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Help: Origins of Carrickfergus

DigiTrad:
CARRICKFERGUS


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GUEST,Greycap 14 Mar 08 - 09:32 PM
Big Al Whittle 15 Mar 08 - 04:05 AM
GUEST,Jim 09 Jun 08 - 02:36 PM
GUEST 09 Jun 08 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,meself 09 Jun 08 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,Andrés García 12 Jul 08 - 06:24 PM
GUEST,kevin Prior 01 Aug 08 - 07:02 PM
GUEST,Jeff 18 Mar 09 - 11:50 PM
GUEST 20 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM
GUEST 26 Apr 09 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,GUEST, Roy McLean 16 Aug 09 - 07:20 PM
GUEST,Roy McLean 20 Aug 09 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,Kevin Prior 01 Sep 09 - 05:43 PM
GUEST 19 Dec 09 - 10:24 AM
GUEST,Aingaelainn Ní Dhochartaigh 19 Jan 10 - 05:59 AM
MartinRyan 19 Jan 10 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,Billy Finn 09 Mar 10 - 03:19 PM
GUEST,Veronica 26 Mar 10 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,Desi C 29 Jul 10 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 30 Jul 10 - 05:36 AM
GUEST,Carrickferfus fan 31 Jul 10 - 08:45 PM
GUEST,Jeff 02 Sep 10 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,Dhuan 03 Sep 10 - 01:19 AM
GUEST,Jon 07 Jan 11 - 07:42 PM
MartinRyan 14 Feb 11 - 05:24 AM
GUEST,Desi C 14 Feb 11 - 10:06 AM
GUEST 05 May 11 - 10:53 AM
zozimus 05 May 11 - 09:05 PM
michaelr 05 May 11 - 09:54 PM
GUEST 10 May 11 - 10:47 AM
MartinRyan 10 May 11 - 11:49 AM
MartinRyan 10 May 11 - 11:54 AM
GUEST 11 May 11 - 07:55 PM
Jack Maloney 13 May 11 - 01:53 PM
michaelr 13 May 11 - 04:06 PM
Jack Maloney 13 May 11 - 05:04 PM
michaelr 13 May 11 - 07:51 PM
Jack Maloney 14 May 11 - 07:49 AM
GUEST,Maurizio 03 Aug 11 - 02:05 PM
Jack Maloney 11 Aug 11 - 04:03 PM
meself 11 Aug 11 - 04:50 PM
Jack Maloney 11 Aug 11 - 10:32 PM
GUEST,Maurizio 21 Aug 11 - 12:10 PM
Desi C 21 Aug 11 - 04:56 PM
MartinRyan 21 Aug 11 - 06:06 PM
Jack Maloney 23 Aug 11 - 09:31 AM
michaelr 23 Aug 11 - 06:30 PM
Jack Maloney 28 Aug 11 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 07:26 AM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 11:59 AM
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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Greycap
Date: 14 Mar 08 - 09:32 PM

all the intellectual stuff aside, a great song and tune, isn't it?
I learned it from my Irish wife, who does a belting job on it. Luckily for me, I can play guitar(which she can't) so I do it from time to time on request.
I stayed a week as Dominic Behan's house guset in the mid-60's with Dave Brady, but never did find out any info on this lovely song.
Roger Knowles


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Mar 08 - 04:05 AM

This is what I said on this thread in 2004 and nobody found the poem I was talking about . However I did ask on the Liam Clancy message board and I got the answer:-

"probably I should remain silent with all this scholasticism(not even sure if thats a word!) in this thread.

However if I may pass on my own observations.

A couple of years ago I saw the Clancys do this on video. they prefaced it with an Irish poem, and it made their reading of it very clear. Afterwards I e-mailed Liam and he gave me the poem which was from the penguin Book of Irish poetry.

The song is about a drunkard who has been robbed of his capacity to act - go and see his love - maybe she's across the water - but more probably the gulf is because of what the drink has done to him. the marble stones black as ink are his future headstone. Togeteher the poem and the song was as stark and and intense as anything Robert Johnson achieved (and I love the work of RJ).

The Clancys were often accused of minstrelsy and offering a shobizzed up view of Irish music. But their reading of that particular song was a masterpiece of theatre."


