Article MT087

Kevin and Ellen Mitchell

Have a Drop Mair

Musical Traditions' fifth CD release of 2001: Kevin and Ellen Mitchell: Have a Drop Mair (MTCD315-6), is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the records, or who might find the small print hard to read, we have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Track List] [Introduction] [Kevin Mitchell] [Ellen Mitchell] [The Songs] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]


1 - False Lover John
2 - Feein Day
3 - The Hills of Glen Swilly
4 - Far o’er the Forth
5 - Miss Mouse’s Ball
6 - Wae’s Me for Prince Chairlie
7 - The Wind that Shakes the Barley
8 - An Old Maid in a Garret
9 - Border Widow’s Lament
10 - The Boston Burglar
11 - Lady Mary Ann
12 - Clyde’s Waters
13 - Seán Ó Duibhir a’Ghleanna
14 - Queen Amang the Heather
15 - Old Ardboe
16 - Johnston and the Young Colonel  
17 - The Creggan White Hare
18 - As I Cam in by Yon Castle Wall
19 - The Lea Rig
20 - Have a Drop Mair
1 - Sarah Jane
2 - Young Emsley
3 - Dobbin’s Flowery Vale
4 - The Echo Mocks the Corncrake
5 - The Shamrock Shore
6 - Willy’s Fatal Visit
7 - The Bold Rogue
8 - Mary Mild
9 - Erin’s Farewell
10 - It Was Aa for Oor Rightfu King
11 - Captain Coulson
12 - I Must Away, Love
13 - The Wheels of the World
14 - The Birken Tree
15 - The Braes o’ Stra’blane
16 - O'Reilly from the County Cavan
17 - The Calton Weaver
18 - Twa Brithers
19 - The Royal Blackbird


Readers of the CD reviews in MT will know that I, among others, have had cause to criticise the recordings of some of the younger generation of singers - people who are, like myself, to some extent products of the 'second British folk song revival', and of the folk club and festival scene.  But I am also aware that there are a good number of singers who share this heritage, yet are well able to be judged by the same criteria as traditional singers without being the losers by it.  For several years, it has been my intention to produce some CDs of such people, as well as of 'traditional' singers - live people as well as dead ones!

However, intentions don't automatically translate into reality: some ideas had to be shelved because commercial labels were considering something similar; some didn't produce enthusiastic responses; and some, like this present one, took far longer than I had anticipated to bring to fruition.  This has been much more a function of the distance from Stroud to Glasgow than of any lack of enthusiasm on the part of Kevin, Ellen or myself - they have worked less frequently in the southern half of England than I was expecting, and I have travelled northwards rather less often than in the past.  For whatever reasons, it has been almost three and a half years since I first suggested the idea ...

Nonetheless, here we are with MT's first double CD from people who I don't wish to call revivalists - not only has it become a pejorative term, it's also inaccurate - successors might be better.  Several other similar projects are in the pipeline.

I have also not felt the need, with this series, to make the booklet notes as complete as those on the traditional singers who are no longer with us - you can all go and see the Mitchells in the flesh at clubs, festivals, concerts, and ask them about their songs, their influences, their aspirations ...

The Singers:

Kevin Mitchell - I was born in St Columb's Wells, Derry City, and grew up in Springtown Camp and the Creggan Estate.  From a very early age I was interested in Irish songs, music and dance.  I followed this interest at every opportunity and, while involved in learning the Irish language, an opportunity arose to learn traditional songs first-hand from traditional singers.  I met Seán Gallagher initially through the language, and then he encouraged me to enter the traditional singing competition at Derry Feis.  He also helped me learn songs and introduced me to several of his relatives who gave me ballads which I still sing. 

Later I attended Friday night ballad sessions in Buncrana where I was fortunate to meet a host of singers with good songs, including Corny McDaid, who gave me many fine songs and ballads.  I finally settled in Glasgow in 1969. 

I have continued to search out songs throughout the years and have appeared at many clubs and festivals in Britain, Ireland, Canada and the USA.  I recently did a concert tour with Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Alyth McCormack, called Sharper Than the Thorn, which was a programme of mainly unaccompanied ballads, and the tour was a great success. 

I have two previous recordings; Free and Easy, an LP on Topic and I Sang that Sweet Refrain, a CD on Greentrax. 

(The following is an edited transcription of Kevin's inter-song talk, recorded by Fred McCormick at The National festival at Sutton Bonnington, April 1988):

It was purely nationalism when I was young.  No history of traditional music in the family in Derry City, although on my mother's side there was a fair bit of singing, but not really what I'm particularly doing now.  When I was young I was very interested in Irish culture, the language, Irish dancing; and one thing led to another.  I learned Irish dancing, and if you get into a minibus and you're travelling from a feis, everybody sings - and I already had a name singing so it gradually developed from there until we came to the competition stage, which was later on.  Anyway, what really made me sing was singing songs from my own wee bit of the country, which is County Derry and Donegal.  Although Derry is historically part of Donegal, so we've got that kind of split personality, so when I talk about Donegal songs I'm really talking about local songs.  The first song that took my fancy was Going to Mass Last Sunday just because it mentioned Derry, although in this case it's County Derry.

I should have mentioned that even at this early stage a man call Seán Gallagher was a great influence on me.  I was in this club in Derry learning Irish and Seán had just been released out of jail; he was interned during 1957 - a well-known incident called the Runaway Train - and he got the blame for it.  Seán was a well-known Gaelic speaker and one night in this club he was trying to get a tape recorder working and he said "Would somebody give us the verse of a song, to check the levels", so I sang a verse of The Bonny Bunch of Roses.  Seán didn't say anything at the time, but I was a marked man, as he realised here was a possibility of somebody to point in the right direction, as it were.  And even though The Bonny Bunch of Roses would be considered a fairly good song, to him anything in English was inferior.  So Seán said "How would you like to learn a couple of songs for Derry feis?"  They had a traditional section in the feis for unaccompanied traditional singing, but it had to be in Irish.  So I says "Fair enough."

So I did - I learned one song, and I tried to learn another one, but it didn't work out.  I sang the first one really well, I'll always remember, it was called On a Tuesday Morning; only in Gaelic could you get a song with a title like that!  I came to sing the second song after, and I broke down.  It wasn't even a good song, it was just a fill in to try and get two songs, but it didn't work.  So the adjudicator says "Well, that was very good and I wish you had been able to sing your second song."  So I said, "Well, I'll sing the first one over again", and I did - shows you how naive I was, and everybody in the front row had big smiles ... and even with that, I got second!  In the meantime, Seán, although he sang a lot of songs in Irish, his family were really good singers and they had a lot of songs.  The frustrating thing was, that first song I sang Going to Mass Last Sunday, he gave me a verse of it, and for about three weeks I lived in absolute hell trying to get the rest of the words for it.  So he says "Come along with me", and he took me down to see his aunt, and not only did I get the rest of the words of that song, but I also got The Mountain Streams where the Moorcocks Crow which, incidentally, is the same tune that Sheila Stewart sings, though the words are different here and there.  I find that very interesting ...

I learned another song from the same group of people, from the daughter of Seán's aunt ...  another song that I love a lot; Free and Easy to Jog Along.  That was the influences on me at that particular time, and it all came from one person and his immediate family connections.

At that time we had no such thing as a folk scene in Ireland - it's only in the last 20 years that places like Dublin and Belfast had folk clubs.  Places like Derry didn't have a folk club, and even yet I don't think they do, but they have what they call sessions, that's the normal thing.  We had the programmes on the telly from England, from Scotland we had Hootenanny, and I suppose at that time the folk scene was really going well and people had a great interest in the Clancy Brothers, etc., so that made the singing thing very easy and the competitions then became important.

I remember travelling up to Belfast for a competition called the John Player Traditional Ballad Competition - they even sponsored that as well!  When I went there I actually sang songs in Gaelic, would you believe, and one of the judges was a man called David Hammond who was very, very well known.  He works for the BBC, and he came up to me later and said "Do you sing Slieve Gallon Braes?"  I said, "I do."  I think he just wanted to find out if I could sing songs in English as well.  Anyway, I got through to the final and that year I actually won the competition and won £50 - what a wonderful thing!  I remember carrying the cheque round for weeks, and when I finally cashed it it was almost black with dirt!  They were interesting days.

After Seán Gallagher, I was wanting more songs obviously, so the next thing was heading round for sessions; the obvious place was down to Buncrana, and Inishowen, and Inishowen has thrown up lots and lots of songs.  There I met a man called Corny McDaid.  Corny was a man with lots and lots of songs, and when I was at one of the sessions singing, about 30 years ago I learned False Lover John, and it was just last year [1987] that I learned another song from him, The Girl I Left Behind.  When I got home I had mentioned this to Adam McNaughton who is one of the members of the group I sing with in Glasgow.  He says "I know that version of that song, it's in Gavin Greig."  So I looked up Gavin Greig and there was the same song right enough except that it was twice as long.  Where the song I have ends in Glasgow, in the book it goes on and ends up in Newcastle where the man's finally captured by a Geordie woman; she throws an arm-lock on him and that's him ...

At that particular time I remember learning a song from Co Armagh called Dobbin's Flowry Vale, and I learned it in the other tune; and then I heard a lad from Belfast singing the other tune and I thought "that's the tune I prefer", so I learned it to that tune.

I'm now living in Glasgow since 1969 and when I got there I did learn a few other songs including Seán O'Dwyer.  It's interesting - in this particular battle, the battle of Auchrim, Seán O'Dwyer wasn't even in it, so there you are!  But Patrick Sarsfield was in this battle, and Patrick Sarsfield is responsible for all the people in Ireland now being called Patrick - not Saint Patrick as most people would imagine.  Maybe he got his name because of Saint Patrick ... ?

Ellen Mitchell - I was born in Glasgow, but left as a very small baby, to live in Kirn, Dunoon and Innellan, along the Clyde Coast.  I returned at the age of seven and have been living here since then.  As a child I was interested in music - the influences generally were family, school, the community.  I was taught a variety of songs in Primary school and teachers would sometimes encourage me to sing out.  This was a bit embarrassing but also quite enjoyable.  Around this time as well I was roped into various small 'holy' Sunday School type clubs which had choirs.  I remember being a fleeting member of these didn't much like the 'holy' influence.

Various family members had connections with music.  My father had a passion for classical music and jazz.  My great aunt (father's mother's sister) used to rattle out tunes on my granny's piano with great exuberance and freedom of spirit.  My uncle (father's brother) was a guitarist and singer in a skiffle group, when skiffle was in its heyday.  My mother had a good voice but didn't sing very much, or not as much as I would have liked.  I remember at about eleven years old being passionate about Kenneth McKellar ...  I must have been a strange child!

As a teenager I went Youth Hostelling and camping; this broadened my repertoire because I took part in sing-songs in common rooms and round camp fires.  Then there was the Jack Elliot, Derrol Adams, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie phase.  The discovery of folk clubs and festivals took me further into the music, and I was excited to hear more traditional song.

When I had young children and a demanding full time job I found it very difficult to maintain my involvement to a satisfactory level.  However I did manage to take part in competitions run by the Traditional Music and Song Association (of Scotland) and won three of these (the first being with Twa Brithers and The Birken Tree).

In the past ten years or so, I have had more time to devote to performance and repertoire, and my enjoyment of singing has greatly increased.  I feel that a breakthrough for me occurred at The National festival at Sutton Bonnington.  Mysteriously, my name appeared on the events list one year in a couple of sessions.  The following year Ray Fisher suggested that I be included as a guest.  I can say that my greatest development came from this and I thank the people who encouraged me and saw a potential which I myself was unsure of at that time.

