Mudcat Café message #2701884 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #16707   Message #2701884
Posted By: GUEST,GUEST, Roy McLean
16-Aug-09 - 07:20 PM
Thread Name: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
To Martin Ryan,
Sorry I havent managed to turn up anything really new about "Carrickfergus". Just all the old stuff about macaronics, "The Young Sick Lover", etc, etc. The problem is that most of the singers I come across are strictly "oral", ie. they do not keep written music of any kind, but just pass on songs orally between each other as part of the local folk tradition. However, I had/have extensive family connections in the Carrickfergus area and have turned up a few interesting points.

Firstly, just across Belfast Lough from Carrickfergus is the village of Ballygrot near Helen's Bay. This is an ancient place with a old hill fort. More importantly for the origins of the song, is the fact that local people tend to refer to it as, "Ballygrat" or Ballygrant", the GROT ending being far too germanic for the local tongue. Locals quite naturally assume the character in the song is fanatasising about crossing Belfast Lough from Carrickfergus to Ballgrat/Ballygrant to see his childhood sweetheart one last time. Interestingly, long ago there used to be local boat races from Carrick to Ballygrat. It seems to me that Ballygrat is more plausible for inclusion in the song than the often cited Ballygrant in Islay, Scotland, though many people do feel that the song has a distinct Scottish flavour. There are stories about homesick Scots mercenary soldiers many hundreds of whom must have passed through Carrickfergus over the centuries.

Secondly, I remember my grandmother, who was from Carrickfergus, talking about going to a place called Ballygrant as a child and her fond memories of it. It was as if it were a special place where local children played, so it would not have been across the lough. However, despite checking I can not find any place called Ballygrant on the Carrick side of the lough.

My own personal feeling is that this song is a mixture of different songs.

To Finn,
Sorry friend, the last line of the original Master Magrath is "Three cheers for ould Ireland" or "Good luck to ould Ireland" or something like that. There was no mention of "The Republic" which of course didnt come into existence until much later. Im afraid it was yet another cheap shot by the Dubliners who were not content with the noble, inclusive sentiment embodied in the phrase "Ould Ireland" and instead replaced it with the devisive and semi-sectarian "Republic". They were probably pissed off that Lord Lurgan(the owner and backer of Master Magrath) was a protestant Ulsterman, though like my protestant grandfathers he was no doubt proud to call himself an Irishman before the Dubliners and other bigots started telling people that only those who were republican and catholic were really Irish! By the way, it also should be, "she is the belle of Belfast City" as any songwriter worth his salt can tell you. Dubliners at it again. Just sing it over to yourself a few times - "Dublin" just doesnt sound right! You need the juxta-positioning between "Belle" and "Belfast" to make it really work.