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,Jim
Date: 09 Jun 08 - 02:36 PM

The song sounds to me like an English translation of an Aisling
Ireland portrayed as a lost love
Outside of the traditional aisling theme, the words don't make a lot of sense.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 08 - 03:39 PM

FWIW Peadar O Riada used to have a reference on his website under the section where he speaks of melodies composed by his father with the purpose of letting them drift off into the mainstream where he said they smiled, whenever Carrickfergus was played on the radio, at the thought of the royalties that could have been collected.

That reference is not there any more as far as I can see but may be worth pursuing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 09 Jun 08 - 05:19 PM

"Outside of the traditional aisling theme, the words don't make a lot of sense."

Not to you, apparently. I don't know anything about the "aisling theme', but I find the poem quite moving - and the words to make a great deal of sense ...


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Andrés García
Date: 12 Jul 08 - 06:24 PM

I find the song absolutely great, I play it with my guitar and my fiddle. How interesting was to find the origin of the song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
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,Jeff
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 11:50 PM

I don't know if anyone is still out there but there are still a couple of holes in this history I wonder if anyone can help with.

First, as Billy Finn inquired almost two years ago here, is the Dominic Behan recording of "The Kerry Boat Song", recorded in 1960, the same tune as that later credited to O`Riada?? I finally have located a copy of the LP which should be in the mail shortly so I guess I'll be able to report if no one else can answer. Unfortunately it will be a couple of months before I'll be able to get my hands on the LP to listen to it.

And second, has anyone been able to tie down the respective contributions of Richard Harris/Peter O'Toole to the version performed by Behan? Would be nice to know and pehaps Mr. O'Toole still recollects.

Jeff


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 07:52 AM

Hi Jeff,
Dominic Behan recorded 2 versions of "Kerry Boatman" The first version on his l/P "Ireland Sings" has the same melody as thecommon version by the likes of the Clancy Brothers. The version on his L/P "The Irish Rover" is a variation, or inversion, of the origional melody, not really a different tune. Most posts on this topic concentrate on the lyrics, and related lyrics. The very same melody is used for a song called "An Gleanntan Uaigneach (The Lonely Valley), the lyrics of which are totally unrelated. Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola has recorded this on her CD "Flame of Wine" and tells us she learned the song from her grandmother,Peige Bean Ui Chonaola of Inishmaan, the Aran Islands. So,did this tune origionally come from the Aran Islands or did the Islanders import it from the mainland?
It's a pity I did'nt know she recorded this when I went to see her perform last year.
                                     Domo


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Apr 09 - 04:23 PM

The Irish Rover LP actually came first in '60, Ireland Sings in '66. So what Domo you're calling a variation or inversion is actually the first recording we have. Was this the tune related to Behan by O'Toole -- it would seem so as Behan credits O'Toole on the LP. If that's the case was it indeed O'Riada who put the lyrics to the tune we now associate with the song sometime between the Behan recording in '60 and the Clancy's '64?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,GUEST, Roy McLean
Date: 16 Aug 09 - 07:20 PM

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.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Roy McLean
Date: 20 Aug 09 - 02:44 PM

On reading it over again I think my post above is rather unfortunately worded towards the end when I start going on a bit about the Dubliners. I seem to be accusing them of being bigots. This seems on reflection to be a bit unfair and I apologise for it. The point I am trying to make is that sometimes the Dubliners seem to be giving support, albeit inadvertently, to those bigots who like to proclaim that only those who are catholic and republican are really Irish. As far as I am concerned an Ulster Orangeman (which I am not by the way) is as Irish as someone in the Ancient Order Of Hibernians. The only difference between the Orangeman and the Hibernian, is that the Orangeman's ancestors fought the English twice - in the American war of Independence and in the Ulster Rebellion of 98! It is time we accepted that within Ireland there are two main traditions and got on with it, if only for the sake of our children! I believe each of these traditions has a right to have its music and other cultural output respected,recorded and recognised as being an intrinsic part of its essential Irishness. This is especially important as the musical tradition in the north from Antrim and Down across to Donegal is so rich and unique. At the moment this is not happening. Very few "protestant" songs are recorded by the main Irish folk groups. I can only remember two - "The Old Orange Flute" and "Roddy McCorley" out of hundreds! Sadly, for many people Ireland rather than the Republic stops at the border.