I have learned songs by instinct as they appealed to me, and am aware that a large part of my repertoire is love songs - but I am also attracted to ballads and a wee bit of comedy.

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 almost 232,000 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 Ceoil Dúchais Éireann, Dublin; and the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK.

Child Numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, 1882-98.  Laws Numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, 1957.  Names of other works, cited infrequently, are given in full.

Many of Ellen's Scottish songs are to be found in the collections of Gavin Greig and/or James B Duncan and have been published in Folk Songs of the North East (shown as FSNE) or in the seven published volumes of the Greig-Duncan Collection (shown as GD).  Volume 8, which includes the accumulative master index, should be out sometime in February or March, 2002.  The GD references take the form GD2:159 - this indicates that song number 159 is published in volume 2 of the Greig-Duncan Collection.

Many of the songs contain Scots dialect words or pronunciations … in most cases I have printed them as they are sung rather than indicating any supposed 'missing' terminal letters with an apostrophe - thus wi [with] is not rendered wi' … the same goes for kissin, rinnin, etc…  However, the form o' [of] is so universally recognised that I have retained this with its apostrophe.  Words shown in [square brackets] are translations of dialect words, where their meaning is not clear from the context.

The recordings were all made by Rod Stradling in two sessions.  The first was at his house in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 18th-19th March 2000; CD1 tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19, 12 and CD2 tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 are from this recording session.  The second was at Kevin and Ellen's house in Partick, Glasgow, on 28th September 2001; CD1 tracks 2, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20 and CD2 tracks 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 are from this recording session.

CD One:

1 - False Lover John (Roud 21, Child 4)

False lover John he courted me
For every hour in the day.
He courted me to such a degree
That I hadn't one word to say.

It's "Take you of your father's gold,
And all your mother's money,
And steal the keys of your father's stable
Of thirty steeds and three".

She's taken of her father's gold,
And all her mother's money,
And stolen the keys of her father's stable
Of thirty steeds and three.

Then mounted on a milk white steed
Rode on by the clear silver light of the moon,
And they rode on to the river bank,
Where they did get down.

It's "Lie you here Miss Michalín
This night along with me,
For it's here I murdered seven king's daughters,
The eighth one shall be you.

But first leave off your lovely clothes
And leave them on dry land,
For I feel they are too costly for
To rot on the salt sea sand".

"Then turn you round, False John," she cried,
And view the green leaves on the tree,
For I'll never agree that any man
My naked body should see."

False lover John he's turned around
To view the green leaves on the tree,
When she threw her arms around his waist
And flung him into the sea.

"Oh, reach me in your lovely hand
And bring me to dry land,
And every vow that ever I made
I'll double them all in one".

It's "Lie you there, False John", she cried,
"An ill death you may die.
For you thought to drown me as I was born
And steal my clothes away."

Then mounted on a milk white steed
Rode on by the clear silver light of the moon,
And she rode on to the castle gates
Where there she did get down.

She put the horses back in the stable,
The money where it lay.
There wasn't a lord in all of the castle
Miss Michalín away.

Up spoke the noble parrot
From his cage in where he lay
Saying, "What did I tell you, Michalín,
Before you went away?"

"Ah, hold your tongue my little parrot,
And tell no tales on me,
And your cage will be of the beaten gold
Instead of a hazel tree."

Up spoke the noble king from his bed
In where he lay
Saying "What disturbs my little parrot,
That riddles so long before day?"

"The cats they are at my cage door,
All for to worry me,
And I was calling on Michalín
To scare them all away.

"But maids are young, they do sleep sound
And can't be wakened by me.
So sleep you on, my noble king,
The cats are all scared away."

Kevin: An excellent version of the Outlandish Knight from the singing of Corney McDaid, of Inishowen, Co Donegal.  Corney sang this song to me at a singing session in the Excelsior Bar, Buncrana.

As The Outlandish Knight, not to mention a host of other titles, this ballad is exceptionally well-known all over the Anglophone world; Roud has 578 examples cited.  It was frequently found in England and Scotland, but less so in Ireland; indeed it has only been recorded twice from the Irish oral tradition.  The only instance of the ballad under this present title was collected from Corney McDaid of Cockhill, Co Donegal, by Jimmy McBride and Jim McFarland.  Among vast range of titles used, many of the Irish ones and quite a lot of the older ones, include the name of May Colvin (as in May Colven in Child or May Colvine and Fause Sir John in Bronson) - one may assume the Corney's Michalín is derived from her.

Sadly, only a few of Roud's 38 sound recordings have made the move to CD, including Fred Jordan (Topic TSCD600 and Rounder CD 1775), Mary Ann Haynes (Topic TSCD661) and Jumbo Brightwell (Rounder CD 1741 and Lanham NLCD3).

2 - Feein Day (Roud 2516, GD4:883)

Twa lads and I stepped fae Milngavie,
To Glasgow town we made our way.
And all along the road was thronged
Wi lads and bonny lasses gay.
While gazing round me I did spy
A fair maid walking by hersel
For fear the rain her dress would stain
She did dispel her umberell.

I steppit up and said "Fair maid,
How far are you goin this way?"
To Glasgow town sure I am bound,
You know it is the feein day."
Says I "The day looks tae be wet
Although the morning did look fine."
She smiled and said "I'm sore afraid
I'll no be in by feein time."

"Cheer up your heart, my bonny lass,
We'll hae good weather bye and bye,
And don't be sad when wi a lad,
A roving baker fae Milngavy.
And if you will accept a gill
O' whisky, brandy, rum or wine,
A glass we'll hae and then we'll be
In Glasgow Town by feein time. "

She gave consent and in we went
Intae an alehoos on the way.
Glass after glass, and the time did pass
And baith forgot it was feein day.
The clock struck nine, she smiled on me,
Says "Baker lad the fault is thine.
The night is on and I am from home,
And besides I've lost ma feein time."

"Cheer up your heart, ma bonnie lass,
I do not mean to harm you.
The marriage tie we'll surely cry,
For baker lads they aye prove true."
"I'm ower young to wed a man,
Ma mither she has nain but me,
Yet I'll comply and no deny.
I'll wed afore I tak a fee."

The night was spent in merriment
And we twa wedded fine next day.
And aye ma lass, she does confess,
It was weel to miss the feein day.
Ma love and I we sae agree,
We hae nae cause fae tae complain.
And ilka day she'll smile and say
"I'm glad I missed the feein time."

Ellen: I learned this song from the singing of John Eaglesham of Glasgow - he would say from Govan.  It's a happy love song, although it also reminds us of a the situation when young working class men and women in country areas were feed to an employer, most often a farmer, and paid at the end of their feeing term.  Often the conditions were unknown to the workers and were often unsatisfactory.  They were evaluated like livestock and working conditions were tough, with certainly no sick or holiday pay.  I have a friend, Willie Devine, who remembers standing in line waiting to be chosen for a fee.  In this song the young woman had obviously experienced some difficult fee paid employment, since she would rather be married than 'tak a fee'.

This delightful song has been found only in Scotland, and all but one of Roud's 21 examples were collected by Gavin Greig or James Duncan - the exception being Jimmy McBeath, who sang it for Peter Hall in 1971, and the recording appeared on his Topic LP Bound to be a Row (12T 303).  It does not seem to have been printed as a broadside, so one may presume that it's of quite recent (turn of the century?) composition.  It is often also known as Glasgow Fair or The Feein Time.

3 - The Hills of Glen Swilly (Roud 5087)

Attention pay, my countrymen,
And hear my native muse,
I own my song is sorrowful,
I hope you'll me excuse.
For to leave my native country,
Perhaps no more to see,
I surely thought my heart would break
For leaving you Glen Swilly

It being on a summer's morning,
At the dawning of the day
When I left my peaceful residence
To wander far away.
And as I viewed those grand old hills
Perhaps no more to see,
I surely thought my heart would break
For leaving you Glen Swilly

Brave stalwart men around me stood,
Each comrade kind and true,
And as I grasped each well-known hand
To bid my last adieu.
Says I, "My native countrymen
I hope you'll soon be free,
And live as your forefathers lived
On the hills of Glen Swilly."

No more among the sycamore
Will I hear the blackbird sing;
No more for me the blithe cuckoo
To welcome back the spring;
No more I'll plough your fertile fields,
Cuisle gael mo chroí,
On a foreign soil I'm doomed to toil,
Far, far from you Glen Swilly.

Kevin: I learned this from the singing of Paddy Tourish who spent most of his life in Glasgow.  He was orginally from Bally Bofey in Co Donegal.  Pete Shepherd collected Paddy in the early 1970s.

This is not a much collected song; it appears in Walton's New Treasury of Irish Songs & Ballads, Vol 1, where its composition is credited to M McGinley.  Sam Henry collected it from Johnnie Deeney, in Aughill, Co Derry, in 1936, while Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger heard it from Sheila Stewart in the sixties.  Peter Kennedy and Seán O'Boyle recorded it from Peter Grimley in Armagh City in 1942, Seamus Ennis from Theresa Clifford, in Belfast in 1955, and, more recently, Jimmy McBride taped it from Corney McDaid.  However, the recording which put the song on the map for the folk scene was Paddy Tunney's Man of Songs (Folk-Legacy FSE 7), made by Diane Hamilton in 1963.  None are on CD.

4 - Far o'er the Forth (Roud 3360)

Far over the Forth I look at the north,
But what is the north, wi its highland tae me?
The east, nor the west, gi ease tae my breast,
It's a far foreign land, o'er the dark rolling sea.

A' the lang summer days
Amangst the heather and the bracken,
The joy and delight o' his bonny blue ee,
It was little I kenned that the wild western ocean
Would be rolling this day
Between ma laddie and me.

His father he frowned
On the love of his boyhood
And oh his proud mother
Looked cauld upon me,
But he ay follaed me
Tae ma hame in the sheelin
And the Hills o' Breadalbane
Rang wild wi our glee.

We trysted our love
By the cairn on the mountain,
The deer and roe
Stood bridesmaidens tae me.
And my love's trysting glass
Was the pure crystal fountain,
And what then was the world
Tae ma laddie and me.

So I'll look tae the west
As I go to my rest,
That happy my dreams
And my slumbers might be.
For far in the west is the lad I loo best,
He is seeking a hame
For ma bairnie and me.

Ellen: I learned this from the singing of the late Lizzie Higgins, one of my favourite traditional singers.  I imagined the woman in the song was from around Edinburgh, but Jock Duncan put me right about the geography of the song.  He says the Forth railway bridge is visible in parts of Perthshire and indeed the source of the River Forth is above Stirling, in the Trossachs, which, of course, is near the Breadalbane (or Breadlabane as Lizzie sings it) in the song!

Hamish Henderson recorded this song from Jeannie Robertson for her Lismor LP Up the Dee & Doon the Don (LIFL 7001) and it also appeared in Porter and Gower's book about her.  Jeannie's daughter, Lizzie Higgins, also sang it on her 1969 Topic LP Princess of the Thistle (12T185).  The song's words first appeared in James Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum of 1787, but the tune is one taken from Lizzie's father Donald's piping repertoire.  These have been only sightings within the oral tradition.

5 - Miss Mouse's Ball (Roud 16903)

Oh the fieldmouse held a birthday ball,
And asked her neighbours, one and all.
They held it in a splendid hole,
Kindly lent by Mr Mole.
There was no end to nuts and roots,
Berries red and candy fruits,
Juicy leaves on which to sup,
And dewdrops in an acorn cup.

