.
"Forget the past and my wife be,
Don't blight our lives instead.
I'll honour and I'll love you, Nell,
Through life to you I'll cling."
She answered with a sigh and sobbed
"No, Jack, take back the ring."

"Take back the ring you gave me
Take it back, Jack, I pray.
Oh, for it might deprive you
Of more than I am today.
To make me your bride it would wrong you,
Grief to your heart 'twould bring.
So do take it back, I beg of you, Jack,
Take back the engagement ring."

An American song: words by George L Spaulding, music by W B Gray (1894). There's a sound recording by Roy Harvey and Bob Hoke on the JSP 7734 'Charlie Poole' boxed set, and also on Roy Harvey: Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Volume 1, Document DOCD-8050.

2 - 3 John Reilly (Roud 270, Laws M8)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

As I roved out one evening
Down by a river side
I heard a maid complaining
And the tears stood in her eye
"This is a cold and stormy night"
These words to me did say,
"My love lies on the radiant main
Bound for Americay."

"My love he is a tall young man
His age is scarce sixteen
He is as nice a young man
As e'er my eyes have seen.
For riches I had plenty
But Reilly he was poor,
And because I loved my sailor lad
They could not me endure.

My mother took me by the hand
These words to me did say
"If you be fond of Reilly
You must leave this country.
For your father swears
He'll have your life
Or shun his company."

Oh, it's "Mamma dear, don't be severe
Where will I send my love?
My heart lies in his bosom
As constant as a dove."
"Oh, daughter dear, I'm not severe
Here is five hundred pounds
And send Reilly to America
To purchase there some ground."

Oh, it's when she got the money
To Reilly she did run
"This very night to take your life
My father charged his gun
Here is five hundred pounds in gold
My mother sent to you
And sail off unto Americay
And I will follow you."

This song is usually titled John Reilly or Young Reilly. Peter Kennedy used the name Willie, perhaps because Robert Cinnamond, who he had recorded earlier, did so. Lovers seeking to unite across class boundaries are thwarted by an obdurate parent and meet a tragic fate; this theme had enormous appeal, as evidenced by a plethora of broadside printings from London to Newcastle, and oral records from right across these islands and North America and, despite Reilly's Irish surname, there are more English entries than Irish ones.

Apart from Sarah, only Robert Cinnamond, John Reilly, John Kennedy, Michael Flanagan and Sarah Anne O'Neill are listed as having sung the song for a sound recording and, amazingly, all of these are available on CD: John Reilly (Pavee Point Travellers Centre PPCD 004); Sarah Anne O'Neill (TSCD 654); John Kennedy (VT137CD); and Michael Flanagan (MTCD331-2). England's George Dunn also sings it on MTCD317-8.

While not included in Sarah's version, there are often three further verses:

So when he got his foot on board
These were the words he said;

Saying, "Here is a true-lovers token,
I will break it into two";

Saying, "Half my heart and half my ring
Until I find out you."

They were not long sailing,
But scarcely three days,

When Reilly, he came back again
To take his love away.

The ship got wrecked and all was lost
And her father grieved full sore;

He found Reilly in her arms
And they drowned upon the shore.

He found a letter in her breast
And it was wrote with blood;

Saying, "Cruel was my father
Who thought to shoot my love;

So this may be a warning
To all maidens fair so gay:

Don't ever let the lad you love
Sail to Americay."

Frank Purslow suggested in his note to the Hampshire version of the song that the final verses had been 'added by a printer's hack who could not bear to see a song without a colourful and slightly moralising ending'.

2 - 4 Keady Convent (Roud 22852)
From the Makem Family recordings

Ye Roman Catholics of Erin's nation
I pray excuse me while I pen down
I write the praises of a lofty building
That's now erected in Keady town.

With pious images and costly articles
It's ornamented both front and rear
It stands in defiance of both Jews and Heathens
And it's built in honour of the great St Clare.

Those noble parishioners gave their assistance
For to help the Lady both one and all
And the gallant sons of ould Derrynoose
They were always foremost at every call.

With powerful horses they came through Keady
Some costly articles they did bring there
To erect this building to stand in memory
Of the exultation of the great St Clare.

Old Bess and Harry may no longer tarry
In their low roof cabin built some years afore
It is the hall that was then erected
In the year of '70 all in Crossmore.

Seán Mone says that Keady Convent was financed by a local Protestant landlord family - somewhat to the disgust of the local Protestant community! 'Bess and Harry' in the last verse refers to the benefactors. The '70 date in the last verse (i.e. 1870) seems about right to him.

2 - 5 Keady Town (Roud 22750)
From the Makem Family recordings

(Is Keady town where it used to be
And the boys all there)
the girls were strolling along the road
When it's nice and fair
By the Monument where it used to be
And the Market House all right.
What would I give to be with them
In Keady Town tonight.

No other examples in Roud, though the FolkTrax website gives the title Oh is Keady Town where it used to be? and says it was 'composed and sung by Sarah Makem' - but this not true. The song was not composed by Sarah - people often changed the name of the town to that of their own. Seán Mone knew it from Sarah, and says that her grandson may still sing it - but knows nothing more about it.

2 - 6 The Factory Girl (Roud 1659)
Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967

As I went a walking
One fine summer's morning
The birds on the branches
They sweetly did sing
The lads and the lassies
Together were sporting
Going down to yon factory
Their work to begin.

I spied a wee damsel
More fairer than Venus
Her skin like the lily
That grows in the dell
Her cheek like the red rose
That grew in yon valley
She's my one only goddess
She's a sweet factory girl.

I stepped it up to her
It was for to view her
When on me she cast
A proud look of disdain
"Stand off me, stand off me,
And do not insult me
For although I'm a poor girl
I think it no shame."

"I don't mean to harm you
Or yet, love, to scorn you
But grant me one favour,
Pray where do you dwell?"
"I am a poor orphan
Without home or relations,
And besides I'm a
Hardworking factory girl."

Well, now to conclude
And to finish these verses,
This couple got married
And both are doing well.
So, lads, fill your glasses
And drink to the lasses
'Til we hear the dumb sound
Of the sweet factory bell.

The Industrial Revolution in Britain, and the consequent shift from the home based 'cottage' trades to the factories, gave rise to a number of songs extolling the virtues of one form of employment over the other. In The Weaver in Love, the home-based hand-loom weaver declares his love for the factory maid and says:

"And if I could but her favour win,

I'd stand beside her and weave by steam."

Frank Purslow, in his note to The Factory Girl, suggested that it dates from the end of the eighteenth century and claimed it to be of Northern Irish origin, and it was certainly current there, having been found in Counties Armagh, Down, Tyrone and Fermanagh. It was also recorded from Elizabeth Cronin of Ballyvourney, Co Cork and from Margaret Barry.

Different versions of the song seem to fall into two endings: one where, after a dialogue, the couple marry, the other with the man being rejected and wandering off in despair. This song can be compared with a nineteenth-century song that appears on English ballad sheets, The fortunate factory girl - examples may be seen at the Bodleian Ballads website (Harding B 20(206)). Roud has 49 entries of which 25 are Irish; there are 23 sound recordings.

Other versions on CD: Bill Cassidy, From Puck to Appleby (MTCD326); Margaret Barry (Rounder CD1774); Duncan Williamson (Veteran VT128).

2 - 7 Barbara Allen (Roud 54,Child 84)
Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967

Michaelmas day being in the year,
When the green leaves they were falling,
When young Jimmy Grove from the north country
Fell in love with Barbara Allen.

He sent his servants out one day
To see if she was coming,
"One word from you will bring me to,
If you be Barbara Allen."

"Get up, get up," her mamma said,
"Get up and go and see him."
"Oh, Mamma dear, do you not mind the time,
That you told me how to slight him?"

"Get up, get up." her father said,
"Get up and go and see him."
"Oh, Dadda dear, do you not mind the time,
That you told me how to shun him?"
Slowly, slowly she got up,
And slowly she put on her,
And slowly went to his bedside,
And slowly looked upon him.

"You're lying low, young man," she said,
"And almost near a-dying."
"One word from you will bring me to,
If you be Barbara Allen."

"One word from me you never will get,
Nor any young man breathing,
For the better of me you never will be,
If your heart's blood was a-spilling."

"Look at my bedfoot," he said,
"And there you'll find them lying.
Bloody sheets and bloody shirts
I sweat for Barbara Allen."

