Article MT119

From Puck to Appleby

Songs and stories from Jim Carroll's and Pat Mackenzie's
recordings of Irish Travellers in England.

Musical Traditions Records' first CD release of 2003: From Puck to Appleby (MTCD325-6), 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.

I have included a few sound clips here, but not from any songs which first appeared on the VWML cassette 'Early in the Month of Spring', nor from any for which a single verse is over a minute in length.  There are a good number of these, but I feel that most readers would have to wait longer than they would wish to for the download - and just a part of a verse would be ridiculous.

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Singers] [CD One] [CD Two] [Acknowledgements]

Track Lists:

CD One

1 -Lady in Her Father’s GardenMary Cash5:15
2 -Early in the Month of SpringMikeen McCarthy3:24
3 -There is an Alehouse‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors2:26
4 -DonnellyMary Delaney2:53
5 -Town of LinsburgMary Delaney5:40
6 -The Half CrownAndy Cash 1:28
7 -Charming Blue Eyed MaryMary Delaney5:45
8 -Gum Shellac‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors2:34
9 -Constant Farmer’s SonJosie Connors7:21
10 -Sam CooperBill Cassidy3:38
11 -If Ever You Go to KilkennyMary Delaney1:51
12 -Go for the Water (Story) Mikeen McCarthy2:38
13 -The Sea CaptainJean ‘Sauce’ Driscoll2:40
14 -Fourteen Last SundayMary Delaney4:09
15 -BiscayoBill Cassidy6:44
16 -Appleby Fair‘Rich’ Johnny Connors1:34
17 -Peter ThunderboltMary Delaney4:06
18 -Going to Clonakilty the Other DayMary Delaney1:14
19 -Buried in KilkennyPaddy Reilly3:45
20 -Flowery NolanMikeen McCarthy3:22
21 -Poor Old Man‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors1:37
22 -In Charlestown there Lived a LassMary Delaney3:37



CD Two

1 -The Blind BeggarPaddy Reilly4:32
2 -Selling the BalladsMikeen McCarthy2:36
3 -The Factory GirlBill Cassidy4:42
4 -I’ve Buried Three Husbands AlreadyMary Delaney1:39
5 -John Mitchel‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors4:45
6 -Maid of AughrimPeggy Delaney2:35
7 -My Brother Built Me a Bancy BowerMary Delaney 2:55
8 -Marie (Maureen) from GippurslandBill Bryan3:04
9 -Pretty PollyBill Cassidy7:08
10 -Rambling Candyman‘Rich’ Johnny Connors1:46
11 -Green Grows the LaurelMary Delaney3:46
12 -Barbary EllenAndy Cash4:46
13 -The Kilkenny Louse HouseMary Reilly3:01
14 -Malone (The Half Crown)Mikeen McCarthy1:17
15 -Finn MacCool and the Two-Headed GiantMikeen McCarthy4:49
16 -Mowing the HayAndy Cash2:51
17 -Phoenix IslandMary Delaney2:00
18 -Navvy Shoes Mary Delaney3:50
19 -Dingle Puck Goat Mikeen McCarthy2:41
20 -Enniscorthy FairBill Cassidy3:53
21 -New Ross TownMary Delaney2:57
22 -One Fine Summer’s MorningMikeen McCarthy2:45
23 -What will we do when we'll have no Money?Mary Delaney1:57




"I’m sorry; it’s a lot of years ago since I sing it. My daddy used to sing it and we young, but you see, we got modernised; we don’t sing them now at all."

Katey Dooley (Mikeen McCarthy’s & Peggy Delaney’s younger sister)
talking about The Female Sailor, 1976.

Puck, Appleby, Cahirmee, Ballinasloe, Southall; wherever there are horse fairs you will find Travellers.  However, when we first made contact with Irish Travellers in 1973, only one family we met had a pony and, when they moved into London from Langley in Buckinghamshire, that had to go.  This was just one of the many changes in Traveller life-style that we saw in the following years.

Before 1973, we had no idea there were so many Irish travellers living in London and the outskirts.  We were amazed at the many caravan sites we found, often in the most unlikely places, and at the large number of singers, nearly all young, and at the size and content of their repertoires of traditional song.  Until that time, the relative isolation of travelling life meant that, while traditional singing was in decline, it was in better condition than within most settled communities.  One indication of this was to be found in the age of the singers.  We had been used to traditional singers fairly advanced in years but we were finding the Traveller singers much younger, ranging in age from early twenties to mid forties.

Of the Travellers on these CDs, we were lucky in first meeting ‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors, a man whose contacts with non-Travellers included Jeremy Sandford, to whose book, Gypsies, Johnny had contributed a chapter.  He made us welcome and introduced us to several fine singers including his brother-in-law, Bill Cassidy.  At that time, ‘Pop’s’ Johnny, together with Bill Cassidy, Mary Cash, Andy Cash and many more, were camped illegally under the Westway flyover in North Kensington.  On being moved on, some went westwards and, around Langley, we met Mikeen McCarthy, his sister Peggy Delaney, daughter Jean ‘Sauce’ Driscoll, as well as Mary Delaney and Josie Connors.  Paddy Reilly is Mary Delaney’s brother whom we met later in Camden Town.  ‘Rich’ Johnny Connors was even further west, camped on a site outside Swindon.  (Delaney, Cash and Connors are fairly common Traveller names; none of these are closely related).

When we first started recording them, together with Denis Turner, our aim was primarily to capture as many songs as possible.  As our interest was with traditional songs, we wished to ascertain whether these were still part of Travellers’ repertoires and, if so, did they play any part in their everyday lives.  Initially, therefore, we would ask if they had any old songs.  While we later found they had many different types of songs, those they sang for our recording were mainly traditional or traveller made songs using traditional forms and tunes.  They were well aware which were the ‘old’ songs or, as Mary Delaney called them, "me Daddy’s songs" (although in fact she had very few of his songs, which we were able to verify after meeting him).  On several occasions, Mary expressed a strong preference for ‘the old songs’ and, while she could probably have doubled the number of songs she gave us with non-traditional ones, she persistently declined to do so saying that they were not the ones we wanted.  She told us on one occasion that she only sang Country & Western songs because "that’s what the lads always ask for in the pub." Having sung from the age of four, Mary picked up songs very quickly, usually after two or three hearings.

Through the time spent talking with Travellers, we gained insight into the practice of traditional singing and to the significance that the songs had within the travelling community, a significance that appeared to go beyond the usually supposed one of just entertainment.  They differentiated very positively between different types of songs and, while singers might have Country & Western, sentimental tear-jerkers, popular songs from an earlier time which they sang in pubs, they were well able to distinguish between them and to articulate this distinction.  (Incidentally, we were to find at a later date that Norfolk singer Walter Pardon made the same distinction; was well able to date his songs and spoke to us at length about his own relationship to the songs he sang).

Frequently, after pub closing time, groups would gather round a fire on the site to sing, tell stories and talk at great length on ‘the right way’ to sing these songs and ballads; to argue about style; who had the best songs and were the best singers; and to comment on the songs still being created.  Many of the singers we met were highly vocal in their opinions on how the songs should be sung.  This became particularly apparent one night in West Drayton when we were asked to judge between the singing of two brothers, both with repertoires gained from the same source, their parents.  One had a highly developed traditional style, while the other leaned towards Country & Western and sang all his songs and ballads in that manner.  Tactfully, we declined to comment.

Song-making was still to be found, as witnessed by the number of short pieces we recorded that must have been made up within the living memory of the singers, such as, Going to Clonakilty, Stash the Pavvies and occasionally longer ones like Old Cahirmee, which told of the trials and tribulations of a married couple who, we believe, are still around - hence its non-appearance here.

However, almost overnight it seemed, in the mid-seventies, the easy availability of the battery powered, portable television set put an end to the fireside gatherings.

"My father knew all that song; I knew it as well.  Those other new type songs come out now; I never sing them now you see, you’ve missed them - you know what I mean."

Bill Cassidy talking about Biscayo, 1973.

We did record other types of songs but have not included them.  These CDs are not intended to be an academic study of Travellers’ repertoires but are for the enlightenment and enjoyment of those interested in traditional songs and singers.

Apart from the songs, we also recorded a great deal of information on travelling life both in rural and urban Ireland and Britain; for instance, the old trades like tinsmithing, horse dealing, building and decorating the beautifully elaborate caravans, and many other occupations that have now disappeared.  We had explained to us the superstitions (pishoges) and traditions, marriage practices, funeral customs, traditional games and sports along with a fair amount of the Travellers own language, Shelta or Gammon.

We had the opportunity to record some people on only one occasion, hence the lack of biographical information.  This also meant that many recordings were not made in the best conditions, which explains the sound of trains, cars, dogs, children, etc.  Other Travellers we were with for several sessions, and with two for considerable amounts of time.

Mary Delaney moved east right across London and even into various flats from time to time in order to give her children a better education.  A lovely singer, mother of sixteen children and blind from birth, Mary has an enormous repertoire of outstanding songs and ballads that she has known since childhood, as well as a store of humorous yarns that gave us many hours of pleasure.

We have undoubtedly spent more time with Mikeen McCarthy than with anybody else.  He, too, moved gradually across to East London and somehow we were always able to find him again after each shift.  Storyteller and singer, we have recorded from him an incredible amount of information about travelling life and about the settled communities in rural Ireland.  Now over seventy, Mikeen has lived in England for some fifty years but still retains vivid memories of his boyhood and youth in Co Kerry where he was born.  Interestingly, one of his early occupations was having the song sheets, known in Ireland as ‘the ballads’, printed (by reciting the words to the printer) and selling them at fairs and markets, singing the songs in the streets and bars to publicise them.  We are still in contact with Mikeen McCarthy and continued to visit and record him regularly until 1992.

The time we spent with Irish Travellers was most exciting and rewarding.  We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to record and to have become good friends with so many.  We shall never forget the warm hospitality and generosity shown to us and the wit and humour of the people we met.  This compilation contains only a sample of the many recordings we have made of these and other Travellers, but we hope it will convey some small part of our thanks for the pleasure they have given us and for the invaluable role they have played in keeping the old songs alive.

The Singers:

The circumstances in which we were working, in our spare time, in the evenings and at week-ends, and the transient nature of Travellers’ life styles, meant that the time we spent with individual singers varied considerably.  It also meant that the amount of background information we were able to gain from them was sometimes minimal.  Some we were able to record on only the one occasion, while with others we spent a greater length of time.

Many recordings were not made in ideal conditions, hence the sound of trains, cars, dogs, children, etc.  Copyright in all material resides with the performers.

Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie - 1.2.03

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.

Words shown in [square brackets] are either translations of dialect/cant words, or guesses/suggestions from another recording or standard text where the singer's word is unclear or obviously wrong.

At the end of the notes on each song is an indication of where (if at all) the song is available on CD by any other singer.

CD 1:

1 - Lady in Her Father’s Garden  (Roud 264, Laws N24)   Mary Cash

There being a lady in her father's garden,
A gentleman, he was passing by.
And he stood a while for to gaze all on her,
He said, "Fair lady, would you fancy I?"

"Oh no kind sir, I am no lady,
I'm but a poor girl of a low degree.
There before, young man, choose another sweetheart,
I'm not fitting for your slave to be."

"It is seven years since I had a sweetheart,
And seven more since I did him see.
And seven more I'll wait all on him,
If he's alive he'll come home to me."

"Or maybe your love he is dead and drownded.
Or maybe your love he is dead and gone."
"Or if he is sick I'll wish him better,
And if he's dead I will wish him rest’."

Saying, "Lady, lady, I'm your own true lover,
I came from sea love, to marry you."
Saying, "If you’re my own and my single sailor,
Your face and features do look strange to me."

For he put his hand all in his pocket,
His lily-white fingers do look long and small,
And it's up between he pulled a gold ring,
And when she seen it to the ground she fell.

He picked her up all in his arms,
He gave her kisses most tenderly,
Saying, "I'm your own and your loyal true lover,
You're the only young girl that my heart love best."

Saying, "If I had you in those Phoenix Islands,
One thousand miles from your native home,
In some lonesome valley, love, between two mountains,
It’s there, sweetheart, I’ll call you my own."

"For I've a house; I've a good way living,
I've plenty of money for to spend on you,
And if you come there love, it's the lady I'll make you.
I’ll have some servants for to wait on you."

"You haven't me in those Phoenix Islands,
Neither one thousand miles from my native home.
Neither in that valley, love, between two mountains,
Nor later sweetheart you won’t call me your own."

This is probably one of the most popular of all the ‘broken token’ songs, in which parting lovers are said to break a ring in two, each half being kept by the man and woman.  At their reunion, the man produces his half as a proof of his identity.

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

‘Made with a double and sometimes with a triple link, which turned upon a pivot, it could shut up into one solid ring...  It was customary to break these rings asunder at the betrothal which was ratified in a solemn manner over the Holy Bible, and sometimes in the presence of a witness, when the man and woman broke away the upper and lower rings from the central one, which the witness retained.  When the marriage contract was fulfilled at the altar, the three portions of the ring were again united, and the ring used in the ceremony’.

These ‘broken token’ songs often end with the woman flinging herself into the returned lover’s arms and welcoming him back, but the above version has it differently and, Mary Delaney, who also sang it for us, had the suitor even more firmly rejected:

"For it’s seven years brings an alteration,
And seven more brings a big change to me,
Oh, go home young man, choose another sweetheart,
Your serving maid I’m not here to be."

Ref: The Book of Days, Robert Chambers, W & R Chambers, 1863-64.

Other CDs: Sarah Anne O’Neill - Topic TSCD660; Daisy Chapman - MTCD 308; Maggie Murphy - Veteran VT134CD.

2 - Early in the Month of Spring  (Roud 273, Laws K12)   Mikeen McCarthy

Oh, ‘twas early, early in the month of spring,
When my love Willie went to serve the king;
The night was dark and the wind blew high,
Oh, that parted me from my sailor boy.

"Oh, then, father, father, build me a boat,
It’s on the ocean I mean to float,
To watch those big boats as they pass by;
Have they any tidings of my sailor boy?"

Oh, she was not sailing but a day or two,
When she spied a French ship and all her crew,
Saying, "Captain, Captain, come tell me true,
Oh, does my love, Willie, sail aboard with you?"

"Oh, what colour hair has your Willie dear?
What kind of clothes do your Willie wear?"
"He’ve a bright silk jacket and it trimmed all round,
And his golden locks they are hanging down."

"Oh, indeed, fair lady, your love is not here,
For he is drownded, I am greatly feared,
For in yon green island as we passed by,
Oh, we lost nine more and your Willie boy."