Says Mr Hare unto his wife,
"I never yet in all my life
Received a letter small and pink.
Whatever is it, do you think?"
Says Mrs Hare, "It's meant to call
Us both unto Miss Mouse's ball
Furbish up your coat and your tail so brown,
And I'll put on my evening gown."

Miss Frog was splashing in the pond,
Of which she was extremely fond,
And when she heard the joyful news
She soon rushed out to change her shoes.
Oh, they danced all night on the sandy floor,
Sure they never had such a night before.
Not one of them had a growl or a grouse,
And they thanked the mole for the use of his house.

Kevin: I heard Brian Mullen, from Derry City, singing this song during the Forkhill singing weekend, in Co Armagh.

This is a song which had not, before this, been included in the Roud Index.

6 - Wae's Me for Prince Chairlie (Roud 16902)

A wee bird cam tae oor ha door
And he warbled sweet and clearly.
And aye the o'ercam o' his sang
Was "wae's me for Prince Chairlie?"
Oh when I heard the bonnie bonnie bird,
The tears come dropping rarely.
I took ma bonnet aff ma heed
For weel I loo'ed Prince Chairlie.

Quoth I, "Ma bird, ma bonny, bonny bird,
Is that a tale ye borrow?
Or is't some word you've learned by rote
Or a lilt o dule and sorrow?"
"Oh no, no, no," the wee bird cried,
"Ah flown since morning early
On sich a day o dule and woe
Oh wae's me for Prince Chairlie?

"O'er hills that are by rights his ain
He roams a lonely stranger.
On ilka side he's pressed by want,
On ilka side by danger.
Yestreen I met him in the glen,
Ma heart near bursted fairly,
For sadly changed indeed was he,
Oh wae's me for Prince Chairlie?

"Dark night cam o'er, the tempest roared
Loud o'er the hills and valleys.
But where was that your prince lay doon
Whas hame should ha been a palace?
He's rowed him in a heelan plaid
Which covered him but sparely,
And slept beneath a bush o broom
Oh wae's me for Prince Chairlie?"

But noo the bird saw some redcoats
And he shook his wings wi anger,
"Oh this is no a land for me
And I'll tarry here nae langer."
A while he hovered on the wing
Ere he departed fairly,
But weel I mind the fareweel strain
Was "Wae's me for Prince Chairlie?"

Ellen: I learned this song from Willie Beaton, shortly after we both left ( the same) school.  There's a lot of controversy about Prince Charlie.  However, this is a great song to a great tune, and is, as far as I am aware, historically accurate.  James Hogg, the 'Ettrick Shepherd', in his Second Series of Jacobite Relics, gives this song to the air The Gypsy Laddie and says it was written by William Glen from Glasgow. 

It was first published 1819, was printed in many chapbooks and songsters in the 1820s, and regularly since. Readers who enjoy the quiet pleasures of the Mondegreen may be interested to know that this song has, at times, undergone transliteration into Where's Me Fourpence, Charley?

7 - The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Roud 2994)

I sat me in a valley green,
I sat me with my true love,
My sad heart strove the two between,
The old love and the new love.
The old for her, the new that made
Me think on Ireland dearly,
While sad the wind blew down the glen
And shook the golden barley.

'Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break 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 those brave united men
While soft winds shook 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 greenwood ringing.
And a bullet pierced my true love's side,
In life's young spring so early,
And on my breast in blood she died
While soft winds shook the barley.

But blood for blood without remorse
I've taken at Ourlart Hollow
I've placed my true love's clay cold corpse
Where I full soon will follow.
And round her grave I'll wander drear,
Noon, night and morning early,
With aching heart whene'er I hear
The soft winds shake the barley.

Kevin: a political love song set during 1798 uprising; it was written by Robert Dwyer Joyce.  I have been singing this song since the late 1950s.

Another rarity in the oral tradition: only six Roud entries, three of which are from Canada.  The BBC recorded Nellie Walsh, of Wexford, in 1947, and Topic Records recorded Sarah Makem, of Keady, Co Armagh, in 1967.  However, it's Mrs Makem's 1974 recording, made by John Tams and Neil Wayne, which is still available in the Voice of the People series (Topic TSCD 658).

8 - An Old Maid in a Garret (Roud 802)

I have often heard it said
By ma faither an ma mother
Tae gang tae a wedding
Is the makkings o another
If this is true
Then I'll gang withoot a biddin.
Oh kind Providence,
Won't you send me tae a weddin

And it's oh dear me, whit will I dae,
If I dee an auld maid in a garret?

Auch well, there's ma sister Jean,
She not handsome or good-lookin
She's scarcely sixteen
And a fellow she was courtin.
Noo she's twenty four,
With a son and a daughter;
I am forty twa
And I've never had an offer.

I can cook and I can sew
I can make the hoos richt tidy,
Get up in the mornin
An mak the breakfeast ready.
But there's nothing in this wide world
Would mak me half sae cheery
As a wee fat man
That would caa me his ain deary.

So come tinker or come tailor,
Come soldier or come sailor,
Come ony man at aa
That'll tak me fae ma faither,
Come rich man, come poor man,
Come wise man or come witty,
Come ony man at aa
That'll mairry me for pity.

Oh, well I'll awa hame
For there's naebidy heedin
There's naebidy heedin
Tae poor auld Annie's pleadin.
I'll awa hame
Tae ma ain wee bit garret,
If I cannae get a man,
I'll surely get a parrot.

Ellen: Although this sounds Scottish it actually derives from a London music hall song.  I learned this by osmosis from people around me when I was growing up.

Indeed, it has actually been collected twice as frequently in England.  Baring-Gould, Sharp, Hammond, and Gardiner all heard it in the early years of the 20th century, as did Alfred Williams and Mervyn Plunkett later.  In Scotland, four versions appear in Greig-Duncan, and Lizzie Higgins recorded it on her 1985 Lismor LP What a Voice (LIFL 7004).

9 - Border Widow's Lament (Roud 199, Child 106)

My love built me a bonny bower,
And clad it aa with a lily flower
A brawer bower you ne'er did see
Than my true love he built for me

There cam a knight by middle o' day
He spied his sport and he went away
He brought the king at dead o' night
Oh I brak my bower and slew ma knight

He slew ma knight so dear to me
He slew ma knight and he poined his gear [pawned]
Ma servants a' for their lives did flee
And left me in extremity.

I saw his sheet makin ma main
I watched the corpse mysel alane
I watched his body baith night and day
And nae living creature came that way.

I took his body on my back
And whiles I gaed and whiles I sat
I digged his grave and laid him in
And happed him wi the sod so green.

But think na ye ma hairt was sair
When I threw the mold on his yellow hair
Think na ye ma hairt was wae
When I turned aroond awa to gae.

Nae livin man I'll loo again
Noo that ma lovely knight is slain
And wi a lock o' his yellow hair
I've chained ma hairt forever mair.

Ellen: I learned this ballad from Gordheanna McCulloch, of Glasgow, and she doesn't seem to sing it very often any more, which is a great pity.  She is the only person I have ever heard singing it.

A very old ballad; among Roud's 72 instances F J Child quotes a collection from a Mrs Barnard in Ireland in 1776, but it is obviously older than that.  It was printed as a broasdside all over these islands (including by both Anderson and Colquhoun of Edinburgh) and has been collected widely here and in the USA and Canada.  It was printed in Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1806) and the Pocket Songster or Caledonian Warbler (1823), so it's not surprising that most British examples have come from Scotland, where the present title seems the most common; elsewhere it is more often known as The Famous Flower of Serving Men.

Belle Stewart, Caroline Hughes (Rounder CD 1775) and Jasper Smith (Topic TSCD 661) all made sound recordings.

10 - The Boston Burglar (Roud 261, Laws L16A/B)

I was born and reared in Boston,
Aplace you all know well,
Brought up by honest parents,
The truth to you I'll tell.
Brought up by honest parents
And reared most tenderly,
'Til I became a sporty youth
At the age of twenty three.

My character was taken
And I was sent to jail;
My friends and parents did their best
To get me out on bail.
But the jury found me guilty
And the clerk he wrote it down,
"For the breaking of the Union Bank
You are sent to Charlestown."

I can see my aged father
A-standing at the bar,
Likewise my own dear mother
Was tearing out her hair,
Tearing out her old grey locks
As the tears came tumbling down,
"My son, my son, what have you done,
To be sent to Charlestown?"

I put my foot on an eastgoing train
One cold December day,
In every station I passed by
You could hear the people say,
"There goes the Boston Burglar,
In iron chains he is bound.
For the breaking of the Union Bank
He is sent to Charlestown".

Now you that has your liberty,
Pray keep it if you can
And don't go wand'ring out at night,
Breaking laws of God and man.
For if you do, you'll surely rue
And you'll find yourself like me
A-serving up your twenty years
In the penitentiary.

Kevin: A very popular song sung all over Ireland; it was recorded by various singers in the late 1940s and '50s.

Indeed, it has spread all over the English-speaking world, although, inevitably, half of Roud's 148 examples are from the USA.  Sharp had it from five singers in England, and both Elizabeth Cronin and Margaret Barry sang it in Ireland.  Not a single one of the 20 known sound recordings is available on CD.

11 - Lady Mary Ann (Roud 31, Laws O35, GD6:1222)

Lady Mary Ann
Lookit ower the castle wa'
And there she saw three bonny laddies
Playing at the ba'
And the youngest o' them
Was the fairest o' aa,
He's ma bonny boy, he's young,
And he's growin O.

"Father, dear Father,
I'll tell you what we'll do,
I'll send ma love tae college
For another year or two.
Aye, and all around his cap
I'll sew the ribbons blue
Just to let the ladies know
That he's growing O."

Young Charlie Cochrane
Was the sproot o' an ake (oak),
Blithe and bonny, aye,
And straight as a rake.
And the sun it shone
And a' for his sake,
And he will be the brag
O' the forest O.

Lady Mary Ann
Was the flo'er amang the dew,
Blithe and bonny, aye,
And sweet was her hue.
And the langer she blossomed
The sweeter she grew,
For the lily in the bud
Will be bonnier O.

The summer it is gone
And the leaves that were green,
And happy were the days
That we hae seen.
Ah, but far happier days
I trust will come again
For ma bonny laddie's young
And he's growin O.

Ellen: Lizzie Higgins sang several versions of The College Boy and this is one of the happy ones.  It is numbered as a Child ballad, but it was collected by Burns before it was collected by Child.  I wonder what he did to it, if anything?

James Duncan collected two verses of this unusual version of My Bonny Boy or Lang a-Growing from a Mrs Lyall in 1905, while Tony Engle recorded Lizzie Higgins singing it in 1975 - now available on Topic TSCD 667.  The other five entries in the Index for Lady Mary Ann are all early versions (i.e. before 1850); they are all quite similar to Lizzie's text, but not exactly the same.

There are lots of other Scottish versions of the more usual Lang a-Growing, so one may say that there were two textual 'branches' of this song, relatively distinct but not completely so, both of which go back at least to about 1800, or before.

There are two other recordings from the 1950s of Lizzie singing Lang a-Growing - one may surmise that this was her mother's version of it.  Apparently Lizzie got the words of Lady Mary Ann from her great-aunt on her father's side, Jean Stewart, but didn't like the tune Jean used.  Peter Hall said that she had taken her father's suggestion that it would go well with the pipe tune Mrs Macdonald of Dunacht.

12 - Clyde's Waters (Roud 91, Child 216, GD6:1231, FSNE60)

Young Willie stood at his stable door,
A-leaning ower his steed.
And looking through his white fingers,
His nose began to bleed.

"Oh bring some corn tae ma horse,
And gie ma young man meat,
And I'll awa tae Maggie's bower;
I'll be there afore she sleeps."

