Information on Aileen’s Songs

Johnny Barden (Willie O’ Winsbury)
Child No. 100. Mary McGrath, a Wexford Traveller from Bridgetown, Co. Wexford, was recorded singing a very distinctive version of this song by Tom Munnelly. It features on ‘Songs of the Irish Travellers, Traditional Ballads and Lyric Songs 1967-75’. Sally Connors of Bunclody also sang this song as part of a project which Michael Fortune undertook in Wexford in 2010. I have taken a little from the singing of both women.

The song is a version of ‘Willie O’ Winsbury’, also known as ‘Lord Thomas of Winesberry’ or a name a little closer to our version here: ‘John Barbour’. The ballad tells the story of a daughter who has become pregnant by the hero, Johnny Barden. The father threatens to hang him, but is struck by his beauty and offers him his daughter and all his land. The hero accepts the lady but declares that he has lands enough of his own.

Jimmy Whalen (The Unquiet Grave)
Child No. 78. My first trip to Newfoundland in 2007 brought me into direct contact with the rich resource which is traditional unaccompanied singing in Newfoundland. I learned this song from the singing of Tommy Nemec. Numerous versions have been collected in Newfoundland, many collected by song collector Kenneth Peacock and feature in the Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). It is sung to at least five different airs.
The song is a variant of ‘The Unquiet Grave’ which was already featured in this project, performed by Rosie Stewart. A lover mourns at the grave site - in this case a river - preventing the deceased from finding peace.

Lord Levitt (Lord Lovel)
Child No. 75. Having been familiar for many years with the Keane sisters beautiful rendition of ‘Lord Donegal’ (which Brigid Tunney performed in an earlier concert), I learned some months back that Nora Cleary of The Hand, Milltown Malbay, had been recorded by Jim Carroll and Pat McKenzie singing a version of it under the name ‘Lord Levitt’ – to a different air. Certain that it could not be more attractive than Sarah and Rita’s air, I got my hands on a recording of it. To my surprise, I became totally taken with Nora’s air. This version of ‘Lord Levitt’ is sung to Nora’s air (also that of her neighbour Tom Lenihan), but I have borrowed some lyrics for the Keane sisters, and made some adjustments in favour of expressing the story in a simple and clear way. The rose and briar, a motif found in numerous ballads including ‘Barbara Allen’, concludes the song by sprouting from the lovers graves and winding into a true lover’s knot.

The Creel (The Keach in the Creel)
Child No. 28. A creel is a large wicker basket for carrying fish. It is put to different use in this song, however, to carry a man down a chimney to the bedroom of his lover. This song is known by different names such as the ‘Ride in the Creel’ or the ‘Keech in the Creel’, while the Bothy Band recorded it under the title ‘Pretty Peg’. This version comes from the singing of Barry Mulligan, Enaghan, Moyne, Co. Longford, in that I have used his air and the general character of the song, but have modified the chorus and also borrowed lyrics from some other versions. Francis J Child wrote in his notes to this song “no-one looks for decorum in pieces of this sort, but a passage in this ballad, which need not be particularized, is brutal and shameless almost beyond example.” He didn't relish the prospect of nosy parents being treated with such a lack of respect.

The Banks of the Sweet Vildee (James Harris/The Daemon Lover)
Child No. 243. This song is more commonly known under titles such as ‘The Daemon Lover’, ‘The House Carpenter’ or ‘James Harris’. As a punishment for her inconstancy, the devil (i.e. the demon lover) returns from sea to entice a young woman from her husband (i.e. the house carpenter), in the form of her former lover.This variant is from the singing of Frank Browne, Co. Roscommon. Franks version omitted two verses which are commonly sung, and I have incorporated them here: the woman asks “what hills are those” to be told they are the hills of heaven “which you and I will never know” and the hills of hell “where you and I must go”. In the 17th century this ballad was printed by several broadside publishers, entitled ‘A Warning for Married Women’.

Information on Tim’s Songs

Lord Gregory (The Lass of Roch Royal)
Child No. 76. This was learned from a tape of Liz Cronin in London in the 1960’s which was given to me by Scottish singer Ewan McColl. There are eleven versions from varying sources in Volume Two of Child’s Collection. The song is also known as ‘Fair Annie’, ‘Love Gregor’, ‘The Lass of Aughrim’, ‘Fair Isabell of Roch Royal’, ‘The Bonny Lass of Loughroyan’ and ‘Love Gregory’.

The Twa Corbies (The Three Ravens)
Child No. 26. I often heard this song, ‘The Three Ravens’, in various folk song clubs in England in the 1960’s. Child prints it in Volume One of his collection and includes a second version and also various fragments. The version I sing is number 26 and is from a recording of Ray Fisher, known as ‘The Twa Corbies’.

Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship
Child No. 46. Child prints five versions of this song. It was first printed in Falkirk in 1785 in ‘The New British Songster’. Both Seamus Ennis and Joe Heaney sang this song and I often heard it at parties and sessions in Dublin in the early sixties. The version I sing is in the Child Collection Volume One, but I learned it in London from a tape recording (details now forgotten.)

The Dowie Dens of Yarrow (The Braes of Yarrow)
Child No. 214. First published in ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ in 1803. I heard this great ballad sung by Ewan McColl at his ‘Singers’ Club’ in London in the sixties. It was a very popular item for many singers ‘across the water’, but McColl really did it justice. Child prints eight versions in Volume Four.

Henry Martin
Child No. 250. Four versions of this song exist in Volume Four. It is believed to be a version of an older song called ‘Andrew Barton’. Child suggests it could be related to the Robin Hood type heroic ballad. Again, I heard it on numerous occassions around England in the sixties and it is still a popular song there. I have only learned it very recently and could remember the air from the past.

Rose Mary Fair (The Elfin Knight)
Child No. 2 (Duet – Tim and Aileen). Both Tim and Aileen knew this song from the singing of Frank Harte, Dublin and Liz Jeffries, Wexford and picked this as a song to learn and sing together for the ‘Man, Woman and Child’ project. A man and woman ask each other to do a series of seemingly impossible tasks. Also known as ‘Whittingham Fair’, this version is tiny in comparison with the Elfin Knight. It is also known as ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Lady Isabel’ and ‘The Elf Knight’.
Audio Recordings from the Concert 
Recorded by Shane Mooney and Steven Bracken (S+S Studios). Produced by Michael Fortune.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.

Aileen Lambert and Tim Lyons

National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Wednesday 18th of December 2013

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