Oh, she wrung her hands and she tore her hair,
She was like a lady all on despair,
She dashed her small boat against the rocks,
Saying, "What will I do if my love is lost?"

Oh, I’ll write a letter and I’ll write it long,
In every line I will sing a song,
In every line I will shed a tear,
And in every verse I’ll cry, "Willie dear."

"Oh, then, father, father, dig me my grave,
Oh, dig it long, both wide and deep,
Put a headstone to my head and feet,
And let the world know it was in love I died."

English folk-song scholar, A L Lloyd, in his note to the Sussex version of this, entitled A Sailor’s Life, pointed out that this is often combined with Died For Love, although he held them to be two different songs.  He might also have added that is has become entangled with several other songs, including The Butcher Boy and Black is the Colour.

The evocative ‘month of spring’ opening line can also to be found in the version recorded from Traveller Lal Smith in 1952, which is hardly surprising as Mikeen and Lal’s families were closely associated in Mikeen’s youth.  Lal’s father, Christie Purcell, was a showman who, among other occupations, ran a travelling theatre company (known in Ireland as a Fit-Up).  They performed plays such as East Lynne and Murder in the Red Barn around the towns and villages of rural Kerry in the nineteen thirties and forties and Mikeen and his three sisters participated in the productions as stage crew and as actors.

Mikeen learned the song from his father’s singing and it was one that he sold on a ballad sheet when he was involved in that trade as a young man.

Ref: The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, R Vaughan Williams and A L Lloyd (eds.), Penguin Books. 1959.

Other CDs: Liz Jeffries - Topic TSCD 653; Phoebe Smith - Topic TSCD 661; Harry Cox - Rounder CD 1839.

3 - There is an Alehouse  (Roud 60, Laws P25)   ‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors

There is an alehouse all in Bray town,
Where my love Willie goes and sits down.
He will take a strange girl on his knee,
And he'll tell her things that he won't tell me.

For now I know, oh, the reason why,
Because that fair girl has more gold than I.
That her silver may melt, may her gold fly,
And she'll see the day she'll be as poor as I.

I wished, I wished, I wished in vain;
Sure I wish to God I was a fair maid again.
For that's a sight that I never might see,
Until apples grow 'pon an ivy tree.

I wished, I wished my babe was born,
And sitting on his daddy’s knee.
Oh is that's the sight that I never might see
'til shamrocks grow 'pon a lilac tree.

This is usually known as Died For (or of) Love.  The note to the versions collected for the BBC between 1952 and 1957 reads: ‘As Sharp rightly observed, this is one of the most popular of English folk songs and it is one from which many fragmentations have been made, to survive as separate songs, some being difficult to identify, as several of the verses are commonplace…  An American student version, supposed originally to have been collected in Cornwall, has been popularised as Tavern in the Town’.

We recorded There is an Alehouse on several occasions from travellers.  ‘Pop’s’ Johnny’s text gives the reason for the girl’s rejection as being ‘lack of money’, while others deal only with her being pregnant.  We recorded a version of The Butcher Boy (Roud 409, Laws P24) from a young travelling woman, Bridie ‘Dolly’ Casey, which includes the first ‘Alehouse’, verse.

Ref: BBC Recordings of Folk Music and Folklore, Great Britain and Ireland, Section 1: Songs in English.

Other CDs: Jasper Smith, Amy Birch - Topic TSCD 661; Geoff Ling - Topic TSCD 660; May Bradley - Topic TSCD 662; Sarah Porter - MTCD309-10.

4 - Donnelly  (Roud 863)   Mary Delaney

There was a jolly knacker* and he had a jolly ass,
And he stuffed his box of pepper up the jolly asses arse.
Oh then, brave done Donnelly, good enough, says she,
Oh then, well done Donnelly, and you're my man, says she.

There was an old woman in the corner over eighty years or more.
And, "For God Almighty's sake", she says, "will you solder my old po?"
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, good enough", says she.
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man", says she.

I soldered in the kitchen and I soldered in the hall,
And when I finished soldering I done the ladies and all.
Oh then, "Brave ould Donnelly, good enough", says she.
Oh then, "Brave O’Donnelly, and you’re my man", says she.

She sent me up the stairs for to dress the tinker’s bed,
The jolly knacker followed after me and tripped me on the leg.
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, good enough", says she.
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man", says she.

If you’re an honest woman as I took you for to be,
You’d have a basket on your arm and a kid belonging to me,
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, good enough", says she.
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man", says she.

I am a jolly tinker oh, for ninety years or more;
And a divil a finer job, me lad, I never done before.
Oh then, "Brave ould Donnelly, g’out that sir", said she.
Oh then, "Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man", said she.

[* Knacker: Originally a horse for slaughter but also used for tinsmith (often now a general word for traveller).]

This is one of the many songs in the tradition telling how the underdog turns the tables on his/her supposed superiors by using their sexual prowess.

An early version of this appeared in 1616 in a collection entitled Merry Drollery, as Roome for a Jovial Tinker or Old Brass to Mend; it was later included in John Farmer’s Merry Songs and Ballads.

The ‘box of pepper’ in Mary’s first verse refers to a practice once carried out by unscrupulous horse dealers, of livening up a docile horse for sale by applying pepper or mustard to the appropriate part of the unfortunate animal’s anatomy.

Ref: Merry Songs and Ballads, John S Farmer, 1897, Privately printed.

Other CDs: Thomas Moran - Rounder CD 1778.

5 - Town of Linsborough  (Roud 263, Laws P35)   Mary Delaney

I’m belonging to Dublin City,
And a city ye all know well.
My parients reared me tenderly
And brought me up quite well.
‘Twas near the Town of Linsborough
Where they bound me to a mill;
It was there I beheld with a comely maid
With a dark and rolling eye.

She promised me she'd marry me
And with her I dwell;
At twelve o'clock that very same night
When I entered her sister’s door.
"Come out, come out, my joy and fair maid
And take a walk with me,
And then we'll sit and chat a while
And 'point our wedding day".

‘Twas with his false and inluded tongue
He coaxed that fair maid out,
And ‘twas from the ditch he broke a stick
And he knocked that fair maid down.

She went down on her bare bended knees,
For mercy she loudly cried,
Oh, saying, "Willie dear, do not murder me,
And I not fit to die".

Then he catched her by those yellow locks
And drew her along the ground;
He catch her by the yellow locks
And drew her along the ground,
‘Til he drew her to a river
Where her body could not be found.

Returning home to his master's house
At twelve o'clock that night,
Saying, asking for a candle
For to show himself some light.
His master boldly asked him,
"What stained your hands and clothes?"
Look how quick he made him an answer,
"I'm bleeding from the nose".

He went into bed, no more was said,
Neither rest nor peace could find,
Only the murder of that fair young maid
Laid heavy on his mind.
Now he was arrested and taken
And tried in London Town.
And the villain, he was transported
And his reverence come home free.

According to John Harrington Cox, The Wittam Miller is said to describe a murder that took place in 1744 in Reading, in Berkshire, though there are two broadsides dating from sixty and forty-four years earlier with similar titles.  An excellent account of how this has been shaped by time and tradition from a long, ungainly broadside entitled The Berkshire Tragedy or The Wittam Miller, to the concise piece that it has become, is to be found in Malcolm Laws’ American Balladry from British Broadsides.

The ballad has travelled widely through Britain, Ireland and particularly America, where it proved hugely popular with country singers and has given rise to other songs on the same theme, for instance Down by the Willow Garden and Omie Wise.

It has been found under many titles, which often identify the place where the murder was supposed to have been committed: The Wexford, Waterford, Oxford, or Lexington Girl to name a few. The murderer has been given a variety of occupations: butcher, printer, miller, or simply apprentice.

Mary’s version is fairly typical of many of the Irish and American texts with the exception of the last line, which is somewhat confusing.  In most texts the murderer is found guilty and hanged, but here Mary has used the last line of Father Tom O’Neill (Roud 1013, Laws Q25), an incomplete 8 verse set of which she has in her repertoire.  In another recording we made of this, she sang as her two last lines:

His sentence was for his life and then he'd have to settle down,
For no more was said with the treasury only he did go down.

She was unable to explain the meaning of this and it is possible that she had extemporised it.

Linsborough is possibly Lanesborough in Co Longford.

Ref: American Balladry from British Broadsides, G Malcolm Laws Jnr, American Folklore Society, 1957; Folk Songs of the South, John Harrington Cox, Havard Univ Press, 1925.

Other CDs: Harry Cox - Topic TSCD 512D.

6 - The Half Crown  (Roud 16988)   Andy Cash

For I am an old widder, I’m fed up of life.
For years I am out looking for an old wife,
And I married as a widder but not settled down
And I'll do my endeavourings to make a half crown.

The population of Eireans is now getting small,
When young deValera steps in from the dawn,
And the laws that he's passed and he's now let them down,
For every child born he'd give a half crown.

The first night we started, we were nearly stone dead.
The next night we broke down the springs of th'ould bed,
And, "Begod then", said she, "and for I'm sixty three."
And, "Begod then", said he, "there's no half crown for me."

I woke the other night between midnight and dream,
What did I hear but a young baby scream.
And me wife she shouts out, "Get a bottle, you clown,
For little you knew you would make a half crown."

For now I resemble a half hungry goose,
Every bone in me body and joint it is loose.
And the neighbours all laugh and they call me a clown,
"It’s because of you’ll get that bloomin' half crown."

A Children’s Allowance of two shillings and sixpence for each child, introduced by Eamon deValera’s newly elected Fianna Fáil government in the early 1930s, gave rise to a number of songs and poems, and gave the term ‘making a half crown’ a special meaning.  This is one of those songs.

7 - Charming Blue Eyed Mary  (Roud 3230)   Mary Delaney

As I strayed out on a May, May morn,
To view those flowers that were springing;
Who did I spy but a comely maid,
And sweetly she was singing.

"Where are you going my dear", he says,
"Or where are you going so early?"
"I’m going to milk, kind sir", she says,
"And I then must mind my dairy."

"May I go with you kind sir?" she says, [he]
Nice and comely he asked her.
"Yes, if you please sir, if you have time,
And I then can mind my dairy."

As they both sat down on a primrosy bank,
And thought there was no one near them,
Three times he kissed her rosy lips,
And those words to her he spoke then.
He handed her a diamond ring
Saying, "Take it as a token."

Six long months were passed and gone,
And no letter came for Mary.
Often she viewed her diamond ring
As she stood in her dairy.

As Mary went walking those meadows fair,
On a bright summer’s morning early,
When that same young man stepped up to her,
And he says, "Is this my Mary?"

"Come with me my dear", he says,
"And forsake your cows and your dairy.
I came from seas for to wed with you;
You’re my charming blue eyed Mary."

Mary went with him without delay,
Forsaked her cows and her dairy,
But now she is a sailor's wife;
She's his charming blue eyed Mary.

Apart from numerous broadside and chapbook texts, and a version recovered from a Newfoundland singer, we have been able to trace only two other versions of this, both from the Northern Ireland.  One is from Inishowen, from John McDaid of Buncrana, and the other is in the Sam Henry collection and was obtained from John M’Neill in 1938, who got it from his grandfather, John Rankin of Knockmult, in Co Derry.

Ref: My Parents Reared Me Tenderly, Jimmy McBride (ed), Private publication, 1985; Sam Henry’s Songs of the People, Gale Huntington, (ed.), Univ of Georgia Press, 1990

8 - Gum Shellac  (Roud 2508)   ‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors

We are the travelling people like the Picts or Beaker Folk,
The men in Whitehall thinks we’re parasites but tinker is the word.
With our gum shellac alay ra lo, move us on you boyoes.

All the jobs in the world we have done,
From making Pharaoh's coffins to building Birmingham.
With our gum shellac ala lay sha la, wallop it out you heroes.

We have mended pots and kettles and buckets for Lord Cornwall,
But before we'd leave his house me lads, we would mind his woman and all.
With our gum shellac alay ra la, wallop it out me hero.

Well I have a little woman and a mother she is to be,
She gets her basket on her arm, and mooches the hills for me.
With our gum shellac alay ra la, wallop it out me hero.

Dowdled verse.

We fought the Romans, the Spanish and the Danes,
We fought against the dirty Black and Tans
and knocked Cromwell to his knees.
With our gum shellac alay ra la, wallop it out me heroes.

Well, we’re married these twenty years, nineteen children we have got.
Ah sure, one is hardly walking when there's another one in the cot.
Over our gum shellac alay ra lo, get out of that you boyoes.

We have made cannon guns in Hungary, bronze cannons in the years BC
We have fought and died for Ireland to make sure that she was free.
With a gum shellac ala lay sha la, wallop it out me heroes.

We can sing a song or dance a reel no matter where we roam,
We have learned the Emperor Nero how to play the pipes, way back in the days of Rome.
With our gum shellac ala lay sha la, whack it if you can me boyoes.

Dowdled verse.

‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors, the singer of this song, is also the composer.  He was an activist in the movement for better conditions for Travellers in the 1960s and was a participant in the Brownhills eviction, about which he made the song, The Battle of Brownhills, which tells of an unofficial eviction in the Birmingham area which led to the death of two Traveller children.  An account of part of his experiences on the road is to be found in Jeremy Sandford’s book Gypsies under the heading, Seven Weeks of Childhood.  This was written while Johnny was serving a prison sentence in Winson Green Prison in the English Midlands.  He said that further chapters of an intended biography were confiscated by the prison authorities and never returned to him on his release.

Gum shellac is a paste formed by chewing bread, a technique used by unscrupulous tinsmiths to supposedly repair leaks in pots and pans.  When polished, it gives the appearance of a proper repair but, if the vessel is filled with water, the paste quickly disintegrates, giving the perpetrator of the trick just enough time to escape with his payment.

Ref: Gypsies, Jeremy Sandford, Secker and Warburg, 1973

9 - Constant Farmer’s Son  (Roud 675, Laws M33)   Josie Connors

There being a lovely lady
Near Limerick town did dwell,
She was admired by lords and squires,
Her parents loved her well;
She was modest fair and handsome,
With all her hopes in vain,
There being but one, a farmer’s son,
That young Mary’s heart could gain.

For a long time Willie courted her
And appointed the wedding day,
But all of her parents gave consent
And the brothers they did say:
"There is one young lord have placed his word
And him you shall not shun,
For we’ll betray and we will slain
Your constant farmer’s son."

