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Help: Origins of Carrickfergus

DigiTrad:
CARRICKFERGUS


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GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 12:52 PM
zozimus 30 Aug 11 - 02:00 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 03:42 PM
MartinRyan 30 Aug 11 - 05:00 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 05:37 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 09:00 PM
GUEST,Lighter 01 Sep 11 - 09:11 PM
GUEST,Josh 30 Dec 11 - 06:13 AM
GUEST 31 Dec 11 - 12:04 PM
Lighter 31 Dec 11 - 01:41 PM
Moleskin Joe 22 Mar 12 - 03:52 PM
GUEST 28 Mar 12 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,Claire Broderick 02 May 12 - 04:41 PM
Big Al Whittle 02 May 12 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,Lighter 02 May 12 - 08:21 PM
georgeward 03 May 12 - 02:13 AM
GUEST 03 May 12 - 08:46 PM
GUEST 24 Aug 12 - 11:05 AM
mayomick 25 Aug 12 - 08:56 AM
GUEST 25 Aug 12 - 09:49 AM
Tattie Bogle 26 Aug 12 - 05:43 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 26 Aug 12 - 09:09 AM
meself 26 Aug 12 - 10:42 AM
Tattie Bogle 27 Aug 12 - 08:06 PM
Tattie Bogle 27 Aug 12 - 08:08 PM
GUEST,Mah0ney 01 Feb 13 - 06:51 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 03 Feb 13 - 02:49 PM
GUEST 13 Apr 13 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,Curmudgeon 17 Jul 13 - 10:44 AM
Lighter 17 Jul 13 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 17 Jul 13 - 04:11 PM
GUEST 20 Jul 13 - 03:00 PM
GUEST 24 Jul 13 - 01:43 PM
Felipa 25 Jul 13 - 03:30 AM
GUEST,Chris Rust 04 Sep 13 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,Lighter 05 Sep 13 - 12:25 PM
Harmonium Hero 06 Sep 13 - 03:42 PM
GUEST 10 Sep 13 - 10:49 AM
GUEST,David Ash 18 Sep 13 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 18 Sep 13 - 03:42 PM
GUEST 19 Sep 13 - 05:32 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 20 Sep 13 - 07:56 AM
GUEST 23 Sep 13 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,JM 15 Dec 13 - 06:46 PM
Lighter 15 Dec 13 - 07:31 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Dec 13 - 09:14 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 16 Dec 13 - 01:17 PM
GUEST 14 Mar 14 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,michaelr 14 Mar 14 - 06:42 PM
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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 12:52 PM

Has the etymology of "Ballygrant" been given?

In 2000, "Philippa" reported that the macaronic lines in the ca1840 broadside read, "I wish I had you in Carrickfergus/ Agus ní fada ón áit sin baile cuain."

As Philippa acknowledged, the translation is not 100% reliable because the broadside prints the Irish lines phonetically.

Neil Comer then translated the "baile cuain" as "Quiet" or "Harbor Town."

"Harbor Town" sounds as though it would fit "Ballygrant." But is that really the etymology of the town's name?

The point is that the phonetic spelling on the broadside, as reported here, doesn't capitalize "Baile Cuain" as though it were a place name. If Ballygrant were intended, I'd expect to see an "r" in there somewhere. Of course, the (monolingual?) printer could have accidentally omitted it if there'd been one, just as he didn't think to capitalize.

I'm not rejecting the probability that Ballygrant was really meant. I'm just pointing out a detail that might or might not bear on the matter.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: zozimus
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 02:00 PM

Lets summarize:
Ballygrant was introduced into the song by the Clancy Brothers, and they are not going to tell where they got it. If it is their translation of baile cuain, that's their problem and has nothing to do with the origional song ,or Killemy or anywhere else.
Someone wished to compare Sean O Riada's "composed" melody to that of Dominic Behan's version . It is the same melody,as is sung by Clancy's and a few thousand others. O Riada orchestrated it or arranged it but it is the same.
Baile cuain translates as quite town, no mention of a harbour in either word.
The only real question is whether the lovel melody is older than teh composition of "The Sick Young Lover", and if so, wahat was it's title.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 03:03 PM

Etymology - Ballygrant comes from the Gaelic baile a ghrana, "town of grain," referring to a Islay meal mill first recorded in 1686. Why go to great lengths to avoid the obvious connections between Carrickfergus (in Ireland) and Ballygrant (on Islay in Scotland's Western Isles)?


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 03:42 PM

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.

Regardless of that, if "baile cuain" means "quiet town," the connection with Ballygrant - as likely as it may be geographically - starts to look like a rationalization or a coincidence, no matter who first placed it in the song. Surely there were several "quiet towns" separated by water from Carrickfergus?