At the time of my last post, I was a liittle worked up as I had been having an argument with my friend Finn who maintained that "Master Magrath" was a republican song from Dublin. He based this largely on the fact that it ended with the words, "Up the Republic called Master Magrath". I was explaining to him that "Magrath" was a northern song written by a guy in Lurgan as far as I know, about a largely non political, Northern sporting experience and that the Dubliners had taken it upon themselves for whatever reason to change the last line and insert the reference to the Republic. What I call, "The pissing dog syndrome"!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Kevin Prior
Date: 01 Sep 09 - 05:43 PM

Just a note. Luke Kelly turned up at a folk club I was at in St Albans in the early 60s. he sang a few songs, one of which was 'A Ballad of Master MgGrath'. At the conclusion of his singing he held up a book, which was 'Irish Street Ballads' published by Colm O Lochlainn in Dublin, and told the audience that it was one of the main sources for his songs. The last line of the song (as in the book was 'Three cheers for old Ireland says Master MgGrath'. i heard the other version later.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Dec 09 - 10:24 AM

Master McGrath was a champion Greyhound that beat all the English champions


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Aingaelainn Ní Dhochartaigh
Date: 19 Jan 10 - 05:59 AM

Hi

I think we need to have a look at An Gleanntán Uaigneach, Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola collected this from her Grandmother in the Aran Isles.

I believe this song could have been originally in Gaelic, then fused with English after.

There is a link on Lasairfhiona's website for the lyrics but it doesn't work, probably because there's a fádá in the title.

I asked once for the lyrics but never got a response. I could try again. If I translate them there may be a bit more info to work from.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: MartinRyan
Date: 19 Jan 10 - 10:32 AM

I think THIS is the song Laisirfhiona sings. If so, it's normally sung to another tune and has, I think, no connection to the Carrickfergus/Do bhi bean uasail family.

Regards

p.s. a sample HERE


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Billy Finn
Date: 09 Mar 10 - 03:19 PM

Still not really solved. It is a bit like the Turin Shroud...probably we will never know for sure.
Billy Finn.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Veronica
Date: 26 Mar 10 - 02:08 AM

Wow! Such dedicated people! I'm doing an essay on this song for one of my first year University subjects, and this site was such a well of information (even if it did sort of kill my printer!) Thankyou all for being so interested in this song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 29 Jul 10 - 10:30 AM

As a Kilkenny man I can give you one answer, which I heard from a trad duo un Kytelers Iinn there about 8 years ago. They assured me it originated from an English chap, a sort of minstrel, who would come over to Ireland regulary and drift from town to town singing for his supper, usually made his way down from the north to Kilkenny where he lost his heart to a local girl and vowed to wed her. It's unclear what exactly became of him except he went away and became ill and presumably died. The marble as black as ink line refers to the fact that Kilkenny is built upon the finest reservor of lmestone in Europe, and particularly famed for it's black marble, which adorns many of the pubs and churches in the town, perhapd our minstrel carved his and his love's names on the marble. Might help to tell you I grew up in Ireland in the 5's and never heard this song till the 60's, dspite my grandmother being a fine trad musician and held weekly trad nights, I never heard it sung there. So that could support the theory that Behan wrote it

Desi C


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 30 Jul 10 - 05:36 AM

With reference to the recording by Dominic Behan on "The Irish Rover", it was issued in 1961 having been recorded in August 1960.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Carrickferfus fan
Date: 31 Jul 10 - 08:45 PM

Wow. An amazing thread spanning 10 years! A very interesting read. Well done to all the conributors.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Jeff
Date: 02 Sep 10 - 12:23 PM

"The Irish Rover LP actually came first in '60, Ireland Sings in '66. So what Domo you're calling a variation or inversion is actually the first recording we have. Was this the tune related to Behan by O'Toole -- it would seem so as Behan credits O'Toole on the LP. If that's the case was it indeed O'Riada who put the lyrics to the tune we now associate with the song sometime between the Behan recording in '60 and the Clancy's '64? "

Exactly the question my friend! Where did Clancy's get that version??
Hey this is an old thread but it doesn't mean we've lost interest...


