Information on John’s Songs

Child 39. Dating from at least the mid 16th century, this Scottish border ballad combines a range of other-worldly elements. The young hero of the title, having been captured by the elfin queen and forced to live in the kingdom of the elves, fearing that he will be used to pay the tithe owing to hell, makes his escape on Halloween freed by his true love’s courage. My father sang two versions. The long one (57 verses and 29 minutes) that he collected in America and this shorter one that he learned in 1965 from his good friend, the wonderful English folk singer A.L. Lloyd.

Arooriah (The Ketch in the Creel)
Child 281. This was a great favourite of my granduncle Michael Gallagher, who grew up in the townland of Rushen in Co. Donegal but who lived for over thirty years in Glasgow, where he worked as a cobbler. It is a night visitation song in which the young lovers’ attempts to get together end in humorous disaster. Mick recorded it for the BBC as far back as the early 1950s and his version was broadcast on their hugely popular radio show As I Roved Out soon after. Subsequently versions were recorded by everyone from Ewan McColl to Paul Brady and even the Bothy Band.

Barbara Ellen
Child 84. This is the only song of the five that I have chosen that has not already been sung by some previous member of my family. It is another very old song, dating from at least the middle of the 17th century and it is one of the most widely sung folk songs in the English-speaking world. There are literally hundreds of versions of it. I picked up this slightly unusual version from the singing of Thomas Baynes as it appears on a recording by the American collector Diane Hamilton, who first came to Ireland back in 1955.

What Brought the Blood (Edward) 
Child 13. Another enormously popular ballad of which there are scores of versions known from all over Ireland, Britain and North America. In fact the root, or central motif, of it can be found right throughout Scandinavia and, of course, in Irish-language songs. My father learned this particular version from the Wexford traveller Paddy Doran in 1953 or ’54. It is a murder song and in many versions one brother has killed another, with their mother being blamed for what has happened. In this case there is no allusion to a brother being involved and there is only a throw-away reference to ‘mother’s treachery’.

The Lowlands of Holland 
Child 92. This was one of my granny’s (Brigid Tunney nee Gallagher) favourite songs. She learned it not from the Gallaghers but from her mother’s people, the Meehan family of Tamur in Donegal and her treatment bears all the hallmarks of their style. (Of course other verses are known that could be added to make ‘a more complete story’ but the singers of earlier generations were not interested in them!) It was also one of my father’s favourites and he added much that I try to capture in my own singing of it. Incidentally, he taught it to a range of notable performers, including the peerless Dolores Keane.

Information on Brigid’s Songs

Lord Donegal 
Child 75. ‘Lord Donegal’ is a version of ‘Lord Lovel’. Child collected ten versions of the song. The earliest documented version of the ballad, ‘The Ballad of Lady Hounsibelle and Lord Lovel’ goes back to 1765. Child maintained that the ballad was made up of several other ballads. The common motif of the rose and the briar can be found at the end of the ballad. I learned the song from the singing of Sarah and Rita Keane.

Bonnie George Campbell 
Child 210. I found this little ballad in a book of my father’s called 101 Scottish Songs. In Child’s collection, it is known as Bonnie James Campbell. The ballad is probably a lament for either Archibald or James Campbell who died in the battle of Glenlivet in 1594. Some believe the ballad refers to the murder of Sir John Campbell in 1591. Duncan Williamson sang a version of the song where Campbell is killed by a Mac Donald.

Love Henry  
Child 68. ‘Love Henry’ and ‘Henry Lee’ are American versions of ‘Young Hunting’. Cecil Sharp collected ‘Love Henry’ in September 1916 from Mrs. Orilla Keaton in Virginia. Peggy Seeger and Bob Dylan have both recorded ‘Love Henry’. It is a song of murder by a jilted over. My version comes from Nellie O Donnell, an American lady who visited my home sometime in the 70’s. My father recorded her and it was from this recording that I learned the song.

The Dark Eyed Gypsy
Child 200. Child believed the history behind this ballad was the expulsion of the gypsies from Scotland by Act of Parliament in 1609 and the abduction by the gypsies of Lady Cassilis, her subsequent return home and the hanging of the gypsies involved. In a number of versions of the ballad, seven gypsies are hung. The version I sing has a happier ending with the lady running away with the gypsy and choosing to stay with him despite her husband’s pleading. This ballad is known under various titles such as ‘The Wraggle Taggle Gypsy’, and ‘Johnny Faa’. Child collected it as ‘The Gypsy Laddie’. I learned the song from the singing of Cathal Mc Connell.

The Cherry Tree Carol 
Child 54. This carol has its origin in chapter 20 of the Pseudo-Matthew’s gospel. The story tells of Mary and Joseph on their way to Egypt from Bethlehem. Mary rests under a palm tree and asks Joseph to get her some fruit from the tree. Joseph is surprised she wants fruit when they are more in need of water. Then Jesus bids the tree to bow down so his mother may have fruit. The palm tree bows to Mary so she can eat. There are several versions of the carol, some of them recounting the story of the tree only, others predicting the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a very popular carol and can be found in the Folk Songs of the Kentucky Mountains. It has been recorded by many artists, including Jean Ritchie, Joan Baez, the Clancy Brothers and Sting,
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.

Brigid Tunney and John Tunney

National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Wednesday 4th of December 2013

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