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Help: Origins of Carrickfergus

DigiTrad:
CARRICKFERGUS


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GUEST,Occi 05 Sep 17 - 05:27 AM
GUEST,Caroline 06 Feb 17 - 02:51 PM
Thompson 06 Feb 17 - 05:08 AM
Thompson 05 Feb 17 - 05:52 PM
Lighter 05 Feb 17 - 05:30 PM
meself 05 Feb 17 - 05:24 PM
GUEST,Caroline 05 Feb 17 - 04:44 PM
GUEST,Billy Finn 04 Jun 14 - 04:58 AM
GUEST,Billy Finn 31 May 14 - 02:46 PM
Amos 14 May 14 - 01:50 AM
GUEST,Seonaidh MacGriogair 13 May 14 - 07:07 AM
GUEST 08 Apr 14 - 09:38 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 15 Mar 14 - 08:31 AM
GUEST,michaelr 14 Mar 14 - 06:42 PM
GUEST 14 Mar 14 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 16 Dec 13 - 01:17 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Dec 13 - 09:14 PM
Lighter 15 Dec 13 - 07:31 PM
GUEST,JM 15 Dec 13 - 06:46 PM
GUEST 23 Sep 13 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 20 Sep 13 - 07:56 AM
GUEST 19 Sep 13 - 05:32 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 18 Sep 13 - 03:42 PM
GUEST,David Ash 18 Sep 13 - 02:14 PM
GUEST 10 Sep 13 - 10:49 AM
Harmonium Hero 06 Sep 13 - 03:42 PM
GUEST,Lighter 05 Sep 13 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,Chris Rust 04 Sep 13 - 09:42 AM
Felipa 25 Jul 13 - 03:30 AM
GUEST 24 Jul 13 - 01:43 PM
GUEST 20 Jul 13 - 03:00 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 17 Jul 13 - 04:11 PM
Lighter 17 Jul 13 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,Curmudgeon 17 Jul 13 - 10:44 AM
GUEST 13 Apr 13 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 03 Feb 13 - 02:49 PM
GUEST,Mah0ney 01 Feb 13 - 06:51 AM
Tattie Bogle 27 Aug 12 - 08:08 PM
Tattie Bogle 27 Aug 12 - 08:06 PM
meself 26 Aug 12 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 26 Aug 12 - 09:09 AM
Tattie Bogle 26 Aug 12 - 05:43 AM
GUEST 25 Aug 12 - 09:49 AM
mayomick 25 Aug 12 - 08:56 AM
GUEST 24 Aug 12 - 11:05 AM
GUEST 03 May 12 - 08:46 PM
georgeward 03 May 12 - 02:13 AM
GUEST,Lighter 02 May 12 - 08:21 PM
Big Al Whittle 02 May 12 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,Claire Broderick 02 May 12 - 04:41 PM
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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Occi
Date: 05 Sep 17 - 05:27 AM

I'm looking for the second half of the following verse

O, ta fhios ag einne nach ag ol a bhimse
Do dearbhis feinig i gcuinne na tigh
Seanna mna an tsaol seo do craithig go leir me
At cruinniu spre suas da glean inning.

My spelling may not be great and I find the modern method of writing dreadful. I was taught using the gothic form, so apologies for that.

Occi


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Caroline
Date: 06 Feb 17 - 02:51 PM

Thanks - I think she isn't so much attached to Van Morrison's specific lyrics as to the melody and the song in general, and I think I can leave out claiming to be drunk and seldom sober without making her unhappy... But I'll send her the verses I plan to sing ahead of time. I have to say, I watched the Celtic Woman version on YouTube and found it slightly absurd to be watching this harpist in a ball gown sweetly singing about being drunk today and seldom sober.... So I have tentatively got Nynia's verses 1, 2, 3, and 5 as my choice, pondering how/whether to deal with Bridget Vesey as I like the rest of that verse very much for the occasion.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Thompson
Date: 06 Feb 17 - 05:08 AM

Noticed a short thread on this in an Irish forum; apparently there's a little place called Ballygran or Ballyagran, near Carrickfergus. Doesn't appear on Google maps, but then neither do a lot of little places and old names, including my own area.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Thompson
Date: 05 Feb 17 - 05:52 PM

If we're taking the first two lines to have the meaning they normally would in the English usage of Ireland, they would be to say:

"I wish that I were [living] in Carrickfergus, other than the nights, which I would spend in Ballygrand".