"Oh gin ye gang tae Maggie's bower,
Sae sare against ma will,
The deepest pots in Clyde's Waters
Ma malison ye'll feel.

"Oh stay at hame, ma Willie dear,
Oh stay at hame wi' me,
And the best fed lamb in aa ma flock
Will be weel dressed for ye."

"Oh aa your lambs and aa your flocks
I value ne'er a pin,
And I'll awa tae Maggie's bower,
I'll be there ere she lies doon."

"Oh gin ye gang tae Maggie's bower,
Sae sair against ma will,
The deepest pots in Clyde's Waters
Ma malison ye'll feel"

"But I've got a horse in ma stable,
Cost me twice twenty pounds,
And I'll put ma trust in his four good legs,
Tae carry me tae safe ground."

Then he's rade up yon high, high hill
And doon yon dowie den,
And the rush that rose in Clyde's Waters
Would have feared a thousand men.

"Oh Clyde, oh Clyde, ye roaring Clyde,
Yer waves are wond'rous strang.
Mak me a wreck as I come back,
But spare me as I gang.

"Oh Maggie, Maggie, Maggie dear,
Rise up and let me in,
For ma boots are fu' o' Clyde's Waters
And I'm shiv'ring tae the skin."

"But ma stables are fu o' horses,
An' ma' barns are fu o' hay,
And ma beds are fu o' gentlemen
That winna leave 'til day."

He's turned his horse right roond aboot,
Wi' a salt tear in his ee,
"Oh I never thought tae come here this nicht
And be denied by ye.

"So fair ye weel ye Maggie dear,
Since maunna man I be [must not]
An' I got ma mither's malison
This nicht comin tae ye."

Then he's rade up yon high, high hill
And doon yon dowie den,
And the rush that rose in Clyde's Waters
Took Willie's cane fae him.

And leanin ower his saddle bows
Tae catch his cane by force,
The rush that rose in Clyde's Waters
Took Willie fae his horse.

And his brother stood upon the bank
Shouts "Willie, will ye droon?
Ah haad you tae yer high horse heed,
An I'll learn ye how tae swim."

"How can I haud tae ma high horse heed,
And learn how tae swim,
For I've got ma mither's malison
And it's here that I maun droon."

Then up arose his Maggie dear
Oot o' a fearfu dream,
"I dreamt my love William was here this nicht
And yez wouldnae let him in."

"Oh go tae bed, ma Maggie dear,
Lie doon an 'take a rest.
Since your love William was here this nicht
It's but three quarters past."

But she's awa tae her chamber,
And clothes she quickly put on,
And she's awa tae Clyde's Waters
As fast as she can run.

And when she came tae the water's side
Sae quckly she stepped in,
And loudly cried her true love's name,
But louder blew the wind.

And the first step that she stepped in,
It took her tae the knee,
"Oh I would go further in,
If my true love I could see."

And the next step that she stepped in
It took her tae the chin,
And the deepest pot in Clyde's Waters
She found her William in.

"Aye, ye've gotten a cruel mother, Willie,
And I hae gotten another,
But here we'll sleep in Clyde's Waters
Like a sister and a brother."

Ellen: I heard John Strachan and Willie Edward singing their versions of this ballad on a tape produced by Greentrax and recorded and documented by the School of Scottish Studies (now on CDTRAX 9005).  I augmented this with verses from Folk Song of the North-East by Gavin Gieg.

It seems surprising that this powerful and substantial ballad has only 45 Roud entries, and that none of them are from outside Scotland, in view of how popular ballads like Mary Hamilton were in North America.  Child provided ony three versions, but there are 12 in Greig-Duncan, and Bronson found 16.  Most unusually, there seem to have been no broadside printings.

It appears that only Stanley Robertson's version (Topic TSCD653) and John Strachan's (Rounder CD 1776), in addition to the one Ellen mentions, are available on CD.

13 - Seán Ó Duibhir a'Ghleanna (Roud 16907)

After Aughrim's great disaster,
When the foe in sooth was master
'Twas you that first rushed in and swam
The Shannon's fearful flood.
And through Slieve Bloch's dark passes
You rove your galloglasses
Although the hungry Saxon wolves
Were howling for our blood.
And as you crossed Tipp'rary
You raised the Clan O'Leary
And drove a creagh before them
As their horsemen onward came.
With our swords and spears we gored them,
As through flood and light we bore them,
Ah, Seán Ó Duibhir a'Ghleanna,
We were worsted in the game.

Long, long we kept the hillside,
Our couch hard by the rillside,
The sturdy, knotted oaken bough
Our curtain overhead.
The summer's blaze we laughed at,
The winter snows we scoffed at,
And trusted in our long steel swords
To win us daily bread.
'Til the Dutchman's troops came round us,
With fire and sword they bound us,
They fired the hills and mountains
'Til the very clouds were flame.
Yet our sharpened swords cut through them,
In their very hearts we hued them,
Ah, Seán Ó Duibhir a'Ghleanna
We were worsted in the game.

Here's a health to your and my king,
The monarch of our liking,
And to Sarsfield underneath whose flag
We'll cast once more a chance,
For the morning's dawn will bring us
Across the seas and wing us,
To take our stand and wield a brand
Among the sons of France.
And though we part in sorrow,
Still Seán Ó Duibhir a'chara
Our prayer is God save Ireland
And pour blessings on her name.
May her sons be true when needed,
May they never feel as we did,
Ah, Seán Ó Duibhir a'Ghleanna
We were worsted in the game.

Kevin: An English translation of a Gaelic song; a lament for the defeat of the Irish forces at the battle of Aughrim, 12th July 1691.  The title translates as Seán O'Dwyer of the Glen.  Seán O'Dwyer actually died fighting in Spain.

The only other version we can find of this superb song, sometimes called The Battle of Aughrim, is in Patrick Galvin's Irish Songs of Resistance.

14 - Queen Amang the Heather (Roud 375, GD5:962)

As I roved out one May mornin
Amangst lofty hills, moorland and mountain,
It was there I spied a bonny lass
Whilst I with others was oot a-huntin.

Nae shoes nor stockings did she wear,
Neither had she cap, nor had she feather,
But her golden hair in ringlets rare
While the gentle breeze played roond her shoulder.

Oh I says, "Bonny lassie why roam your lane,
Why roam your lane amangst the heather?"
She says, "Ma faither's awa fae hame
And I'm herding a' his yowes thegither."

Oh I says, "Bonny lassie if ye'd be mine,
Aye and care tae lie on a bed o' feather,
In silks and satins ye would shine
And ye'd be my queen amangst the heather."

"Oh", she says, "kind sir, oh, your offer's good,
Oh, but I'm afraid it was meant for laughter,
For I see ye are a rich man's son
And I a poor lain shepherd's daughter.[alone]

"Oh, had ye been a shepherd lad,
Herding your yowes on yonder valley,
Or had ye been a plooman chiel,
Wi' a' ma hairt I could ha' loo'ed ye."

But I've been tae balls, and I've been tae halls,
I have been tae London and Balquidder,
And the bonniest lassie that e'er I saw
She was herdin a' her yowes thegether.

So we baith sat doon upon the plain,
We sat a while and we talked thegether,
And she's left her yowes to roam their lane,
While I wooed ma queen amangst the heather.

Ellen: I heard this song over many years, sung most famously by Belle Stewart, but I didn't actually start singing it until much later.  And sometimes the reason for learning a song at a certain time is inexplicable but I decided really to learn it after hearing Sheila Douglas singing it.  Maybe she broke the spell of an imaginary idea I had that it was Belle's song.

Although a very different version of this song, usually called Down the Moor, is popular in the north of Ireland, the present one is very much a Scottish song - the great majority of Roud's 50 examples being from there, along with most of the broadside printings.  Jeannie Robertson (Rounder CD 1720) and Belle Stewart (Topic TSCD665 or Greentrax CDTRAX 9055) were the main contenders for the crown, and of course, Belle's daughter Sheila now sings it too (on Topic TSCD515).

15 - Old Ardboe (Roud 2984)

Ye gods assist my poor wearied notion,
Ye inspired muses lend me your hand
To help my endeavours both night and morning,
To sing the praises of this lovely land.
Well situated in the north of Ireland,
Being all in the county of sweet Tyrone,
All along the banks of famed Loch Nea
Is the ancient fabric called Old Ardboe.

Oh stand awhile and view this arbour
Where purling streams roll to and fro,
Where fishes sporting both night and morning
Yield of their bounty to Old Ardboe.
No serpent lurks in its hallowed waters,
No odours poisoned infest their breeze,
But peace and plenty for sons and daughters
Abound around you, Old Ardboe.

I have travelled France and I've travelled Flanders,
And all the lands along the Rhine,
But in all my raking and undertaking
Ardboe, your equal I ne'er could find.
My course I've taken to the Indian Ocean,
To the shores of Caanan and Galilee,
But in all my raking and undertaking
Ardboe, your equal I ne'er could see.

Kevin: I part-learned this from Róisín White, who sang me her version of the tune at a Whitby Folk Week several years ago.

Only Paddy Tunney (Fermanagh) and the wonderful Geordie Hanna, of Derrytresk, Co Tyrone, have recorded this tongue-in-cheek praise-song to the tiny village of Ardboe, Co Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh.

16 - Johnston and the Young Colonel (Roud 56, Child 88)

Johnston and the young colonel
Sat drinking high at wine.
"Oh I will marry your sister
If you will marry mine."

"Oh no, oh no," says the young colonel
"Such a thing can never be.
I'll keep her as my housekeeper
When I come o'er the lea."

Noo Johnston had a guy broad sword
And a guy broad sword had he,
He reared it through the young colonel
'Til he fell dead on the floor.

He spurred his steed and swiftly rode
Like lightning o'er the lea,
Until he came to his sister's gates
And he tirl'd at the pin.

"I dreamed a dream brother, dear Johnston,
And I hope it's for your good.
They're seeking ye wi hawk and hound
And the young colonel is dead."

"They're seeking me wi hawk and hound
As I well expect they'll be,
For I have slain the young colonel,
Your ain dear lover was he."

"Be gone, be gone, ye bloody knight,
Be gone, be gone, fae me
If ye have slain the young colonel,
Ye'll be nae brother tae me."

He's spurred his steed and swiftly rode
Like lightning o'er the lea
Until he came to his true love's gate
And he tirl'd at the pin.

"I dreamed a dream love, dear Johnston
And I hope it's for your good.
They're seeking ye wi hawk and hound
And the young colonel is dead."

"They're seeking me wi hawk and hound
As I well expect they'll be,
For I have slain the young colonel,
Your ain dear brother was he."

"Come in, come in love, dear Johnston,
Come in and take a rest,
For I care nae mair for the young colonel,
If your ain dear body is safe."

He'd scarcely landed up the stair,
Intae the tower above,
When four and twenty belted knights
Cam seeking him at the gate.

"Ah did you see a bloody knight
And a bloody knight was he,
Or did ye see a bloody knight
Ride furiously ower the lea?"

"Come in, come in, dear gentlemen,
And have some bread and wine.
If the steed be good that he rides upon
He's across the bridge o Tyne."

"Oh thank ye, lady, for your bread,
And thank ye for your wine,
But I'd give thrice a hundred pounds
If your ain dear body was mine."

Noo Johnston had a guy broad sword,
And a guy broad sword had he,
He reared it through his ain true love
Til she fell down on the floor.

"What ails thee now, dear Johnston,
What ails thee now at me?
Haven't I given you all ma mither's gold
And all ma faither's fee?"