There being a fair not far from there,
The brothers went straight away,
And asked young Willie’s company
With them to spend the day.
The day being gone and the night rolled on,
They said, "Your race is run."
‘Twas with two sticks they took the life
Of my constant farmer’s son.

As Mary lay on her pillow soft,
She had a sadful dream,
She dreamed she seen her own true love
Lying by a russell stream.
She then have ‘rose, put on her clothes,
To seek her love she run.
‘Twas pale and cold she did behold
Her constant farmer’s son.

The tears rolled down her cherry cheeks
And mingled in her gore, [his]
And to replease her troubled mind,
She kissed him more and more.
She got the green leaves from the tree
To shade him from the sun,
Three nights and days she passed away
With her constant farmer’s son.

'Til hunger it crept over, poor girl
Fell down in grief and woe,
And to acquaint her parents,
It is home straight away she did go.
"Oh, parents dear, you soon shall hear
The dreadful deed that is done,
In yon green vale lies cold and pale
My constant farmer’s son."

Up steps the youngest brother
Who says, "It was not me."
The same reply the other, aye,
Who swore most bitterly.
Young Mary says, "Don’t be afraid
To try the law to shun.
Youse done the deed and youse shall bleed
For me constant farmer’s son."

Oh, now the two are taken
And locked all in a cell,
Surrounded by cold irons, aye,
And their sad face to be seen.
The jury found them guilty
And for the same were hung;
In a madhouse cell, young Mary did dwell,
For her constant farmer’s son.

The plot of The Constant Farmer’s Son was used in the 14th century by Boccaccio in The Decameron and later made the subject of poems: by Nuremberg poet Hans Sachs in the 16th century and, in the early 19th century, by John Keats in his Isabella and the Pot of Basil.

Based on an older song, The Bramble Briar or Bruton Town, which has been described as ‘probably the song with the longest history in the English tradition’, it owes its continued popularity to its appearance on nineteenth century broadsides.  A version from Hertfordshire in 1914 gives it as ‘Lord Burling’s (or Burlington’s) Sister or The Murdered Serving Man.

As well as being found widely in England, it is very popular in Ireland, though it has only appeared in print there a couple of times.  It is included in the Sam Henry Collection which gives four sources and, more recently it was included in Fermanagh singer John Maguire’s autobiographical Come Day, Go Day, God Send Sunday.  Josie learned it from her mother, a Dublin Traveller.

Ref: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People, Gale Huntington (ed), Univ of Georgia Press, 1990; Come Day, Go Day, God Send Sunday, Robin Morton (collator), Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1973

10 - Sam Cooper  (Roud 16726)   Bill Cassidy

For my name is Sam Cooper; I'm up for a crime,
I'm 'rested and taken by one Larry Bryan.
For they couldn't find me guilty on every degree,
Nor Bryan and his swearing made no fist in me.
Raddlum, fol the diddle eral, try erol try ay.

Coming back from Ogree and the sky it got black,
Saying I knew I'd get captured before I'd get back,
Now they followed me on after; they followed me on still,
I was handcuffed and caught on the house on the hill.
Raddlum, fol the diddle eral, try erol try ay.

Now they brought me to Timmum* to try me one day
Between 'tourney O'Connor and twelve jurymen;
When they couldn't find me guilty, the court it did smile
When they see poor Sam Cooper talking out of his time.
Raddlum, fol the diddle eral, try erol try ay.

Now they brought me to Wexford to try me again,
Between 'tourney O'Brennan and twelve jurymen.
Now they couldn't find me guilty on every degree,
Nor poor Bryan and his swearing made no fist in me.
Raddlum, fol the diddle eral, try erol try ay.

Now the court it is over, we're turning for home
And I'll make Lar’ repent now for all he have done.
One hundred won’t clear him to settle with me,
And I'll nail him again when I get liberty.
Raddlum, fol the diddle erol, try erol try ay.

Now they brought me to Enniscorthy to try me this day
Between 'tourney O'Connor and twelve jurymen,
When they didn't find me guilty, that court it did smile
When they see Sam Cooper walking out of his trial.
Raddlum, fol the diddle erol, try erol try ay.

Now the court it is over, I’m free one ‘gain,
And I’ll make this Lar’ now repent now for all he got done.
One hundred won’t clear him to settle with me,
I’m going to nail him again when at my liberty.
Raddlum, fol the diddle erol, try erol try ay.

[*Taghmon, Wexford]

We were unable find a printed text of this, and it appears to have been exclusive to travellers.  We recorded it from three different singers and in each case they told us that Sam Cooper was arrested for stealing oats, though this is not mentioned in any of the versions. They also said that he was guilty as charged.

11 - If Ever you Go to Kilkenny  (Roud 16989)   Mary Delaney

If ever you’ll go to Kilkenny
Enquire for the Hole-in-the-Wall
And it’s there you'll get eggs for a penny
And butter for nothing at all.

Where the governor, he come round in the morning,
And a can of new milk in his hand,
And a dish of brown bread in his arm,
Three noggins for every poor man.

Three lines of tune lilted.

There’s no one knows that as good as me.

I went in there it was on last Friday
And I was very well drunk,
For he opened and loosened his laces.
"Bejasus", says I, "Take your time."

"Leave me and then me old trousers."
"Oh no", says the governor to me,
"You must strip and give me your clothing,
Then you can't wear them going in here."

With your right full aye doodle aye andy,
And right full aye doodle aye dee,
And right full aye doodle aye dandy,
There's no-one comes in here but me.

The Hole in the Wall was, from the middle of the eighteen century to 1850, one of Ireland's more renowned supper-houses, which numbered among its clientele, Sir Jonah Barrington, Henry Flood, the Duke of Wellington, Henry Grattan and Thomas Moore.  Built in Tudor times, it still stands behind the High Street in Kilkenny, though it is now derelict.  It is mentioned in a popular song composed in its heyday:

If ever you go to Kilkenny,
Remember the hole in the wall,
You may get blind drunk for a penny
Or tipsy for nothing at all.

There was another Hole in the Wall in Kilkenny, a hundred yards down the High Street from the eating house, in a narrow passage named The Butter Slip where, before the existence of the public market, farmers used to sell butter, eggs and other farm produce.  It is quite possible that Mary’s song refers to this latter location although her text gives the impression that the premises referred to was a prison.  She got it from her grandfather and said it was made by him.

Ref: Historic Kilkenny, Joseph H O’Carroll, Privately printed, 1978

12 - Go for the Water (Story - Aarne-Thompson 1351:The Silence Wager)   Mikeen McCarthy

There was a brother and sister one time, they were back in the West of Kerry altogether, oh, and a very remote place altogether now.  So the water was that far away from them that they used always be grumbling and grousing, the two of them, now, which of them’d go for the water.  So they’d always come to the decision anyway, that they’d have their little couple of verses and who’d ever stop first, they’d have to go for the water.  So, they’d sit at both sides of the fire, anyway, and there was two little hobs that time, there used be no chairs, only two hobs, and one’d be sitting at one side and the other at the other side and maybe Jack’d have a wee dúidín (doodeen), d’you know, that’s what they used call a little clay pipe (te). And Jack’d say:

Oren hum dum di deedle o de doo rum day,
Racks fol de voedleen the vo vo vee.

So now it would go over to Mary:
Oren him iren ooren hun the roo ry ray,
Racks fol de voedleen the vo vo vee.

So back to Jack again:
Oren him iren ooren hum the roo ry ray,
Rack fol de voedleen the vo vo vee.

So, they’d keep on like that maybe, from the start, from morning, maybe until night, and who’d ever stop he’d have to go for the water.

So, there was an old man from Tralee, anyway, and he was driving a horse and sidecar, ‘twas… they’d be calling it a taxi now.  He’d come on with his horse and sidecar, maybe from a railway station or someplace and they’d hire him to drive him back to the west of Dingle.  So, bejay, he lost his way, anyway.  So ‘twas the only house now for another four or five miles.  So in he goes anyway, to enquire what road he’d to take, anyway, and when he landed inside the door, he said: "How do I get to Ballyferriter from here?" And Mary said:

(Sung verse)

So over he went, he said, "What’s wrong with that one, she must be mad or something", and over to the old man.  He said, "How do I get to Ballyferriter from here?"

(Sung verse)

So he just finished a verse and he go back over to Mary and he was getting the same results off of Mary; back to Jack.  So the old man, he couldn’t take a chance to go off without getting the information where the place was, so he catches a hold of Mary and started tearing Mary round the place.  "Show me the road to Ballyferriter", he go, and he shaking and pushing her and pull her and everything:

(Sung verse)

And he kept pulling her and pulling her and tearing her anyway, round the place, and he kept pucking her and everything.

"Oh, Jack," says she, "will you save me?"

"Oh, I will, Mary," he said, "but you’ll have to go for the water now."

Mikeen’s story, set in his own native Kerry, is widely travelled, both as a tale and as a ballad.  A version from India, entitled The Farmer, his Wife and the Open Door is described as claiming ‘the highest possible antiquity’.  It is also included, as part of a longer story, in Straparola’s Most Delectable Nights (Venice 1553).  In Britain it is popular in ballad form, best known in Scotland as Get Up and Bar the Door and in England as John Blunt.

Mikeen has a large repertoire of stories, at least half a dozen of them having Jack and Mary as hero and heroine.

Ref: Folk Tales of All Nations, F H Lee, George G Harrap & Co, 1931.

13 - The Sea Captain  (Roud 3376)   Jean ‘Sauce’ Driscoll (daughter of Mikeen McCarthy)

For once there lived a captain
Who was borned out on sea;
And before that he got married
He was sent far away.

All on his returning
Up to his sweetheart's cottage he goes.
Straight up to her old, aged father,
And he knocked on the door.

Saying, "Is your daughter inside sir,
Can I see her once more?"
"Your true love's not inside sir,
For she left here last night.
She is gone to some annunery."
Was the old man’s reply.

For he went up into the nunnery
And he knocked all on the door,
Out comes the reverend mother
And she sweeping the floor.

Saying, "Your true love, she's not inside sir,
She left here last night,
She's gone to some asylum."
Was the reverend mother's reply.

For he went up into the 'sylum
And he knocked on the door,
Out comes the innkeeper
And his tears in galore.

Saying, "Your true love she is inside sir,
She died here last night,
She came from some annunery."
Was the old man's reply.

"Oh let me in", cried the captain,
"Let me in", the captain cried.
"Oh let me in", cried the captain,
"'Til I die by her side."

To our knowledge, the only other two versions to have been found in the tradition are from Seán Ó Conaire of Rosmuc, Co Galway and from Traveller John ‘Jacko’ Reilly of Roscommon.

We first recorded this from the singer’s father, Mikeen McCarthy, who had sold it around the fairs and markets in Kerry on a ballad sheet some time in the nineteen-forties.  Unfortunately, he was only able to remember four verses and we tried on a number of occasions, without success, to see if he could recall more.  One evening, he proudly announced that his daughter, a young woman then in her early twenties, had learned all of it from another Traveller, Nora Coffey.  To our knowledge, this is the only traditional song she sings.

Other CDs: John Reilly - Topic TSCD 667.

14 - Fourteen Last Sunday  (Roud 1570)   Mary Delaney

"I was fourteen years last Sunday, mamma,
I’m longing for to be wed,
In the arms of some young man’d
‘D comfort me in bed,
In the arms of some young man
Would roll with me all night,
I’m young and I’m airy and bold contrary
And buckled I’d long to be."

"Hold your tongue, dear daughter," she says,
"I was forty when I was wed,
And that it was no shame for me
To carry me boss into bed."
"For if that was the way with you, Mamma,
It is not the way with me,
I’m young and I’m airy and bold contrary
And buckled I’d like to be."

"Hold your tongue, dear daughter," she says,
"And I will buy you a sheep."
"No, indeed, Mamma," she says,
"That would cause me for to weep,
To weep and weep and weep, Mamma,
It’s the thing I never can do."
"For I’ll send you down to the meadows all day
And I’ll stop you from drinking tea."

"Hold your tongue, dear daughter," she says,
"And I will buy you a cow."
"No, indeed, Mamma," she says,
"’Twould cause me for to vow,
To vow, to vow and vow, Mamma,
That’s a thing I never will do.
I’m young and I’m airy and cracked and contrary
And buckled I’d long to be."

"Hold your tongue, dear daughter," she says,
"And I will buy you a man."
"Do, indeed, dear Mother," she says,
"For the sooner the better you can,
For if that is the way with you, mamma,
It is not the way with me.
I’m young and I’m airy and bold contrary
And buckled I’d like to be."

This is better known under the title Whistle Daughter, Whistle, although Mary’s text lacks the whistling motif.  Cecil Sharp collected it twice in England and once in America, but the texts he published were heavily edited.

It appeared frequently in collections of children’s games; William Wells Newell in his Games and Songs of American Children claimed it to be ancient and pointed out its similarity to 15th and 16th Century Flemish, German and French rounds in which a monk or a nun is tempted to dance by various offers.

Tom Lenihan, a farmer from Co Clare, sang it for us in 1977; his was also whistle-less.  The only Irish version in print is to be found in Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music.  This is a re-written, bowdlerised text accompanied by the following note:

‘I remember three stanzas of a song to this air.  The conception and plan are good, but two of the verses are too coarse for publication; and even the one I give had to be softened down in one particular word.  I will give the song a new dress.  The three verses are retained, as little altered as possible, and even the old rhymes are preserved.  I have endeavoured also to carry out the original spirit and conception’.

Ref: Games and Songs of American Children, William Wells Newell, Harper and Brothers, 1883; Ancient Irish Music, Patrick Weston Joyce, M H McGill and Son, 1906.

15 - Biscayo  (Roud 179, Child 248)   Bill Cassidy

For he come creeping when I being sleeping,
Down to my old window, was down so low,
Saying, "Who is that at my old bedroom window
That is knocking so boldly and can’t get in."
"For I am here, I’m your own true,
I am here this three long hours and can’t get in."

Saying, she raised up from her soft down pillow,
She’ve opened th’ould door lads, and she’ve let him in.
And with love and kisses how they blessed each other,
Oh, when this long night being slipping in.
Saying, "I must go, I can stay no longer,
For I’m only th’ould ghost of your ould Willie O."

Saying, "What have took your old lovely blushes,
Or whatever ate your grand cheeks away?"
"For th’ould cold, cold sea took my lovely blushes,
And it’s the worms ate my ould cheeks away."

"I must go, I can stay no longer,
Into a bay called Biscayo.
Where I’ll be guarded without hand or pilot,
For I’m but the ghost of your Willie O."