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Dhuan
Date: 03 Sep 10 - 01:19 AM

I always thought it was about unrequited love - I wish I was up Carrie Fergus.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 07 Jan 11 - 07:42 PM

Posted this in the wrong thread ... apologies

I wandered into this debate years ago now. I hadn't heard the song for years until it surprisingly appeared on the "Nights in Ballygran" episode of Boardwalk Empire (incidentally the best version of the song I have heard, by Loudon Wainwright III).

I think we attach our own meanings to these songs. That's the most important thing. However, it's clear for me that the narrator has probably never been to Ballygran, so it doesn't matter where it is. Ballygran is where the love of his life went to, and where he longs for in his reflections.

I like the idea that the song is about an itinerant worker who left Kilkenny for the North-East in search of work, like so many others. While working in Carrickfergus, perhaps the happiest time of his life, he met a girl who was from, or who left for Ballygran. She was the one that got away. He regrets not chasing her, hence his longing to cross oceans to find her. Did he have a choice to follow her? Was she stolen from him? Who knows. He's old now, and reflecting with a sense of sadness and regret on his life. He never went back to Kilkenny. There's nothing for him there as all his childhood friends and family are now passed away (black marble reference). But he'll sing about the happier times when he's had a drink ... and then when he's had one too many ... he'll probably sing Carrickfergus again :)

Carrickfergus could be anywhere, Ballygran could be anywhere, Kilkenny could be anywhere ... it really doesn't matter that much. Carrickfergus is as nice a place as any for such a beautiful song.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: MartinRyan
Date: 14 Feb 11 - 05:24 AM

There's now a video of Sean O'Se singing this one on Facebook, with Nicholas Carolan's comments mentioned above (Irish, with subtitles).

Click here

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 14 Feb 11 - 10:06 AM

Jon, if you read the song again you'll see it is in Kilkenny that he met his love, and that is the story I've often hear having been born there. Story if true, from Kilkenny old timers, is he was something of a wandering minstrel, from Carrickfergus, possibly an Englaish soldier. Who fell ion love in KK, but unable to give up the roving life, left after promising to return to take her away (possibly to England or the North) but on return she had died. Most of the oild stones in KK graveyards are made of the unique black marble stones mined in nearby Castlecomer. Is it true, it's the story I've often heard there, but who knows?


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Subject: Lyr Add: CARRICKFERGUS
From: GUEST
Date: 05 May 11 - 10:53 AM

Lots of theorizing here, especially trying to explain Ballygran/Ballygrot, 'marble stones,' and Kilkenny's anomalous presence in the song. But it all makes sense if you start with a visit to Google Earth! If you look at geography, the 'mysteries' of 'Carrickfergus' are really simple and quite straightforward.

Carrickfergus is a port on the north Irish Sea. Ballygrant is a village across the Irish Sea on Islay in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is about a day's sail north from Carrickfergus. Less than a mile from Ballygrant is the parish church and burial ground of Kilmeny. You can find these sites on Google Earth, and note their proximity.

Given the vague oral tradition of the song, Kilkenny is likely a mis-hearing on O'Toole's part. In both time and distance, Kilkenny is much, much farther from Carrickfergus than Kilmeny, and has no association with a place called Ballygrant. Nor is Kilkenny anywhere near the sea. So let's apply Occam's Razor to the song, and go for the simplest explanation:

'Carrickfergus' is simply the song of a man and his memories of a love across the sea at Ballygrant in Islay - a love now deceased and recorded on a 'marble stone as black as ink' in the burial ground at Kilmeny.

Here's my guess as to what the lyrics to Carrickfergus should be like:

                I
I wish I was in Carrickfergus,   
Only for nights in Ballygrant.
I would swim over the deepest ocean
To lie beside her, in Ballygrant.
But the sea is wide, I cannot swim over,
And neither have I wings to fly.
If I could find me a handy boatman,
I'd ferry me over to my love, and die.

                II
My childhood days, bring back sad reflections
Of happy times spent so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on now, like melting snow.
So I spend my days in endless roaming.
Soft is the grass, and my bed is free.
Ah, to be back now, in Carrickfergus,
On that long road down to the shining sea.

                III
Now in Kilmeny, she is recorded
On a marble stone there, as black as ink.
With gold and silver, I did support her.
But I'll sing no more now 'til I have a drink.
I'm drunk today, and I'm seldom sober,
A lonesome rover from town to town.
Ah, but I'm sick now, and my days are numbered.
So come all you young men, and lay me down.