"Oh live, oh live, Lady Margaret," he said,
Even for a half an hour."
"How can I live when my very heart's blood
Is trinkling on the floor?"

Noo Johnston had a guy broad sword,
And a guy broad sword had he,
He reared it through his ain false heart
And joined his fair lady.

Ellan: I learned this from the singing of Betsy Whyte.  As far as I know, Betsy came from a travelling family called Johnston and this was one of their songs.

Only 20 entries in Roud, none of which are broadsides, though this ballad does appear to have been published in most of the major Scottish book collections, over the years, starting with Herd's Ancient & Modern Scottish Songs (1769).  Peter Cooke recorded it for the School of Scottish Studies from Betsy Whyte in Montrose, and it appeared on the Tangent LP The Muckle Sangs (TNGM 119/D).

17 - The Creggan White Hare (Roud 9633)

In the lowland of Creggan there runs a white hare
She's as swift as a swallow that flies through the air
You may search the world over but none can compare
She's the pride of low Creggan, this bonny white hare.

One fine Sunday morning as you may suppose
As the low autumn sun o'er the green meadows rose
Barney Conway got up and these words did declare
"Today I'll put an end to the bonny white hare".

He searched though the lowlands and down through the glens
Among the green rushes where the white hare had dens
It was on his way homeward on a lea rigg so bare
From behind a big thistle out jumped the white hare.

And bang went his gun and his dogs he slipped too
As over the green fields like lightning they flew
But these dogs soon came back which made poor Barney sigh
'Twas a sign the old white hare had bid them goodbye.

We have some jolly sportsmen come here from Pomroy
Dungannon and Cookstown and likewise the Moy
With their pedigree greyhounds they came from afar
And they landed in Creggan in their big motor car.

And off to the lowlands, lighthearted and gay,
Determined to murder the white hare that day
And at length Barney Conway he came on its lair
And he cried to the sportsmen, "Here lies the white hare".

Oh they called up their dogs from off the green lea
Both the sportsmen and Barney they cried high with glee
It was there on the turf bank they all gathered round
Seven men and nine dogs did the big hare surround.

You should see the poor hare now as she trembles with fear
Oh she stood on her toes and did lift her big ears
Oh she stood on her toes and with one gallant spring
Leapt over the greyhounds and broke through the ring

Oh the chase it went on, 'twas a beautiful view
As over the green fields and meadows they flew
But these pedigree greyhounds they didn't go far
They came back and went home in their big motor car.

So now to conclude and to finish me rhyme
I hope you'll forgive me for wasting your time
But if ever you're out at a market or fair
Drink a jolly fine toast to the bonny white hare.

Kevin: Hare coursing has always been popular on the Armagh/Tyrone Border.  I have had this song for a long number of years and have recently taken to singing it again.

One solitary example of this superb song exists in the Roud Index: Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle recorded it for the BBC from Vincent Donnelly in Castlecaulfield, Co Tyrone, in 1952.  It's on BBC recording 18532.

18 - As I Cam in by Yon Castle Wall (Roud 16906)

As I came in by yon castle wa
And doon by yon garden green
It was there I spied a bonny bonny lass
But the flower borders were us between.

And such a bonny lassie she was
As ever my eyes had seen.
"Five hundred pounds would I give
Tae have such a bonny bride as ye".

"Oh tae have such a bonny bride as me,
Young man you're sairly mista'en.
Gin you were the king o' all Scotland
I would disdain to be your queen".

"Oh talk not so very high bonny lass,
Oh talk not so very, very high,
For the man at the fair that would sell,
He mun learn frae the man that would buy

Ah but I mean to climb a far higher tree
And herry a far richer nest.
Ach tak this advice frae me my bonny lass
Humility would serve ye best.

Ellen: I learned this from Don Martin, a founder member of the folk group Clutha.

The song is now generally attributed to Burns, but it doesn't bear his name on its first known printing in the Scots Musical Museum (1792).  However, the first verse does appear in a Burns manuscript, with the note 'This is a very popular Ayrshire song'.

19 - The Lea Rig (Roud 8516)

As o'er the hill the eastern star
Tells baughtin time is near my Joe
[putting the sheep in the baught or pen]
Ans owsen fae the furrowed field
Return sae dowf and weary O.
As doon the burn the scented birks [birches]
Wi' dew are hanging clear, my Joe
I'll meet ye on the lea rig
My ain kind deary O.

At midnight through the mirkest glen
I'd rove and ne'er be eerie O [scared]
If through that glen I gaed to ye
My ain kind deary O.
And though the night be e'er sae drear
And I were e'er sae weary O
I'd meet ye on the lea rig
My ain kind deary O.

The hunter loo'es the morning sun
To rouse the mountain dear my Joe.
At noon the fisher taks the bank
As doon the burn to steer my Joe.
But gie to me the gloaming oor [hour]
That maks my hairt sae cheery oh
And I'll meet ye on the lea rig
My ain kind deary O.

Ellen: Quite simply another Burns song which I don't sing very well, but love anyway!

However, the words of this song have been attributed to Lady Carolina Nairne (1766-1845), though it was printed in James Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum of 1787 and it was being published as a broadside by both Johnston of Falkirk and Miller of Dunbar by 1800.  A different source, Whitelaw's Book of Scottish Song (1845) states 'two verses written by Robert Fergusson, rest added by William Reid' and this is confirmed in Chambers' Songs of Scotland Prior to Burns - also implying a pre-1759 provenance? Who can know, at this remove?

As far as Roud knows, the only justification for its inclusion in his Index of Folk Songs is David Herd's collection of the song from an un-named singer from the oral tradition in the early 19th century.

20 - Have a Drop Mair (Roud 6033, GD3:557)

A wee drop o' whisky I'll tak when I'm weary
To nourish my heart and my spirits to cheer.
And since I've sat down I've a mind to be merry,
So fill up a bumper and bring it round here.
Seldom I get half and hour of leisure,
To tell you the truth I am wrought pretty sair.
The jug and the glass are the whole of me pleasure,
So I'll take a rest and I'll have a drop mair.

Contented I sit and contented I labour,
Contented I drink and contented I sing.
I seldom dispute or fall out wi ma neighbours,
For that is a mean and contemptuous thing.
Few, very few, ever hear me complaining,
Although that the yoke of oppression I bear.
For what is the use of a man ay complaining?
So call on the waiter, we'll have a drop mair.

Now I mun awa to my bonny wee lassie,
For fear that my absence would make her think long.
She's many's a weary long mile from her mammy,
To keep her uneasy 'twould be a great wrong.
But the liquor's so good, now, I think she mun wait,
For the patient wee lassie we'll have a good cheer.
It's good to be wed, for it's there is economy,
Call on the waiter, we'll have a drop mair.

"I say, noble waiter, come bring a big noggin,
I mean a whole pint of the best in the store.
And when it is done I've a mind to be joggin,
With the greatest of care, I'll go capering home.
And it's God bless us all, now, sure, that is no treason.
The whisky's beginning to sing in my ear.
I'll bid you goodnight until some other season
We'll all meet in friendship and have a drop mair.

Kevin: Another song I learned this from the singing of Paddy Tourish who, although originally from Co Donegal, spent most of his life in Glasgow.

There are three versions of this song in the Greig-Duncan manuscripts, having been collected by Greig from William Watson and J W Spence (titled A Wee Drap o' Whisky), and A Hutcheon (titled A Glass o' Guid Whisky), in un-named locations in Scotland in the first decade of the 20th century.  It was also published on one or two broadsides printed in Dublin and Durham.

CD Two:

1 - Sarah Jane (Roud 16904)

One day for my amusement,
It was Thursday the first of June,
As the sun rose o'er the meridian,
It being in the afternoon,
Near the dwelling of a gentleman
Short time I did remain,
And it's little I thought that I'd be caught
In the snares of Sarah Jane.

As I sat fornenst yon hawthorn fence
I scarce commenced my thoughts,
When the north wind breeze my ear did tease
And distant footsteps brought;
To me she smiled when passing by
And, oh, how I felt the pain,
And she made me curse for the pain felt worse
When I met with Sarah Jane.

I was much surprised and I couldn't rise
When she gave to me her hand.
In my heart I thought 'hard is your lot
To plough through such rough land';
Though the pay's not much for gathering scutch,
Short time I did remain,
But she bade me adieu and from me flew,
And away went Sarah Jane.

It was on that spot I was deep in thought,
I scarce commenced my woe,
When a blackbird from her bower spoke,
My thoughts she seemed to know,
Saying "If you could fly just the same as I,
Your wings and your voice you'd strain,
You'd be whistling still on the windowsill,
Surmising Sarah Jane".

When the skylark sings and spreads his wings
I scarce commenced my moan
And the landrail from her mossy bed
With me seemed to intone.
Though her voice was rough and grating,
Still her notes were sharp and plain,
Saying "You might as well go home and sing your poem
For you'll ne'er wed with Sarah Jane".

Now if I had yonder valley and diamonds,
I would lay them at her command,
And if I had Aladdin's wondrous lamp,
t would shine supremely grand,
Or by building castles in the air
Great pleasures I might obtain,
But I prefer to spend my days in happy ways
In the arms of Sarah Jane.

Now the pain it is receding daily
And a-roving she may go;
She may call at Liza Kealy's
As she wonders through Myroe;
She may drink from a bottle of the best,
Or drink to the poet's name,
But I hope always she'll have happy days,
That maid called Sarah Jane.

Kevin: I learned this at the Forkhill singing weekend - I think it was from Phil Callery of the Voice Squad, and I believe he got it from Frank Harte ... who had it from Eddie Butcher.

This lovely local ballad does indeed come from Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Co Derry, and was popularised by Frank Harte on his Foetain recording Daybreak and a Candle-End (SPIN 995).  Frank had never heard anyone but Eddie sing it.  Liza Kealy's is a pub in Myroe, Co Derry.

2 - Young Emsley (Roud 182, Laws M34)

Young Emsley loved a sailor lad,
Young Emsley loved a sailor lad,
And why she loved her sailor lad,
Because he ploughed in the lowlands low.

"If ye go into a public house,
A public down by the shore,
And if you chance to enter it
Do not let my parents know."

As young Edward sat a-drinking,
As young Edward sat a-drinking,
Oh little, little was he thinking
That sorrow crowned his head.

As young Emsley lay a-slumbering,
As young Emsley lay a-slumbering,
As young Emsley lay a-slumbering
She dreamt fearful dream.

She dreamt they murdered her ain true love,
They murdered him and they stabbed him,
She dreamt they murdered her ain true love
And they sank his body low.

"Oh, mother dear, oh mother dear,
Come tell tae me nae lie,
What did you do with the stranger
Ye had in here last night?"

"Oh, daughter dear, oh daughter dear,
Tae ye I'll tell nae lie,
We murdered him and we stabbed him
And we sank his body low."

"Oh, you cruel, cruel parents,
Oh, you cruel, cruel parents,
And for the murder of my ain true love
You will die on a public show."

A surprisingly well-known and widespread song, with nearly 180 Roud instances, 17 of which are sound recordings, indicating its popularity in the oral tradition right through into the mid-ninties.  About half of the entries are from the USA and Canada, with around a score each from England and Scotland, and half a dozen from the north of Ireland; most of the rest are English broadsides.

Maggie Murphy can be heard singing it on Linkin' o'er the Lea (Veteran VT 134 CD), while both Harry Cox and Geordie Hanna appear in Topic's Voice of the People series (TSCD667 and TSCD653 respectively).  Ellen got her version from Lizzie Higgins.