"I must cross o’er th’ould burning mountains,
That’s in to that bay called Biscayo.
That’s where I’ll still be guarded*, ah, without hand or any pilot,
That’s why I’m th’ould ghost of your ould Willie O."

[* guided]

We have always thought this song to be a version of The Grey Cock, (Child 248); however, ballad scholar Dr Hugh Shields has cast serious doubt on this assumption.  In two detailed articles on the subject, he argues convincingly that it is a version of a nineteenth century Irish broadside entitled Willie O, the main source of which appears to be Sweet William’s Ghost (Child 77).

We have also recorded it from another traveller, Katie Dooley; and from West Clare singer Nora Cleary.  Katie Dooley’s text, similar to Nora Cleary’s, has obviously evolved from the broadside, but Bill Cassidy’s text and tune are reminiscent of the well-known version entitled The Grey Cock which was recorded in the early 1950s from Mrs Cecilia Costello, a Birmingham woman of Galway parentage.  Whatever the truth of the matter, all three have in common the lover returning from the dead and the couple’s time together being brought to a close with the crowing of the cock.

Both Mrs Costello’s and Bill’s versions have powerful images symbolising the difficulty of the dead returning; in Mrs Costello’s, the lover has to cross ‘the burning Thames’, while in Bill’s it is ‘the burning mountains’.  Unusually, Katie Dooley’s version ends with the woman’s death and leaves her ‘sleeping beneath the billows’.  This may be a mistaken substitution of she for he, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the song.

Bill was one of a number of Travellers who liberally scattered the word ‘old/ould’ into the texts of his songs!

Ref: Dead Lover’s Return in Modern English Ballad Tradition, Dr Hugh Shields: Jahrbuch Fur Volkliedforschung, 1976; Grey Cock: Dawn Song or Revenant, Hugh Shields, Ballad Studies, Folklore Soc. Mistletoe Series, 1976.

Other CDs: Nora Cleary - Topic TSCD 653; Cecilia Costello - Rounder CD 1776.

16 - Appleby Fair  (Roud 16699)   ‘Rich’ Johnny Connors

'Tis in Appleby Top you will find a horse fair,
Which it brings all those Travellers yes, year after year.
You'll see all those dealers, both diddys* and liars,
Sat cooking their scran* around smoky wood fires.

They’ll have piebalds and stewbalds and flea bitten greys,
Like the most of their own, sure, they've seen better days,
With a greasy-heel* here, and a bog-spavine* there,
We'll take knacker-prices* for those at the fair.

Sure you all know old Bob Ferris, and young Billy Brough,
Sure, they've all had it off and they sold some good stuff,
Between wibbling and wobbling, and speaking of grai*,
Sure, we will be thinking of Appleby Fair.

But you all know Dan Mannion, he's a man who is game,
Sure, he kept trotting horses which have brought him great fame,
In company with Chick, which he smokes the cigar,
And he speaks of his daughter who drives a posh car.

[*Diddys (Romany; orig low slang) = Didikei, a gypsy of mixed marriage origins.  *Scran (low slang) = scraps of food.  *Greasy-heel, *Bog Spavine = ailments in horses.  *Knacker-prices (from dialect) = prices paid for horses intended for slaughter.  *Grais (Romany) = horses.  *Chavvies (Romany) = boys.  *Pani (Romany) = water (river).  *Drom (Romany) = road]

The small town of Appleby in Cumbria has held an annual fair every June since permission was first granted in 1684 by James II for ‘a fair or market for the purchase and sale of all manner of goods, cattle, mares and geldings’.  Nowadays it is solely for horses.  It is officially a one-day affair, although it usually lasts a week and is claimed to be the largest gathering of Travellers in Britain.  The fair is held on what was The Gallows Hill but is now known as Fair Hill.  The layout of the town, built as it is on both sides of the River Eden, makes Appleby a convenient site for a horse-fair as can be seen by this picturesque description by a young Gypsy girl:

"When the little chavvies* get up, they take the grais* down the pani* and they wash the grais down, and then they ride the grais up and down the drom*."
While this song is usually identified with English Travellers, it seems to be fairly popular among the Irish.  We recorded it from three singers and we knew of several others who also sang it.

Ref: The Gypsies, Angus Fraser, The Peoples of Europe series, Blackwell, 1992

17 - Peter Thunderbolt  (Roud 1453)   Mary Delaney

‘Twas first in the month of April,
One morning by the dawn,
When there was byeslips and cowslips
Thrown all along the lawn.

Then the first of it, I kissed her roby* lips,
And laid her down on the grass;
And when she ‘turned to herself again,
It was then she cried, "Alas."

"Young man, if you’ve got your will of me,
Come quick and tell me your name,
And when my baby will be born
I will call it the same."

"For my name it is Peter Thunderbolt,
And the same I'll never deny,
And all my house and habitation
Lies by the Shannon side."

"Now fifty acres of great land,
My father, he can provide,
And I’ll put fifty more continue with it,
Down by the Shannon side."

Now it wasn’t six months after this,
One morning in the early spring,
When walking down on the flowery path,
My darling girl I spied,
And she was scarcely able to walk or talk,
Down by the Shannon side.

"Young man, if you're not going to marry me,
Come please tell me your name,
When this baby will be born
I will call it the same."

"I first told you, I was Peter Thunderbolt,
And my name I'll never deny,
And all of my house and habitation
Lies on the Shannon side."

An early text of this from a black-letter broadside entitled A Western Knight and dated 1629, was published in H E Rollins’ A Pepysian Garland.  In his note to the song, the editor, compares it to The False Lover Won Back, (Child 63); Child Waters, (Child 218) and particularly to Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (Child 4).

Cecil Sharp collected several versions with the title The Shannon Side mainly from singers in Somerset, and Ord has it in his collection with the same title, where it is described as ‘an Irish folk-song common all over the North-east of Scotland’.  William Christie, the Dean of Moray, quotes a verse in his Traditional Ballad Airs, but says: ‘The ballad of The Shannon Side is not suited for this work’.

It has also been found among English Gypsies, a recording of it being included on the Topic album, The Travelling Songster, sung by Phoebe Smith of Woodbridge, Suffolk.  The only Irish versions we could find were one collected by Seamus Ennis for the BBC in the 1950s from Thomas Moran of Mohill, Co Leitrim and another we got from Pat McNamara of Kilshanny, Co Clare in 1976.

Ref: A Pepysian Garland, Hyder E Rollins (ed), Cambridge Univ Press, 1922; The Bothy Songs and Ballads (etc.), John Ord, Paisley, Alexander Gardner Ltd, 1930; Traditional Ballad Airs, W Christie, Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1881; The Travelling Songster, Topic LP T12 304.

Other CDs: Phoebe Smith - Topic TSCD 660.

18 - Going to Clonakilty the Other Day  (Roud 16694)   Mary Delaney

As I was going to Clonakilty the other day,
I hadn't got no trouble or delay.
Dan and Miley they were there
And Gerry Connors and his hair.
Singing ty yi yippee yippee yay.

Then I says, "Danny, Danny dear,
Come in to this old pub and we'll fix it here."
Dan and Miley they were there,
And Gerry Connors and his hair.
Singing ty yi yippee yippee yay.

I says, "Danny, don't you fret;
The fiver is in me pocket yet,
For there's no need of bragging,
You were born in the wagon."
Singing ty yi yippee yippee yay.

One of the numerous pieces made up by Travellers concerning a small incident among themselves, maybe a dodgy horse deal or a drunken spree, the details of which are probably long forgotten, leaving only a handful of verses.  Mikeen McCarthy also gave us a version of the same song with the following variation on the first verse:

I was going to Clonakilty the other day,
And who did I meet upon my way,
Oh the Driscolls I did meet
And my blood began to creep,
Singing ty yi yippee, yippee yay.

Both Mary and Mikeen had forgotten what the original incident was, or perhaps they never knew.

19 - Buried in Kilkenny  (Roud 10, Child 12)   Paddy Reilly

"Oh, what had you for your dinner now,
My own darling boy?
Oh, what had you for your dinner,
My comfort and my joy?"
"I had bread, beef and cold poison,
Mother, dress my bed soon,
I have a pain in my heart and
Wouldn’t I long to lie down."

"What will you leave your father now,
My own darling boy?
Oh, what will you leave your father,
My comfort and my joy?"
"I will leave him a coach and four horses,
Oh, mother dress my bed soon,
I have a pain in my heart and
Wouldn’t I long to lie down."

"What would you leave your mother now,
My own darling boy?
Oh, what would you leave your mother,
My comfort and my joy?"
"I will leave her the keys of all treasure,
Mother, dress my bed soon,
I have a pain in my heart and
Wouldn’t I long to lie down."

"What will you leave your children,
My own darling boy?
Oh, what will you leave your children,
My comfort and my joy?"
"Oh, they can follow their mother,
Oh, mother dress my bed soon,
I have a pain in my heart and
Wouldn’t I long to lie down."

"Where will you now be buried now,
My own darling boy?
Oh, where will you now be buried,
My comfort and my joy?"
"I will be buried in Kilkenny
Where I will take a long night’s sleep,
With a stone to my head
And a scraith* to my feet."

[* scraith = scraw, sod of turf - Irish]

Although popular in England, Scotland and America, the ballad of Lord Randal is not often found in Ireland except in fragmentary form or in the children’s version, Henry My Son.  According to the collector, Tom Munnelly, it is more common among traditional singers in Irish than in English and is one of the few Child ballads to be found in the Irish language.

The handful of versions found in Ireland include an 11 verse set taken down by ballad scholar, Francis James Child, from the reciting of Ellen Healy ‘as repeated to her by a young girl in ‘Lackabairn, Co Kerry, who had heard it from a young girl around 1868.  A version from Conchubhar Ó Cochláin, a labourer of Ballyvourney, Co Cork, in 1914, like Paddy’s, places the action of the ballad in Kilkenny:

"Where will you be buried, my own purtee boy,
Where will you be buried, my true loving joy?"
"In the church of Kilkenny and make my hole deep,
A stone at my head and a flag to my feet,
And lave me down easy and I’ll take a long sleep."

We also got it from fiddle player, storyteller and singer, Martin ‘Junior’ Crehan, a farmer from Co Clare in 1992.

Mary Delaney sang it to us the first time we met her, saying "You probably won’t like this one, it’s too old."

Ref: The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, B H Bronson, Princeton Univ Press, 1959.

Other CDs: Mary Delaney - Topic TSCD 667; John MacDonald - Topic TSCD 653; Ray Driscoll - EFDSS CD 002; Frank Proffitt - Folk-Legacy CD1; George Spicer - MTCD 311-2; Jeannie Robertson, Thomas Moran, Elizabeth Cronin - Rounder CD 1775; Gordon Hall - Country Branch CBCD 095.

20 - Flowery Nolan  (Roud 16693)   Mikeen McCarthy

Oh he lived upon the *Stokestown Road,
Convening to *Arphin,
A man called Flowery Nolan,
A terror to all men,
He reached the age of seventy one,
He thought himself it was time,
For to go and get a missus,
His wedding 'twould be no crime.

Oh the news it quickly spread around
How Flowery wished to wed
Oh several maids came offer to him
And from them all he fled
Except one young fair maid,
Her fortune ‘twas rather high,
So he took and he married this young fair maid
To be his wedded wife.

Oh the wedding it lasted two nights and one day
'Til one night going in to bed,
Oh, Flowery turned all to his wife
And these are the words he said;
"You think you are my wedded wife
But I'll tell you you're not,
Oh you are only but my serving maid
And better is your lot."

"Oh there is two beds in my bedroom
And take the one to the right,
I've lived all alone for seventy one
And I'll lie alone tonight."

Oh when Mrs Nolan heard those words
She thought her husband queer,
Oh, packing up her belongings
From him she went away.
She tramped the road to her father's house,
'Tis there she did remain,
And then all the men in the Stokestown Road
Wouldn’t get her back again.

Now then, all ye pretty young fair maids,
A warning take by me,
Never marry an old man
Or sorry you will be,
Never marry an old man
‘Til you’re fed up of your life,
Or then you'll be coming home again
Like Flowery Nolan's wife.

Spoken: He was an old bachelor, he was… for years and he used be always talking about getting married, but it never… when 'twould be in his mind to get married, he'd never bother about it again, he said he'd wait 'til next year and next year and it goes on that way until he was seventy one year of age.

So bejay, that farmers around anyway, told him that 'twould be no harm to get a wife, to have someone to look after him like.  So he advertised in the paper anyway, for the wife, so ‘twas more of a joke than anything else with all the lads around the parish of course, more blaggarding than anything else that time. 

So bejay, a lot of the girls came around pulling his leg that time, letting on they were going to marry him and all that and bejay, this one meant it.  Out of all her joking ‘tis she got the dirty turn out.

[* Stokestown: Strokestown, Co Roscommon; * Arphin: Elphin; Co Roscommon]

Arranged or ‘made’ marriages were very much an accepted part of rural life in Ireland up to comparatively recent times.  In 1940, American researchers, Conrad M Arensberg and Solon T Kimball, stated that this form of marriage, known as matchmaking, was regarded as ‘the only respectable method of marriage and inheritance’.

The distribution of wealth and property was not the only reason for ‘made matches’ as they were called.  Women from poor households which were unable to support the whole family would readily marry older farmers looking for a housekeeper, or maybe widowers with young children to care for.

Echoes of these arranged marriages are still to be found in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, where there is an annual matchmaking festival, although nowadays this is largely for the benefit of the tourists.  This song seems to have survived only among Travellers.

Ref: Family and Community in Ireland, Arensberg and Kimball, Harvard Univ Press, 1940.

21 - Poor Old Man  (Roud 2509)   ‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors

Three lines lilted.

"What brought you down from Kerry?" says the poor old man.
"Sure it’s the Connors’s is the blame and don’t the country know the same,
And look at them running down that lane," says the poor old man.

"Bad luck to you, young Gerry," says the poor old man.
"If you cook a stew* you don’t cook it near Ballaroo*
If you will, you’re bound sure rue," says the poor old man.
Three lines lilted.

"Oh, they were coming through Ross Town
And they had ponies big and brown,
And at me they did lick," says the poor old man.

"Bad luck to you, young Gerry," says the poor old man,
"I’ll run to take up my stick and I’ll got orders to drop it quick;
I’ll not, I’ll roar and squeal," says the poor old man.

"Bad luck to you, young Gerry," says the poor old man,
"But wasn’t I an unlucky whore, for to barricade my door?
Wasn’t I an unlucky whore?" says the poor old man.