Where Ballygrand might be is an open question; place names change, and places that were once prominent disappear into half-forgotten parish names; this happened especially during the Famine.

Songs also appear from localities where they have been locally famous for generations or centuries, and people poke at them with an air of distaste and say "No scholar has ever heard of you…"


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Feb 17 - 05:30 PM

Sounds like good advice to me.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: meself
Date: 05 Feb 17 - 05:24 PM

Caroline - There is no harm in patching together various verses that you would like to sing; it's what lots of people do. The thing to consider though is what your friend wants - if she is expecting a particular set of lyrics (e.g., the ones Van M. uses), then those are probably the ones you would want to use, under the circumstances.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Caroline
Date: 05 Feb 17 - 04:44 PM

WOW, just wandered through this thread because a friend wants me to sing Carrickfergus at her husband's funeral! I would like it to make some sense and not be silly in any way; I like the Carrickfergus/Ballygrant/Kilmeny connection and I like various lyrics posted above. Would the best thing be to sew together a collection of verses I think will work at a funeral? I don't want to just regurgitate Van Morrison's version if I can make something more suitable. If anyone is still here - thanks!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Billy Finn
Date: 04 Jun 14 - 04:58 AM

Just listened to Sean Cheast O Cathain`s version of Port na bPucai, courtesy of Peter Laban, and it is exactly the same as Sean O Riada`s version. So, Sean Cheaist played it before O Riada and the latter`s version is a reworking of the island original. Sean O Riada always said the original came from the Blasket islands and Seamus Heaney`s poem is just as relevant as ever. Probably, Carrickfergus was similar and one of Sean O Riada`s many achievements was to present these airs to the general public who weren`t familiar with them.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Billy Finn
Date: 31 May 14 - 02:46 PM

Just listened to the new Sean O Riada album of old piano and harpsichord tunes. Marvellous. The notes with it say that the melody for Do Bhi Bean Uasal were compsed by O Riada, based on an old version of Carrickfergus. Sean also plays a fascinmating version of Port na bPucai from 1971, which goes into jazzm with a menacing bass line. All the sources say that Sean Cheaist`s Blasket island version of Port na bPucai is different, so, it is most probable that Sean O Riada either added to the original or reworked it. Worth listening to. Not bad to have a traditional tune start with Sean O Riada.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Amos
Date: 14 May 14 - 01:50 AM

The Loudon Wainwright version, for interest and contrast, can be found here on YouTube.

ANd let me add my voice to those who celebrate this remarkable, articulate, persistent thread!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Seonaidh MacGriogair
Date: 13 May 14 - 07:07 AM

Interesting thread. My band have just recorded the song. We sang it at a gig the other night. At the end of the gig a guy from Islay told us that on the island there is a tradition that the song was written by one of the many Ulster men who came over to work in the marble quarry there. I could believe that. Just a continuation of an exchange of peoples and culture between Ulster and the Western Isles that has taken place for centuries.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Apr 14 - 09:38 PM

"Try searching Google Earth for Ballygrand, Ballygran, Ballygrat - you won't find any of them. These are made-up names."

I just did. There's a Ballygran estate, not far from Kilkenny.
I don't think it's of much relevance, however. The insistence that it's Ballygrant on Islay is kind of putting me off even considering it.
Anything is possible, but I think the point that "Ballygrand" didn't enter into the equation until the Clancys' version is quite valid.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 15 Mar 14 - 08:31 AM

'he' is obviously referring to O'Riada, who wrote or 're-worked' more than a few melodies to be 'let out into the tradition'. Port na bPucai among them (although the present form goes back to an air played by the Blasket fiddlers). There used to be a reference on Peadar O Riada's website to the knowing smiles he exchanged with his father whenever they heard Carrickfergus. There was also a reference to the royalties that could have been had for each time the tune was played on the radio (I am heavily paraphrasing from memory, the website changed years ago I believe). All in all enough to suspect Seán O Riada may have had some hand in the air of Carrickfergus as we know it today.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,michaelr
Date: 14 Mar 14 - 06:42 PM

the question of Sean O Riada`s input into the melody of Carrickfergus is all the more interesting when we consider that Terry Moylan thinks he may have composed the melody for Port na bPucai...