The nature of the evidence (phonetic Irish from ca1840, and not necessarily a completely accurate representation) suggests that it's impossible to know either way.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: MartinRyan
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 05:00 PM

In modern Irish, the noun "cuan" (genitive "cuain") means harbour

The adjective "ciúin" means quiet.

The pronunciations are quite similar to the non-Irish ear.

On the air - note that Nicholas Carolan of the Irish Traditional Music Archive suspects, at least, that O Riada composed it. He would be well aware of Dominic Behan's connection to the song.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 05:37 PM

"Baile cuain" is a bit of a stretch. To begin with, the song is about a place "over the deepest ocean" from Carrickfergus, so why keep trying to locate it in Ireland? Is there another "baile" anything, anywhere across the sea from Carrickfergus and easily reachable by boat, that makes any sense at all? The Carrickfergus/Ballygrant connections in the song are too numerous to be coincidental:

- "But the sea is wide..." Almost 80 miles of the turbulent North Irish Sea separate Carrickfergus from Ballygrant in Islay. You would definitely want "...a handsome boatman..." (i.e., skillful, clever, adept) to make that crossing.

- "Now in Kilmeny..." Kilmeny (not Kilkenny) is the parish in which Ballygrant is located. Kilmeny Church has a noteworthy burial ground in which there are numerous...

- "...marble stones as black as ink." The stones come from the nearby quarry, which was Ballygrant's primary industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. The common "Kilkenny" reference is a puzzle without an answer because it has no connection with either Carrickfergus or Ballygrant; it is apparently an artifact of Peter O'Toole's memory!

- "With gold and silver I did support her..." The other major employer in Ballygrant and Kilmeny Parish in the 18th and 19th centuries was lead and silver mining, which attracted miners from across the water. And Ballygrant lies over the Dalradian geologic complex, which is the source of gold being mined in Northern Ireland even today.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Jack Maloney
Date: 30 Aug 11 - 09:00 PM

P.S.

- If, as the song implies, the singer's beloved died in Ballygrant, she almost certainly have been buried in the parish churchyard at Kilmeny (not Kilkenny).


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 01 Sep 11 - 09:11 PM

I've reread this entire thread, and Jack's interpretation - including his controversial substitution of "Kilmeny" for "Kilkenny" - has the virtue of being the most coherent explanation of what the English part of the song is about.

If Peter O'Toole could have misheard "Kilmeny" as "Kilkenny," so equally could his 1946 source - and similarly all the way back to the printer of "The Young Sick Lover." The argument for "Kilmeny" rather than "Kilkenny" has the virtue of consistency, though in traditional texts that may not mean much.

If I understand it correctly, the weight of the evidence is that Sean O'Riada rewrote the original melody in the early '60s, but "rewrote" could mean almost anything. With no other likely candidates available, he presumably "rewrote" the tune O'Toole knew and which he taught to Dominic Behan. Given the lyrics, it isn't surprising that "O'Riada's" tune bears some resemblance to a familiar version of "Waly Waly."

It would be a kind of reverse snobbery to deny O'Riada's rewrite - if that's what it is - the status of a "traditional tune." We don't know how many brilliant folk melodies were improved over the centuries by outstanding, if anonymous, musicians. My guess is that it may have happened frequently.

What seems to be unexplained is the relationship of the English to the Irish lyrics on the broadside. Of course, that's a separate question entirely.

At any rate, singers remain free to dream up any interpretation that suits them to flesh out the lyrics in either language. That's what singers do. Jack's version, however, is more clearly rooted in probability than are the others - which is not the same as saying that it matches in every detail what the original author was thinking. We'll probably never know that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST,Josh
Date: 30 Dec 11 - 06:13 AM

I must disagree with those who believe the author/singer wishes to cross the sea to Ballygran, to be with his love. And someone invoked Occam's razor to eliminate Kilkenny in favor of Kilmeny, assuming -- as many here have suggested -- that someone made a mistake between the two, since the names sound alike.

I too wish to invoke Occam's razor. But to my sensibility, the simplest, most direct interpretation of the verse must include NOT assuming someone made mistakes; one must first assume that the words mean what they say. Only if that leads to a blind alley should other possibilities be invoked.

To this end, then, I believe the author/singer WISHES TO BE IN Carrickfergus. Because he says "I wish I was in Carrickfergus." The confusion lies in the next line "Only for nights in Ballygran." This is NOT an expression of desire for Ballygran. Quite the opposite. He is singing: "I wish I was in Carrickfergus, If only for the nights I'm (sadly) spending in Ballygran."

