The Moorlough shore, song

Bill and Tilly Quigley ; and others, singing in English
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B:                        You hills and dales and flowery vales lies near to the
                                  Moorlough shore
                           Where  primrose grows and violets blow and sporting
                                  trout doth play,
                            With my line and hook delight I took for to spend my
                                 youthful days.

   T (spoken):    I’m too high likely

   Eddie Butcher           All keep quiet now


  All:                    You hills and dales and flowery vales lies nigh J/near T
                                 to the Moorlough shore

    B:                    Where the prim – T (spoken): No, no

   M:                     [Ye winds] that blows o’er Martin’s dales, will I never
                               see you more?

   M, T:                Where primroses grow M/grows T  and violets blows M/blow T
                                 and sporting trout does play

   All                    With my line and hook delight I took for to spend my
                                 youthful days.



   All:                   Last night I went for to see my love for J/and T  to hear what
                               she would say,
                           For to see if she would pity me lest I might go away;

   M (with all):    She says, – I love a sailor lad and it’s him I will M/do T  adore
                           And seven long years I’ll wait on him, so trouble me no more.

   B (spoken):    Dammit, that’s a guid yin, Maria!

   T (spoken):    Now Bill, listen you to this, you know this verse.



  T (with B):       Fare you well unto Lissadellan’s groves, likewise to the
                               bleaching mill
                           Where Holland T/linen B cloth  B:  lies pure and white and the
                               purling streams run still,

   B:                    Had I fifty  B&T: pounds in gold or ten times as much more

   B & T:             I would freelie share B/give T  it all for the maid that lies
                               near to the Moorlough shore.

   B (spoken):   Ha, ha, I cannae mind the song, I’m sorry.


This is a song with a story, as well as an interesting exercise in collaborative recall. The story goes that Mary McKeown, daughter of the miller at Mill Bay near Greencastle (S. Down), once had her fortune written down by an old ‘spayman’ and sealed in a satchel to be opened only on her twenty-first birthday. After refusing many suitors she became engaged to a fisherman Joe Cunningham; the marriage was fixed for the eve of the Greencastle fair, which was also Mary’s twenty-first birthday. But her lover was drowned in a storm, and when Mary went to look for him and found his body she so much lost her senses that she was swept out by the tide and was drowned herself. When the satchel was opened this tragedy was what the prophecy foretold – Fitzpatrick p. 31–4; W.H. Crowe The ring of Mourne Dundalk 1969, p. 76–7, and recorded comment on the story by W.H. Crowe, 7003.

Two songs are said to commemorate these events. ‘The Maid of Mourne shore’ – not the present song – is known to me only in a text which has little to do with the story: a fragmentary pastourelle leading to marriage or marriage envisaged – Fitzpatrick. ‘Walmsley’s shady groves – our present song – is said to tell the unrequited love of one of Mary’s previous suitors who ‘tuk away to Americky’ in despair, Walmsley’s groves being near Kilkeel – Fitzpatrick and 7003. At times the two songs became textually confused (H; cf. Fitzpatrick p. 32). A third song appearing on a broadside printed in England is distinct from both and associated with the river Mourne in E. Donegal – L: 1876 d 41, I 251, n.p.d., ‘Moran shore’. The disyllabic pronunciation /morən/ indicated by this title was of course also used in our song where it facilitated replacement of the toponym in North Ulster by ‘Moorlough’. Moorlough Bay is between Fair Head and Torr Head (NE Ant.).

In 1966 Eddie Butcher could sing me only three lines of ‘Moorlough Shore’ (l.1–2, 4). Three years later he asked a group of family visitors in his house if they knew it, and was rewarded by our first printed version in an operation taking about ten minutes and nicely stage-managed by his sister-in-law Tilly Quigley. Her husband Bill struck up v. 1, but like Eddie omitted line 3. Maria, Eddie’s brother John’s wife, made a fresh start and with her lead two verses were completed. Tilly then elicited a third from Bill, whose conviction that he could do no more expressed the general feeling. These three verses correspond to the full text of B. But Eddie, silently attentive, was able – by what means I could not discover – to sing a five-verse version the following year.