3 - Dobbin's Flowery Vale (Roud 999, Laws O29)

One morning fair as Phoebus bright
Her radiant smile displayed,
As Flora in her verdant garb
The fragant hills arrayed,
As I did rove throughout each grove
No care did me assail,
'Til a pair I spied by a riverside
In Dobbin's Flowery Vale.

As I sat down them to behold
Beneath a spreading tree,
The limpid streams that nearby flowed
Conveyed these words to me:
"Farewell, sweet maid", the youth he said,
"For now I must set sail.
I will bid adieu to Armagh and you,
And Dobbin's Flowery Vale."

"Forbear the thought, and word likewise,
That wounds a bleeding heart,
For it's true we both have met here now
And soon, alas, must part.
Must I alone here sigh and moan,
To none the cause reveal,
But here lament my cause to vent
In Dobbin's Flowery Vale?"

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

It's youthful love together drew
Both in a fond embrace,
While tears like rosy drops of dew
Did trickle down her face.
She tried in vain him to detain
But alas to no avail,
For he bade adieu and aie withdrew
From Dobbin's Flowery Vale.

Kevin: I first heard this song at a singing session at a Provincial Fleadh Cheoil in the late 1960s.

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 (Ballinderry, Co Antrim), Sarak Makem (Keady, Co Armagh) and Seamus Ennis recorded it from Bob McCreesh, also in Co Armagh.  Paddy Tunney sang it on The Flowery Vale (Topic 12TS289), but none of these are available on CD.

4 - The Echo Mocks the Corncrake (Roud 2736)

Oh the lass that I loo'ed first of all
Was handsome, young and fair,
Wi her I spent some happy hours
Alang the banks o' Ayr.
Wi her I spent some happy hours
Where yonder burnie rows,
And the echo mocks the corncrake
Amang the whinnie knowes.

We loo'ed each other dearly
And disputes we seldom had.
As constant as a pendulum
Her heart beat alwats gaed.
We sought for joy and found it
Where yonder burnie rows,
And the echo mocks the corncrake
Amang the whinnie knowes.

Noo maidens fair and pleasure's dames
Gang tae the banks of Doon,
They'll dearly pey their every cent
Tae barbers for perfume.
But Nature's joy is free for aa
Where scented clover grows,
And the echo mocks the corncrake
Amang the whinnie knowes.

The corncrake is noo awa
The burn is tae the brim.
The whinnie knowes are clad wi snaw,
That taps are highest whin.
But when cold winter is awa
And summer clears the sky
We'll welcome back the corncrake
That bird of rural joy.

Ellen: An Ayrshire song that I learned from the singing of the late Joe Holmes from Co Antrim, Ireland.

A song found only in Scotland and the north of Ireland.  Sam Henry had it from Robert Bacon of Coleraine, Co Derry, in 1924, and Seán Corcoran recorded it from John Kennedy of Culleybacky, Co Antrim in 1995, and it's available on his CD The Girls Along the Road (Veteran VT 137 CD).  In Scotland, versions from Margaret Gillespie and a Mrs Thom appeared in Greig-Duncan's Folk-Songs of the North-East, and recordings from Frank Steele and Mabel Skelton were made for the BBC, while Sheila Stewart was recorded in 1998 by Doc Rowe for her Topic CD From the Heart of the Tradition (TSCD515).

5 - The Shamrock Shore (Roud 1419)

From Londonderry we set sail,
It being on the eighth day of May.
We had a smooth and a pleasant gale
Going down to Moville Bay.
Fresh water we had twenty tons
For passengers in store,
Least we should want going to St John,
Far, far from the Shamrock Shore.

When we had taken our last fond look
Of Derry's ancient town,
Let misfortune never light on us,
Or keep our courage down.
Here's to that grand female of my heart,
She's the girl I do adore.
May the angels bright shed their soft light
All around the Shamrock Shore.

At six o'clock that evening
Our anchors we did weigh,
The sunbeams on Benevenagh's heights
They carelessly did play,
Green castles, ancient church and fort,
They made my sad heart sore,
And I thought on when Tirconnel's court
Did grace the Shamrock Shore.

At 12 o'clock we came in sight
Of the famous Malin Head,
Inishtrahull far to the right
Rose from the ocean bed.
But a grander sight now met my eyes
Than I ever saw before,
The sun going down between sea and sky
Far, far from the Shamrock Shore.

Next morning we were all seasick,
Not a passenger was free;
Quite helpless in our bunks we lay,
With no one to pity me,
No father kind nor mother dear
To lift up my head when sore,
None of my own for to hear me moan
Far, far from the Shamrock Shore.

But now we're safely landed
In three and twenty days,
We will take our comrades by the hand
And we'll go different ways.
We will take our comrades by the hand
In hopes to meet once more,
And we'll think all on our absent friends
All around the Shamrock Shore.

Here's a health to Captain Harrison,
We owe our thanks indeed;
Him and his crew were never slow
To help us in our need.
We will drink his health in a full flowing glass,
And we'll toast him o'er and o'er,
May he in safety pass to and from
The lovely Shamrock Shore.

Kevin: Another emigration song from the Inishowen tradition; I have augmented the verses from the Sam Henry collection.

Despite its present popularity, this song was not much taken up in the oral tradition.  Roud has only eight examples, most of which refer back to Sam Henry's Songs of the People, and all but one came from the Derry/Donegal area.  Of the three sound recordings, by Packie Byrne, Denis McDaid and Joe McCafferty, none are available on CD.

6 - Willy's Fatal Visit (Roud 244, Child 255)

Oh Willy's gaed ower yon high high hill,
And doon yon dowie den.
It was there he spied a grievious ghost
Would a feared a thousand men.

Willy's gaed ower yon high, high hill
And doon by Mary's Stile,
Wan and weary was the ghost
That on him grimly smiled.

"Aft hae ye travelled this road, Willy,
Your new love for to see,
Aft hae ye travelled this road, Willy,
Wi ne'er a thought for me.

"Aft hae ye travelled this road, Willy,
Your bonny new love to see,
Wi ne'er a thought for your poor soul
When your sinful lifeis done.

"Aft hae ye travelled this road, Willy,
Your new love for to see,
But you'll never travel this road again,
For tonight avenged I'll be."

And she has ta'en her perjured love
An she's rieved him frae gare tae gare,
And on ilka side o' Mary's Stile
O him she's left a share.

His faither and mother they both mak main
And his new love muckle mare,
His faither and mother they both mak main
And his new love rieves her hair.

Ellen: Again from Lizzie, and I know her mother sang it too.  Lizzie said this was based on a true story of a slighted girl who dies in childbirth.  Her dead baby could be buried in consecrated ground but she was buried outside the churchyard, with rather terrifying results for William.

Although this ballad was published in three Scots song books, and in Child, it doesn't appear to have had a broadside printing, and the only named sources within the oral tradition have been Jeannie Robertson and her daughter Lizzie Higgins.  Jeannie's version is available on Rounder's Classic Ballads Vol 2 (CD 1776).

7 - The Bold Rogue (Roud 5132)

Oh come listen to me story and I'll sing to you me song,
And I'll tell you all about the man who tried to do me wrong.
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I'll tell you in a minute what the rogue he did to me.

Oh he came to my door, a-peddling pots and pans,
He asked me if I'd buy from him a couple of new tin cans.
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I'll tell you in a minute what the rogue he did to me.

He put his foot inside the door and he wouldn't go away,
He said that he would stay a while if I would make him tay.
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I'll tell you in a minute what the rogue he did to me.

Well, he sat by the fireside 'til the light was growing dim,
He made me sit upon his knee, so very close to him.
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I'll tell you in a minute what the rogue he did to me.

Now I'm a decent woman and I told him for to go,
But the rogue he only smiled at me, and softly answered "No".
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I'll tell you in a minute what the rogue he did to me.

Well, I went up the stairs like a decent woman should,
The rogue he followed after, like I knew the rogue he would.
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I'll tell you in a minute what the rogue he did to me.

Well, I put out the lamp, and I turned and locked the door,
Undressed meself, got into bed - but the rogue was in before.
He was a bold rogue, a bad rogue, a rogue of low degree
And I don't think I will tell you what the rogue he did to me.

Kevin: I had a set of words for this song for years, waiting for the tune.  As none appeared, I put a tune to it myself from 'folk memory' of other versions of the song.

A much older song than one might expect: a version called Knaves Will Be Knaves appeared in the New Academy of Complements (1669), while another called A Dainty Ducke, from Percy's Folio MSS, has been included in several others.  Vance Randolph collected it three times in Arkansas and Missouri in the fifties, but the only sound recording has been that of Lizzie Higgins, in 1975, published on Up and Awa' wi' the Laverock (Topic 12TS260).  Lizzie called her version Aul' Roguie Grey.

8 - Mary Mild (Roud 79, Child 173, GD2:159)

Oh word's gaed up and word's gaed doon
And word's gaed through the haa,
That Mary Mild is great wi child,
Tae the highest steward o aa.

They socht it east, they socht it west,
Aye and in ablaw the bed,
And there they've found this fair bairn
A-wallowin in its blood.

"It's lie doon by me Mary Mild,
Oh lie ye doon be me,
And every favour ye might ask,
Then I might grant tae ye."

"It's happy, happy is the maid
That is born o beauty free,
For it's been ma red and rosy cheek
That has been the dule o me.

"For often hae I dressed ma queen
And pit gowd in her hair,
Ah, but noo I've gotten for my reward
The gallows to be my share

"It's little did ma mither think
On the day she cradled me
O the lands I wis tae travel in
And the death I wis tae dee."

"Oh will ye pit on the black, the black,
Or will ye put on the broon?"
"Oh, no, I'll put on the sky blue silk
And I'll shine through Edinburgh Toon.

"Yestreen the queen had four Marys,
And the nicht she'll hae but three,
There was Mary Seaton, and Mary Beaton,
Mary Carmichael and me."

Ellen: I learned this from John Eaglesham.  It is included in comprehensive collections of Burns songs and poems, and it's a version of the Mary Hamilton ballad. The background to the song is somewhat mysterious since there is no clear connection with an actual historical event.  It seems that, in common with other ballads, events and dates have become displaced.

The highest steward (or Stewart) in the first verse is the king (Lord Darnley), and Mary Hamilton was one of the group of four ladies called Mary who attended Mary Queen of Scots.  Historically they were Mary Fleming, Mary Livingston, Mary Seton and Mary Beaton - but the first two of these names appear in the ballad.  No accusations of infanticide were made against any of these women, but a French woman in the Queen's service and her lover, a royal apothecary, were hanged for murdering their child in 1563.

The ballad is not known before 1790, however, so it could be linked to a later incident at the Russian court of Peter the Great.  A maid-of-honour to Empress Catherine, named Mary Hamilton, was beheaded for infanticide.  As Emily Lyle says in her notes (Scottish Ballads, Penguin, 1994) 'It is not improbable that there are reminiscences of both these historical events in the ballad'.

More than half of Roud's 120 references to this ballad are from Scotland; the rest are from the USA and Canada, with just one each from England and Ireland.  Oddly, there appears to have been only one broadside printing, by Sanderson of Edinburgh; however its publication in Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1806) would have ensured its popularity.

Recordings on CD can be heard from the wonderful Texas Gladden (Rounder CD 1800 or 1516) and Jeannie Robertson (Rounder CD 1776).

9 - Erin's Farewell (Roud 16905)

Adieu, adieu, my bosom friends,
Dear brethren of the union band,
My every thought shall be with you
When travelling to a distant land.

Though I must leave this land of slaves,
Of chains and sad coercive laws,
May God defend each hearty friend.
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

It fate condemns brave Irish men
To seek a far and distant shore,
And leave behind a heart so kind
In valleys loved for evermore.