By "he" do you mean O Riada or Moylan?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Mar 14 - 03:45 PM

the question of Sean O Riada`s input into the melody of Carrickfergus is all the more interesting when we consider that Terry Moylan thinks he may have composed the melody for Port na bPucai, long considered an old Blasket island piece. Also, there is the mystery about the origins of the melody for Aisling Gheal which didn`t really emerge until O Riada was heard playing it on piano and harpsichord in the late 1960`s, although the words date back a bit.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 16 Dec 13 - 01:17 PM

I'm sorry we have no further opportunity to clarify the part played in the modern survival of this song by Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris. Suffice it to say that both were great actors and great characters with a breadth of wit, intellect and artistry that we are unlikely to see again; there'll be havoc in Heaven!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Dec 13 - 09:14 PM

I never understood why they didn't call in Peter to play Dumbledore when Richard Harris died.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Dec 13 - 07:31 PM

Folk singing at its best, goddammit!

Thanks for the link, JM.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,JM
Date: 15 Dec 13 - 06:46 PM

Good night Peter.
Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris sing Carrickfergus


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Sep 13 - 08:22 AM

Debating the origins of Carrickfergus is like trying to identify the original recipe for a stew after every visitor and passerby in the past two centuries has thrown ingredients into the pot. Give it up, boys, and just enjoy the lovely flavors! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 20 Sep 13 - 07:56 AM

Guest - if you would identify yourself I might be able to assess your right to assume your superiority of thought and knowledge.

Baile Cuain is not non existent, it is suggested as the nearest plausible Irish rendering of an obscure phonetic 'balle coun' which is given in the ballad sheet of the Young Sick Lover. However, I concede that there is no place with that name - unless you allow further anglicisation, say to 'Ballycoan' (given on the OS maps as 'Ballycowan' which is an even nearer phonetic) and which does exist, near Lisburn in Co Antrim, but at a fair distance from Carrickfergus.

I was not attempting to join the debate about location but rather to suggest what Peter O'Toole or another previous singer might have heard that turned into Ballygrine in Dominic Behan's mouth. This too is conjecture but I'd rather that than stick with the Clancy's arbitrary and nonsensical 'Only for nights in Ballygrand'.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Sep 13 - 05:32 PM

Attempting to connect the nonexistent "Ballygrand/Ballygrat/Ballygrind" with an equally nonexistent "Baile Cuain" is an exercise in groundless conjecture. Who can be certain that even The Young Sick Lover is an original source? O'Toole, Behan, Clancys, whatever, 'Carrickfergus' is already a mishmash of booze-tinged memories, inventions, borrowings and interpretations that - in its most common form today - leaves as many questions as answers.

Trying to manufacture an 'authentic' version out of disparate bits and pieces recalled by an actor is clearly impossible. The best that can be done with 'Carrickfergus' is to make it into a plausible story that satisfies the singer and engages the listener. Do it any way that pleases you, and don't get hung up on dubious 'authenticity.'


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 03:42 PM

The conjecture about 'Ballygrand' (2 posts above) is only tenable if one forgets that the name was probably provided by the Clancys who couldn't make out what Dominic Behan was singing. His first lines were - "I wish I was in Carrickfergus, In Elphin, Aoidtrim or Ballygrind," Of which the Clancys give the second half as 'Only for nights in Ballygrand".

This has led to column inches of conjecture. However, the only reliable placename (given in the Young Sick Lover) that corresponds in any way to Behan's Ballygrind is "Baile Cuain". So why not stick with that? It is plausible that it could be misheard, perhaps at a remove of several transmissions, as "Ballygrind". Baile Cuain, since it means Quiet Town could well be just the place for Chinese Whispers.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,David Ash
Date: 18 Sep 13 - 02:14 PM

Interesting that Carrickfergus is featured in the US television series Boardwalk Empire (series 1, episode 5, "Nights in Ballygran") in a scene set in the 1920s, and again just this week in the BBC's Peaky Blinders, set in 1919. So a song unknown before 1960 is mysteriously making its way backwards in time. If we want to know its origins, all we have to do is wait until box-set TV drama takes us back to when Fineen MacCarthy composed it after the Battle of Callann or some such.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 10:49 AM

Try searching Google Earth for Ballygrand, Ballygran, Ballygrat - you won't find any of them. These are made-up names.