"Look at my bedhead," he said,
And there you'll find it ticking.
My gold watch and my gold chain
I bestow to Barbara Allen."

As she went over her father's green,
She heard the dead bell ringing,
And every chap the dead bell gave,
It was woe to Barbara Allen.

As she went over her father's hall,
She saw the corpse a-coming.
"Lay down, lay down, old weary corpse,
'Til I get looking on him."

They lifted the lid up off the corpse.
She bursted out with laughing,
And all his wearied friends around cried,
"Hard-hearted Barbara Allen."

As she went into her father's house,
"Make my bed long and narrow,
For the dead bell did ring for my true-love today.
It will ring for me tomorrow."

Out of one grave there grew a red rose,
And out of the other a briar,
But they both twisted into a true-lover's knot,
And there remain for ever.

This is the most widely-known ballad I've yet encountered in Steve Roud's Song Index, with an astonishing 1127 instances (including 284 sound recordings) listed there. Needless to say, it's found everywhere English is spoken - though Australia boasts only one version in the Index - and, very unusually, there's even one from Wales ... although it comes from Phil Tanner in that 'little England', the Gower Peninsula. The USA has 656 entries! It doesn't appear to be quite so well-known in Ireland, with only 31 Index instances and 23 named singers.

Sarah's is a fairly full version of the ballad, and includes the wonderful "Bloody sheets and bloody shirts I sweat for Barbara Allen" line. Also, like many others, it has the true lovers' knot motif in its final verse, which seems to have been imported from the Lord Lovell family of ballads. Further, her verses 3 and 4 are unusual - and may possibly indicate another reason for Barbara's animosity towards Jimmy Grove. It seems that this is a local inclusion - Sam Henry, who prints a version including these verses, notes: This Ulster version ... is different, both as to air and words [to the 'standard' version].

Other versions currently on CD: Joe Heaney (TSCD518D); Patsy Flynn (MTCD329-0); The Brazil Family (MTCD345-6); Bob Hart (MTCD301-2); Wiggy Smith (MTCD307); Jim Wilson (MTCD309-0); Andy Cash (MTCD326-7); Stanley Hicks (MTCD321-2); Garrett and Norah Arwood (MTCD323-4); Jane Turriff (Springthyme SPRCD1038); Phoebe Smith (VT136CD), Fred Jordan (VTD148CD), Texas Gladden (Rounder CD 1800), Rebecca Jones (Appleseed APR CD 1035), Frank Hinchliffe (VTC7CD), Jessie Murray (Rounder CD 11661), Debbie and Pennie Davies (MTCD333 and MTCD345-7).

2 - 8 Barney Mavourneen (Roud 992, Laws O21)
Sung by Annie Jane Kelly
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Seán O'Boyle, 1952

It's a cold winter's night
And the tempest was swelling
For the snow like a sheet
Covered cabin and stile
As Barney flew over
The hills to his darling
And stopped at the window
Where Kitty did lie.

"Ara, cushla," says he
"Are you sleeping or wakened?
It's a cold winter's night
And my coat it is thin.
For the snow is a-brewing
The frost is a-beating
And it's Kitty mavourneen
You must let me in."

"Ara, Barney," says Kate
As she spoke through the window
"How (?) could you be taking us
Out of our bed?
For to come at this time
It's a sin and a shame, too,
Is it whiskey, not love,
Has come into your head?"

"If your heart it was true
To my fame you'd be tender
Consider me ever
And there's nobody in.
For what has a poor girl
But her name to defend her,
And it's Barney mavourneen
I'll not let you in."

"I will go to my home
Though the winter winds pierce me
I will whistle them off
For I'm happy within
And the words of my Kathleen
Will comfort and bless me!"
And it's Barney mavourneen
He didn't get in.

Better known as When Barney Flew Over the Hills (to his Darling) or Barnie and Katie, this night-visiting song seems to have been popular in the Maritime region of eastern Canada; Leach and Creighton (Maritime Folk Songs, p.77) had versions, and there's also a version from Utah (Hubbard). Three English instances appear in Roud, but this is the only Irish entry. It was printed by Glasgow Poet's Box in 1873 as 'Barney Avourneen', but Roud has no Scottish examples amongst the 20 entries.

2 - 9 Blow Ye Winds Hi-O (Roud 1778)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

Cold and stormy was the night
When first I met me Peg;
She'd a government band around each hand
And another one round her leg,
She'd another one round her leg, me boys,
And while I sing I pray
Well, she's doing it grand in a distant land,
Three thousand miles away

Blow ye winds hi-ho,
Roving I will go,
I'll stay no more round England's shore
So let the music play.
I'll be off on the morning train
For to cross the stormy main,
I'll be on the move
To me own true love
Three thousand miles away.

My love she is beautiful
My love she is young
My love she is beautiful
And silver sounds her tongue
Silver sounds her tongue, me boys,
And while I sing I pray
Well, she's doing it grand in a distant land
Three thousand miles away


Written for the Music Hall by Joseph B Geoghegan, (1816-1889). He was born in Barton upon Irwell, Lancs, and probably wrote his songs while manager of the Star and Museum Music Hall in Bolton. More usually known as Ten Thousand Miles Away, it's found - though infrequently - all over the English-speaking world, with 47 Roud entries. Stan Hugill has a shanty version of it in Shanties of the Seven Seas, and few sound recordings are known: Robert Cinnamond, Hugh McAlindon, Louie Hooper and Fred Smale, both from Sussex, and the only one available on CD, Walter Pardon (MTCD305-6).

2 - 10 Annie Dear I'm Called Away (Roud 5700)
From the Makem Family recordings

In a cottage at the twilight
Stands a soldier and a maid.
Solemn words they have been spoken,
For his country needs his aid.

Down her cheeks the tears kept coursing
Trembling she bid him stay
In a broken mournful whisper
"Annie dear, I'm called away."

"Goodbye Annie, goodbye darling,
Though I cannot (?) with thee stay,
But it's agreed that I must leave you,
Annie dear, I'm called away."

Next the sound of marching footsteps
As she's by the cottage door,
And the soldier smiling bravely
Leaves from whom he'll see no more.
Perhaps she in her broken slumber
Never after heard him say
In a broken mournful whisper
"Annie dear, I'm called away."

Written by Harry Hunter and John Guest. An American song, and there are no Irish examples amongst Roud's 19 entries. Of the three sound recordings listed, there are two American ones (see below), and one English one from Alf Peachey (Helions Bumpstead NLCD 14).

This song was printed by Sanderson of Edinburgh who was printing right into the 1930s, but there are also five copies in the Baring Gould Collection in the BL, probably by Sanderson. Seemingly a British song that went to the USA, and there are no Irish examples amongst Roud's 19 entries. Of the three sound recordings, there are two American ones by the Monroe Brothers and the West Virginia Ramblers, and one English one from Alf Peachey (Helions Bumpstead NLCD).

Mike Yates adds: 'As By a Cottage in the Twilight, by Roy Harvey and Jess Johnson (Accompanied by the West Virginia Ramblers) Champion 16780 (recorded 1931), re-issued Document DOCD-8053 Roy Harvey. Complete Works in Chronological Order Volume 4; and as Goodbye Maggie, by Charlie & Bill Monroe, Bluebird Recording (recorded 1938), re-issued JSP box set Bill Monroe & his Bluegrass Boys (JSP7712). I seem to remember the Sons of the Pioneers also recording this. I have seen a date of 1885 for this song, but cannot confirm this.'

2 - 11 The Butcher Boy (Roud 409, Laws P24)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

In London city where I did dwell
A butcher boy, I loved right well
He courted me, and me heart away
And then with me, he would not stay.

I wish, I wish, but it's all in vain
I wish I was a maid again
A maid, a maid I ne'er shall be
'Til cherries grow on an apple tree.

I wish my baby it way born
And smiling on its dadda's knee
And I poor girl to be dead and gone
And the long green grass growing over me.

She went upstairs to make her bed
And calling up her mother said
"Get me a chair 'til I sit down
A pen and ink 'til I write down."

At every word she dropped a tear
And every line cried "Willie dear.
Oh, what a foolish girl was I
To be led astray by a butcher boy."
He went upstairs and the door he broke
He found her hanging from a rope
He took his knife and he cut her down
And in her pocket, these lines were found.

