Mudcat Café message #3886783 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3886783
Posted By: Jim Carroll
04-Nov-17 - 03:00 PM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
'Tom?s ? Canainn' of the group, Na Fili was the real expert on these 'hedge school' songs
What little I know of them came from a talk he once gave at Loughborough
What gives this particular song its traditional flavour is the fact that it is a 'broken token' song, where a soldier or sailor returns from the wars and chats up a former lover who does not recognise him -
He produces half ring they had bronken in two on his departure to prove his identity
I never understood how you could break a gold ring in two and always pictured a feller wandering around the countryside looking for women with a hacksaw hanging from his belt, until Pat came up with this fascinating 'insider information'. I've never seen it referenced elsewhere
Jim Carroll

"Lady in Her Father's Garden - Peggy McMahon undated
See also: 'Lady in Her Father's Garden' Tom Lenihan Recorded at singer's home, July 1980
This is probably one of the most popular of all the 'broken token' songs, in which parting lovers are said to break a ring in two, each half being kept by the man and woman. At their reunion, the man produces his half as a proof of his identity.
Robert Chambers, in his Book of Days, 1862-1864, describes a betrothal custom using a 'gimmal' or linked ring:
'Made with a double and sometimes with a triple link, which turned upon a pivot, it could shut up into one solid ring... It was customary to break these rings asunder at the betrothal which was ratified in a solemn manner over the Holy Bible, and sometimes in the presence of a witness, when the man and woman broke away the upper and lower rings from the central one, which the witness retained. When the marriage con?tract was fulfilled at the altar, the three portions of the ring were again united, and the ring used in the ceremony'.


The custom of exchanging rings as a promise of fidelity lasted well into the nineteenth century in Britain and was part of the plot of Thomas Hardy?s 'Far From The Madding Crowd'.
These 'Broken Token' songs often end with the woman flinging herself into the returned lover's arms and welcoming him back
Tipperary Travelling woman, Mary Delaney who also sang it for us, knew it differently and had the suitor even more firmly rejected:

"For it's seven years brings an alteration,
And seven more brings a big change to me,
Oh, go home young man, choose another sweetheart,
Your serving maid I'm not here to be."

Ref: The Book of Days, Robert Chambers, W & R Chambers, 1863-64.
Other CDs: Sarah Anne O'Neill - Topic TSCD660; Daisy Chapman - MTCD 308; Maggie Murphy - Veteran VT134CD."