[* Ballyroe, Co Kerry; * stew: great alarm, anxiety, excitement]

According to the singer, this song refers to a fight that took place in the town of New Ross, Co Wexford, sometime in the nineteen-thirties, between two travelling families, the Connors and Moorhouses.  After a battle in the town, the Connors, coming off worst, fled and barricaded themselves in an abandoned cottage. The Moorhouses climbed on to the roof and brought the fight to a swift and bloody conclusion by tearing off the thatch and dropping down on their adversaries.

Other travellers have confirmed that the fight took place but they said that it was between two different branches of the Connors.  Nobody is sure when the events took place although they thought it was over territory.

We were told: "The Waterford Connors was tinsmiths and the Wexford Connors didn’t want them coming into Wexford selling it."

One traveller referred to the incident as "The second Battle of Aughrim"!  The song is a parody of An Sean Bhean Bhoct, (The Poor Old Woman).

22 - In Charlestown there Lived a Lass  (Roud 1414)   Mary Delaney

For in Charlestown there dwelled a lass,
She was as constant as she was true,
When the young man fell in courting her
And drew her in despair.

He courted her, oh, for six long months,
And to him she proved unkind,
Then he courted her for six long months,
And by him she proved a child.

"Oh, go home, go home to your dwelling place,
And don't bring your parients in disgrace.
Oh go home to your dwelling place
And you proved with a false young man."

"Now I will not go home to my dwelling place,
For to bring my parients in disgrace,
I would sooner go and drown myself
In a dark and a lonely place."

Now as Willie, he went out walking,
He went out to take fresh air,
And he seen his own love Mary
In the waves of the silvery tide.

Oh, he strips off his fine clothing,
To the river brim he swum,
And he brung his own love Mary
From the waves of the silvery tide.

"Oh Mary, darling Mary,
Is this what you have done,
And the last words I have said to you,
I just said it for fun."

Otherwise known as Floating Down the Tide; The Collier Lad; Molly and William etc.; this ballad was taken down several times in England: in Somerset, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Dorset, and in Scotland, in Aberdeenshire.  As far as we could find, there has been only one version made available from Ireland, that sung by publican Annie Mackenzie of Boho, Co Fermanagh, although the collector, Sean Corcoran, says it was widely known in that area.

The English texts locate the events as taking place in Camden, Brighton or Cambridge, while in Scotland it is set in Kilmarnock, Dumbarton or Marno (Marnock, Banffshire?).  A Canadian version places the location as Charlottetown, similar to Mary’s Charlestown.  One English version gives the unfaithful lover as a farmer’s son, while the three complete Scots texts make him a collier; otherwise he is, as here, ‘a false young man’.

Mary’s text has similarities to the two version of the song Camden Town, (Roud 564 Laws P18), recorded from English gypsies William Hughes and Nelson Ridley by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, particularly the verse that begins ‘Now I will not go home...’

Ref: Here is a Health (cassette), ed. Sean Corcoran, Arts Council of Northern Ireland 1986; Travellers Songs from England and Scotland, eds. Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, R & K P, 1977.

Other CDs: Sarah Porter - MTCD 309-10; Ria Johnson - Helions Bumpstead NLCD 5.

CD 2:

1 - The Blind Beggar  (Roud 132, Laws N27)   Paddy Reilly

Oh, there once been an old man who a long time was blind,
He reared one only daughter of a low degree.

And the first came to court her was a captain from sea,
He courted lovely Betsy by night and by day,
"For my life, gold or silver, I would give it all to thee,
If you tell me your father, my bonny Betsy."

Oh, the next came for to court her was a captain so grand,
He courted lovely Betsy by night and by day,
"For my life, gold or silver, wouldn’t I give it all to thee,
If you tell me your father, my bonny Betsy."

Oh, the next came for to court her was a squire so grand,
For he courted lovely Betsy by night and by day,
"For my life, gold or silver, wouldn’t I give it all to thee,
If you tell me your father, my bonny Betsy."

"For my father is an old man who a long time was blind,
His marks and his tokens to you I will give,
He was led by a dog, a chain and a bell."

"For roll on," says th’ould captain, "it is her I won’t take."
"Roll on," says th’ould merchant, "it is her I will forsake."
"Oh, roll on," says the squire, "and let all beggars agree,
Will you roll in my arms, my bonny Betsy?"

Oh, the squire he left down his ten thousand pound,
'Til he came to his farm, his tillage and his ground,
For the poor old blind beggar left down his ten thousand more.

The Rarest Ballad that Ever was Seen of the Blind Beggar of Bednall Green appeared as a broadside in 1672, was entered in the Stationers’ Register of London three years later and was still being sold as a street ballad in Ireland in the 1950s.  Mikeen McCarthy named it as one of the songs he sold around the fairs and markets of Kerry up to that time.

According to Bishop Percy and the estimable John Timbs, this ballad was written during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603).  In the Reliques of Ancient Poetry, Percy gives it in two parts, 67 verses in all, the story contained in the above coming at the end of part one.  Timbs quotes 16 verses, most of them from Percy’s second part, which relates the uprising of the barons against Henry III and the death of their leader, Sir Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester in the battle of Evesham (1265).  His son Henry: ‘Was felled by a blow he received in the fight, A blow that forever deprived him of sight’; and lay on the battlefield among the dead until found by ‘a baron’s faire daughter’.  She carried him from the field, nursed him, married him and became the mother of ‘lovely Bessie’.

This explains the wealth of Bessie’s father, who adopted the disguise of a beggar to avoid discovery by his enemies.

The BBC recorded it in Co Leitrim in the 1950s and more recently it turned up in Inishowen, Co Donegal.  It was popular among the Travellers we recorded; we heard it from four singers.  We also got it from Martin Howley of Fanore, Co Clare.

When Mikeen McCarthy sang it for us he was camped just off Whitechapel Road, East London, within walking distance of The Blind Beggar public house, once notorious for its connections with the gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

Ref: Reliques of Ancient Poetry, Thomas Percy, 1765; Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales, John Timbs, Frank Warne & Co (undated).

2 - Selling the Ballads (The Blind Beggar)   Mikeen McCarthy

Well er, around where my father came from like, he was very well known as being a singer, not a singer now for his living like, but a fireside singer, we'll call it, and what we call céilidhing now, going to houses.  Well they were very fond of that song where he came from, he'd be like the young people today singing, buying those records, you know.  But it got that popular around that area, travelled from parish to parish then; where he got it from I do not know.

So when I used be selling the ballads then like, and my mother, they used ask me, "Have you any of your father's songs?", you know, when we went in to where we were reared now, "Have you the Blind Beggar?", and I used say, "No."

"Why don't you get those printed?", they'd say, "Those are the songs you'd sell, and if you get them printed I'll buy about a dozen of them off you next time I meet you."

So that's how I got them in print then myself.  My father write them out for me and I'd go in to the printing office then, then I'd get them printed.

Well they were the songs that did sing, and many a time after I went into the pubs after selling ballads like and things like that and I'd hear all the lads inside on a fair day now, we’ll say markets and meetings, well when they'd have a few pints on them, 'tis then you'd hear my songs sung back again out of my ballads.

But I remember one day I was in Listowel Fair and I was selling ballads anyway.  So I goes into a pub, I was fifteen years of age then - actually, I never wanted to pack it up, it was ashamed of the ladies I got, you know - but there was an American inside anyway, he wasn't back to Ireland I'd say for thirty years or something, he was saying.

So I sang that song now, The Blind Beggar, and he asked me to sing it again and every time I sang it he stuck a pound note into my top pocket.

He said, "Will you sing again?"

So I did, yeah.  The pub was full all round like, what we call a nook now that time, a small bar, a private little bar off from the rest of the pub.

"And, will you sing it again?"

"I will; delighted" again, of course, another pound into my top pocket every time anyway.  And the crowd was around, of course, and they were all throwing in two bobs apiece and a shilling apiece and I'd this pocket packed with silver money as well.

So he asked me, "Will you sing it for the last time."

Says I, "I'll keep singing it 'til morning if you want."

I'd six single pound notes in it when I came outside of the pub. I think I sold the rest of the ballads for half nothing to get away to the pictures".

The selling of printed song sheets, ‘ballads’, as they were known, was still very much a part of life right into the 1950s in rural Ireland.  The trade at that time seemed to be fairly exclusively carried out by travellers who could be seen at the fairs and markets singing and selling them.

Not all the songs that appeared on these sheets were traditional; sentimental songs like Smiling Through and There’s No Place Like Home, have been mentioned to us as being ‘best sellers’, and among the last titles to appear was The Pub with No Beer.  However, they did have a profound effect on the preservation and circulation of many traditional songs.  In Mikeen’s case, one of the sources for the songs he sold, such as Bessie of Ballentown Brae and Bonny Bunch of Roses, was his father, Michael, who had a large repertoire of traditional songs and stories and was recognised as a singer and storyteller by members of both the travelling and settled communities around Cahirciveen in Co Kerry.

In his youth, Mikeen, along with his mother and other members of the family, sold the ballads around the pubs and fairs of Kerry and he has given us a great deal of valuable information regarding the production and distribution of these, which he started to sell around the age of twelve some time in the nineteen forties.

Ref: Michael McCarthy, Singer and Ballad Seller.  Singer, Song and Scholar, Sheffield Academic Press,1986.

3 - The Factory Girl  (Roud 1659)   Bill Cassidy

As I went out walking
One fine summer's morning,
All those birds, in th’ould bushes
Do warble and sing,
All these laddies and lassies,
These couples being sporting,
Going down to th'ould factory
That work to begin.

Now I spied one among them,
She was fairer than any;
Now ‘twas on her I captured
One glance of my eye.
And I stepped up beside her,
‘Twas most closely to view her.
She said, "Young man, have your manners
And do not come near me,
For I'm only a hard working
Factory girl."

She had skin like th'ould lily
That grows in yon valley,
She had cheeks like th’ould red rose
That grows through extent,
"And it's if you'll come with me
It’s a lady I'll make you,
No more need you sound on
Your factory bell."

"I’ve got land, I've got houses,
I've got store of green ivy,
I have gold in my pocket
And silvers as well,
And it’s if you come with me
It's a lady I'll make you,
No more need you sound on
Your factory bell."

"Now I'll go to some valley
Where no man will find me,
And it's all for your sake
I'll wander away,
In to some lonely valley
Where there’s no one will find me,
It’s all for your sake
I will wander away."

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

"And if I could but her favour win,
I’d stand beside her and weave by steam."

Frank Purslow, in his note to The Factory Girl, suggested that it dates from the end of the eighteenth century and claimed it to be of Northern Irish origin, and, while he did not say why he was of this opinion, it was certainly current there, having been found in Counties Armagh, Down, Tyrone and Fermanagh.  It was also recorded from Elizabeth Cronin of Ballyvourney, Co Cork and from Traveller Margaret Barry.

Different versions of the song seem to fall into two endings: one where, after a dialogue, the couple marry, the other with the man being rejected and wandering off in despair.  Bill Cassidy’s text seems to be of the latter type, but lacks the penultimate verse in which the would-be suitor is rejected.

Ref: Music and Tradition in Early Industrial Lancashire, Roger Elbourne, Folklore Society Mistletoe Series, 1980; The Constant Lovers, Frank Purslow, EFDSS Publications, 1972.

Other CDs: Sarah Makem - Topic TSCD 660; Margaret Barry - Rounder CD1774.

4 - I’ve Buried Three Husbands Already  (Roud 16725)   Mary Delaney

Oh I buried three husbands already,
Poor Dan and Poor Miley and John,
And now I am mostly all ready
For another young son to come on.

Dowdled verse

Oh, wherever there’s a goose there's a gander,
And wherever there's a will there's a way,
But the sun will be rising tomorrow,
And we'll call it another fine day.

Dowdled verse.

Oh, the older the bow and the fiddle,
The sweeter the tune it can play.
If you want to get rozin on your fiddle,
You can wait then for Mother Mo Croí.*

Dowdled verse

[* Mo Croí = My Heart - Irish]

It is a common practice among some Irish traditional singers to sing verses, often unconnected, with no narrative function and intersperse them with lilted tunes.  I’ve Buried Three Husbands is typical of such pieces.

The practice of lilting, dowdling or jigging played an important part in the preservation of traditional music during the period when the church mounted a campaign against unsupervised dancing, i.e., house and crossroads dances, declaring it to be sinful. Priests would go around to these dances dispersing them, often forcibly, and there are even accounts from this period of musicians being forced by the more enthusiastic members of the clergy, to destroy their instruments.  If there was a good lilter in the neighbourhood, it was possible for dancing to take place without instruments.

The situation was similar in Scotland when Calvinism held sway, but there, lilting, or puirt-a-beul (mouth music) as it was known, was also used extensively to pass on the tunes between musicians.  The lilted tune here is The Teetotallers Reel.

5 - John Mitchel  (Roud 5163)   ‘Pop's’ Johnny Connors

Well, I am a true borned Irishman,
John Mitchel is my name,
For to free my own great country, boys,
From Newry Town I came,
I struggled hard both night and day
For to free my native land,
And for yet I was transported, boys,
On to Van Dieman's Land.

When I first received my sentence
In eighteen-forty-eight,
My loving wife came up to me
And up to me did say,
"Oh Johnny my boy, cheer up your old heart
And daunted do not be,
It is better to die for old Ireland’s rights
Than to live in slavery."

When I first received my sentence
In Ireland’s island’s ground*
Sure, thousands of my fellow men,
They were standing all around,
My liberty, it was offered to me
If I would forsake their cause,
Sure I would rather die ten thousand deaths
Than forsake my Irish boys.

Fare thee well my own true love,
And my old country too,
Goodbye all true borned Irishmen
And my native town too,
There is one request I may ask from you
That’s when I am dead and gone,
Remember poor John Mitchel, boys,
That wore a convict's chain.

[* irons I was bound?]

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

Johnny Connors says he first heard this tune played on the pipes by his grand-uncle, Johnny Doran, the legendary travelling piper.  Johnny Doran’s title for it was The Convict Chain.

6 - Maid of Aughrim  (Roud 49, Child 76)   Peggy Delaney

"I am the maid of Aughrim,
As they take me now for to be,
And I am in search of young Henery:
Pray to God I will him see.
The rain it has wet my yellow locks
And the snow has beat my skin,
And the babe cold in my arms,
Will you rise up and let me in."

"If you are the maid of Aughrim
As I take you now for to be,
What is your last token
Between you and young Henery?"
"It is well I do remember
That night in your father’s hall,
When you stole away my poor heart,
The fairest of them all."