Dig my grave wide large and deep
Put a marble stone at my head and feet
And in the middle, a turtle dove,
That the world may see I died for love.

The Butcher's Boy appears to be derived from at least three separate British broadsides, namely Sheffield Park, The Squire's Daughter (also known as The Cruel Father or The Deceived Maid) and A Brisk Young Sailor, which is also sometimes called There is an Alehouse in Yonder Town. It's a very well-known ballad, with 275 Round instances, 80 of which are sound recordings, but almost all are from the USA. Ireland has only one other named singer, Andy Cash, and England has only eight entries.

Other versions currently on CD: Frank Hinchliffe (MTCD311-2); Garrett and Norah Arwood (MTCD323-4); Emma Pruitt (MTCD341-2); the Blue Sky Boys (JSP JSP7782 box set, and Bear Family BCD 15951 EK); Frank Proffitt (Folk-Legacy CD 1); Ephraim Woodie & the Henpecked Husbands (Old Hat CD 1001); Kelly Harrell (Document DOCD 8026); Melcina Smith and Elias Fazer (Root & Branch 1); Chuck Reed (Rounder CD 11661).

2 - 12 Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold (Roud 553, Laws N17)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

SO'B: Mrs Makem, you got a lot of songs from your mother, did you?

SM: Yes, I got this one from her too. Sure the girl could sing, she could sing the birds off the bushes. And so could all belonging to her.

Oh, it's of a rich nobleman's daughter,
Carolina's her name, I am told.
It was out of her drawing-room window,
She admired a young sailor bold.

"Oh," she says "I'm a nobleman's daughter,
And possessed of great riches and gold;
I'll forsake both my father and mother,
And marry a young sailor bold."

"Oh," he says "My wee girl, do not mind me,
It's your parents you are bound to mind.
For in sailors there's no great dependence,
For they leave their true lovers behind."
"Ah," she says "There's no one can prevent me,
Just one moment would alter my mind
And I'll ship and be off with my true-love,
For he never will leave me behind."

Three years and half on the ocean
And she always proved loyal and true
And her duty she did like a sailor,
Dressed up in her jacket of blue.

And when they arrived back in England
Straightway to her father she went

"Oh, Father, dear Father, forgive me
And deprive me of riches and gold,
But it's grant me one favour I ask of,
It's to marry a young sailor bold."

For the father he looked upon William
In love and in sweet unity
And says "If I be spared 'til tomorrow
It's married this couple will be."

SM: Well, I couldn't tell you much about the making of it, but I got it from me uncle, Johnnie Green.

SO'B: In Keady?
SM: In Keady

SO'B: So your Uncle Johnnie lived with you?
SM: Oh he didn't live with me, he lived next door, and we'd all go into his house, and sometimes he'd come into my house, and we'd all sit and have a good craic and ceilidh many's the night all winter. There's no ceilidhs now like what was then.

Singers all over the world have a special affection for songs that tell how love breaks down the barriers between rich and poor. Sarah Makem's song tells of a rich nobleman's daughter who elopes with a poor sailor, even though she knows that 'in sailors there's no great dependence, for they leave their true lovers behind'. Caroline serves for three and a half years on the same ship as her young sailor, and returns to gain her father's permission to marry.

Roud has 125 instances of this well-known English broadside ballad, but it seems not to have found a place in the hearts of the Irish - only two other singers are named: Joe Heaney (TSCD518D); Maggie Murphy (VT134CD); while England has George Dunn (MTCD317-8); Walter Pardon (MTCD305-6); Tony Harvey (VTC2CD); Gordon Hall (VTC5CD).

2 - 13 Castleblaney Besoms (Roud 1623)
Sung and played by Sarah, Tommy, Jack Makem, and Nancy Moore
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962

Castleblayney besoms,
Besoms fine and new
Fine heather besoms,
Better never grew.
Tie them up in bundles
Swing them on your car
Sell them three a penny
Around the man o' war.

Repeat all.

A northern Irish version of Buy Broom Besoms, of which Roud has 16 versions, mainly from England and Scotland. Sarah's is the only sound recording, though two other Irish instances are noted - in Sam Henry and the John McCall MS songbook - neither give a source singer.

2 - 14 The Laurel Wear (Cupid's Garden) (Roud 297)
Sung by Annie Jane Kelly
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Seán O'Boyle, 1952

For it's down by Convent's garden
One day as I chanced to stray
I heard two fair maids aye discourse
As they sat in the bower
For the one was lovely Nancy
So beautiful and fair
And the other was that virgin bride
That did the laurel wear.

For I hadn't been in yon garden
Just past a half an hour
'Til I heard two fair maids aye discourse
As they sat in the bower
For the one was lovely Nancy
So beautiful and fair
And the other was that virgin bride
That did the laurel wear.

For I walkèd up to this fair maid
And this to her did say,
Saying "If you marry anyone,
Come marry me I pray."
"For I will marry you, young man,
I solemnlye declare
But I shall be at my liberty
And still the laurel wear."

For with hand to hand we marched along
And to the church we went,
Where there we both got married
In love and sweet content,
Saying "It's now I'm blessed forever
So happy will I be
For to see me own sweet charmer
Sitting smiling on my knee."

Sure I travelled Ulster, Munster
And part of the county Down
Many's the mile I've travelled
Round many a sea port town
I've travelled the Wicklow mountains
And the Curragh of Kildare
It was there I met with my virgin bride
That did the laurel wear.

This song seems well-known today, probably due to the Copper Family version which became popular in the 1970s, but Roud has only 78 instances, mostly from England. There are only 21 named singers, and only one of these is from Ireland - Sarah's cousin, Annie Jane Kelly. Sarah apparently got this from Paddy McGeown in Keady. Clearly the italicised verse (not sung here) is a local addition. The song was popular on broadsides, with most of the major 19th century printers including it in their lists. The earliest dated version so far to come to light is in the songster The Vocal Library published in 1818, but this is a long time after Cuper's pleasure gardens were closed in 1753. They were founded by Abraham Cuper in 1678 and were situated just south of the River Thames, where the approach to Waterloo Bridge now stands. In their time, the gardens were a well-known pleasure resort for Londoners, and are also mentioned in other traditional songs.

It would seem that the recording by Bob and Ron Copper (TSCD534) is the only other one available on CD.

2 - 15 The Cot in the Corner (Roud 5403)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

Oh, Kathleen mavourneen
How sad is our lot
Sure the landlord he turned us
Right out of our cot
And to me it once was
A dear little spot
And it stood on a hill in the corner.

It was tidy without
It was neater within
And the plates shone like silver
They were made of tin
It showed sweet reflections
When the sun it shone in
And the dog and the cat in the corner.

The roof it was well thatched
With bright yellow straw
And the walls were as white
As the snowflake abraw
'Twas the tidiest picture
A painter could draw
And it stood on a hill in the corner.

At night when the neighbours
Would all gather in
For to sit by the fire
And to warm their shins
The boys and the girls
They would think it no sin
For to sit and to court in the corner.

When Paddy the piper
Would enter the door
Sure, the boys and the girls
Would all rush to the floor
They'd get him a chair
And youse all know I'm sure
That they'd raise him right high in the corner.

Well ,first they'd get whiskey
And then they'd get tea
And they never quit poor Paddy
'Til they put him on the spree
And Paddy got drunk
And no more could he play
And he threw pipes and all in the corner.

Well close by the fire
My old father does sit
And close by his side
My old mother does knit
Pleasant stories are told
When his pipe it is lit
And he puffs it right high in the comer.

Farewell to you, Kathleen
I'll ne'er see you more
For between you and I
Does the wide ocean roar
Perhaps I will meet you
In heaven once more
So farewell to the cot in the corner.

This type of song, with its nostalgic, retrospective, sentimental style, is a relatively recent addition to the canon of Irish song. There is a shorter version in a book published in New York by Wehman Brothers and this may indicate an American origin. It also appears in Daniel O'Keefe's The First Book of Irish Ballads (Cork, Mercier Press.1955) p.114 as The Corner, similar though not quite the same. Another rare song; Sarah being the only named singer among the three entries in Roud's Index.

2 - 16 The Mother of a Slave (Roud 22752)
From the Makem Family recordings

(I am an Irish girl) in heart and soul
And I love my dear land
I honour those who in its cause
Would lift voice or pen in hand
And may I live to see her free
From foreign lord or knave
And God forbid I'd ever be
The mother of a slave.

