Concert Programme
1.	 The False Lover Won Back (Róisín Gaffney, Child No 218)
2.	 Lord Donegal (Fergus Russell, Child No 75)
3.	 The Beggarman (Róisín Gaffney, Child No 280)
4.	 Two Sisters (Róisín Gaffney, Child No 10)
5.	 The Tricoloured House (Fergus Russell, Child No 2)
6.	 Buried in Kilkenny (Fergus Russell, Child No 12)
7.	 Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender (Róisín Gaffney, Child No 73)
8.	 Bonnie George Campbell (Róisín Gaffney with her daughter Doireann Coady, Child No 210)                                      
9.	 Lord Baker (Fergus Russell, Child No 53) 
10. Unquiet Grave (Fergus Russell, Child No 78)
11. Shickered As Can Be (Fergus Russell and Róisín Gaffney, Child No 274)             

Information on Róisín’s Songs

The False Lover Won Back - Child #218
Francis Child printed two versions of this ballad in Volume IV of  The English and Scottish Popular Ballads  with a reference to variations in Peter Buchan’s Ballads and Songs of North Scotland. My version is a combination of Child’s version with a verse from Buchan’s variations. I first came across the ballad from the singing of Jimmy Hutchinson from South Uist. The young woman in this song is  not easily put down and follows her old love from town to town. He ends with saying:

“O wae be to your bonnie face and your two blinkin eyes,
and wae be to your rosy cheeks they’ve stolen this heart of mine.” 

The Beggarman (The Beggar Laddie) - Child #280
A pretended beggar, who is for the time acting, induces a young woman of good standing to follow him as his beggar lassie. Seven years later she returns the finest lady in all Scotland. Child printed five versions of this song. Topic Records issued a version sung by Maggie and Sarah Chambers of County Fermanagh on the LP The Child Ballads which is almost similar to the version I sing here. I sang this song with my sister Geraldine in the early years of the Góilín Singers Club over thirty years ago!

Two Sisters (The Twa Sisters) - Child #10
Child offers us a welter of killings, drownings, stabbings and any amount of hatred, treachery and cruelty - all to be found in the ballad of the Two Sisters and in the ballad of Lord Thomas and Fair Annie. A harper finds the body of a young woman. He makes a harp of her breast bone. He takes the harp to her father’s hall and there it begins to play alone. The notion of a singing harp unfolding a secret is a motif used in song and story since medieval times. Versions of this song abound from Scandinavia to the Balkans. I learned this version from the Frankie Armstrong LP Lovely On The Water.

Lord Thomas and Fair Annie (Lord Thomas and Fair Annet) - Child No.73
Child thought the Scottish version of this ballad included in Bishops Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry was one of the most beautiful of our ballads. Its known under various titles: Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender, Lord Thomas and Fair Annet, The Brown Girl. The ballad involves the perennial theme of the love triangle and the tale ends gruesomely with the death of all three lovers. Child collected eight versions in Scotland. AL Lloyd says “the majority of  Child’s selection represents but one stage of the ballad, a middle stage lying between the old form of epic song and the newer form of domestic ballad, street song and the like which began to show itself with the invention of printing.” Green is considered unfortunate in love matters hence the ref to dowie green.

“I’ll not put on the grisly black ,nor yet the dowie green,
But I’ll put on a scarlet robe ,to shine like any queen.”

Bonnie George Campbell (Bonnie James Campbell) - Child No. 210
The poignancy of the refrain drew me towards this ballad when first I heard it. It was a song gone into the recesses of my memory until I heard Brigid Tunney sing a fine version in this library last December. In Motherwell’s Minstrelsy it says “this ballad is probably a lament for one of the adherents of the House of Argyle who fell in the Battle of Glenlivet, stricken on Thursday, the third of October 1594. The ballad offers slight historical data and this supposition is contested given that many Campbells were killed in battle before and after 1594. 

Information on Fergus’s Songs

Lord Donegal (Lord Lovel) - Child #75
I first heard this ballad in the early 1950’s. The singer was a Traveller woman that made a living telling fortunes and selling paper flowers door to door. My mother didn’t believe in the fortunes, so the woman stood at the doorstep and sang a version of the story of Lord Lovel to her. It had a powerful effect on me because almost 60 years later I can still hear and see her in my mind’s eye. The version I sing I learned from a recording of sisters Sarah and Rita Keane from Tuam in Galway.