Try Ballygrant - you'll find it easily. It's on Islay, a whisky-producing island in Scotland. This real Ballygrant is across "the deepest ocean" only 72 miles from Carrickfergus. "The water is wide" there, and turbulent; you "cannot swim over." It would take "a handsome boatman" to ferry someone from Carrickfergus to Ballygrant - yet Irish laborers commonly made that crossing in the 19th century to seek jobs in Scotland.

Ballygrant has a pit where "marble stones as black as ink" have been quarried for centuries. The Ballygrant mines have also produced silver, and the area is known to have gold seams as well.

The burial ground nearest Ballygrant is Kilmeny, one kilometer away.

Is it just coincidence that the real Carrickfergus and Ballygrant, separated by wide water and deep ocean, a quarry for marble "black as ink," silver and gold, and a burial ground that sounds something like
Kilkenny, all occur with a 75 mile radius?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 06 Sep 13 - 03:42 PM

Try googling Harris & O'Toole Carrickfergus YouTube. It won't add much to the discussion, but it's interesting. Nice fiddle backing; my impression is that he was playing and they happened along and joined in. I think I may be safe in assuming drink had been taken.
JK


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 05 Sep 13 - 12:25 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Chris Rust
Date: 04 Sep 13 - 09:42 AM

I've just worked through this thread and thanks to all the wonderful effort that has been put in.

My own interest is to find a version of the song that I feel OK about singing, "true to something" might be a simple way to put it without moving too far from the "current" version that people recognise. I'd like to summarise what I've found to be useful or interesting in this marathon discussion.

First there is little disagreement about the narrator, who has lived a sad life in the shadow of a lost love, maybe somebody they could not marry because of social differences and is now dying, possibly of alcoholic excess. It's not unusual that this person would like to travel in time and place to either where they were happy or where their lover is buried. "The Young Sick Lover" seems an obvious parent which is true to all that

I think there are two versions that appeal to me and both would make sense. First I was struck by California Will's contribution on 28 Jun 2007. He didn't seem to get any response, possibly because his style of writing was less respectful and more dogmatic than most others here. However the point that the statutes of Kilkenny prohibited marriage between two social groups, and poetically the idea that such statutes were "recorded" on the local stone all fits together nicely and makes sense of the rest of that verse as Will explains, even if the true history of the song is different.

However the idea that "she" is dead and recorded on a black marble headstone is also very appealing and probably easier for an audience to grasp.

Either way the distance between Kilkenny and Carrickfergus is not a problem but the idea that the woman is buried in Kilmeny works fine.

However nobody seems to have picked up Roy McLean's (20 Aug 09) reference to Ballygrat or Ballygrant as a small place near Carickfergus but over the lough, known to his Grandmother. That fits also with the alternative of a small peaceful village or harbour near Carrickfergus (Agus ne fadde, o en nat shoon balle coun). That was certainly what I was assuming from hearing the song and before I read any of this. I have always imagined the handsome boatman carrying the singer across a river or lough.

There's no problem with a story linking Ulster with the Western Isles of Scotland, the two have been very closely linked since the Stone Age partly because sea travel was greatly preferable to land travel before good roads were built.

But equally the words available could apply to somebody in exile, in Britain or further away, needing a way to cross the sea to Carrickfergus, or a boatman to take you over the Lough to Ballygrat works fine. Going to Carrickfergus to be in Ballygrat/Ballygrant works fine for me (like travelling to Rio to be on Ipanema Beach :o)

I'm not so comfortable with the Kilmeny version because the song is about Carrickfergus which is on the way there, in modern terms it's like singing about New York because you want to be in Chicago

So I have three songs that I might choose to sing but the third (C below) is not so satisfying:

A. The singer was prevented, by the Kilkenny statutes, from marrying a girl he met in Ballygrat, he dreams of seeing her before he dies.

B. The singer's lover is buried in Kilmeny, he dreams of going to to Carrickfergus where he can take a boat to be buried with her

C. Going back to the English text in the Young Sick Lover, somebody in Kilkenny seems to think that the singer is going to support this woman but actually it's too late, he is dying, and probably penniless.

So all I have to do now is make the smallest changes I can to ensure that the song is consistent to one of these versions so I can feel comfortable singing it. I don't delude myself that it will be historically correct or true to any early version.