In Auchrim's plains there now remains
The bones of my forefathers brave.
Had I been there I'd shed a tear
Of sorrow on each heroes grave.

The harbour bell does seem to tell
The awful moment to withdraw,
'May the High Chief heal Erin's grief'
Shall be my prayer when far awa.

Kevin: Adam McNaughtan collected this song a few years ago.  It was first sung in a programme of political songs called Radicals and Reactionarys. The tune suggested was Goodnight and Joy be With You All.  This was a song which had not, before now, been included in the Roud Index.

10 - It Was Aa for Oor Rightfu King (Roud 5789)

It was aa for oor rightfu king
We left fair Scotland's strand.
It was aa for oor rightfu king
We e'er saw Irish land, my dear,
We e'er saw Irish land.

Noo aa is done that man can do,
But aa is done in vain.
My love, my native land, farewell,
For I mun cross the main, my dear
For I mun cross the main.

He's turned himsel right roond aboot
Upon the Irish shore,
And gaed his bridle reins a shake
Wi' adieu for evermore, my dear,
Wi' adieu for evermore.

The soldier fae the war returned,
The sailor fae the main,
But I hae parted fae my love,
Never tae meet again, my dear,
Never tae meet again.

When day is done and night is come
And aa folks gone tae sleep,
I think on him that's far awa
The lea lang nicht and weep, my dear,
The lea lang nicht and weep.

Ellen: I got this from 101 Scottish Songs, a rare wee book compiled by the late Norman Buchan.  The only information given is that it is to a Jacobite air.  This book was published in the sixties, and I'm afraid in mine the page with that information is missing.

19th Century broadside printings from Robertson (Glasgow) 1807 and Macnie (Stirling) 1825, plus appearances in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum and Ford's Vagabond Songs & Ballads constitute most of Roud's six listings of this song.  The only instance of its being found in the oral tradition was James Duncan's collection from Mrs Margaret Gillespie in the early 1900s.

11 - Captain Coulson (Roud 1695)

Ye landsmen all, on you I call,
You heroes stout and brave,
That has a mind to cross the sea,
Your country, boys, to leave.
Come join with Captain Coulson,
That hero stout and bold,
Who lately fought his way on sea
And never was controlled.

We being all Irish immigrants,
The truth to you I'll tell,
And all distressed at leaving home,
To Ireland bade farewell.
Leaving friends and comrades
It grieved our hearts full sore,
In hopes our fortunes we might make
While on Columbia's shore.

We sailed away from Liverpool,
The weather it was fine,
Bound for New York City, boys,
It was our whole design.
The number of our passengers
Was eight hundred and ninety two,
But little we thought on the danger, boys,
We had for to go through.

From the eleventh of June to the twenty fourth
We sailed all on the sea.
Fourteen days of pleasure
Sailing to Americay.
But an enemy was approaching us
From out the eastern sea,
To rob us of our property
Going to Americay.

On the morning of the twenty fifth
Our captain he did cry,
"Clear away the decks, me boys,
A pirate ship I spy.
And all of you Irish immigrants
Awake out of your sleep,
For in a few more hours
You'll be slumbering in the deep".

The pirate ship came up to us
And ordered us to stand.
"Your gold and precious cargo
This day we do command.
Your gold and precious loadings
Resign to us this day,
Or not one mortal soul of you
Will reach Americay".

Then up then spoke our captain
With a voice both loud and bold
Saying, "We will sleep all in the deep
Before we be controlled.
Before that we surrender
Our property to thee,
We will fight with Irish hearts of oak
To gain the victory".

The battle it commenced
And the blood in streams did flow.
They wounded our brave captain's mate
And killed two of his crew,
But our Irish boys with valour bold
Our guns did loudly roar,
And we killed ten of the pirates
And we threw them overboard.

There was a lady on the deck
With her true love by her side,
Boldly fought her way on deck
Down by the bulwark side.
She said unto her own true love,
"I soon will end this strife",
And with a pistol ball she took
The pirate captain's life.

The battle it was over,
Still blood in streams did flow.
It was fifteen of our passengers proved
The pirates' overthrow.
The captain and his noble crew
Did show the rest the way
And we took them all as prisoners
All to Americay.

Now to conclude and finish, boys,
Long live our captain brave,
Nobly fought his way on sea,
Our precious lives to save.
The pirate ship surrendered
Just at the break of day,
And our Irish boys they gave three cheers
All for Americay.

Kevin: I learned the tune and words several years ago, but I have augmented the story from the Sam Henry collection.

Apart from O J Abbott in Canada, who had a number of Irish songs, this one has only been found in the oral tradition in Ireland, mostly in the north.  Brigid and Paddy Tunney recorded it, as did Peter Donnelly in Castle Caulfield, Co Tyrone.  Only Paddy's recording (Topic TSCD 662) is on CD.

12 - I Must Away, Love (Roud 179, Child 248, GD4:783)

Although the night be as dark as dungeon,
Wi' no' a star tae be seen above,
I will be guided without one stumble
Intae the arms of my ain true love.

He stepped up tae her bedroom window,
He knelt down gently upon a stone,
And through the window he whispered softly,
"My darling dear, do you lie alone?"

She rose up fae her down-white pillow
And threw her arms around her breast.
"Who's that, who's that at my bedroom window,
Disturbing me at my long night's rest?"

"'Tis I, 'tis I, love, it is your ain true lover.
Open the door, love, and let me in,
For I am come on a long night's journey,
And I am drenched now untae the skin."

She rose up wi' the greatest o' pleasure,
She opened the door and she's let him in,
And then they kissed and embraced each other
Until the long night was past and gone.

And when the long night was past and over,
And all the small cocks began tae crow,
They kissed and parted,
He saddled and bridled,
He sounded his trumpet and away did go.

"I must away, love, I can no longer tarry.
This morning's tempest I hae tae cross,
But I'll be guided without a stumble,
Since I've been in the airms o' the one I love best."

A ballad which has enjoyed almost equal popularity in Canada, the USA, England, Scotland and Ireland - there's even, most unusually, one version from Wales; Mrs Whiting's superb Willie the Waterboy, collected by George Butterworth in Newport in 1908.  It has a vast array of different titles, the most common of which are The Grey Cock and The Lover's Ghost, though O Saw Ye My Father? was frequently found in Scotland, because of a first line in use there.

Out of Roud's 102 examples, more that one third are sound recordings, indicating its continued popularity in the oral tradition right through into the mid-ninties.  Sadly, only Nora Cleary (Topic TSCD 653) and Cecilia Costello (Rounder CD 1776) are available on CD.  Ellen learned her version from Pete Shepheard.

13 - The Wheels of the World (Roud 16901)

Come all of you true sons of Erin,
Attend to these few simple lines.
I'll sing you a song about spinning,
It was a good trade in its time.
Some they spun worsted and yarn,
Others they spun flax and tow;
By experience, friends, you can learn
How the wheels of the world they do go.

So these are the wheels of world,
My friend, you must understand,
For three hundred years they've been spinning
Destruction all over the land.

Napoleon he was a fine spinner
For freedom did always advance,
O'er deserts and high lofty mountains
He marched the proud sons of France.
Oh Wellington he went a-spinning,
His wheels they were at Waterloo,
And if Grouchy had not have been bribed,
Then the French would have cut him in two.

William Pitt he was a fine spinner,
So was Lord Castlereagh.
They spun the Union from Ireland
And in England they hid it away.
Poor Billy eked out his existence
And vanished in Sharon's old boat.
Lord Castlereagh saved the distance
By cutting the rim of his throat.

The factory masters are spinning,
Their wheels are turning away
And now they're expecting their hands
For to work thirteen hours a day.
They don't care a fig for the poor,
And heed not their sighs or their moans
They don't care a pin if they work
'Til they spin all the flesh from their bones.

The rich they are all famous spinners
And you are very well sure
They're always conniving a scheme
For to put down the rights of the poor.
So if you intend to go spinning
Let each of your spindles be steel,
Let liberty then be your motto,
And glory will turn your big wheel.

Kevin: Adam McNaughtan collected this version in Glasgow.  It is very popular in Ireland, but not normally sung with a chorus.

A longer version of this song is found in James N Healy's Old Irish Street Ballads, Vol 1 and comes from a mid-19th century broadside source, of which there were several.

14 - The Birken Tree (Roud 5069, GD4:802)

"Oh lass gin ye would think it right
Tae gang wi' me this very night
And cuddle 'til the mornin light
By a' the lave unseen O [the others]
And ye shall be my dearie,
My ain dearest dearie,
Oh ye shall be my dearie
Gin ye meet me at e'en O."

"I dare not frae ma mammy gae,
She locks the door and keeps the key,
And e'en the mornin charges me,
And aye aboot the men O.
She says they're a' deceivers,
Deceivers, deceivers,
She says they're a' deceivers
Ye cannae trust tae ain O."

"Oh dinnae mind yer mammy's yell
Nae doot she met yer dad hersel"
And gin she flyte as I heard tell [argue]
She's aft times done the same O.
So lassie gi'e us yer hand on it,
Your bonny milk white hand on it,
So lassie gi'e us yer hand on it,
And scorn tae lie alane O."

"Oh lad ma hand I canna gie,
But aiblins I might steal the key [maybe]
And meet ye at the birken tree
That grows down in the glen O.
But dinna lippen laddie [hope]
I canna promise, laddie,
Oh dinna ... laddie
In case I canna win O"

Noo he's gaed tae the birken tree,
In hopes his true love for to see,
And who cam skippin' ower the lea,
But just his bonny Jean O.
And she's sat doon beside him,
Beside him, beside him,
Oh she's sat doon beside him
Upon the grass sae green O.

"I'm overcome wi' rapture noo,"
Cried he, and kissed her cherry moo,
And Jeannie ne'er had cause tae rue
That nicht upon the green oh.
For she has got her Johnnie,
Her ain dearest Johnnie,
Oh she has got her Johnnie,
And Johnnie got his Jean O.

Ellen: I learned this from Susan Ross who ran a folk club for many years in Glasgow.  It is attributed to Robert Tannahill of Paisley, a town six miles south-west of Glasgow.

This song was published in Ford's Vagabond Songs & Ballads, 1899, and in Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs.  James Duncan collected it from Margaret Gillespie, and Gavin Greig from William Farquha and from another singer in the early years of last century.

15 - The Braes o' Stra'blane (Roud 1096, GD6:1132, FSNE18)

As I was a-walking one morning in May,
Down by yon flow'ry meadow I careless did stray.
I spied a wee lassie, she was standing alain
A-bleachin her claes on the Braes o Stra'blane

I stepped right up tae her as I meant tae pass,

Sayin "You're bleaching your claes here, ma bonny wee lass,
And it's a twelvemonth and better since I've had a mind
That we could get married if you were so inclined."

"Oh tae marry, tae marry, kind sir I am too young,
And besides a ye young men have a flatterin tongue,
And ma mammy and daddy would quite angry be
If I was tae marry a rover like ye."

"Oh consent dearest lassie, and do not say no.
For you don't know the pains, love, that I undergo.
Oh consent, dearest lassie, and ye'll be ma ain,
And we will live happy on the Braes o Stra'blane."

"Oh get ye gone young man, for I care na whit ye say,
And I think ye'd be better to go on your way.
For I am far happier as I stand here alane,
Than wi you and your still on the Braes o Stra'blane."

I turned masel roon wi a tear in ma ee
Sayin "May you get a good one whoever he be.
Aye, I'll go court another, leave you standin alane.
Aye, I'll soon get another on the Braes o Stra'blane."

