Concert Programme
Fine Flowers in the Valley (Jim MacFarland, Child No. 20) 
Geordie (Grace Toland, Child No. 209) 
The Prickly Bush (Jim MacFarland, Child No. 95) 
Hughie the Graham (Jim MacFarland, Child No. 191) 
Sir Eglamore (Grace Toland, Child No. 18) 
The Holland Handkerchief (Grace Toland, Child No. 272) 
False Lover John (Jim MacFarland, Child No. 4) 
Willie O’ Winsbury (Jim MacFarland, Child No. 100) 
A Bhean Udaí Thall (Grace Toland, Child No. 10) 
Mary Hamilton (Grace Toland, Child No. 173) 
The False Fly (Jim MacFarland and Grace Toland, Child No. 3) 

Information on Jim’s Songs

Fine Flowers in the Valley (The Cruel Mother) - Child #20
A woman gives birth to one or two illegitimate children (usually sons) in the woods, kills them and buries them. Later she sees a child/children playing and says that if they were hers, she would dress them in fine garments and take care of them. The children tell her that when they were hers she did not dress them so, but murdered them instead.Fine Flowers in the Valley is the Scottish version and according to Child, two fragments of this ballad appear in the last quarter of the 18th century. Other variants include Carlisle Hall, The Rose of Malinde, The Ministers Daughter of New York and The Lady from Lee. This song is widely collected in Britain and Ireland and in North America. The Cruel Mother has clearly struck a chord with singers over a number of generations. I first heard it back in 1969 from Liam Mc Kervey (a fine singer) from Ballymena, Co Antrim.

The Prickly Bush (The Maid Freed from the Gallows) - Child #95
Although this ballads exists in many forms, all versions recount a similar story. A maiden about to be hanged pleads with the hangman to wait for the arrival of someone who may bribe him. The first is her father, then mother, sister, and brother who all have come to see her hang. The last person is her true love and has brought gold to save her. Derry Goal, a variant of the ballad, was sung around Ulster in the late sixties - I first heard it sung by Sarah Makem. This ballad is known throughout all of Europe (fifty versions in Finland alone). Variants and alternate titles include The Maid Freed from the Gallows, and Hangman Hangman. No date is given for the ballad; it is said to be “ancient”.

Hughie the Graham (Hughie Grame) - Child #191
In 1592, the Grahams were one of the greatest clans on the English Scottish border. Child states that the legend behind this ballad is that Robert Aldridge (Bishop of Carlisle) seduces Hughie Graham's wife. In revenge Graham stages a raid and steals his mare and is pursued and brought back to Carlisle to be convicted and hanged. Despite many pleas for clemency the sentence was carried out thus the last obstacle to the Bishop’s pleasure was removed. Some of the Grahams were expelled from the border area and forced to move to Ulster. The story goes that they changed their name to “Maharg” (Graham spelt backwards) then sneaked back to their homes in Britain using their new name. The surname ”Maharg” still exists in North Antrim. I heard this ballad from Belfast singer Wallis Hood in 1972 and he took it from the recording by Ewan MacColl.

False Lover John (Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight) - Child #4
The heroine is the King’s daughter and the knight is an elf who has murdered seven kings’ daughters and Magdalene (Lady Isabel) is to be the eight. The ballad appears in several collections and the earliest is Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs 1776. I first heard this song from the great singer Corney Mc Daid (RIP) from Buncrana, Co. Donegal. He named it False Lover John and the ballad is known throughout Britain and Ireland as well as Northern Europe. A variant also appears in the Appalachians Mountains, USA as Pretty Polly. Corney said he got the song from a street singer (possibly a traveller). It may also have been brought back from Scotland by neighbours who worked the harvest there each year.

Willie O’ Winsbury - Child #100
A king is away for a long time. His daughter becomes pregnant by the hero, William or Thomas. The king threatens to hang him but is struck by his beauty and offers him the heroine and gold. The hero accepts the lady but declares that he has both gold and lands enough of his own. The Traditional Ballad Index dates the ballad to at least 1775. I first heard this ballad from a recording by Sweeney's Men in 1968 and in the last few decades it's been recorded by more than 20 different artists. The most interesting version is by Robert Cinnamond from Co Antrim, recorded by Diane Hamilton around 1961. It was included in the 1975 Topic LP You Rambling Boys of Pleasure with the title The Rich Shipowner's Daughter. It is also known as Tom the Barber, Sir (Lord) Thomas of Winsbury, and John Barbour.