Best wishes from Sheffield


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Felipa
Date: 25 Jul 13 - 03:30 AM

much catching up to do on this superthread
tattie bogle wrote
'Dominic's middle verse is not the same as the one in the DT. When I've a bit more time, I'll post the full set, if they are not already there.'

are the words here already or can tattie vogle get back to them?
what was the former version of 'only for nights in Ballygrand@ which people say first appears with Clancys + Makem 1964?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jul 13 - 01:43 PM

From: GUEST,Curmudgeon
Date: 17 Jul 13 - 10:44 AM most of us here would rather have facts than specious pilings of non-fact upon non-fact.
_________________________________________________________________

Before anyone tries looking for "facts," consider this interesting entry from five years ago. You'll find familiar lines from 'Carrickfergus' mixed in with lines from other familiar songs. It's a perfect example of the traditional song stewpot from which only an optimist could extract a carrot of 'fact' - much less the "origins" of anything!
_________________________________________________________________

From: GUEST,kevin Prior
Date: 01 Aug 08 - 07:02 PM

There is a ballad sheet in the Bodleian Library (accessed online), the words of which seem to be largely an amalgam of the songs which we know as Carrickfergus and Peggy Gordon. With some additional general purpose verses. It is dated as between 1780 and 1830. I cannot make out all the words, but those whch I can are below.

Bodleian Library
allegro Catalogue of Ballads

Copies: Harding B 25(894

I'm often drunk And Seldom Sober

Printed and sold by B. Walker near the Duke's
Palace, Norwich

MANY cold winters nights I've travelled,
Until my locks were wet with dew,
And don't you think I am to blame,
For changing old love for new.

Chorus
I'm often drunk and seldom sober
I am a rover in every degree
When I'm drunking I'm often thinking
How shall I gain my love's company.

The seas are deep and I cannot wade them
Neither have I wings to fly
I wish I had some little boat
To carry over my love and I.

I leaned my back against an oak
Thinking it had been some trusty tree
At first it bent and then it broke
And so my lover proved to me.

In London City ????? ?????
The streets are paved with marble stones
And my love she ??? ??? ??????
As ever trod on London ground

I wish I was in Dublin city
As far as e'er my eye could see
Or else across the briny ocean
Where no false love can follow me.

If love is handsome and love is pretty
And love its charming when first its new
So as love grows older it grows bolder
But fades away like the morning dew

I laid my head on a cask of brandy
It was my fancy I declare
For when I'm drinking I'm always thinking
How I shall gain my loves company

There is two nags in my fathers stable
They prick their ears when they hear the hounds
And my true love is as clever a young women
As ever trod on England's ground

You silly sportsmen leave off your courting
I'll say no more till I have drank
For when I'm dead it will be all over
I hope my friends will bury me


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jul 13 - 03:00 PM

Curmudgeon says: "most of us here would rather have facts than specious pilings of non-fact upon non-fact."

Definitely curmudgeonly, that - for "specious pilings of non-fact upon non-fact" down the years could describe most traditional music.
Unless a song has a known original author (and copyright), any "fact" may turn out to be "specious."

The 'Carrickfergus' sung today is a stewpot stocked with ingredients from many and mostly unknown sources. As commonly sung, they make little sense, and invite much speculation. Neither O'Toole nor Behan nor Makem could vouch for any of it (other than Behan's acknowledged authorship of the middle verse). Groping for 'facts' in this stewpot is rather futile; any way you want to sing 'Carrickfergus,' it's likely "specious."

All we can do is what traditional singers have done for eons: gratefully take what we have from the past, and try to make a good story of it. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 17 Jul 13 - 04:11 PM

O'Toole heard it from a man called, he told his agent, who told me, Niall Stack. That this was in Kerry is attested in the same way and by Behan's name for it - The Kerry Boatman. How he came to be there, given the detail in his autobiography, is moot but there are school holidays! Finally, relatively little of Kerry was a Gaeltacht in the 1940s and, even in those regions, many people sing songs in English; as they do today. I'm afraid that nothing that Curmudgeon says persuades me, save that he might take up his own suggestion of asking O'Toole himself.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Jul 13 - 11:16 AM

Fascinating.

As I wrote earlier, "If Clancy-Makem are the ultimate source of 'Ballygrant,' they seem to have had a deeper insight into the geography of the area than one might expect."

Which is certainly not impossible.

