21 Nov

The Peelers of Ballinamore

Oh Tim Daly’s* me name, from Leinster I came,
To the sweet County Leitrim my fortune to try,
To earn a living by cheerfully singing,
The praises of Erin and will ’til I die,
I was always as willing for to spend a shilling,
As any man living ’round the Irish shore,
And I ne’er was molested by police or peelers,
Until I arrived in Ballinamore.

Ta lara-lol lolda-dol lolda-dol lolda-dol
Tara-lol lolda-dol lolda-dol day

It happened one evening when market was over,
‘Twas into an alehouse I chanced for to pop,
I rapped on the counter and called for the waiter,
To bring me a glass of the best in the shop,
She showed me a room where there was a large table,
I called for good liquor and drank it galore,
And I cared not a damn for those poor pimping peelers,
That watched all the topers of Ballinamore.

That evening I spent with no cause to repent,
While drinking of liquor that was pure and strong,
And whenever the waiter she chanced to delay me,
I kept myself cheered by the verse of a song.

Oh, they marched me along by the verse of my song,
And it’s in prison strong they did me secure,
I had nothing to cheer me, no friend to come near me,
I lay like a dog with a wisp on the floor,
I lay myself down for to take a slumber,
But when I awoke sure me sides they were sore,
Which cause me to curse John Briggs and his lodgings,
And likewise the peelers of Ballinamore.

’Twas early next morning John Briggs gave me warning,
That I must be ready at the hour of ten,
And I should appear before Mr. Broder,
He got the directions from a policeman,
The sergeant he come with two or three others,
They marched me a prisoner straightway through the town,
And you’d think I had killed all their fathers and mothers,
And fought to overturn the crown.

Long life to the chief, he did liberate me,
To hold me for drinking they thought it not fair,
Since peelers and parsons and preachers and doctors,
They all take a drop to banish dull care,
Now while I’m serenading ’round this Irish nation
Each alehouse and tavern I chance for to roar,
And I’ll toast to the members of those lads and the lassies,
That dance ’round the borders of Ballinamore.

In 2003, singer and scholar Dan Milner produced a great CD titled Irish Songs from Old New England (Folk-Legacy Records) that featured 14 different singers doing Irish songs found in the Flanders Ballad collection. I highly recommend this recording to anyone interested in the Irish influence in the woods song tradition! (you might have to search Ebay or Amazon for a used copy unfortunately)

On that CD, the great County Antrim singer Len Graham does this very rare broadside-type ballad “The Peelers of Ballinamore.” The source singer for the song was J. J. Downs of West Peru, New York who sang the song for the Flanders collection in 1944. Downs said he learned it from an uncle who came from Ireland. Peru, NY is on the western shore of Lake Champlain in far northern New York state. The above transcription is my own from the Downs recording which you can find on archive.org.

“Peeler” was once a common slang term for a police constable. The term originated with Sir Robert Peel who established the Metropolitan Police in London in the 1829. The notes to Irish Songs from Old New England tell us that a “toper” is equivalent to a tippler (a habitual drinker of alcohol).

*The name at the start of the song is inaudible in the Flanders recording but Len Graham sings “Tim Daly.” I’m not sure if Len added that detail of if perhaps a manuscript version was written down by Flanders with the name in place.

20 Nov

May Morning

As I walked out of a May morning for to hear the birds sing sweet,
I laid my back against a little parlor door for to hear two lovers meet,
For to hear what they might say,
That I might know a little more of the play, before they went away,
That I might know a little more of the play, before they went away.

Come-a set you down upon my knee ’til I speak one word to thee,
For it’s full three quarters of a year or more since I spoke one word to thee,
For it’s full three quarters of a year or more since I spoke one word to thee.

Oh I shant sit down, I won’t sit down for I have not a moment of time,
And besides you have got a true lover and your heart is no, not mine,
And besides you have got a true lover and your heart is no, not mine.

Oh it’s hard to believe what an old man says, their [unintelligible]are two tongues,
But much less to believe what a young man says, he purports on to anyone,
But much less to believe what a young man says, he purports on to anyone.

But if I was to live for a year or more and God to grant my grace,
I would buy me a bottle of dissembling water for to wash off her flattering face,
I would buy me a bottle of dissembling water for to wash off her flattering face.

This month we have a beautiful and unique variant of a well-travelled song that many will no doubt recognize. Sometimes called “As I Roved Out” or “The False Young Man,” many versions include the “T stands for Thomas/P stands for Paddy” verse that is missing here. The above is my own transcription based on two recordings made in 1935 and 1942 of singer Thomas Armstrong of Mooers Forks, New York. Mooers Forks is in the far northeastern corner of the state near Lake Champlain and just two miles from the border with Quebec. You can hear the recording of Armstrong (the earlier recording is labeled “Two Lovers Meet”) via the digitized Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org.

Armstrong’s first verse is longer than the others and after that he uses the first two lines of melody only, repeating the second line for the repeated text.

30 Apr

The Diamond of Derry

Oh the Diamond of Derry looks dismal today,
Since my true love Jimmy has gone far away,
He has gone to old England, strange ladies to see,
May the heavens protect him, bring him safe home to me.

Oh Jimmie, lovely Jimmie, do you remember the days,
When you rapped on my window, and we rode far away,
Over hills and green mountains, together we rode,
Now you’ve gone and left me, with my heart filled with woe.

The first time we met was in yonder green wood,
Where pinks and primroses grew around where we stood,
With your arms locked around me to protect me from the wind,
It was there you first deluded this young heart of mine.

The next time that we courted, you very well know,
Twas down in your father’s garden in the county Tyrone,
You told me you loved me above all womankind,
Pray tell me the reason that you’ve changed your mind,

If I told you I loved you, it was mean and in jest,
For I never intended to make you my best,
I never intended to make you my wife,
No neither will I, all the days of my life.

So  be gone false-hearted young man, I have no more to say
But perhaps you and I may be judged the same day,
And the time it will come love, when rewarded you’ll be,
For false vows and broken promises that you made unto me

This month’s song comes from Belle Luther Richards of Colebrook, New Hampshire and was recorded by Marguerite Olney for the Flanders Ballad Collection (Middlebury, VT) in April 1942. You can listen to Richards’ singing of the song (she sings “Diamonds of Derry”) via the rich digitized Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org. The collection includes other versions of the song, aslso known as “The False Promise,” from Cadyville, NY and Montpelier, VT. It appears also in the repertoires of “Yankee” John Galusha (Minerva, NY) and Carrie Grover (Gorham, ME). I borrowed a few lines from these other versions but the above is primarily the Richards version.

It is a variant of a song popularized in Ireland by the great Paddy Tunney and hence performed by Dolores Keane and others. Tunney called it “Johnny, Lovely Johnny” and most Irish versions begin “The high walls of Derry” which is also often given as the song’s title.

The New England versions generally begin “The diamonds of (the) Derry.” County Derry song collector Sam Henry, in his notes to another song, “Belfast Mountains,” writes that “The Belfast Mountains (Cave Hill) were supposed to contain diamonds which shone at night. They were often referred to in the ballads of the period [the 1800s].” Some have assumed that this is what is meant by “diamonds of Derry” in this song. However, Derry Town has, in addition to its 17th century high walls and gates (from which the céilí dance takes its name), a prominent central Diamond (town square) of the same vintage. One commenter on the Mudcat song forum thought this a logical origin for the song’s first line and that makes good sense to me. For that reason, I dropped the plural in the above.

Either way, it’s a fascinating variation on a well-loved song. Richards’ melody is quite different from the commonly used Tunney air and suits the song’s sad story well.