-- Jack Maloney --


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: zozimus
Date: 05 May 11 - 09:05 PM

Nice one, Jack. After ten years reading this thread I find we should be looking up maps instead of Mudcat. I'll toss my SatNav in the bin and go back to maps!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: michaelr
Date: 05 May 11 - 09:54 PM

Has anyone heard a sung version that has Kilmeny?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 10 May 11 - 10:47 AM

Side note: here is an 1868 account of a yacht race off Carrickfergus, which makes numerous mentions of a cutter named 'Kilmeny.' Proves nothing, but reinforces the association.

Google Books (click)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: MartinRyan
Date: 10 May 11 - 11:49 AM

As mentioned in the other Carrickfergus/Black as ink thread:

'Kilkenny' is in the earliest printed versions we have i.e. the broadside "The Young Sick Lover" referenced in O'Muirithe's book on macaronic songs. No sign of Ballygran in any shape or form

Regards

.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: MartinRyan
Date: 10 May 11 - 11:54 AM

Incidentally - I enjoyed that yachting magazine very much. I have a copy somewhere of a book called "The Corinthian Yachtsman" from around the same period. It includes instructions on how to pay, dress and feed your crew!

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 11 May 11 - 07:55 PM

Martin - at least we have documentary evidence that there indeed was a "handsome boatman" (i.e., skillful, adept) in 1868 who knew the waters between Carrickfergus and Ballygrant (or Baille a Ghrana) in Islay. The waters between Carrickfergus and Kilkenny are mostly in wee pitchers on the bars!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 13 May 11 - 01:53 PM

More interesting stuff. Ballygrant was a center for lead and silver mining in the 19th century, and a quarry for black Dalradian limestone (which, according to Wikipedia, is called 'marble' by stonemasons).

Gold ore is often associated with lead and silver mining. Here's a map which clearly shows "Dalradian complex with gold potential" running right through Ballygrant and Kilmeny:

http://www.scotgoldresources.com.au/scotwp/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/L-Map-1.jpg

So - Ballygrant/Kilmeny has an ancient cemetery, "marble stones as black as ink," silver and possibly gold minerals, and is across the sea from Carrickfergus and within reach of a "handsome boatman." That all adds up to a coherent story, doesn't it?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: michaelr
Date: 13 May 11 - 04:06 PM

Sure it does, Jack, and as I've said, an intriguing one -- but in the absence of proof, it will remain speculation.

I have a fond theory that the name "Sovay" (of the female highwayman song) is derived from "Solveig", the Danish version of "Sylvie". But I have no proof for that, either.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 13 May 11 - 05:04 PM

Michael - Speculation? Proof? Do you have proof of the origins of your own favorite traditional songs? Do you know who wrote them, and when? The exact music, and the authentic, correct, original words?

Almost all traditional songs have been changed, adapted, recombined or reworked by many singers, in many locales, through many generations. Strands of different lyrical bits and pieces of verse have been hung on the framework of older tunes - sometimes reflecting the singers own experiences or local traditions, or simply what they thought they had heard. It's pretty difficult to pin down "proof," "authenticity" or "correctness" in traditional music.

The origins of 'Carrickfergus' are likely lost in time. Even an 1830s broadsheet is only a local snapshot of a moving target. The fact that this thread has been spun out this far suggests that the version commonly sung today raises many questions for which there are no proven answers. So however you want to sing it, it's speculation.

In a song about lovers separated by the sea, the leap from Carrickfergus to Kilkenny is an inexplicably long and waterless one that few handsome boatmen could navigate. But across the sea from Carrickfergus is a place called Ballygrant, with marble stones as black as ink, silver (and maybe gold), and a burial ground that sounds a lot like "Kilkenny." That's just speculation, of course... ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: michaelr
Date: 13 May 11 - 07:51 PM

OK, so I used the term "proof" as shorthand for something that would take more words to say. Point is, if anyone came forward saying "I heard so-and-so sing Carrickfergus, and he sang 'Kilmeny'", that would provide some support for your theory.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 14 May 11 - 07:49 AM

The Islay connection for 'Carrickfergus' is pretty solid. Ballygrant, Islay is across the sea, reachable by boat, speaks Gaelic, quarries black stone, and attracted incomers in the 18th and 19th century to mine for silver (and possibly gold). Is there another Ballygrant - or anything sounding like 'Ballygrant' - with similar characteristics?