Ah, through many a blood red age of woe
Our nation's heart has bled,
But still she lets the tyrant know
Her spirit is not dead.
God bless the men who for our sake
Their lives and gain you us gave
And God bless the mother of the son
That never reared a slave.

For the sun is sinking to the sea,
God bless the glorious West
Where there in exile they are free
And no-one is oppressed.
Come let youse toast the land with me,
The land beyond the waves
It's a golden land of liberty
Where mothers nurse no slaves.

Written by Michael Hogan, the 'bard of Thomond' and published in his Lays and Legends of Thomond (1880) pp.286-7 as The Patriot Maiden - the text above corresponds to his. As Betsy Grey the Patriot Maid it was included by WG Lyttle in Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down with other stories and pictures of '98 (1896) and almost certainly adapted by Lyttle from Hogan's poem. It refers to the Battle of Ballinahinch, 13 July 1798, although, obviously, the song is not contemporary with the events it describes.

Roud has no examples of this song, but it has some slight similarity - a few lines here and there - with the Loyalist song The Ulster Girl. Clearly, seeing the opposition as 'slaves' was not unique to either side. One wonders if Michael Hogan realised the irony of his final verse; America being a land built, in no small part, upon slavery!

2 - 17 Dobbin's Flowery Vale (Roud 999, Laws O29)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

One morning fair as Phoebe's bright
Her radiant smiles displayed
When Flora in her verdant garb
The fragrant plains arrayed.
As I did rove throughout each grove
No care did me assail
When a pair I spied by a river side
In Dobbin's flowery vale.

As I sat down them to behold
Beneath a spreading tree
The limpid streams that gently rolled
Conveyed these words to me.
"Farewell, sweet maid," the youth he said,
"For now I must set sail
I'll bid adieu to Armagh youth
And Dobbin's flowery vale."

"Forbear those thoughts and cruel words
That wound a bleeding heart,
For it is not true that we're met here
Alas so soon to part.
Must I alone here sigh and moan
To none my grief reveal
And here lament my cause to vent
In Dobbin's Flowery Vale."

"There's many a youth has left his home
To steer for freedom's shore,
Be laid beneath a silent tomb
Where the foaming billows roar.
Take my advice, do not forsake
Or leave me to bewail,
But still remain with your fond dame
In Dobbin's Flowery Vale."

"Unwilling I am to part with you
No longer can I stay
For love and freedom cries pursue
Those words I must obey.
In foreign isles where freedom smiles
All by the earth concealed,
I will come home no more to roam
From Dobbin's flowery vale."

Roud has 14 instances of this song, most from the north of Ireland, with three from Canada - and there was a Dublin broadside printing. Sam Henry notes that it was 'written by McGowan, shoemaker, of Chapel Lane, Armagh' - though he doesn't say when.

Seán O'Boyle recorded it from Robert Cinnamond, of Ballinderry, Co Antrim, and Seamus Ennis recorded it from Bob McCreesh, in Co Armagh. Paddy Tunney sang it on The Flowery Vale (Topic 12TS289), but none of these are available on CD. Kevin Mitchell sings it on Have a Drop Mair (MTCD315-6).

2 - 18 John Mitchell (Roud 5163)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

I am a true born Irish man
John Mitchell is my name
And for to join my countrymen
From Newry town I came.
I struggled hard both day and night
To free my native land,
For which I was transported
As you may understand.

When first I joined my countrymen
It was in forty two
And what did happen after that
I'll quickly tell to you
We raised the standard of repeal
I gloried in the deed
I vowed to heaven I ne'er would rest
'Til old Ireland would be freed.

When in my prison close confined
Before my trial day,
My loving wife she came to me
And this to me did say,
"Ah, John, dear John,
Keep up your heart
And don't undaunted be,
For it's better to die for Ireland's cause
Than live in slavery."

Farewell my gallant comrades
It grieves my heart full sore
To think that l must part from you
Perhaps for ever more
The love I bear my native land
I know no other crime
That is the reason I must go
Into a foreign clime.

I was placed aboard a convict ship
Without the least delay
For Bermuda's Isle our course was steered
I'll ne'er forget the day
As I stood upon the deck
To take a farewell view
I shed a tear but not to fear
My native land for you.

Adieu! Adieu! to sweet Belfast
And likewise Dublin too
And to my young and tender babes
Alas what will they do?
But there's one request I ask of you
When your liberty you gain
Remember John Mitchell far away
Though a convict bound in chains.

John Mitchell, a protestant lawyer from Co Down and an Irish revolutionary, was a strong advocate for a peasant led rebellion to establish independence for Ireland. In 1848, he was found guilty of treason by a 'loaded' jury and sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Australia. Five years later, he escaped from Tasmania and managed to make his way to America. Ironically, while there he became a enthusiastic supporter of slavery and the Southern cause. He returned to Ireland in 1875, where he became Member of Parliament for Co Tipperary. The songs is widespread on Ballad sheets.

Roud has 25 entries, but the only other CD version is the Jim Carroll/Pat Mackenzie recording of 'Pops' Johnny Connors, on From Puck to Appleby (MTCD325-6). The song is sung to the tune normally used for The Rocks of Bawn.

2 - 19 Alphabet Song (Roud 22855)
From the Makem Family recordings

A it stands for sweet Armagh
That city I adore
And B stands for bold Brian Boru
The Danish colours tore
And C it stands for Charlemount
Where the tyrant had to quell
And D stands for Dungannon
That sweet belle place of Ó Neill
E it stands for Emmet
For his country he did die
And F it stands for Fontenoy
Where the English had to fly
And G it stands for Grattan
Now his laws we all do vote
And H it stands for bold Hugh Ó Neill
That hero of Tyrone
I it stands for Inishdale (?)
Where Owen Roe's force had fled
And J stands for John Mitchell
For his country he had bled
And K it stands for sweet Kildare
That old historial town
And L it stands for Limerick
That city of renown
M it stands for Mayo
Where the Boycotts had to fly
And N it stands for Newgate
Where Lord Edward he did die
And O stands for Ó Connell
Now the truth to you I'll tell
And P for that young patriot
Called Charles Stewart Parnell
Q it stands for Queenstown
Where Owen Roe first set sail
To bear across the Atlantic wave
The harp of Grainne Ui Mhaol
And R it stands for ancient Rome
Where the Pope now he does dwell
And S it stands for Sarsfield
Who nobly fought and fell
T it stands for Tara Hill
That hill of high renown
And U stands for the Ulster boys
That broke through Cromwell's line

(spoken ... And V it stands for victory
That was won at Fontenoy
And W stands for young Wolfe Tone
Who in his grave does lie ...
I don't know the rest)

This is like a time-line history of all the key battles fought in Ireland. All the names mentioned refer to the Irish 'heroes' who continued to fight for the freedom of Ireland from many 'oppressors' throughout the centuries. It comes right up to Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891). There is no reference to any of the 'heroes' of the 1916 rising or beyond. The latest one mentioned is Parnell who is described as "that young patriot", so the song must date to late nineteenth/early twentieth century.

There is also an Orange ABC - obviously, different from what Sarah sings above, but very much in the same format, and there's also The Apprentice Boys' Alphabet which is slightly different. Roud has 163 'Alphabet' songs listed - but none are from Ireland.

2 - 20 Johnny Doyle (Roud 455, Laws M2)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956.

One fine summer's morning,
The sun it was high,
Johnny Doyle and me
Had our spirits to deny,
Johnny Doyle and me
Were to go and have a walk.
My waiting maid was standing by
As plain as you can see,
She ran home and told my mother
A tale upon me.

They locked me in a room,
A room that was high,
Where no-one could hear me,
Or listen to my cry.
They bundled up my clothes
And they told me to be gone;
It was slowly and sadly
I then put them on.

A horse and a carriage
Drove up to the door,
All for to make me
The bride of Samuel Moore.
"Bar up the door, Mother,
Don't let in Samuel Moore,
For the more I'm his bride,
I will ne'er be his wife."

"Oh, Daughter, dear Daughter,
Will I send for Johnny Doyle
A man upon horseback,
He won't detain you long?"
"To send for Johnny Doyle, Mother,
I fear you are too late,
For the journey is a half too far,
And death is my fate."

