Mudcat Café message #3556056 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #16707   Message #3556056
Posted By: GUEST,Chris Rust
04-Sep-13 - 09:42 AM
Thread Name: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
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