"Oh, come back dearest laddie, ye hae won my heart.
And we will get married and we'll never mair part.
Oh we'll never mair part 'til the day that we dee,
And may a good attend us wherever that we be."

"Oh noo you've consented, but it's quite out of time.
Since the last word you spoke, I have altered my mind.
And the clouds they are low'rin, I fear we'll have rain."
So they shook hands and parted on the Braes o Stra'blane.

So come all ye young lasses and a warning take by me,
Never slight any young man who would prove true to ye.
For the slighting o this young man, I fear I'll get nain,
And forlorn I will wander round the Braes o Stra'blane.

Ellen: I learned snippets of various versions of this song over a number of years.  One was from Willie Devine, an Irish friend now living in Glasgow.  I kept his tune and put a compiled set of Scottish words to it.  Strathblane has a history of cloth manufacture, dying and weaving.  Many Irish people, mainly young women, came over to work there, and history records that they arrived rosy cheeked and healthy and failed away into ill-health because of the nature of the work and the poor living conditions.  Strathblane is a village at the foot of the Camsie Hills, just above Glasgow to the north; over the years it has expanded into a suburban sprawl.

This song was printed as a broadside by Ross (Newcastle), Stewart (Carlisle) and Dalton (York) and in books such as Ord's Bothy Songs & Ballads and Ford's Vagabond Songs & Ballads which probably accounts for it's having been much collected - 11 versions in Greig-Duncan.  It has been recorded by three singers in the oral tradition, but none are available on CD.

16 - O'Reilly from the County Cavan (Roud 267, Laws N37/N37)

As I roved out through the County Cavan
All for to view the bright scenes of light,
Who should I spy but the handsome fair one,
She appeared to me like an angel bright.

I asked this fair one if she would marry
And like to be a light horseman's wife.
"Oh no, kind sir, I would rather tarry,
And choose to lead a sweet single life."

"And, indeed, kind sir, I would like to tell you
I could have been married five years ago
To one O'Reilly who lives in this country
I'm afraid he has proven my love's overthrow."

"Forget O'Reilly, for he's deceived you,
And come with me to some distant shore.
To Pennsylvania we will cross over,
Saying farewell O'Reilly forever more."

As we were sailing all on the ocean,
The wind blew stormy and the billows did roar,
And I surely thought that my heart was broken
When I thought of O'Reilly I left on the shore.

But youth and folly makes young maids marry,
And when they are married they must obey.
And what can't be cured love, must be endured love,
So now I am bound for Americay.

Kevin: Jackie Devanney sang this song at Forkhill singing weekend in the late 1970s.  There are lots of versions of this song.

Surprisingly, Roud contains only one example of this song from Ireland: Sam Henry collected it from George Graham in Coleraine, Co Derry, in 1939, and published it in Songs of the People.  There are three instances from England (including Pop Maynard and Walter Pardon) and three more from Scotland, but the great majority of the 90 entries are from the USA - though none are from Pennsylvania.

17 - Calton Weaver (Roud 883, GD3:603, FSNE90)

I am a weaver, a Calton weaver,
I am rash and a rovin blade
I've got siller in ma pooches,
I'll go follae the rovin trade.

Whisky, whisky, Nancy Whisky
Whisky, whisky, Nancy oh

As I gaed in tae Glesga city
Nancy Whisky I chanced tae smell
I gaed in, sat doon beside her.
Seven long years I looed her well.

The mair I kissed her, the mair I looed her.
The mair I looed her, the mair she smiled.
I soon forgot ma mither's teachin,
For Nancy soon had me beguiled.

I woke up airly in the mornin,
Tae slake ma drooth it was ma need.
I tried tae rise, but I wisna able,
For Nancy hid me by the heed.

"Come awa, landlady, whit's the lawin,
Tell me whit there is tae piy."
"Seven shillins is the reck'nin,
Pay me quickly and go away."

As I gaed oot by Glesga city
Nancy Whisky I chanced tae smell.
I gaed in, spent three and sixpence,
A I had left wis a crooked scale.

But I'll gang back tae the Calton weavin,
I'll fairly mak the shuttles fly.
And I'll earn mair at the Calton weavin
Than ever I did in a rovin way.

Ellen: I learned by osmosis in my growing up.  Calton is now a district of Glasgow, whereas at the time of the song it was a village (full of weavers I believe!)

More widely known as Nancy Whisky, this song was printed by both Pitts and Jennings (London) and has been found in the oral tradition throughout these islands, though most frequently in Scotland; Greig-Duncan has 12 examples - but there seem to have been no sound recordings made of the song.  It was, perhaps, unexpectedly popular in Bampton, Oxfordshire, where both Shepherd Haden and Jinky Wells sang it, half a century apart.

18 - Twa Brithers (Roud 38, Child 49)

Oh there were twa brothers at the school,
And when they wan awa
"Oh it's will ye play at the stane chuckin
Or will ye play at the ba?
Or will ye climb yon bonny green hill,
And there we'll wrestle and fall?"

They wrestled up and they wrestled doon,
'Til John fell tae the ground.
And a dirk fell fae Willie's pooch,
Gave John a deadly wound.

"Oh lift me up upon your back
And take me to yon well fair
And wash ma bloody wound o'er and o'er
That it may bleed nae mair."

He's lifted his brother upon his back
And he's ta'en him to yon well fair
And he's washed the bloody wound o'er and o'er,
But aye it bled the mair.

"Take aff, take aff your holland sark
And reeve it gare bi gare,
And stap it in my bloody wound
That it may bleed nae mair."

He's ta'en aff his holland sark
And he's reeved it gare bi gare,
And he's stapped it in the bloody wound
But aye it bled the mair.

"Take aff, take aff your green claithin
An row me saftly in
And lay me doon by yon kirk stile
Where the grass is soft and green.

He's ta'en aff his green claithin
An he's rowed him saftly in
And he laid him doon by yon kirk stile
Where the grass is soft and green.

"Whit will you say tae oor mither
When ye gang hame at e'en?"
"I'll say you're lyin' by yon kirk stile,
Where the grass is soft and green."

"Oh no, oh no, dear brother,
You must not say so,
But say I've gone tae a far country
Where no-one shall me know."

But when he came to his faither's chair
He grew baith pale and wan.
"Oh what blood is that upon your brow,
And where is your brother, John?"

"It is the blood of my grey steed,
For he wouldna ride for me."
"Oh no, your steed's blood was ne'er sae red,
Nor yet sae dear tae me."

"And what blood is that upon your cheek,
Dear son tell tae me?"
"Well, it is the blood o my greyhound,
For he widnae hunt wi me."

"Oh no, your hound's blood was ne'er sae red,
Nor yet sae dear tae me.
And what blood is that upon your hand,
Dear William tell to me?"

"It is the blood o my gay goshawk,
For she wouldnae flee for me."
"Oh no, your hawk's blood was ne'er sae red,
Nor yet sae dear tae me."

"And what blood is that upon your dirk,
Dear Willie tell tae me?"
"Well it is the blood of my ae brother,
And dule and wae is me."

"Whit will we say tae your mither
When she comes hame at e'en?"
"I'll saddle ma horse and awa I'll ride
And I'll bide in a far country."

"Ah, but when will you come back again,
Noo dear son tell to me?"
"When the sun and the moon dance upon yon green
And that will never be."

Ellen: Again from Lizzie Higgins. I remembered the tune of this song and some of the words, so I went to an old poetry book (Lanimer Verse) and used the words in that.  I later found that there weren't so many differences.  It may extend the song a bit - I don't think Lizzie sang about a goshawk for example - but I liked the words, anyway.

The vast majority of Roud's 189 examples of this old ballad come from the USA, with only 40 of Scottish provenance.  What's more, almost all of these are from members of the Stewart / Robertson / Higgins / McGregor group of Traveller families.  Its printing in Jamieson's Popular Ballads and Chambers' The Scottish Ballads (1829) do not seem to have popularised it in the oral tradition much beyond this grouping.  Surprisingly, there do not appear to have been any broadside printings. 

There have been some 22 sound recordings made, of which those by Hobart Smith (Rounder CD 1702), Belle Stewart (Topic TSCD 653), Sheila Stewart (Topic TSCD 515), Jeannie Robertson (Folk Legacy CD-125) and both Lucy Stewart and Nellie McGregor (Rounder CD 1775) can be heard on CD.

19 - The Royal Blackbird (Roud 2375)

'Twas on a fine morning, for soft recreation,
I overheard a maiden a-making,
A-making her moan
With sighing and sobbing and great lamentation,
And saying, "My blackbird most royal,
Most royal, has flown.
My thoughts they deceive me, reflections do grieve me,
And I am overburdened with sad misery.
Yet ere death shall find me as true love inclines me,
My blackbird I'll seek out wherever he may be.

"The birds of the forest they all met together,
The turtle was chosen to mate,
To mate with the dove,
And I am resolved, in fair or fine weather,
Once more in the spring to meet,
To meet with my love.
He is my heart's treasure, my joy and my pleasure,
And justly, my love, my heart follows thee
For he's courteous and kind and constant of mind
And my blackbird I'll seek out wherever he may be.

"In England my blackbird and I were together,
Where he was so noble and generous,
And generous of heart.
A woe to the time when first he went thither,
Alas he was forced soon from thence,
From thence to depart.
In Scotland he is deemed and highly esteemed
But in England a stranger he seemeth to be
But his name I'll advance in Ireland and France
And my blackbird I'll seek out wherever he may be.

"But what if the fowler my blackbird has taken?
Then sighing and sobbing shall all,
Shall all be my tune.
But if he is safe I'll not be forsaken,
And hope yet to meet him in May,
In May or in June.
For him through the mire, through mud and through fire
I'd go, for I love him to such a degree
For he's noble and kind and constant of mind
And my blackbird I'll seek out wherever he may be.

Kevin: Jerry Hicks from Co Armagh heard me singing a version of this song and asked me "Where's the second part?" I had not heard anyone sing the second part, so I went to the set dance tune and worked it out from there.

Of Roud's 52 instances of this song, most refer to broadside printings.  Of these, two were from Dublin and two more from Edinburgh - all the rest were English printers.  So it's a little surprising that the song has never been collected in England - the 18 places named are about equally distributed between Scotland, Canada, the USA and Ireland (a slight majority).

Only Paddy Tunney (of Belleek, Co Fermanagh) and Richard Hayward have been recorded singing the song.


Much of the above information was written by Kevin and Ellen Mitchell.  The recordings were all made by myself in two sessions; the first at our house in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 18th-19th March 2000, the second at Kevin and Ellen's house in Partick, Glasgow, on 28th September 2001.  I also compiled most of the song notes.

Kevin and Ellen sang the songs - beautifully - provided hospitality on numerous ocasions, friendship and good company down the years, and also the photos.

My sincere thanks to them both, and to everyone who has helped to make this project a reality …

Danny Stradling - for transcribing all the songs and proof-reading.

Steve Roud - for providing MT with a copy of his Folk Song and Ballad Indexes, whence came a lot of the historical information on the songs, for valuable additions to the song notes, and help with finding songs and allocating Roud numbers to new entrants to the Index.

Ian Olson - for help with Greig-Duncan references and additions to the song notes.

Fred McCormick - for the recording of Kevin's National talk and for additions to the song notes.

Booklet: some text, all editing, DTP, printing; CD: recording, formatting, digital editing, production - by Rod Stradling, Winter 2001

A Musical Traditions Production ©2001

Rod Stradling - 15.12.01

Article MT087

[Track List] [Introduction] [Kevin Mitchell] [Ellen Mitchell] [The Songs] [CD One] [CD Two] [Credits]

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