Early next morning
This fair maid she was dead,
With Johnny Doyle's silk handkerchief
Tied round her wearied head.
Her first and her last words were,
"Johnny Doyle, farewell."
There was more love in her heart
Than her poor tongue could tell.

I would have thought this to be a fairly rare song, yet Roud lists 101 instances - though more than half are from North America. There are only 9 Irish entries, with just four singers named. There have been 21 sound recordings, but only that by Buna Hicks (The Traditional Music of Beech Mountain, NC - volume 1, Folk-Legacy CD22) is available on CD. Mike Yates remembers Bert Lloyd commenting that he could not understand just why this song should have been so popular in the States. John Moulden says: This song, often including a line giving the reason for the parents' disapproval - "My love goes to Meeting and I go to Mass" - has been known in Ulster since at least 1845, and probably originated there.

2 - 21 Love is Easing (Roud 1049)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955

For love is easing, and love is teasing
And love's a pleasure when first it's new
But as it grows older it gets the colder
And fades away like the morning dew.

Today, one would think this a quite well-known song (maybe because of the Jean Ritchie's singing), but it seems to have found little popularity amongst traditional singers; Roud has only 20 entries. The only Irish entry is from Sam Henry' Songs of the People - titled The Ripest of Apples - but I have my doubts whether that's the same song ... making Sarah's fragment here almost unique. The only sound recording listed is John Howson's of Tommy Morrissey, from Padstow (VT122), no longer available on CD.

2 - 22 The Land of My Birth (Roud 2926)
From the Makem Family recordings

Oh, Columba machree is the land of my birth .
My path being all over the American earth
I have travelled the wild plains and mountains along
And I have filled their fair valleys with laughter and song

Ah, my pictures are pictures of scenes that are dear
How beautiful thou art and how glorious thou were
Oh, for good men and brave men the village shall be
The pride of old Erin far over the sea.

But sure, I have a rifle she's true to a hair
A brain that can plan and a hand that can bear
And the summons it will scarce be died out when I'll be
In the green fields of Erin far over the sea.

This song appears as Columbia the Free in Morton, Come Day, Go Day; Robin Morton collected it, in 1970, from John Maguire, of Tonaydrumallard, Co Fermanagh - who had eight verses. It's unusual, in that it's told from the standpoint of a young Irish-American, thinking about going back to Ireland for the first time. This Land of my Birth is nothing to do with the Such broadside of the same title.

2 - 23 The Magpie's Nest (Roud 2127)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

For if I was a king
Sure I would make you my queen
I would roll you in my arms
When the meadows they are green
Yes I'd roll you in my heart's content
I would sit you down to rest
'Longsides me Irish colleen
In the magpie's nest.

Skiddle idle dahdle doodle idle ahdle dum
D'lidle ahdle oo dahdle idle idle dum
Skiddle idle ahdle doodle dahdle idle doodle dum
I would leave you down to rest in the magpie's nest.

For the magpie's nest
It is a cottage neat and clean
It stands 'longsides the Shannon
Where the meadows they are green
But I never met a colleen
With such beauties blessed
Like the little Irish fairy
In the magpie's nest.


For I have wandered all through Skerry
I have wandered all through Clare
From Dublin down to Galway
From there to God knows where
But I never met a colleen
With such beauties blessed
Like the little Irish fairy
In the magpie's nest.


Another song which seems well-known today, but has only 9 Roud entries - all of which relate to the Annie Jane Kelly recording which follows. The air is that of a delightful sexually explicit song concerning the 'cuckoo's nest' - the words also owe a little to that song. The tune and a fragment of text appear in Herbert Hughes's Irish Country Songs Vol. 2 (1914).

2 - 24 The Magpie's Nest (Roud 2127)
Sung by Annie Jane Kelly
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

For notes, see the previous track. Compare and contrast the two cousins.

2 - 25 My Name is Pat Clancy (I Don't Care if I Do) (Roud 847)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

Ah, me name it's Pat Clancy, a schoolboy was I
I courted a girl and she seemed rather shy
And she asked me to the kitchen for a minute or two
"Well begorra," says I "I don't care if I do."

Ah, she asked me to the kitchen to make things all right
And three pounds of bacon she put down in sight
She asked me if I'd have a rasher or two
"Well begorra," says I "I don't care if I do."

Then she asked me to love her with lover's delight
And she asked me to make her my own darling wife
Then we both did take hands and they stuck just like glue
"Ah begorra," says I "I don't care if I do."

We went to the church, oh, for there to get wed
And the parson took out his big book and he read
"You're taking Molly and Molly takes you."
"Well begorra," says I "I don't care if I do."

Well, this certainly looks like an Irish song, yet, of Roud's 44 entries, half are from England. It was published by the 'Poet's Box' in Glasgow in 1869, when it was described as being sung to its original tune and priced at one penny. It appeared as a broadside in London published by Such and it has also turned up in Ireland. Robin Morton recorded it from John Maguire of Co Fermanagh as Joe Higgins and it was published in Walton's Treasury of Irish Songs and Ballads - part 1 (1968) as I Don't Mind if I Do. Margaret Barry sang it with that title on an LP (Outlet SOLP 1029 / COX 1029).

Of the 16 sound recordings, only those by Cyril Poacher (MTCD303) and George Withers (VTC9CD) remain available on CD ... both use the title My Name is Joe Muggins. George learned it from a neighbour of his in Isle Abbotts, Harry Adams, who had been recorded by Bob and Jacqueline Patten. They also recorded the song from Mrs Amy Ford of Low Ham, Somerset. Other versions turn up in the Kidson manuscripts (Yorkshire) and Peter Kennedy recorded for the BBC in 1956 from Bill Cameron, St Mary's, Scilly Isles.

2 - 26 There's Nothing Too Good for the Irish (Roud 7468)
From the Makem Family recordings

Oh, I'll tell you this story as was told to me
A good old story a gra machree
When my father was dying "Oh" says he to me
"There's nothing too good for the Irish."

He marched off with his blackthorn stick,
Married the Queen, made the British all sick
Freed Erin's isle like a good old Mick
For there's nothing too good for the Irish.

Well now I'm the father of a twelve pound lad
His whiskers all grew, and sure that's not bad
He'll be the president some day, bedad
For there's nothing too good for the Irish.

An American song, written by Joseph J Goodwin & Monroe H Rosenfeld (1894). Anne and Frank Warner collected it from John Galusha, in Minerva, New York, in 1940. Kilgarriff, p.157, gives the title Nothing's too good for the Irish as being in the repertoire of Maggie Cline 1857-1934.

CD Three:

3 - 1 Skibbereen (Roud 2312)
From the Makem Family recordings

"Oh, Father dear, I oftimes hear
You speak of Erin's isle ;
Its lofty scenes, its valleys green,
Its mountains rude and wild.
They say it is a lovely land
Wherein a prince might dwell
Ah, why did you abandon it,
The reason to me tell?"

"Ah, Son, I loved my native land
With energy and pride
'Til a blight came over all my crops,
My sheep and cattle died.
My rent and tax they were to pay
But I could not them redeem,
And that's the simple reason why
I left old Skibbereen."

"Oh, Father dear, the day will come
When vengeance on them fall
And Irish men with freedom stern
Will rally one and all.
I'll be the man to lead the van
Beneath the flag of green,
When loud and high we'll raise the cry
'Revenge for Skibbereen'"

"And you were only two years old,
Quite feeble was your frame;
I could not leave you with my friends,
For you bore your father's name
So I wrapped you in my coatamor
At the dead of night unseen
And heaved a sigh, and bid goodbye
To dear old Skibbereen."

Surprisingly, this song has only 23 Roud entries, and only nine of them are from Ireland - I'm sure this doesn't represent its true popularity. Tom Munnelly wrote of the song, in his review of the Joe Heaney CDs: 'A piece of nationalistic melodrama with evictions, dying mothers and famine. No wonder it is sung throughout Ireland! Skibbereen is definitely popular with the showbands (or whatever they are called nowadays), but it is also extremely widespread in the field, and I have recorded it from Irish rural singers in every corner of the country.'

Attributed in The Irish Singers' Own Song Book (Noonan, Boston, 1880) to Patrick Carpenter, a native of Skibbereen. Denis J O'Donaghue Poets of Ireland (Dublin, 1912) lists Carpenter, and says he wrote for The Boston Pilot. Skibbereen was printed by the Glasgow Poet's Box in 1875.