"Who will boot your pretty foot
And who will glove your hands,
Who will lace your slender waist
Which young Henry oft-times spanned;
Who will comb your yellow locks
With that brown and berry comb,
And who will be the babe’s father
'Til young Henery will come home?"

"My father will boot my pretty foot,
And my brother will glove my hand,
My sister will lace my slender waist
As Henry oft-times spanned,
My mother will comb my yellow locks
With that brown and berry comb,
And God will be the babe's father
'Til young Henery will come home."

This is undoubtedly a fragment of the ballad known as The Lass of Roch Royal, Lord Gregory or The Lass of Aughrim.  Ballad scholar, Dr Hugh Shields, has traced it from its origins in Scotland to its first recorded discovery in Ireland in 1850, right though to its last, from Co Clare singer, Ollie Conway in 1985, via its inclusion in James Joyce’s short story The Dead.  According to Child, it made its appearance in print as Isabell of Rochroyall in a Scots manuscript songbook in the early eighteenth century, though he points out that it is certainly much earlier than the first printed source and suggested that it was in a ballad form which had first appeared in the later Middle Ages.  There have been comparisons made to Constance’s story in Chaucer’s The Sergeant-at-Law’s Tale.

The ballad survived mainly in Scotland and in the United Stated where a ‘floater’ verse, ‘Who’s going to shoe your pretty little foot’, (Peggy’s 3rd verse) took on a life of its own and has become a song in its own right.

There have been only a handful of versions found in Ireland, the best known of these being the one recorded from Elizabeth Cronin of Ballyvourney, Co Cork.  Thomas Moran, the Co Leitrim singer with the seemingly inexhaustible repertoire had it, and Tom Munnelly recorded it from Roscommon Traveller John ‘Jacko’ Reilly.

Peggy learned it when a child from her father, Michael McCarthy Snr., a travelling tinsmith and horse dealer, born in Kilrush, Co Clare, of Tipperary parentage.

Ref: The History of The Lass of Aughrim, Dr Hugh Shields, Musicology in Ireland, 1990.

Other CDs: Elizabeth Cronin - Rounder CD 1775; Neil Morris - Rounder CD 1701.

7 - My Brother Built Me a Bancy Bower  (Roud 199, Child 106)   Mary Delaney

My brother built me for a bancy bower,
It was decked all over with pinks and flowers,
It was decked all over with the laurel green,
And such a bower that was never seen.

When Sweet William, he got the house alone,
He pulled out his bagpipes and played one tune,
Oh he changed his name oh, by note to note,
From Sweet William into Fair Ellen.

Now he went down to the looking glass,
And there he cut off his yellow locks,
When he changed his name into Fair Ellen.

They could not do him any greater harm
Than to kill the baby lie in his arms,
For to kill the baby lie in his arms,
And to change his name into Fair Ellen.

In 1776, Bishop Percy of Dromore obtained a text of The Famous Flower of Serving Men from the Dean of Derry, whose mother remembered having seen it on a broadside.  It does not seem to have turned up in Ireland since, apart from this confused fragment which Mary got from her father.  However, Frank Purslow, in his note to the version included in the Hammond and Gardiner collection, found in Hampshire in 1908, writes of the song and its singer, Albert Doe:

‘Apparently a good singer with a very fine repertoire, some, if not all, of Irish origin.  The tune of this, in any case, betrays its country of origin, as it is a variant, a good one, of a tune very much associated with texts of Irish origin, such as The Croppy Boy, The Isle of France, Sweet William, The Wild and Wicked Youth and several others’.
The earliest known text was on a broadside in the mid -17th century, which was said to have been written by one Laurence Price, but Child suggests that he had based this on an earlier popular romance.  It has been found among English Travellers, one of the most complete versions being from Dorset gypsy, Caroline Hughes, in the 1960s.

Ref: The Constant Lovers, Frank Purslow, EFDSS Publications Ltd,1972; Travellers Songs from England and Scotland, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (eds), R.K.P, 1977.

Other CDs: Caroline Hughes - Rounder CD 1775; Jasper Smith - Topic TSCD661.

8 - Marie (Maureen) from Gippursland  (Roud 7269)   Bill Bryan

Oh the first come up was a blacksmith
With a hammer and anvil in his hand,
He said he'd hammer a new foundation
In Maureen from Gippursland.
He hammered her, he hammered her
Until his sides was sick and sore,
And after all his labour she leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

Oh the next come up was a saddler
With a needle and thread all in his hand,
He said he'd sew a new foundation
In Maureen from Gippursland.
He awled her, he sewed her
Until his sides was sick and sore,
And after all his labour she leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

Oh the next come up was a baker
With the flour and soda in his hand,
He said he'd bake a new foundation
In Marie from Gippursland.
He baked her, he roasted her
Until his sides was sick and sore,
And after all his labour she leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

Oh the next come up was a tailor
With the cloth and scissors in his hand,
He said he'd cut a new foundation
In Marie from Gippursland.
He scissored her, he sewed her
Until his sides was sick and sore,
And after all his labour she leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

And the next come up was a big ploughman
With a horse and plough all in his hands,
He said he'd plough a new foundation
In Marie from Gippursland.
He ploughed her, he harrowed her
Until his sides was sick and sore,
And after all his labour she leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

Oh the next come up was a timberman
With the axe all in his hand,
He said he'd axe a new foundation
Into Marie from Gippursland.
He chopped her, he sawed her
Until his sides was sick and sore,
And after all his labour she leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

Ah, but now the next come up was a big tinkerman
With a soldering iron in his hand,
He said he'd solder a new foundation
In Marie from Gippursland.
He rosined her, he soldered her
Until his sides were sick and sore,
But after all his labour she never leaked
In the place where she leaked before.

The only other full text of this song recorded from a traditional singer seems to have been a macaronic one (Irish and English) found in Co Mayo in 1936 entitled Mairín Ní Ghiobhalaín, which begins Bhí mise lá ag baint mónach (I was cutting turn one day).

A version entitled The Jolly Weaver, described as an old Ulster weaving song, is to be found in The Journal of The Irish Folk Song Society of 1906 as follows:

In comes the jolly weaver to weave the orange and the blue,
To weave a sink on Morney’s loom his shuttles went so quim
And merrily flew from hand to hand, his jacks they were all a trimlin’
Why don’t you shift your temples man.
Ti-de-i-e-do-e-dan said old Morney Gibberland

Next came in a sailor who often ploughed the raging main;
To take a trip with Morney, he thought it neither sin nor shame.
He viewed his compass clearly, and feared neither rock nor sand,
He steered him to the harbour with old Morney Gibberland

There next came in a mason, with hammer, trowel, in his hand
To lay a strong foundation for old Morney Gibberland,
The mortar it was soft, the stones they wouldn’t steady stand.
‘Clap your plumb-line to the gable,’ said old Morney Gibberland.

Next came in a ploughman, with two ploughshares in his hand,
To plough a furr for Morney, for old Morney Gibberland

Collector’s note: ‘The word ‘quim’ in the first verse means quickly.  I have also heard the same word used in conversation in the Co Monaghan’.

This is a collation of verses ‘from natives of Belfast, Newtonards (sic) and Downpatrick’, all in the Co Down.  They were collected by Edith Wheeler with the music taken down by Mrs C Milligan Fox.  The words in italics are hand loom terms.  Either the writer was unaware of the erotic nature of the song, or the social restrictions of the time prevented her from referring to it.  The word quim in the first verse is a slang term usually referring to the female pudendum!

There is also a fragment entitled Mairins Gibberlan, described as ‘decidedly objectionable’, included in the Greig Duncan Collection.  Bill Bryan got the song from his father, Martin.

Ref: The Journal of The Irish Folk Song Society, 1906; The Greig Duncan Folk Song Collection, vol 7, Mercat Press, 1997

9 - Pretty Polly  (Roud 21, Child 4)   Bill Cassidy

This pretty young boy came
From the North Strand,
And he came a-wooing to me,
And he promised he'd marry me
Down by the North Strand,
And there he'd marry me.

"If you get some of your
Mamma's ould gold,
And get more of your daddy's fee,
And get two the best horses
He had in the stable,
Where there were thirty-three."

Now she got up on her
Milk white steed,
And him on the dapple grey,
For she rode down by her
Own father’s hall door.
It was three long hours before day.

They rode down along 'til they
Come to the North Strand,
For to watch all th’ould waves going by.
"Get it down, get down
Pretty Polly", he said,
"Get it down, get down for me;
For it’s six little girls
I have drownded here,
And you'll be my seventh shall be."

"Your silks and your satins,
You must take them off,
And reliver them up unto me."
"If it's my silks and my satins,
I must take them off,
Please turn your back for me."

He turned his back down
For the North Strand,
For to watch all the waves a-going by.
When she caught him around
By the middle so grand,
And she flung him right in to the deep.

Saying he swum high,
And he swum low,
Until he swum to the sea shore.
Saying, "One hould to your hand,
Pretty Polly," he said,
"Sure as sentence, I'll make you my bride."

Saying, "It’s stop where you are,
You false hearted young man"
Saying, "It’s stop where you are," said she.
"For I think you been
Too big a blaggard
For a naked young woman like me."

Now she gets up on her
Milk white steed,
And she lead the dapple grey.
For she rode back to her
Own father's hall door,
It was three long hours before day.

"What ailed you, what ailed you?"
The father he cried,
Saying, "What have you home before day?"
"Hold tongue, hold tongue,
Pretty Polly", she said,
"Don't tell any tales upon me,
And I'll have your cage
Of a litter and gold (glittering gold)
And your door of the grand ivory."

The ballad of Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight has been found in various forms throughout Europe, the earliest printed text being from a German broadside dated 1550.

A L Lloyd in Folk Song in England, linked the story to an engraving on a sword scabbard dated 300 BC, which is now in The Leningrad (St Petersburg) Museum.  It certainly seems to have caught the imagination of traditional singers, many versions having appeared throughout England and Scotland, though it seems not to be particularly widespread in Ireland. Sam Henry had it as The King of Spain’s Daughter from William Hegarty of Ballydevitt in Co Derry and, more recently, Cornelius ‘Corny’ McDaid of Buncrana, Co Donegal, sang a very full version as False Lover John.  We recorded it in full and in part, from half a dozen Irish Travellers.  Tom Munnelly obtained a version very similar to Bill’s from another Traveller, Jim Cassidy, who is possibly Bill’s brother (see Folk Music Journal 1975, p17).

Bill said that he learned the song from his parents who both had it.

Ref: Folk Song in England, A L Lloyd, Lawrence and Wishart, 1967.

Other CDs: Sarah Porter - MTCD 309-10; Jumbo Brightwell - Rounder CD1741 & Veteran VT140CD; Fred Jordan - Rounder CD1775 & Topic TSCD 600; Mary Ann Haynes - Topic TSCD 661; Lena Bourne Fish - Appleseed APRCD1035.

10 - Rambling Candyman  (Roud 2163)   Made and sung by ‘Rich’ Johnny Connors

But the day that I left Ireland,
Sure things were very slack;
I rambled over to Glasgow
And I'm wishing to get back.

I was gathering old pot metal
And more times bones and rags;
Sure, all the little different things
I put into different bags.

To see all the little kiddies
With their bones stuck in their hands
And enquiring for Johnny Connors,
He is a rambling candy man.

An old man come to me one day,
Thought I was rather green,
Down in the corner of his sack
There were bricks you could plainly see.

Sure I said, ‘Old man, take up your sack,
Sure I'm not in the game,
You can't handle bricks or mortar
To any rambling candy man’.

Spoken: Oh, I could keep going and going with that, you know what I mean.  It’s all… Ah, sure, ‘tis only bits of that’that’s not an old ... well, it did happen really, yeah.  That’s when we come over first, we pulled in; things were going bad like.  We pulled in this bit of waste ground and this old man, he come up to us and he thought we were real, you know, like, that we would buy anything.  But I suppose this man wanted a drink or summat like, you know, probably he had his own problems as well as us; yeah.

It is still quite common to hear travellers singing snatches of songs, usually just one or two verses, that deal with other travellers, often in a mocking manner.  They have either been made by the singer or by somebody within living memory and are usually remakes of other songs.  ‘Rich’ Johnny Connors made this one up about himself, describing an event that took place some twenty-odd years earlier when he first crossed over from Ireland to Scotland.  He appears to have adapted it from an existing song, Travelling Candyman, a version of which was recorded by Seamus Ennis for the BBC in 1954 from Co Antrim woman Jennie Davison.

11 - Green Grows the Laurel  (Roud 279)   Mary Delaney

Come on pretty fair maids;
Take a warning by me,
Don’t you ever look up to,
Oh, the top of a tree,
Where those green leaves they will wither
And the flowers will incay*.
And the beauty of a fair maid
Will soon cade* away.

Now me mamma she blames me
For courting too young,
She may blame my small beauty
And my flattering old tongue.
She may blame my small beauty
And my dark rolling eye,
If my love is not for me
And sorry am I.

Oh then, thank God, agraghy*,
The case could be worse,
I got money in my pocket
And gold in my purse,
When my baby will be born
I can pay for a nurse,
And I'll pass as a maiden
In a strange countery.

Now if I was a scholar
I could handle a pen,
I could write my love a letter
That he might understand,
I could write him a letter
In twisted and twined,
For no more I can do love
When I can't spare no time

Oh then green they grew, the laurel
And sad fall the dew,
And sorry was the night love
When I parted from you,
And in our next meeting
I hope we'll be true,
We can love one another
And bound to be true.

[* decay; * fade; * a ghrá : my dear - Irish]

The laurel has always occupied an important place in folklore: as a symbol of peace or victory; as a cure for various ailments, including rheumatism; and even to induce poetic inspiration.  In some parts of the world it was used to bring about forgetfulness and the Pennsylvania Indians were said to have used it to commit suicide.  In Europe, it was best known as a love charm, to cement a relationship or, when burned, to bring back an errant lover.  In England, it was believed that if a pair of lovers pluck a laurel twig and break it in half, each keeping a piece, they will remain lovers.  The laurel verse often turns up in traditional songs, as here, as a ‘floater’ verse, indicating unrequited or lost love.

Andy Cash and Mikeen McCarthy also had versions of this; Andy’s had the verse:

Oh it's oft-times that I wondered how women love men,
And it's more times I wonder how young men love them,
It is in our old knowledge we'll have youse to know
That young men are false hearted wherever they go.

Other CDs: Louie Fuller - Topic TSCD 665; Daisy Chapman - MTCD 308.

12 - Barbary Ellen  (Roud 54, Child 84)   Andy Cash

One day, one day, of a fine summer’s day,
It was on green grass was growing,
It was young Johnny Brown from the North Country Down
Come to court young Barbary Ellen.