The Kilmeny connection is more theory - a noteworthy cemetery and church close by Ballygrant, with black 'marble' headstones, and a name that's remarkably similar to "Kilkenny." And a 19th century "handsome boatman" familiar with both Carrickfergus and Kilmeny.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Maurizio
Date: 03 Aug 11 - 02:05 PM

I just heard this most amazing song performed by Jim McCann;however,being a non-native English speaker I had real difficulties in understanding the lyrics(which sound great,nevertheless).Thanks for this fantastic thread which cleared all my doubts except one:I still don't get the meaning of "only for nights in Ballygran/Ballygrant/Ballygrat."Could it be "I wish I was in Carrickfergus,INSTEAD OF NIGHTS in...?"


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 04:03 PM

Maurizio - The singer's only stated reason for wishing to be in Carrickfergus is "only for nights in Ballygrant." If he were in that Irish seaport,he might be able to find a boatman to get him across to Ballygrant in Islay, where he obviously had enjoyed nights with his loved one.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: meself
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 04:50 PM

So, really, he wishes he were in Ballygrant - why doesn't he just say so, and skip the middleman?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 10:32 PM

Because he would have been four bars short.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Maurizio
Date: 21 Aug 11 - 12:10 PM

Many,many thanks,Jack!Couldn't have never figured this out by myself.Saluti from Italy!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Desi C
Date: 21 Aug 11 - 04:56 PM

Many of us have researched this song thoroughly and none to my knowledge have found any reliable link to the song prior to the mid 60's when Behan recorded it. I think it is fair therefore to say it's not a traditional song. The various mysteries about the words I think can be explained. Behan said he wrote the middle verse and the lack of mystery in that verse alone I think proves it. Also he says he weote it down dictated by Peter O'Toole. Now I think we all know of his and Behan's liking of a drink,so you have two probable merry Irish men one trying to sing the words to the other trying to write them down, a situation not designed for much accuracy!
Add to that O'Tole was not a song writer so it seems this was a song he had heard somewhere and aren't songs transferred by one to another in that way part of the folk tradition whereby words and meanings rarely stay as they were meant to. 'The water is wide' is one of the most copied lines in Irish music and appears in some form in several Irish songs, the tune too is very likely traditional. The only real mystety for me is, Where did O'Toole find the song?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: MartinRyan
Date: 21 Aug 11 - 06:06 PM

Desi C

Many of us have researched this song thoroughly and none to my knowledge have found any reliable link to the song prior to the mid 60's when Behan recorded it.

Depends what you mean by "this song"! The Young Sick Lover , from which Carrickfergus appears to derive, is clearly much older.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 23 Aug 11 - 09:31 AM

Desi C: "I think it is fair therefore to say it's not a traditional song."

How do you define "traditional"?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: michaelr
Date: 23 Aug 11 - 06:30 PM

Older than the `60s?

Don't go there!


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 12:04 PM

Desi C says: "The various mysteries about the words I think can be explained. Behan said he wrote the middle verse and the lack of mystery in that verse alone I think proves it."

"Various mysteries"? What "mysteries"?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 07:26 AM

If anybody's wondering about the "handsome boatman": the word "handsome" often meant "adept, skilled, or clever," according to my dictionary.

That's the kind of boatman he wants.

Or, more recently, "she" wants. I've heard a woman sing the song with the pronouns suitably altered. Same goes for "Down by the Salley Gardens."

Identification of the singer with the song is now so complete that audiences apparently get very queasy if the pronouns don't match.

It's something that never bothered traditional singers. Unless told otherwise, everybody knew that the "I" of a song was fictional.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 11:59 AM

You'd certainly want a handsome (i.e., adept, skilled, or clever) boatman to carry you over the 70 miles of Irish Sea between Carrickfergus, on the coast of Ireland, and Ballygrant, on Islay in Scotland's Western Isles. Those waters can be difficult for small boats.

Yet many a small boat made the journey in the 18th and 19th centuries, for there were jobs waiting for incomers at Ballygrant's busy stone quarry, and in the mines of surrounding Kilmeny parish (with silver, lead and gold ore). Some of those incomers were buried in the local churchyard of Kilmeny (not Kilkenny) beneath marble stones as black as ink.


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