But Sarah has a quite different tune to the 'usual' one ... it's essentially the same as that usually used for the English song, The Banks of the Sweet Dundee.

Joe Heaney, Freddie McKay, and Miss Margaret Byrne are named as singers in Ireland, with only the first two having currently available CDs: Freddie McKay (MTCD200) and Joe Heaney (TSCD518D).

3 - 2 I Wish My Love was a Red Red Rose (Roud 308)
Recorded by Michael O'Donnell, 1968

I wish my love was a red red rose
Blowin' in yon garden fair
And me to be the gardener
Of her I would take care
There's not a month throughout the year
But my love I'd renew
I'd garnish her with flowers fine
Sweet William, Thyme and Rue.

I wish I was a butterfly
I'd light on my love's breast
And if I was a blue cuckoo
I'd sing my love to rest
And if I was a nightingale
I'd sing 'til daylight clear
I'd sit and sing for you, Molly,
For once I loved you dear.

I wish I was in Dublin
And sitting on the grass
In my right hand a jug of punch
And on my knee a lass
I'd call for liquor freely
And I'd pay before I'd go
And I'd roll her in my arms
Let the wind blow high or low.

A well-known song which is usually called The Irish Girl or Let the Wind Blow High or Low. Though, as it's little more than a collection of floating verses, it's difficult to know for sure what is and what isn't the same song. Versions were widely printed on broadsides and in books. Roud has 157 instances, though most of these are English. The 12 named Irish singers include James McDermott, Robert Cinnamond, Paddy Doran, Win Ryan, Mikeen McCarthy and Mary Connors.

Although there are 28 sound recordings listed in Roud, only four are available on CD: James McDermott (MTCD329-0); Lemmie Brazil (MTCD345-7); Walter Pardon (TSCD660) and that by Bob Copper (Coppersongs CD 2).

3 - 3 Erin's Lovely Home (Roud 1427, Laws M6)
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952

Ah, when I was young and in my prime,
My age was twenty-one
Sure I became a servant
Unto a gentleman.
I served him true with honesty,
But very well it's known
That his cruelty did banish me
From Erin's lovely home.

Ah, the reason why he banished me
I mean to let you know
It's true I loved his daughter
And she loved me also
She was advertised an heiress great,
For riches I had none
That's the reason why he banished me
From Erin's lovely home.

'Twas in her father's garden
All in the month of June,
We were viewing all the flowers,
All in their youthful bloom.
She said, "My dearest William,
If along with me you'll roam,
We will bid adieu to all our friends
In Erin's lovely home."

Sure, I gave consent that very night,
Along with her to roam
From her father's dwelling,
It proved our overthrow.
The night was bright, by the moonlight
We both set off alone,
Thinking we'd get safe away
From Erin's lovely home.

When we landed in Belfast,
Just by the break of day,
My love, she then got ready
Our passage for to pay.
One thousand pounds she counted down,
Saying, "This shall be your own,
But do not mourn for those we've left
In Erin's lovely home."

'Tis of our sad misfortune
I mean to let you hear;
'Twas in a few hours after
Her father did appear.
He marched me back to Omagh Jail
In the county of Tyrone,
And there I was transported
From Erin's lovely home.

Now when I heard my sentence passed,
Sure, it grieved my heart full sore,
But parting from my true love,
Sure, it grieved me ten times more.
I had seven links upon my chain,
For every link a year,
Before I can return again
To the arms of my dear.

While I lay under sentence
Before I sailed away,
My love, she came into the jail
And this to me did say:
"Cheer up your heart, don't be dismayed,
For I will ne'er you disown
Until you do return again
To Erin's lovely home."

Sarah sang only the first two verses of this song, so I have completed it, in italics, with those from the version sung by Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan, on Around the Hills of Clare (MTCD331-2).

Circulated widely as a ballad sheet, some versions of this bear the indelible stamp of the printer's influence with a first verse which opens, 'All ye that are at liberty, I pray you lend an ear'. Colm O'Lochlainn first got it from a friend in Belfast who had learned it in Irish.

It was to be heard extensively in England, sung, as one writer put it, 'by singers as English as the land they tilled'. It was also found in Scotland by Aberdeenshire collector Gavin Greig, who was told that "… it was the most popular of songs, and that everyone who could sing at all, sang it." Curiously, whilst the song obviously recounts an Irish story, of Roud's 102 instances, only 6 are from Ireland. Roly Brown discusses the ballad in detail in his Musical Traditions Internet Magazine article Erin's Lovely Home: MT226 (

Other recordings on CD: Mary Ann Haynes (MTCD320) and (TSCD654); and Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan (MTCD331-2).

3 - 4 The May Morning Dew (Roud 5405)
Sung by Annie Jane Kelly
Recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle, 1952
SO'B: Well Annie I believe ... you'll sing a song now.
AJK: Yes, all belonged to me was good singers. Will that do?
SO'B: That (?) was the best. Don't worry. All that belonged to you was good singers.
AJK: They was good singers
SO'B: The Kelly Family of Keady
AJK: No, the Greene Family
SO'B: The Greene Family?
AJK: The Kelly Family was good singers too
SO'B: And you got a whole lot of songs from them?
AJK: I got all the songs from my father
SO'B: From your father? Your mother didn't sing?
AJK: Not very much. She sings hymns
SO'B: Oh I see. Oh well. Your father sings all the Irish songs. Well tell us the name of one of the songs then.
AJK: The May Morning Dew
SO'B: That's a lovely song, The May Morning Dew. Good
AJK: Would you like that?
SO'B: I'd love it if you'd give it. Would you sing The May Morning Dew?
AJK: I don't mind
SO'B: Good girl, good girl. Sing away

How sweet it is in yule times
To sit by the hearth
It's in winter when the dark clouds
Are crossing the earth.
In summer to wander
The green meadows through
And the lark will be rising
On the May morning dew.

Oh it's summer is coming
Oh it's summer once more
Brings with it the soft sun
And four motley birds (?)
For the birds they'll be singing
And the skies they'll be blue
And the flowers will be springing
On the May morning dew.

For it's God be with old times
That is faded and gone
Likewise my two brothers
Young Emmett and John
For ... .… them
Where the wild hare 'tis viewed
And we'll mingle our tears
On the May morning dew.

We will stand on the hill side
And just gaze all around
Where all the kind people
And its pleasure was found
And all the kind neighbours
Which in new times I knew
Like the green fields are fading
On the May morning dew.

On the home of our homesteads
Not a stone upon stone
For our gardens will blossom
While the weeds they are growing
For we'll curse the old tyrants
Which caused them to rue
And we'll fish the bright waters
On the May morning dew.

SO'B: That's a lovely song Annie. You got that ...
AJK: That's a nice song. I got that from my father
SO'B: From your father?
AJK: That's right.
SO'B: You got a whole lot of others of his
AJK: A lot of old Irish songs.

This song, evoking old age and the passing of time, while being very popular in West Clare, does not seem to have been recorded from traditional singers very often elsewhere; the only other version listed by Roud being from Paddy Tunney of Beleek, Co Fermanagh in 1965. Paddy also collected it from Mandy Gallagher, of Tullagh.

Other recordings: Paddy Tunney, Record No. 29436, BBC Archive. The Keane sisters of Caherlistrane, Co Galway, also had a version of it. The only CD recording is by Kitty Hayes of Fahanlunaghta, between Miltown Malbay and Ennistymon, Co Clare, on MTCD331-2.

3 - 5 Mary of the Curling Hair (Roud 22751)
From the Makem Family recordings

My Mary of the curling hair
With laughing teeth and bashful air
Her bridal morn is dawning fair
With blushes in the sky.
Siúil, siúil, siúil a ghrá
Siúil go socair agus siúil a rúin
My love, my fair,
My own dear girl,
My mountain maid arise.

For we were known from infancy
Thy father's hearth was home to me
No selfish love is mine for thee
Unholy and unwise.
Siúil ...

I am no stranger proud and gay
To win thee from thy home away
And find thee for a distant day
A theme of wasting sighs.
Siúil ...

But soon my love shall be my bride
And happy by our own fireside
My veins shall feel the rising tide
Which lingering hope denies.

Siúil ...