He sent his servants one by one,
For to see was she incoming.
Slowly, slowly he did rise,
And it’s slowly she put on him.
It was slowly she went to his bed side,
"I’m afraid, young man, you're dying."

"For I am sick, I’m very bad,
One kiss from you will cure me.
One kiss, one kiss from your sweet lips,
If your name is Barbary Ellen."

"One kiss, one kiss from my sweet lips,
That’s you or no man breathing,
For the better of me you’ll never receive
'Til I hear your death bells ringing."

"Go on, go on to my weary bed side,
And it’s there you'll see it flooding,
For it is a basin of my heart's blood,
And I shed for Barbary Ellen."

"Go on, go on to my weary feet,
And it's there you’ll see him lying,
For it is a gold ring and a silvery pin
I ‘store it to Barbary Ellen."

The very next street that she went down,
She heard the death bells ringing.
It was every sound that the death bells gave,
Was "Adieu to Barbary Ellen."

The very next street that she went down,
And she spied his funeral coming.
"Leave down, leave down those wearisome corpse,
Until I gaze all on her." [him]
The more she kept gazing, the more she kept crying,
'Til the friends got ashamed of Young Ellen.

"Go home, go home dear father," she cried,
"And leave it long and narrow,
For this young man died for me last night,
And I’ll die for him tomorrow."

He was buried one end of the church,
And I was buried the other,
And out of his heart there grew a red rose
And out of mine grew a green briar.

They grew, they grew and they grew so high,
'Til they couldn’t grow any higher,
'Til they tangled in to a true lovers knot

For all true lovers to admire.

Probably the most widespread of all the ballads throughout the English speaking world, Barbara Allen first appeared in print in Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany in the 18th century and has continued to make an appearance in folk song collections ever since.  In William Stenhouse’s notes to the variant in The Scots Musical Museum, he wrote:

‘It has been a favourite ballad at every country fire-side in Scotland, time out of memory…  A learned correspondent informs me that he remembers having heard the ballad frequently sung in Dumfriesshire, where, it was said, the catastrophe took place…’
The enduring popularity of the ballad among country singers and a revealing insight into how it was viewed by them, was amply illustrated in an interview with American traditional singer, Jean Ritchie, who spoke about her work collecting folk songs in Ireland, Scotland and England in the early nineteen fifties.  She said:
‘I used the song Barbara Allen as a collecting tool because everybody knew it. When I would ask people to sing me some of their old songs they would sometimes sing Does Your Mother Come from Ireland, or something about shamrocks.  But if I asked if they knew Barbara Allen, immediately they knew exactly what kind of song I was talking about and they would bring out beautiful old things that matched mine and were variants of the songs that I knew in Kentucky.  It was like coming home’.
Andy learned this version of the ballad from an old girlfriend.  He sang another version, in country and western style, complete with American accent, but he insisted that the above was ‘the old way of singing it’.

Ref: Tea Table Miscellany, Allan Ramsay (ed), 1784; Scots Musical Museum, (vol. 4), James Johnson, Notes by William Stenhouse; Wm Blackwood, 1853; Rediscovering the Ritchie Tradition, John Kelly interview, Irish Times, 9.9.2000.

Other CDs: Bob Hart - MTCD 301-2; Jim Wilson - MTCD 309-10; Wiggy Smith - MTCD 307; Joe Heaney - Topic TSCD518D; Sarah Makem - Topic TSCD 667; Phoebe Smith - Veteran VT136CD; Jessie Murray, Fred Jordan, Charlie Wills, May Bennell, Phil Tanner - Rounder CD 1775; Rebecca Jones - Appleseed APRCD1035.

13 - The Kilkenny Louse House  (Roud 12933)   Mary Delaney

Oh the first of my downfall
I closed out the door,
And I then made my way on
To Carrick-on-Suir,
Then when I got there
It was late in the night,
I went down the Gas Road
For to view the gas light.
Raddly fol the diddle ar ol,
Ti arol ty ay.

I met this blooming old man
And I call him a tramp.
"Could you direct me any
Place I'd get a stall? "
For he brought me along
'Til we came to Coke Lane,
There’s an old woman here
Keeps a slumbering kean.

For we knocks on the door,
The old lady comes out.
"If you give me two shillings
I’ll show you the bed."
For she brought me upstairs
And quenched out the light,
Oh then, less than ten minutes
I had to show fight.

"If you give me the daylight
I'll fight my own way."
For the bugs and the lice
They were beat me each way.
There were lumps on my bones
And my back and my legs.
"Lay me out", says the poor man,
"I'm nearly dead."

Oh the lady came in
And she put on the light.
Oh then, less than five minutes
Your man got outside.
"If you give me fair play
I can fight my own way,
But if you give me sore sides
I'll give ye broken bones."

As popular as this song was, it has seldom appeared in print; we could trace only one published version in a collection entitled Ballads From the Jails and Streets of Ireland.  A recording of it from two County Waterford singers in 1965 was included in the Voice of the People series, Vol 7, oddly entitled Burke’s Engine due to a mis-hearing on the editors’ part of the name Buck St John who, in that version, is given as proprietor of the lodging-house.  We have been unable to establish whether he or the Louse House ever existed.

The term ‘slumbering kean’ at the end of the second verse comes from Travellers language, Gammon or Cant; kean being a house or asylum.

We had great trouble recording this from Mary, as, on most occasions she sang it for us she was unable to reach the end for laughter.  An additional verse she sang in one of these part-renditions was:

If you give me fair play
I will fight my own way,
Between the bugs and the lice
They will eat me away,
For a box of TD
I will shake here today,
And if I get the daylight
I’ll run mad away.

Ref: Ballads from the Jails and Streets of Ireland, Martin Shannon, Red Hand Books, 1966.

Other CDs: Tommy McGrath - Topic TSCD557

14 - Malone (The Half Crown)  (Roud 16689)   Mikeen McCarthy

And there was a man called Mick Malone
And I was honest Pat.
He borrowed a half-a-crown from me;
He never brought it back.
A half-a-crown is a half-a-crown,
Of course it's two and six
And as soon's I catch Malone alone
I'll stop his dirty tricks.

Now a half-a crown's a half-a-crown,
As I have said before,
Instead of paying what he owe,
He tries to borrow more,
He'll take you in and he'll flatter you
And 'tis he that knows the way,
He well knows how to borrow
But he don't know how to pay.

Now a half-a-crown's a half-a-crown,
Of course it's two and six,
And as soon's I catch Malone alone,
I'll stop his dirty tricks.
So I'll get even with Malone
And I'll give him cause to groan
And I'm the boy that'll knock it out
Of Malone, Malone, Malone.

We have been unable to find any trace of this although it probably originated in the music-halls or perhaps the American variety theatre.

15 - Finn MacCool and the Two-Headed Giant  (Aarne-Thompson 1149)   Mikeen McCarthy

Er, there was an Irish giant, Finn MacCool was his name.  He wasn’t a very big giant, he was only nineteen foot high, and his sword used be six feet long and it weighed three quarters of a hundredweight.

So, he’d a very small regiment.  He used go to all the famous rivers of Ireland and the River Laune and the River Lee and the River Shannon, he used keep by the side of the rivers.

Now why he’d a very small regiment was that his army had three tasks to do, he’d only twelve men in an army.  And they’d have to run through a wood without breaking a kippen,* they’d have to catch a hare on the run and they’d have to jump three regiment.  So that’s why he’d a very small army.

Why he kept the side of the rivers was if they got into a serious fight with other giants well they were that fit and that powerful they used leap from one side of the river to the other.  But his name went far and near anyway, he was such a powerful giant.

And a French giant, he heard all about him.  So the French giant comes all the ways over from France to Ireland with his own entire army.  So all you could hear the French giant saying, and all his army, was:

"Hum hom hoo,
I smells the blood of an Irishman,
His body and blood for my supper tonight
And his head for my morning dram."

And his army marched behind him at the one time, and they’d all be saying the same thing like.

And Finn MacCool, he was at home in his house and he could hear it; the French giant and all his army and ‘twas like balls of thunder when they were coming like, for Finn MacCool’s place.

So Finn MacCool knew that he was no match for the French giant, because the French giant, he had two heads, he was the two-headed giant.  And he spoke to the mother; "Oh, what’ll we do" he said to the mother?

So she had Finn MacCool’s cot when he was young, and she said, ‘"Get into the cot and I’ll let on your Finn MacCool’s son".

So in goes Finn MacCool, into the cot anyway, and she could hear the big French giant coming.

"Hum hom hoo,
I smells the blood of an Irishman,
His body and blood for my supper tonight
And his head for my morning dram."

"Hum hom hoo" you’d hear all his army saying.

So he knocked at the door and Finn MacCool’s mother came out.

"Is this the home", he said, "of Finn MacCool?"

"Oh, it is", says his mother.

"Well", he said, "I’m here to have battle with him."

"Well", she said, "Finn MacCool is out."

But he looked inside in the cot.  "And who is this?"

"Oh, this is his son", she said.

So he put his finger into Finn MacCool’s mouth, playing with him, he thought it was a child, and Finn MacCool nearly bit the finger off of him.  So he slapped away his finger.

And he looked up at the side of the wall and there was Finn MacCool’s sword.  "Is this his famous sword", he says to his mother?

"Oh no", she said, "he’ve his sword with him - that’s for picking his teeth", she said, "when after his dinner."

So the sword was six foot long and it weighed three quarters of a hundredweight.  So the French giant heard this.

So she had a big cake of bread down by the fire in a griddle.  Well, what a griddle is, it’s a big cast thing like and it went about quarter of an inch thick, or half inch and about six feet across, that was for a cake of bread.

"What is this?"

"Oh, this is his dinner", she said, "when he come back with a cow", she said, "he do have a cow that he eat with that."

So he looked, he picked up the griddle and tried to bite it of course, and he couldn’t get through the cast, he didn’t know what it was.

"Oh", he said.  And he tried, it cracked all his teeth.

So he heard enough off of the old woman and away he turned.  He said, "I’d better not wait to see the real Finn MacCool."

And away he went and he high-tailed it over to France and they never see the French giant again.

[* Kippen : kippeen; little stick.  Mikeen says MacCoon, rather than MacCool, in a few places.]

Mikeen learned this from his father, Michael McCarthy Snr, who had a reputation as a singer and storyteller both among travellers and gorgies (settled people).

16 - Mowing the Hay  (Roud 16878)   Andy Cash

As I went down to Dublin on the first day in May
I’d me hook under me shoulder oh, to mow down the hay;
When the lassies, they saw me coming, oh, them all takes the cry;
"Who's the handsome young fine boy for to mow down the hay?"

Oh, the moment I landed, I was not long there,
Then the farmer he hired me one thousand a year.
We'll have bold wine and brandy and good whiskey and beer,
Whilst the money it will hold out, we'll make the old tap-room shake,
And we all will be happy round the bold Callan Rí.*

Oh me daddy and mammy, oh, they both give consent
For to leave down the money, be married we went,
We'll have bold wine and brandy and some whiskey and beer,
Whilst the money it will hold out we'll make the old tap-room shake,
And we all will be happy around the bold Callan Rí.

[* Callan Rí : possibly Callan, ten miles south west of Kilkenny city, which stands on The Kings River, Rí being the Irish for king.  It has also been suggested that it might be the Bog of Calgary in Co Wicklow]

Working terms like mowing, scything, ploughing and reaping regularly appear in songs as sexual metaphors.  The mower, An Spealadóir in Irish, often turns up as a virile migratory worker who mows the meadows for various maidens and widows.  Typical of the genre is the song that appeared on broadsides as The Mower, a version of which was collected by Henry Hammond from H Hooper of Byer in Dorset in 1907, entitled The Buxom Lass.

Andy’s song does not have the double meaning but does seem to be a celebration of youth and virility.  It may have lost its symbolic aspect along with some verses as it is probably part of a longer song, though we have been unable to find any other versions of it.  He learned it from his father and described it as ‘me daddy’s favourite song’.

Ref: The Wanton Seed, Frank Purslow, EFDSS Publications Ltd, 1968.

17 - Phoenix Island  (Roud 267, Laws N37)   Mary Delaney

"I wished I had you in Phoenix Island,
One thousand mile from your native home,
It’s there I'd spend some long hours to court you;
Make you my wife and call you my own."

"You will not have me in Phoenix Island
One hundred miles from my native home,
Nor you will not spend long hours for to court me;
You’ll never make me your wife nor call me your own."

"I wish to have you laid in your coffin,
And satisfaction wrote on your shroud,
And your friends to bury* you on their shoulder,
And you [me] to be one among the crowd."

"You will not have me laid in my coffin,
Nor satisfaction wrote on my shroud,
Nor your friends won't bury* me on their shoulder,
Nor you won't be one among the crowd."

[* bear]

The references to Phoenix Island in verses 1 and 2 appear in O’Reilly from the County Leitrim or The Phoenix of Erin’s Green Isle (Roud 4720).  The story of this is that a sailor meets a young woman and attempts to persuade her to marry him.  She refuses, telling him that she is waiting for her lover, O’Reilly.

Somewhere in its development, Mary’s Delaney’s version has shed the main part of the story and what we are left with is an extremely bitter dialogue.  She was quite certain that the song was complete, and it certainly works as such.

The Phoenix Island references also occur in Mary Cash’s Lady In Her Father’s Garden (CD 1 No. 20).

Irish singers have sometimes located the action of the song in Feenish Island, and one version has it in Mweenish Island, both in Connemara, Co Galway.  However, remote as they are, the Phoenix Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, part of the Kiribati Group, would have been well-known to sailors because of the whaling trade which was carried on in the vicinity.

Ref: Irish Street Ballads, Colm O’Lochlainn, Three Candles Press, 1939. 

18 - Navvy Shoes  (Roud 516)   Mary Delaney

I'm the bold English navvy
Who worked on the line,
And worked there for weeks
And worked overtime.
And when my work was over
And night coming on,
I strolled to the roads
With my navvy shoes on.

I first took my supper
And then had a shave,
And for courting pretty fair maids
I was highly repaired, [prepared]
For courting pretty fair maids
They stand with me then,
I roamed through the roads
And my navvy shoes on.

I knocks at my love’s window,
My knocks they were low,
And out of her slumber,
My voice she did know,
She woke from her slumber
And she said, "Is it John?"
"Yes it is ma‘am", says I,
"and my navvy shoes on."

Oh she opened the window
And then left me in,
The night it was cold
And the blanket rolled on,
And I slept there all night
With my navvy shoes on.