I.e., the author is IN Ballygran, and wishes he could be in Carrickfergus. The other interpretation -- that he wants to be in Carrickfergus in order to ferry himself over the Ballygran -- is almost ludicrous. If he wants to be in Ballygran, he should be singing "I wish I was in Ballygran." Does he really want to be in Carrickfergus, a day's ferry ride away from his love in Ballygran? No. He is IN Ballygran, and wishes he were in Carrickfergus.

Just like the song says.

Likewise, "Kilkenny" means "Kilkenny," not Kilmeny. Kilkenny is on the same island as Carrickfergus, so it's reasonable (if far). Kilkenny is sometimes called the "Marble City." Kilkenny Marble, aka "Black Marble," has been widely exported for centuries.

And....many of the headstones in Kilkenny cemeteries are black. Have a look at the "Abbey And Church Cemetery,Inistioge,County Kilkenny,Ireland."

Hence, "There are marble stones there, as black as any ink."


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 12:04 PM

Josh - If you're committed to being literal (not always a good idea in folk songs), what about the next lines?

"I would swim over the deepest ocean
Only for nights in Ballygrant."

Not, you'll notice, "only for nights in Carrickfergus." In this song, "nights in Ballygrant" carries romantic implications, whereas nothing so desirable is implied in Carrickfergus. Is the singer complaining repeatedly about "nights in Ballygrant" because of discomfort? Insomnia? Bedbugs, perhaps? ;-)

Or is he somewhere in Ireland, wishing to be at the port of Carrickfergus where he can find "a handsome boatman" to ferry him over to Ballygrant? To me, that seems more likely.

Then faraway "Kilkenny" crashes into the song, unexplained and unexplainable except for its black marble, almost like a TV commercial - "and now, a message from our sponsor, Kilkenny Quarries Ltd."

But in fact, black marble is found in many places in Ireland and throughout the British Isles, including Ballygrant in Kilmeny Parish, Islay. Use Google Earth to see for yourself; from the air, the huge quarry is a dominant feature on the southwest side of Ballygrant village.

What we know for certain:
- Ballygrant, Islay, is across the Irish Sea from Carrickfergus
- Ballygrant is in Kilmeny Parish
- marble was quarried in Ballygrant
- silver was mined in Ballygrant
- Kilmeny churchyard has black marble stones
- Kilkenny is 160 miles from Carrickfergus, 220 miles from Ballygrant
- Kilmeny is 10 minutes' stroll from Ballygrant
- a lover who died in Ballygrant would likely be buried in Kilmeny churchyard

Of course, no one can absolutely prove anything about a traditional song, nor can one count on literal interpretation. Without a known and copyrighted source, traditional songs are open to every singer's personal interpretation. So if you think nights in Ballygrant are intolerable, and the leap to distant Kilkenny logical, by all means feel free to sing 'Carrickfergus' that way.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Lighter
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 01:41 PM

I agree.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: Moleskin Joe
Date: 22 Mar 12 - 03:52 PM

I am very reluctant to start all this up again but some of the attempts to impose sense on these lyrics are really highly imaginative. I think Ballygrant is a complete red herring. I think the line "Only for nights......" must have been invented by the Clancys. If you listen to DB's recording that line refers to Carrickfergus and three other places, the last of which sounds like Bally Grine, but it's hard to make them out. Nothing about "nights". Ballygrine(?) is possibly a mishearing of Baile Ciuin.
Then follows the interpolation of the Waly Waly lines which in DB's version talk about ferrying over "my love and I". Thereafter if you substitute "she" for "it" in the Kilkenny verses you have a drunk man singing of his dead love.
DB introduces the song - "And here's Peter O'Toole singing about his native Kerry " so there is no need to associate the song with Antrim necessarily. There may well have been a Carrickfergus on the Clare Fergus.


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Subject: RE: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Mar 12 - 05:40 PM

Ballygrine, Baile Ciuin, Clare Fergus..the origins of the song 'Carrickfergus' are unknown - and likely unknowable. So you're free to make up anything you want, including improbable stories and places that have no logical connection and may not even exist. That's the magic of traditional song.

But if you're interested in singing about a plausible romance that might actually have happened, Ballygrant in Islay's Kilmeny Parish, where there are "marble stones as black as ink," and Carrickfergus across the Irish Sea, are real places with a historic connection that actually makes sense.

Your choice. ;-)


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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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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,Lighter
Date: 02 May 12 - 08:21 PM

Well, thank you, Claire Broderick!


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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
Date: 03 May 12 - 08:46 PM

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

Interesting concept. ;-)


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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: 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: 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: 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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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
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,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: 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,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: 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
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: 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,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: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 05 Sep 13 - 12:25 PM

refresh


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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
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: 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,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
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: 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: 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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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,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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