20 Jun

Moorlough Mary

When first I saw my dear Moorlough Mary,
 ’Twas in a valley in sweet Strabane,
Her smiling countenance was so enticing,
All other females she would tramp on,
Her smiling glances bruised my senses,
No rest will I find neither night nor day,
In my silent slumber, I’ll wake in wonder,
Crying “Moorlough Mary, won’t you come away?”

Was I a man of good education,
Or Erin’s Isle all at my command,
I’d lay my head on your seething bosom,
In bands of wedlock, you’d join my hand,
I’d entertain you both morning and evening,
In robes I’d dress both neat and gay,
With kisses sweet, love, I would embrace you,
Kind Moorlough Mary, won’t you come away?

I’ll away, I’ll away to some lonely valley,
Where recreation is in full bloom,
Where the rivers mourning and salmon sporting,
Each sound and echo brings something new,
Where the thrush and blackbird is joined in chorus,
The notes melodious on each stream bound,
I would sit and sing ’til my heart’s contented,
Dear Moorlough Mary, if you was with me now.

I’ll press my cheese while my mules* are teased,
I’ll milk my ewes by the eve of day,
I’ll sit and sleep ‘til my heart’s contented,
Crying “Moorlough Mary, won’t you come away?”

*most Irish versions refer to the teasing of “wools” here

This month we have a north woods version of the well-loved Irish song “Moorlough Mary” that some may know from the singing of Paddy Tunney, Cathal McConnell, Kevin Mitchell or other singers from the north of Ireland.  A version from Co. Tyrone appears in Sam Henry’s Songs of the People with the note that it was composed by Tyrone man James Devine around 1876. If Devine wrote it, it must have gained popularity quickly as it appears in the Bodleian Library’s broadside archive on a London-printed song sheet from before 1885.

New England song collector Helen Hartness Flanders collected two versions in northeastern Maine. Both field recordings are available online via the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org. The above melody is my transcription of what Charles Finnemore of Bridgewater, ME sang for Flanders in 1941.  Finnemore’s text was only a fragment so I transcribed the text based on Flanders’ 1942 recording of Jack McNally or Staceyville, ME. Both singers have wonderful traditional styles. McNally’s singing is more full-throated and intense where Finnemore is light and lilty. They are both great examples of Irish style singing transplanted to the North American woods.

20 Jun

Hiring Time

My chum and I we left Belfast for Dubilin town we took our way,
And all along the road was strewn with lads and lassies fair and gay,
‘Til drawing nigh one did I spy as she walked slowly by hersel,
And for fear the rain her clothes would stain I did display my umberel.

“Where are you going my pretty fair maid how far do you intend to stray?”
“To Antrim’s town sir I am bound for this they say is hiring day,
The clouds they do look something wet although the morning did look fine,
I fear my love” she then did say, “we won’t be in for hiring time.”

“O cheer your heart, my pretty maid for by and by the rain will pass,
And don’t be sad when with a lad, a roving baker from Belfast,
Then if you will accept a drink of whiskey, brandy, ale or wine,
We’ll have a drink and then be there to Antrim’s town by hiring time.”

She gave consent and in we went to an alehouse that stood by the way,
Glass after glass around did pass and we both forgot it was hiring day,
The clock struck three she smiled at me saying “Roving baker the fault is thine,
For the day’s far spent, night’s coming on besides I’m late for hiring time.”


We have another song this month from the wonderful repertoire of Charles Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine as recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders in the 1940s. I have found versions of “The Hiring Time” (aka “The Hiring Day” or “The Strabane Hiring Fair”) sung by Eddie Butcher of Co. Derry, Michael Gallagher and John Maguire of Co. Fermanagh and Dick Flynn of Co. Wexford (also Jimmy Grant). It seems to have been a well-travelled song in Ireland. In Scotland, it was “The Feeing Time” and versions show up printed on broadsides there as early as the 1840s.

Finnemore’s version leaves off the ending typically sung in Ireland where the couple gets married in the morning and lives happily ever after. Finnemore also sang the song twice for the Flanders collection and did a different second verse each time. His drifting second verse split well into two verses with some help from one of the Scottish broadsides I found online through the National Library of Scotland so this is what I have printed above. To hear Finnemore’s varying versions, visit the Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org.

The pattern of attending seasonal hiring fairs in Ireland and Scotland persisted in new forms in Maine and other north woods communities where lumber companies would send out agents, (“preachers of the gospel” one Michigan song calls them) each fall to hire enough men for their crew.

20 Jun

Jessie Monroe

As I went a-walking one fine summer’s morning,
Down by Leinster market I happened to go,
I spied a young female that pleas-ed my fancy,
I’ll tell you about her as far as I know.

Cho:     Right fol duh die ay, right fol duh die addee
             For she is my darling wherever I go.

I stepp-ed up to her saying “where are you going?
Who is your father I feign would know?”
“My father’s a blacksmith in the village of Leinster,
And I am his daughter young Jessie Monroe.”

I said now “miss Jessie it’s I have fine buildings,
They’ll all be on your side as well you know,
If you will consent for to lie in my arrums,
A lamb of my bosom young Jessie Monroe.”

Oh she said “Now young Johnny go away with your flattering,
For you have a sweetheart wherever you go,
Your buildings are haunted likewise they’re enchanted,
There’s a handsomer young man for Jessie Monroe.”

Oh I said “now miss Jessie since you’ve been so saucy,
Once more to my lovely Maggie I’ll go,
She’s ne’er quite so bonnie, she’s better for Johnny,
So go your way wandering young Jessie Monroe.”

We have a nice lilty story song of unrequited love this month that, again, comes from the wonderful repertoire of Charles Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine who was recorded by Helen Flanders. The 1941 recording of Finnemore singing “Jessie Monroe” is freely available to listen to online as part of the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org.

Finnemore’s melody here resembles the air sung in Ireland for the song “Bold Doherty.” Jessie Monroe (Munroe or Munro in other transcriptions) was collected from a handful of other singers around the Canadian Maritimes. Other versions have the place name Leicester instead of Leinster.