Occam's Razor is of limited help in cases like this. It isn't foolproof: it's simply a guideline. It works best in the natural sciences where the possibilities in any given situation are comparatively limited. And it's valuable in law because verdicts must be reached (and sometimes they're wrong despite Occam). In folklore, where anything can change at any moment under the influence of God knows what, even in the mind if the same informant, the Razor loses much of its edge.

It becomes not a question of "why look?" but of what the preponderance of the known evidence indicates.

Curmudgeon's info on O'Toole very valuably expands that evidence.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Curmudgeon
Date: 17 Jul 13 - 10:44 AM

In reply to 13 April Guest - who I suspect is not unrelated to erstwhile contributor Jack Maloney - because most of us here would rather have facts than specious pilings of non-fact upon non-fact.

It seems clearly established by those who know (not me!) that both "only for nights" and "Ballygrand" are 1960s inventions of the Clancy Brothers who either could not understand or did not care what was being sung on one of Dominic Behan's recordings. Neither term occurs in any version before the Clancys', and so all this stuff about a lover sailing to Ballygrant in Islay and black marble at nearby Kilmeny is entirely irrelevant to the origins of a song which dates from the 1830s at the latest. To repeat, neither "only for nights" nor "Ballygrand" appear in any known version of Carrickfergus prior to the Clancy Brothers 1964 album "The First Hurrah!"

As earlier contributors have pointed out, Occam's razor is a wonderful tool. The song says there is black marble at Kilkenny, and Kilkenny is famous for its black marble (which is in fact limestone, but so what). So why look for somewhere else that has black marble and is not Kilkenny but has a similar name - particularly if you end up with an insignificant place on a small island in a different country?

Incidentally and probably finally, has anyone pursued the O'Toole angle any further? He is the somewhat improbable link between a Gaelic/English macaronic broadsheet published in Cork around 1830 and the two versions of Carrickfergus recorded by Dominic Behan in the 1960s. O'Toole says he heard/learned it in Kerry in 1946 (i.e. when he was 13 or 14), and Behan says Kerry is where O'Toole spent his childhood. But the Wikipedia article on O'Toole, based on his autobiography, says that he was born in 1932 in either Co. Galway or Leeds, Yorkshire (he has birth certificates from both, with different dates!) and by age 1 was definitely in the North of England where he spent the next 5 years travelling around local racecourses with his father who was an itinerant bookmaker. After that the chronology is a bit confused but he spent 7 or 8 years at a Catholic SECONDARY (i.e. age 11+) school in Leeds. So where is there room for a Kerry childhood that includes him at age 13/14? Not saying it's not possible; just saying it looks a bit difficult to fit in.

And another rather relevant thing from the Wikipedia article is that O'Toole said, apparently in a 2006 interview on US National Public Radio, that before he became a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1952 he had been rejected by the prestigious Abbey Theatre, Dublin "because he couldn't speak Irish". Without the Erse, what would a 14 year old O'Toole have made of someone singing - to who knows what tune - the 1830s macaronic but primarily Gaelic broadsheet "The Young Sick Lover"? Of course, O'Toole may have heard a watered down and anglicised version of the broadsheet - but who would have sung that in 1946 in the Gaeltacht?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Apr 13 - 08:22 AM

What would the world be without conjecture and guesses? No mythology, no rumour and gossip, no wagering on the ponies. Why spoil the fun, John? ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 03 Feb 13 - 02:49 PM

If you read the whole of this thread, you'll see that most of the words communicated to Dominic Behan by Peter O'Toole mirror those of the macaronic 'Do bhí bean uasal' or ;Young sick lover' referred to and quoted above. There is no evidence that there ever were two songs from which Carrickfergus was contructed. Instead we have a fragment remembered by a actor who heard it in childhood which has been added to and adapted by several hands, minds, and imaginations since then. Careful reading and research are the only tools that will help anyone who wants to disentangle the strands - in this they have my blessing; however, conjecture and guesses, unless founded on fact and evidence, are of no blessed use whatsoever.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Mah0ney
Date: 01 Feb 13 - 06:51 AM

Latest I heard is that it is two old irish songs put together which is why the words don't make sense. Behan did add a new verse.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 08:08 PM

Oops, 224, or now 226!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 27 Aug 12 - 08:06 PM

Sorry, I missed that, John, but thanks. (234 posts on this thread, and I did read a good few before posting!)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: meself
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 10:42 AM

See:   Date: 06 Mar 00 - 02:44 PM.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 09:09 AM

I did ask Peter O'Toole, his reply, transmitted though his agent, is above.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 05:43 AM

Going right back to John Moulden's posts in 2000 re Dominic Behan's version, I have dug out my copy of Dominic's book, "Ireland Sings" (copyright 1965). As JM says, Dominic called it "The Kerry Boatman", and these are his notes at the end of the book.