The Tri-coloured House (The Elfin Knight) - Child #2
The earliest forms of Child 2 tell how the Elphin Knight is lured by the spell of a young temptress. He spurns her as too young and sets her some impossible tasks to complete before he will consent to bed her. She reacts by giving him some equally impossible jobs to do. In the end the Elfin Knight declares that he is a married man with children. The temptress in a fit of pique, removes the spell and our hero vanishes in a puff of smoke. Through time the sexual aspects of the original story have been expunged and the song nowadays consists merely of the tasks themselves. I learned this song from the singing of Mary Kate McDonagh, a settled Traveller from Mohill, Co. Leitrim.

Buried in Kilkenny (Lord Randal) - Child #12
Lord Randall was a filthy rich layabout. He was a misogynistic, sexist, elitist, whinger with zero culinary skills and he couldn’t even make his own bed - but he wasn’t all to blame for he came from an extremely dysfunctional family. The missus sent him off for a day out “hunting” with a lunchbox full of dodgy sambos and when he arrives back home, sick as a parrot and plotting revenge, all his ma is concerned about is the bloody will and who’s going to get what. His repeated pleas for a bed are totally ignored and she’s so preoccupied with the funeral arrangements that she never thinks to call a doctor. What sort of a mother is that? God help her poor grandkids, that’s all I can say, what chance have those poor innocent little mites got? Learned from the singing of Mary Delaney, an Irish Traveller from Tipperary.

Lord Baker (Young Beichan) - Child #53
John Reilly was a settled Traveller from Boyle. He was recorded by Tom Munnelly, a 21yr old song collector in 1965. Many of the songs that Tom collected from John Reilly were ancient and rare ballads that had been passed down orally through many generations of his family going back for hundreds of years. The songs that Tom collected caused an upsurge of interest in the Child ballads and inspired traditional singers and groups to take a renewed interest in these ancient songs. Planxty and Christy Moore took these ballads and breathed new life into them. They gave us Well Below The Valley (Child 21), Raggle Taggle Gypsy (Child 200) and Lord Baker (Child 53) all learned from the singing of John Reilly. To hear these wonderful songs in the raw get a copy of John Reilly’s The Bonny Green Tree and take a journey to the heart’s core of human culture.

The Unquiet Grave (The Unquiet Grave) - Child #78
This ballad is reputed to date back to 1400 or so. A young man’s lover dies and in his grief he wishes that he also would die. Three mediaeval superstitions and taboos are alluded to in the song; If you sleep on the grave of a deceased person from All Souls’ Day to the following All Saints’ Day (twelve month and a day) that the corpse will speak to you from the grave; Excessive grief disturbs the sleep of the dead; Should you kiss a corpse on the lips your own death will soon follow. When his wish to speak to his lover comes to pass she very wisely tells him to cut out the crap and get a life. I got this song from Tom Crean and from the singing of Luke Kelly; two great singers sadly gone.

Shickered as Can Be (Our Goodman) - Child #274
How a Yiddish word meaning drunk came into the Australian lexicon I have no idea, but this antipodean's version of Our Goodman is sung far and wide in Australia and leaves nobody in any doubt as to the meaning of the word ‘shickered’. The Dubliners’ recording of Seven Drunken Nights was released in 1969 and I guess that it’s the only time that a Child ballad made it to the top spot in the Irish charts. It is an ancient song and versions exist from every corner of the English-speaking world. The story is universal; a drunk arrives home night after night to find signs that his wife has taken a lover. The wife berates him as a sot, dismisses his observations and endeavours to bamboozle him with far-fetched explanations that he doesn’t really buy. There are many, bawdy, coarse, vulgar, rude and witty verses that are occasionally appended to the end of this ballad, but as we don’t want to get barred from The National Library, Róisín and I will not go there.
Audio Recordings from the Concert 
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.

Róisín Gaffney and Fergus Russell

National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Wednesday 17th of December 2014

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