Information on Grace’s Songs

A Bhean Udaí Thall (The Twa Sisters) - Child #10
This is an Irish language version of a widely known murder ballad, telling the story of a girl drowned by her own
sister. While by the sea or a river, the older, jealous sister pushes the younger one in and refuses to pull her out. A
Bhean Udai Thall is a simple version of the song in the form of a conversation between the two sisters, the younger
pleading for her life, telling of her pregnancy and offering to exchange places with the older sister if she pulls her out,
offering the incentive of a house with bright rooms, nice beds and glass windows. In other versions, the drowned
sister floats ashore as an instrument and when played reveals the murder. Versions of the song are known across
Scotland, England, the USA and Ireland, with the ‘sisterly’ theme itself being commonly known in northern European countries. A 1656 broadside entitled The Miller and the King's Daughter is the first evidence of the song in print, with
Francis Child listing 21 variants in his collection. While widely recorded, I was taught this version of the song by
Teresa Doohan, from Gortahork in Co. Donegal and have always loved the haunting melody that echoes the sinister

Sir Eglamore (Sir Lionel) - Child #18
Collating and researching fragments, the Sir Eglamore & Sir Lionel ballads are linked together by Child based on the similarity in theme and the medieval origins of the story, rather than a direct traceable association. The basic story is of a knight fighting a dragon/boar to save his beloved. The version I have chosen only recounts the fight between the dragon and the knight and is one of the many versions that that exist from 17th century sources such as Samuel Rowlands (1615), Playford (1686) and D’Urfey (1719-20). My introduction to the song lies very much in the 21st century - a YouTube video of Kate Rusby which I found while researching songs for this project and subsequently learned.

Mary Hamilton - Child #173
This is one of the most moving ballads that I have ever learned and regardless of the historical source, this first person confession by a mother of the killing of her own child, is a truly poignant story. Was Mary Hamilton a lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century, or a maid of honour to Empress Catherine in Russia in 1719? A Scottish ballad, it is sung not only by our Scottish cousins, but in Ireland, the USA and has been recorded by, among others, Joan Baez. It has reached literary fame as the source for Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. I learned this song from the late Dan McGonigle, from the Isle of Doagh in Inishowen, Co. Donegal, a singer whose songs, style and time I spent with him, continues to influence why and how I sing.

Geordie - Child #209
Another allegedly historical ballad, the fate of Geordie has been documented from the early 17th century Straloch manuscript to Buchan's Ancient Ballads and Songs, published in 1828. There are many suggestions as to the identity of Geordie: Sir George Gordon of Gight (1512-1562), Fourth Earl of Huntley, whose wife Lady Ann went to Edinburgh to plead for his life and having successfully obtained his release was rewarded by being killed by him? Maybe he was George Gordon, the 6th Earl, George Luklie or George Stoole. But as with many ballads, perhaps there is a version of this song for each one of these characters, as the skeleton of the song is adapted to a local story. My introduction to this song was a Joan Baez LP which was owned and played by my mother Isabel. When I went to learn this song for the Project, the words were as familiar as a poem learned at school.

The Holland Handkerchief (The Suffolk Miracle) - Child #272
The course of true love, Romeo & Juliet, all are echoed in this otherworldly love ballad. A young couple from different sides of the track are kept apart by their parents, until late one night she is woken by her suitor and asked to return with him to her parents’ house. During the journey home, he complains of a headache and she kisses and wraps his head in her holland handkerchief. On arriving home, she goes to meet her parents while her beloved sees to the horses. The greeting reveals that the young man has been dead for nine months, and to prove the point they visit the graveyard where is buried ... but he has a holland handkerchief tied around his headThis love song has been in print on broadsides in England since the 17th century and is well known among traditional singers in Ireland. I learned this version of the The Holland Handkerchief from the singing of Michael McGonigle (James Eoghain) from Cloontagh, Clonmany in the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal. While in his company, this singer of enormous intensity has conjured up a truly vivid picture of the young lovers and the sadness of the story.

The False Fly (The Fause Knight Upon the Road) - Child #3
In the form of a conversation between a child and a knight, the young person successfully dodges the ‘devil in disguise’ by carefully answering all the riddles posed. A song reputedly of Scottish origin it has travelled with the diaspora to Nova Scotia, the Appalachians and Indiana. William Motherwell was the first known person to document the song in Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern published in 1827 and it has also appeared in nursery rhyme collections such as Alfred Moffat’s Fifty Traditional Scottish Nursery Rhymes in 1933. Jim & I chose this song from the recording made by our good friend, Dublin singers, Barry Gleeson. Under the title ‘False False Fly’ it can be heard on the CD Path Across the Ocean which was released in 1995.
Audio Recordings from the Concert 
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.

Grace Toland and Jim MacFarland

National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Wednesday 26th of November 2014

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