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Help: Origins of Carrickfergus

DigiTrad:
CARRICKFERGUS


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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
GUEST 28 Mar 12 - 05:40 PM
Moleskin Joe 22 Mar 12 - 03:52 PM
Lighter 31 Dec 11 - 01:41 PM
GUEST 31 Dec 11 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Josh 30 Dec 11 - 06:13 AM
GUEST,Lighter 01 Sep 11 - 09:11 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 09:00 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 05:37 PM
MartinRyan 30 Aug 11 - 05:00 PM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 03:42 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 03:03 PM
zozimus 30 Aug 11 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 12:52 PM
Jack Maloney 30 Aug 11 - 11:59 AM
GUEST,Lighter 30 Aug 11 - 07:26 AM
Jack Maloney 28 Aug 11 - 12:04 PM
michaelr 23 Aug 11 - 06:30 PM
Jack Maloney 23 Aug 11 - 09:31 AM
MartinRyan 21 Aug 11 - 06:06 PM
Desi C 21 Aug 11 - 04:56 PM
GUEST,Maurizio 21 Aug 11 - 12:10 PM
Jack Maloney 11 Aug 11 - 10:32 PM
meself 11 Aug 11 - 04:50 PM
Jack Maloney 11 Aug 11 - 04:03 PM
GUEST,Maurizio 03 Aug 11 - 02:05 PM
Jack Maloney 14 May 11 - 07:49 AM
michaelr 13 May 11 - 07:51 PM
Jack Maloney 13 May 11 - 05:04 PM
michaelr 13 May 11 - 04:06 PM
Jack Maloney 13 May 11 - 01:53 PM
GUEST 11 May 11 - 07:55 PM
MartinRyan 10 May 11 - 11:54 AM
MartinRyan 10 May 11 - 11:49 AM
GUEST 10 May 11 - 10:47 AM
michaelr 05 May 11 - 09:54 PM
zozimus 05 May 11 - 09:05 PM
GUEST 05 May 11 - 10:53 AM
GUEST,Desi C 14 Feb 11 - 10:06 AM
MartinRyan 14 Feb 11 - 05:24 AM
GUEST,Jon 07 Jan 11 - 07:42 PM
GUEST,Dhuan 03 Sep 10 - 01:19 AM
GUEST,Jeff 02 Sep 10 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,Carrickferfus fan 31 Jul 10 - 08:45 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 30 Jul 10 - 05:36 AM
GUEST,Desi C 29 Jul 10 - 10:30 AM
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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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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: 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: Lighter
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 01:41 PM

I agree.


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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: 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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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,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: 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,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,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,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,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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