"Before my friend, Peter O'Toole, rode a camel in the desert, he sang this song for me at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in Stratford-on-Avon. It had a beginning and an end. I gave it the middle it has now, and I hope, Peter a cara, you approve."

Dominic's middle verse is not the same as the one in the DT. When I've a bit more time, I'll post the full set, if they are not already there.

AFAIK Peter O'Toole is still alive - he only announced his retirement from acting in July this year - could someone not ask him where HE got it from?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 09:49 AM

For the geographically challenged: there is no Ballygrant 'forninst' Carrickfergus. But there is a Ballygrant across the Irish Sea from Carrickfergus. Easy to get hung up on a word if you don't look at the big picture. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: mayomick
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 08:56 AM

Molly O'Connor, she lived just forninst me,
And tender lines to her I wrote,
If you dare say one hard word again her,
I'll tread on the tail of your coat........ from Mush Mush

Formenst or forminst appears in Shakespeare I'm told . It's still used in parts of the north and west of Ireland. In the Ulster-Scots dictionary they have :   Fornenst ……opposite, directly in front of


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Aug 12 - 11:05 AM

Maybe it's "for nights" that is being misunderstood. I had always assumed he was singing "forninst to Ballygran". I can't find a reference but I promise you I have heard 'forninst' used to mean 'next to'.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 03 May 12 - 08:46 PM

"...incoherence - well expressed..."

Interesting concept. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: georgeward
Date: 03 May 12 - 02:13 AM

For what it's worth Claire, the value of the song for me has always lain in exactly what troubled you about it. I've known a number of aging men - some in Ireland, some elsewhere - whose lives are reflected better in "Carrickfergus" than in most of the many songs I know that self-consciously strive to reflect the "downtrodden"....fellows who really never had any prospects (perhaps society's failings or perhaps their own) beyond their dreams, who could never share those dreams except in moments when they were beyond their own control. No one would have thought them poets. Many would cross the street to avoid them. And yet some of them were poets, if only in the odd moments when the sensibility with which no one credited them broke through the haze of drink and sorry living.

They deserve a bit of poetry that sounds like them, and that captures us for a moment because it IS poetry...good poetry at that.

Sing the song with a good heart. But here's one request not to clean it up too much. The very sorrow, inadequacy and incoherence of it - well expressed - limn a truth about the human condition that goes deeper than the one old sot the song pretends to be about.Much deeper.

One person's opinion.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 02 May 12 - 08:21 PM

Well, thank you, Claire Broderick!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 May 12 - 07:58 PM

This the poem the Clancys used to introduce.

HIGH AND LOW

He stumbled home from Clifden fair
With drunken song, and cheeks aglow.
Yet there was something in his air
That told of kingship long ago.
I sighed -- and inly cried
With grief that one so high should fall so low.

He snatched a flower and sniffed its scent,
And waved it toward the sunset sky.
Some old sweet rapture through him went
And kindled in his bloodshot eye.
I turned -- and inly burned
With joy that one so low should rise so high.

-- James H. Cousins


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Claire Broderick
Date: 02 May 12 - 04:41 PM

This thread is incredible! 12 years in the making!

I am part of a folk group of ladies who sing traditional songs, sometimes traditionally, sometimes re-written from a female perspective, sometimes completely re-imagined. But always we wish to convey the story.

When I set out to arrange this beautiful tune for one of our stunning sopranos, I wanted to do justice to the story, as that is always what makes our music successful with our fans. I was very frustrated with the verses and words most widely available, as it seemed like they had been recorded from a drunkard who only remembered two verses and refused to sing on unless plied with drink.

Now I have gleaned a beautiful love story that I can't wait to arrange vocally so that we might bring this song to our fans. Thanks to everyone who so tirelessly worked to make this possible.

Claire Broderick
The Merry Wives of Windsor


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