When I woken next morning
Here’s the words she did say,
"Sleep down John, sleep down John,
Don’t you know you done wrong,
For to stay there all night
With your navvy shoes on?"

Now six months was better
And three coming on,
When this pretty fair maid
Got tight in the waist,
And handed me a young son
With his navvy shoes on.

Oh then, all ye young ladies,
Wherever ye may be,
Don't ever let a navvy
Stroll into your bed,
For now if you do then,
You'll think it'll be John,
He'll leave you a young son
With his navvy boots on.

The navvies who dug the canals and laid the railways in Britain had, and earned, a reputation as hard fighters, hard drinkers and womanisers.  In 1839, Lieutenant Peter Lecount, assistant Engineer to Robert Stephenson while building the London to Birmingham railway, wrote of them:

‘These banditti, known in some parts of England by the name of ‘Navies’ or ‘Navigators’, and in others by that of ‘Bankers’, are generally the terror of the surrounding country; they are as completely a class by themselves as the Gypsies.  Possessed of all the daring recklessness of the smuggler, without any of his redeeming qualities, their ferocious behaviour can only be equalled by the brutality of their language.  It may be truly said, their hand is against every man and before they have been long located, every man’s hand is against them; and woe befall any woman with the slightest share of modesty, whose ears they can assail.  From being long known to each other, they in general act in concert, and put at defiance any local constabulary force; consequently crimes of the most atrocious character are common, and robbery, without an attempt at concealment, has been an everyday occurrence, wherever they have congregated in large numbers’.
Of the handful of songs that were made about the navvies, this is undoubtedly the one that has survived the best.

Ref: The Railway Navvies, Terry Coleman, Hutchinson, 1965.

Other CDs: Lal Smith - Rounder CD1778; Jimmy McBeath - Topic TSCD660.

19 - Dingle Puck Goat  (Roud 8220)   Mikeen McCarthy

Oh, I am a bold jobber who is foolish and airy,
To the green hills of Kerry I longed for to see,
So I went up to Dingle to buy up some cattle,
And I hope you'll all listen to what happen me.

So I entered the fair of a Saturday morning,
And the first thing I met was a long legged goat.
"Oh bedod then", says I, for to commence my dealing,
"I think, me old hero, you're worth a pound note."

So I went to the owner, the man now that held him,
And a bargain we made without any delay.
So into his hand I put twenty-five shillings,
And an advice he gave me before I go way.

"So now this old hero, he well knows the mountain,
In the year sixty-four, sure he learned some drill,
So jump on his back and catch a hold of his horns,
And if you fall off, let him go where he will."

So I jumped on his back and caught a hold of his horns,
And towards Connor Hill sure, we went like a crack.
When I landed in Brandon I thought it was London,
I regretted my journey when I saw the sea.

So we jumped in the sea and we swam right across it,
All the fish of the sea ate the nails of my toes,
Oh this mighty big mackerel caught a hold to my nostril,
And he thought to run away with the half of my nose.

So we jumped in the strand and we scarcely ran,
And toward Castlegregory we went in high speed,
And into Camp and into Kilorglin,
And we never cried crack 'til we landed Kilmare*.

And the sight of the old Puck sure I ne'er see before,
But as far as I hear he's in New York or in Boston,
Or maybe out foreign where he's not very well known,
But as long as I'm living I've a story for telling,
My ramble through Kerry and the Dingle Puck Goat.

[* Kenmare]

Mikeen always associates this song with Puck Fair, which takes place annually in Kilorglin, Co Kerry on August 10th - 12th.  Each year a puck goat is caught, brought to town and proclaimed King of the Fair.  It is then set up on a platform 40ft above the street where it remains throughout the three days of the event, after which it is ceremonially brought down and released.  For many years, until his death, Mikeen’s grandfather was one of the men who were responsible for catching and putting up the goat at the opening of each fair.

The origins of Puck Fair are unclear but it is known that a patent to hold a fair in Kilorglin was issued in 1613, although one theory connects it with the pre-Celtic festival of Crom Dubh (The Dark Bent One).

However, Mikeen has his own story telling of how it all started:

‘Years gone by, no main roads them times like, 'twas just a long old village I believe, and there was a big stump of a tree in the middle of the town where there was a tree cut down like, and there was three or four foot of it left standing up.

So there was an old feller anyway, he came in from Cara Lake and he brought in an old puck goat to sell him.  So when he didn't sell him anyway, he went in to the pub and he started drinking, and bejakers, the puck goat was tied three days and three nights anyway; and where was he?  Only standing up on top of the block, he got up there in the wind-up.  And bejay, the old puck goat never came down off for three nights and three days until your man only had a few bob to get spent.  So when he came out anyway, he loosed the old goat and away home. 

So that's how Puck Fair got its name and the three nights and three days, because that's how it all started, in years gone by’.

The Dingle Puck Goat was written by uillean piper Johnny Patterson, (1840-1889), who also composed The Stone Outside Dan Murphy’s Door.

Ref: Puck Fair: History and Traditions, Michael Houlihan, The Treaty Press, 1999.

20 - Enniscorthy Fair  (Roud 5312)   Bill Cassidy

There was an Irish farmer
And he had a Galtee mare,
He brought her out to sell her
Down to Enniscorthy Fair.
The big son he went with her saying,
"It's father I'll do my best,
I’ll engage this mare to all kind work
And her trial won’t be a quest."

Up comes a Dublin buyer
And he axed the price of her.
"The price is twenty guineas
And for luck I’ll give a pound."
He paid him for the little mare
And then took her away
To a stable in the Shannon
He had taken for the day.

He clipped her now all over
And he trimmed her mane and tail,
No less than twenty minutes
She was on the fair again.
With a saddle and a bridle
And a jockey on her back,
You would swear she was a racehorse
That you would see on the track.

Now says the father to the son,
"Here is a mare I'll buy,
She looks so style and handsome
And so action in my eye."
He’ve axed the jock the price of her,
The jockey looked around;
"The price is forty guineas
And for luck I'll give a pound."

He paid him for this little mare
And then took her away.
Saying who run out to meet him
But his little daughter Jane,
Saying, "Mammy, the lads is coming
But th'old mare they did not sell,
For she's clipped, you’d hardly know her,
But you'd know her old walk well."

"What made you get this old mare clipped;
She'll surely take the cold,
Or why can she escape it
For she's gone so thin and old?
Sure I'll sit down all on this chair
Until my temper cools,
For I'm married to you this thirty year
But you're a born fool."

Horse rearing and dealing were once among the main occupations of Irish Travellers and the skills and exploits of some with the animal are legendary.  We have listened to many hours of anecdotes about men with special powers over horses; of secret cures; of horses being ‘doctored’ in preparation for sale to some unsuspecting gorgie (non-Traveller), or to another Traveller not as astute in the trade as he should be.  The respect for Travellers’ skills with horses extended far beyond their own community.  Farmers in West Clare have told us that they would rather go to the Travellers than to the vet with a sick horse.

We once asked a Traveller if tricks and shady deals among themselves did not cause bad feeling and strained relationships and were told that it was all part of the learning process.

Bill’s song, also known as The Galtee Farmer, or The Galtee or Rusty Mare is one commonly found in Travellers’ repertoires reflecting their enjoyment in a deal well executed.

21 - New Ross Town  (Roud 277, Laws 017)   Mary Delaney

For, as I went out on a moonlight night
As the moon shined bright and clearly,
When a New Ross girl I chanced to meet,
She looks at me surprising;
We had a roo ry rah, fol the diddle ah,
Roo ry, roo ry, roo ry rah.

"Oh, will I go, my dear," he says,
"Or will I go my honey?"
Nice and gay she answered me,
"Go down and ask me mammy."
We’ll have roo ry rah, fol the diddle ah,
Roo ry rah she was a tome* old hag.

Oh, I went down to her mammy’s house
When the moon shined bright and clearly,
She opened the door and let me in
And her mammy never heard us;
We had ...

"Oh, soldier dear, will you marry me
For now is your time or ever,
Oh, Holy God, will you marry me?
If you don’t and I’m ruined for ever;"
With my ...

"You are too young, my dear," he says,
"You are too young, my honey."
"For if you think I am too young,
Go down and ask me mammy;"
We’ll have ...

"How old are you, my dear," he says,
"How old are you, my honey?"
Nice and gay she answered me,
"Gone seventeen since Sunday."
With my ...

"Now I have a wife and a comely wife,
And a wife, I won’t forsake her,
There’s ne’er a town I would walk down
Where I’d get one if I take her."
With my roo ry rah, fol the diddle ah,
Roo ry rah you are a tome old hag.

[* tome : good - Gammon or Cant]

Usually known as Seventeen Come Sunday, this was extremely popular throughout England where it has been described as ‘one of the most widely known folk songs of all’.  The two texts published in the Sharp Collection conclude with the couple who have spent the night together getting married, while Mary’s ends with the girl’s demands of marriage being rejected.  Quite often, as here, the seducer is a soldier.

In Scotland, Robert Burns found the song in Nithsdale and sent a re-written version of it to the Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803) where it was published under the title A Waukrife Minnie; (A Watchful Mother).  It was claimed there that it had never before appeared in print.

The Irish variants seem to have been found mainly in the northern counties.  We recorded this from Mary on a number of occasions and, although it was one of her favourite songs and among the first she gave us, she never sang it the same way twice.  She would cut out verses or change them around as the mood took her and, at one time, she sang:

"You are too young, my dear," he said.
"You are too young my honey."
"Oh, if you think I am too young,
You must lay me down and try me."

She learned the song some thirty years earlier from Co Tipperary traveller, ‘Snap’ Cash.

Ref: Scots Musical Museum, (vol. 4), James Johnson, Wm Blackwood, 1853.

Other CDs: Bob Hart - MTCD 301-2 & TSCD660; Walter Pardon - MTCD 305-6; Joe Heaney - Topic TSCD651 & TSCD518D.

22 - One Fine Summer’s Morning  (Roud 2329)   Mikeen McCarthy

Oh, one fine Summer's morning,
I been walking along,
Down by a clear river
I heard a fine song,
'Twas sung by a fair maid
With her voice low and clear,
And how happy would I be
If my true love was here.

Oh we both walked together
'Til the sun it shines on,
We both walked together
'Til the sun it shines on,
'Til the green leaves grew o'er me,
Nevermore for to close,
And 'tis then I'll prove false
To my blooming red rose.

Oh, through mountains and valleys
This fair maid did go,
Through mountains and valleys
And those hills full of snow,
May the rocks will split open
Nevermore for to close,
And ‘tis then I’ll prove false
To my blooming red rose.

Here's a health to all ye weavers
That weaves in white thread,
Don't rise up in the morning,
Oh, don't stop too long in bed,
Do not earn white money,
Spend it foolish like me,
And 'tis then you'll prove false
To my gay gal mo chroidhe*.

May the bright stars of heaven
May darken tonight,
May the bright stars of heaven,
Oh, may show me no light,
May the rocks will split open,
Nevermore for to close,
And 'tis then I'll prove false
To my blooming red rose.

[* my gay gal mo chroidhe = mo gradh geal mo chroidhe : bright love of my heart - Irish]

There is a version of this in the Sam Henry collection entitled Gragalmachree, which was obtained from James Kealey, a fiddler from Ballymoney, Co Antrim.  In the editor’s notes, it is linked to Laws M23 although, apart from the titles of the songs Laws quotes, Gay Girl Marie (Ozark Folksongs), and Sweet Gramachree (New Green Mountain Songster), there appears to be no other connection between these and Mikeen’s song.

We recorded a similar version to Mikeen’s from Mikey Kelleher, originally from Quilty, Co Clare, in 1977 who had lived in England since 1949.

Ref: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People, Ed. Gale Huntington, Univ of Georgia Press, 1990; Ozark Folksongs (revised), Vance Randolph, Univ of Missouri Press, 1980; New Green Mountain Songster, Flanders, Ballard, Brown & Barry, Yale Univ Press, 1939.

23 - What Will We Do when We'll Have No Money?  (Roud 16879)   Mary Delaney

What will we do when we’ll have no money?
All true lovers, what will we do then?
Only hawk through the town for a hungry crown,
And we’ll yodel it over again.

What will I do if I’d marry a tinker?
All true lovers, what will we do then?
Only sell a tin can and walk on with me man,
And we’ll yodel it over again.

What will we do if we marry a soldier?
All true lovers, what will we do then?
Only handle his gun and we’ll fight for the fun,
And we’ll yodel it over again.

What will we do if we have a young daughter?
All true lovers, what would we do then?
Only take it in hand and walk on with me man,
And we’ll yodel it over again.

We have not found this song elsewhere, either in print or in a recording, but it bears such a striking resemblance to Mrs Elizabeth Cronin’s What would you Do if you Married a Soldier (Roud 3051) that it is probably a traveller’s remake of the same song.  Mary has a number of similar pieces: I’ve Buried Three Husbands Already and If Ever You Go to Kilkenny, etc., and, despite the fact that her speciality is the long, free ballad, she takes great pleasure in singing these made-up snatches and often is not able to finish them for laughing.  On another occasion, Mary gave us this alternative to verse four;

What will we do when we’ll have a young daughter,
All true lovers, what will we do then,
Bring it on on my back and walk on for the crack,
And we’ll yodel it over again.

Other CDs: Elizabeth Cronin (What Would You Do if You Married a Soldier) - Rounder 1742.


Thanks to the people who helped us by supplying information on the songs: Paul De Grae, Richard Griffiths, John Moulden, Tom Munnelly and Bruce Olsen.

Thanks to Malcolm Taylor for his great help and encouragement.

Thanks to Nicholas Carolan and the staff of The Irish Traditional Music Archive, especially to Glenn Comiskey, sound engineer at ITMA, who edited the tapes and prepared the masters.

These recordings were made, with Denis Turner, between 1973 and 1985.

General notes by Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll; song notes by Jim Carroll.

Photographs by Pat Mackenzie, Denis Turner and two provided by Mikeen McCarthy.

All royalties from this production will be donated to The Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Booklet: proofreading - Danny Stradling
Booklet: editing, DTP, printing, formatting, digital post-editing, production
by Rod Stradling, early 2003
A Musical Traditions Records production © 2003

Copyright in all material on these CDs resides with the performers.

Dedicated to the memory of the late Mrs Nonie McCarthy whose quiet,
good humoured hospitality made the work of recording a pleasure.

Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie - February 2003

Article MT119

Top of page Home Page Articles Reviews News Editorial Map

Site designed and maintained by Musical Traditions Web Services   Updated: 12.2.03