A love song by Gerald Griffin (1803-1840), born and educated in Limerick, a songwriter and novelist (particularly The Collegians, upon which Dion Boucicault based his 1860 play, The Colleen Bawn. He enjoyed a literary career spent in London from 1823-1827 and in Limerick from then until his entry to the Christian brothers in 1838. My Mary of the Curling Hair is easily his best known song, and has two further verses, shown here in italics.

3 - 6 The Scutchers (Roud 22853)
Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962

Oh come on bonny lassies
And don't be undaunted
For you'll see it in every paper
Where the scutchers they are wanted.

You can eat and drink as well
As any poor man butcher
While the flax grows green
There'll be trade for the scutcher

Musha ring do a da
Stand where you are
For we have money plenty
And there's whiskey in the jar.

It was coming from the mill
Sure I spied my bonny lassie
And by this time you know
She was looking very sassy
She went for to sleep on the
Ground where we were speaking
And whenever she awoke
Sure, she'd dreamed that she was streaking.


DH: Mrs Makem, what's a scutcher?
SM: Well it's a man that puts the flax through the first stages for the linen. He scutches the flax once it comes out of the field. He scutches it into fibre that goes into make the Irish linen.
DH: Is it a way of pressing it? Do they do it with stones or with what?
SM: Oh no, handles, like handles that cuts the whole outside off the flax and makes the inside the fibre that makes the linen.
DH: And your husband, Mr Makem, was a scutcher wasn't he?
SM: Yes, he was a scutcher.
DH: And where did you learn that song?
SM: Well I learned it off an old woman, oh it must be years ago, before I was married at all. But I dare say when she knowed who I was talking to was a scutcher lad - why she sung it for me.

This is a fragment of the song We Will Stop Where We Are which is published in Songs of County Down by Cathal O'Boyle, Gilbert Dalton Ltd. Skerries, County Dublin 1979. The same version also appears in Songs of the County Down by Jackie Boyce, Ballyhay Books, Donaghadee 2004. The sources in both cases are different, but the words are the same. The O'Boyle version is as follows, together with notes about the scutching process:

In the year of sixty-nine in the month of September
The weather it being fine as I'm sure you all remember
I then joined my scutching as I often had been thinking.
I'm a gay sporting chap and I'm middling fond of drinking.

Musha ring doo a da we will stop where we are
For we have money plenty and there's whiskey in the jar.
I was coming from my work when I met with my wee lassie
At this very time she was getting pretty saucy
I asked her would she marry and she told me not to touch her
For she said she wouldn't like for to marry with a scutcher.


Says I "My wee dearie, do not be daunted
For you see in every paper where a scutcher he is wanted
You can eat now, and drink, love, like any farmer's daughter
You'll be happy in the shoughs, in the arms of a scutcher."


On the ground where she stood, young Lisa was a sleeping
And when she awoke she had dreamt that she was streaking
There's not a lady in the land the likes of what would touch her
She'll be happy in the shoughs, in the arms of a scutcher.


Scutching is the first mechanical step in the making of linen. The retted flax, having been dried, is taken in handfuls by the 'handfuller', and handed to the scutcher who holds the flax bundles, one end after the other, in between rows of rotating spikes which tear the pith 'shoughs' away from the fibres. When the fibres are clear they are handed to a 'streaker' who straightens them out, brushes away any residual shoughs and folds the bundles neatly for weighing.

The dry shoughs can be used as fuel to back up water-powered mills with steam from a fire called a 'loagey', or as this song suggests, they can be used as a convenient and comfortable courting spot.

3 - 7 Robert Burns and His Highland Mary (Roud 820, Laws O34)

Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967

On green Caledonia
There ne'er lived twa lovers
So enraptured or happy
In each other's arms
As Burns the sweet bard
And his dear Highland Mary
So fondly, so sweetly
He sang in her charms.

Lang be the sang
So enchanted and many
Be heard with delight
On his own native plains
And lang be the name
Of his dear Highland Mary
Be secret to love
In his heart beating strains.

'Twas a May day
And the flowers of summer
Were blooming in wildness
Were lovely and fair
Where these two lovers met
In a grove or green bower
That grew on the banks
Of the clear winding Ayr.

"Farewell," said he
As he flew from his Mary
And "Farewell," said she
For she could say no more
Ah little they kent
That they parted forever
When they parted that night
On the banks of the Ayr.

The green summer saw
Yet but few sunny mornings
'Til she in her bloom
And her beauty and pride
Was laid in a grave
Like a bairny young flower
In Greenoch Kirkyard
On the banks of the Clyde.

Now Burns the sweet bard
And his own Caledonia
Lamented his Mary
In many a sad strain
And sigh did he weep
For his dear Highland Mary
And ne'er did his heart
Love so deeply again.

The songs of Robert Burns never came into the general repertoire of folksingers in Ireland or in Scotland. But strangely enough the sentimental nineteenth century 'ballad' here sung by Sarah Makem had a wide distribution in Britain and America. It may well be that the love-history of Rabbie himself had more appeal for ordinary people than any of his adapted folk songs, given that there are 71 instances of the song in Roud, 14 of which are sound recordings.

John Ord, in Bothy Songs, p.354, says that the song was written by a west of Scotland police constable called Thomson who later went to Canada.

The Mary in the song was Mary Campbell (1763-1786). Burns fell for her after he had left Jean Armour. He last saw her in May 1786, and she died later that year whilst visiting the West Highlands. (There has been much speculation that she 'married' Burns and that she later died in childbirth). There are several recordings in the School of Scottish Studies, including ones by Sheila Stewart, who had it from Belle Stewart, Lucy Stewart and Willie Mathieson.

Most of the 89 Roud entries refer to broadside publications and books. In terms of geographical spread, most are from Canada; only 9 are from Scotland, and 8 from Ireland. Although a lot of well-known names have recorded it: Eddie Butcher; Paddy Tunney; Mary Ann Carolan; LaRena Clark, none seem to be currently available on CD.

3 - 8 The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Roud 2994)
Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967

I sat within a valley green
I sat me with my true love
My sad heart strode the two between
The old love and the new love;
The old for her, the new that made me
Think on Ireland dearly
When soft the wind blew down the glade
And it shook the golden barley.

'Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To burst the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us.
And so I said "The mountain glen
I'll seek at morning early,
And join the bold United men
While soft wind shakes the barley."

While sad I kissed away her tears
My fond arms round her flinging,
The foeman's shot burst on our ears
From out the wild wood ringing.
The bullet pierced my true love's side
In life's young spring so early,
And on my breast, in blood she died,
While soft wind shook the barley.

Then blood for blood without remorse
I've ta'en at Oughlard Hollow
I've laid my true love's clay cold corpse
Where I full soon will follow.
And o'er her grave I wander drear
Noon, night and morning early
With a breaking heart whene'er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley.

Politically-inspired songs may often be loudly called for in singing-pubs, but at the fireside they are very seldom heard. Only a strong love story associated with the patriotic or 'rebellious' sentiment will ensure for a song a permanent place in folk memory. The Wind that Shakes the Barley is just such a song. The words were written by Robert Dwyer Joyce, historian and poet, brother of P W Joyce, the famous Irish folksong collector. They have been published to another air in The Irish National Songbook by Alfred Perceval Graves.

Given how well-known the song is today, it seems extraordinary that there are only 8 Roud entries for it, and that only two other sound recordings are noted - of Nellie Walsh, from Wexford, by the BBC in 1947, and by Kevin Mitchell on MTCD315-6.

3 - 9 Miss Jenny (Roud 23422)

Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956

Oh there was a gay shepherd came courting Miss Jenny,
He was neat, tall and handsome, was comely and fair.

He went to forest, his flocks for to view them;
She borrowed men's clothing and followed him there.

Coat, waistcoat and trousers, as fine shoes and stockings,

A hat on her head and a cane in her hand.
And as he was walking, she boldly stepped forward
And kindly saluted this handsome young man.

"Good morrow, gay shepherd, the weather seems misty;
Show me the straight road to the banks of Drumwer" (?)

"Oh yes, noble stranger, how far have you rangèd?
I ne'er saw as nice a lad crossing this earth."

"What come over you, Johnny - you don't know your Jenny?
Sure, these are men's clothing I borrowed from home.
Yes these are men's clothing I borrowed from neighbours,
In case some wee lassie would take ye awa'."

And finally, a song which neither we, nor Steve Roud, have ever encountered before - and only just discovered by ITMA amongst their Diane Hamilton recordings.

3 - 10 10 second space

3 - 11 The Banks of the Callan (Roud 22851) From the Makem Family recordings.

For song notes, see 1 - 18.

3 - 12 Barbara Allen (Roud 54,Child 84)

Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955. For song notes, see 2 - 7.

3 - 13 Blow Ye Winds Hi-O (Roud 1778)

Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967. For song notes, see 2 - 9.

3 - 14 The Butcher Boy (Roud 409, Laws P24) Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1956. For song notes, see 2 - 11.

3 - 15 The Canny Oul' Lad (Marrowbones) (Roud 183, Laws Q2). Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962. For song notes, see 1 - 4.

3 - 16 Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold (Roud 553, Laws N17). From the Makem Family recordings. For song notes, see 2 - 12.

3 - 17 Castleblaney Beasoms (Roud 1623)

Sung and played by Sarah, Tommy, Jack Makem, and Nancy Moore. Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1962. For song notes, see 2 - 13.

3 - 18 Derry Gaol (Roud 896, Laws L11) Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955, '56 or '62. For song notes, see 1 - 10.

3 - 19 Dobbin's Flowery Vale (Roud 999, Laws O29). Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967. For song notes, see 2 - 17.

3 - 20 The Factory Girl (Roud 1659)

Recorded by Diane Hamilton, 1955. For song notes, see 2 - 6.

3 - 21 I Courted A Wee Girl (The False Bride) (Roud 154). Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967. For song notes, see 1 - 19.

3 - 22 Johnny Doyle (Roud 455, Laws M2)

Recorded by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle, 1967. For song notes, see 2 - 20.


Field Trip: 1954 - Collector Limited Editions CLE 1201 LP
Various performers
Sarah Makem: Derry Gaol
These field recordings were made by Jean Ritchie in 1952/53, during a Fulbright scholarship tour through Scotland, Ireland and England. Alternate release: Field Trip: 2001 - Greenhays GREEH-CD0726 CD

The Lark In The Morning: 1956 - Tradition TLP 1004 LP
Various performers
Sarah Makem: In the Month of January, The Little Beggarman
Collected in Ireland by Diane Hamilton, Summer, 1955

As I Roved Out (Field Trip-Ireland): 1960 - Folkways FW08872 LP
Various performers
Sarah Makem: As I Roved Out, Barbara Allen
Collected by Jean Ritchie and George Pickow

Folk Songs of Britain - Volume 7: Fair Game and Fowl: 1962 - Caedmon TC 1163 LP
Various performers
Sarah Makem: Derry Gaol

Mrs Sarah Makem, Ulster Ballad Singer: 1968 - Topic 12T 182 LP
Farewell My Love, Remember Me, Banks of Red Roses, It Was in the Month of January,
Robert Burns and His Highland Mary, Factory Girl, Jolly Thresher, Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, I Courted a Wee Girl, A Servant Maid in Her Father
's Garden, Barbara Allen
Recorded in Keady, Co Armagh, 1967, by Paul Carter and Sean O'Boyle
First issued by Topic 1968

Ulster's Flowery Vale: 1968 - BBC REC 28M LP
Various performers
Sarah Makem: Red Red Rose, Sailor Cut Down in his Prime
Produced by David Hammond. Music recorded by Michael O'Donnell. First broadcast N.I.H.S. July and August 1968.


This publication of four CDs (one for Topic Records (TSCD674) and three for MT Records) has been a daunting task; juggling more than 90 recordings, two sets of booklet and song notes, liaising with dozens of informants, hunting out hard-to-find information, getting permissions, and trying not to step on too many toes! I couldn't have done any of it without a great deal of help.

Most particularly, I'd like to thank Sarah's great-granddaughter, Stéphanie Makem, who has been extremely patient, and has supplied information, photos, song transcriptions, and the family recordings. And Nicholas Carolan at the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin kindly supplied me with the 34 Diane Hamilton recordings, making up almost half of the songs on these records - and the 10% sales royalties resulting from this 3-CD set will be divided between ITMA and the Makem family.

Feargal O'Donnell, one-time genealogist with the South Armagh Genealogy Project, managed to get me the full text of Aideen D'Arcy's article on Sarah - a real goldmine of information, and the autobiographical notes are quoted directly from it.

Tony Engle of Topic Records hunted out the best recordings from the Kennedy Archive and the NSA, and has kindly allowed me to use all the Topic and Kennedy recordings not presented on the new Topic CD in this 3-CD set. And John Moulden was able to provide me with the final two Michael O'Donnell recordings, allowing these four new CDs to contain the complete recorded repertoire, and almost all the recordings, of Sarah Makem.

Lastly - but really firstly - I should thank Paul Carter for getting the old tapes out of his attic, and suggesting that I might be able to use them in some way ... effectively kick-starting this whole project in the first place.

And absolutely finally, here's a recollection from the early 1950s, by Seán Mone:

In the days when radio was king and the world of my boyhood friends and I did not extend even as far as the boundary of the small town of Keady (population then 1,400), the news came like a bolt from that sunny Sunday morning sky. "Did you hear it? Did you hear it? Sarah Makem - on the radio - singing - herself and Annie Jane (Kelly)?"

I had seen her, that very morning, walking, as she did every Sunday, from early mass, the Sunday Press under her arm, calm as you like - and her on the radio!

With that programme, broadcast every Sunday and her singing the signature - As I Roved Out - the outside world had arrived in our street. A re-evaluation of singers and songs took place, as neighbours discussed the merits and demerits of singers and songs, armoured in the confidence of anonymity and, in some cases, total ignorance of the subject.

As a child well-practised in the art of appearing to be engrossed in some game or toy, while surreptitiously listening to every word of the conversation of adults, and as one interested in songs and singers, tuning into these discussions came easy to me.

In those grey days there were those among us who believed that there was little of value to life in Ireland. Hope came complete with a boat or plane ticket to places where you could dream in Technicolour.

Songs reflected this wider world and singers aspired to sound like Bing Crosby, Ruby Murray, Josef Locke, etc. But an undercurrent persisted in the quiet places where old songs and their singers found harmony, safe from comparison with 'the radio singers'.

Whether or not she was aware of these comparisons, it would have mattered little to Sarah. She was doing what came as natural to her as breathing, and doing it with unquestioning confidence. When Sarah was heard on that radio programme it was as if she had gone to an old almost forgotten cupboard, rummaged among the clutter, taken out some old gems, polished them up, and wore them in her hair.

To us boys who had little time to be listening to the radio on Sunday mornings, she was our friends' granny, noted for her treat - a slice of loaf bread, buttered, and topped with a generous layer of Tate & Lyle's Golden Syrup, sweet, sticky, and very messy. What more could any boy want. She was also a granny who sang. Sang as we played on her kitchen floor. Sang as we all walked to New Holland Well for water. Sang when working. Sang when resting.

My grandmother told this story: "I remember when I came to Victoria Street as a young married woman (to the rooms that Sarah and Peter had left). Johnny (her husband) would be away at some distant horse fair and I would be sitting alone. There were stone steps leading up from street level and the Greene family (Sarah's family name) would come and sit there in the evening singing while I sat at the window, listening 'til the tears ran down my cheeks with loneliness for my home in Aghnagurgan" - about 3 miles distant!

Sitting on a neighbour's steps, standing at the kitchen sink or in front of a recording microphone, Sarah Makem put the song in its rightful place - a place of great importance.

Seán Mone - Summer, 2011


The biographical section of this booklet was written by Aideen D'Arcy, with additions and corrections from Stéphanie Makem and Seán Mone. The song notes were written by Rod Stradling, with assistance from Stéphanie Makem, Mike Yates, John Moulden, Maurice Leyden, Martin Ryan, Steve Gardham and Steve Roud.

The recordings were made by, in chronological order, Peter Kennedy, Diane Hamilton, Paul Carter, Michael O'Donnell and various members of the Makem family.

The photographs come from the Makem family, except for the two colour ones, which are by Paul Carter.

My sincere thanks to all of them - and to everyone else who has contributed so willingly of their time and expertise:

Booklet: editing, DTP, printing
CDs: editing, production by Rod Stradling
A Musical Traditions Records production
© 2011

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