Saturday night is Hallowe’en night, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
© Item in copyright  (contact for information on re-use)
Downloads: PDF |  Metadata (Dublin Core)


Saturday night is Hallowe’en night
The quality’s all to ride
And he who has his bride to meet
At the Five-Mile Brig he’ll bide.
First you’ll meet the black
And second you’ll meet the brown
And catch the bay by the bridle rein
And pull the rider down.

Spoken: And then he got his wife back.


Eddie drew attention to the link between this story and the Scots ballad ‘Tam Lin’, telling the story after hearing a long Scots version of the ballad sung as derived from print. ‘Tam Lin’ is not the only British ballad to have given rise to an Irish chantefable: see Shields12 p. 71ff. Its theme of recovery of an enchanted mate from fairies has been adapted so that a man’s wife or sweetheart, instead of a woman’s lover, is supposed in fairy power. This brings the narrative into conformity with a common Irish folk-tale type, and also recalls the Irish lullaby to which a story attaches, ‘A bhean úd thíos’: Petrie p. 73–8, repr. O’Sullivan p. 18–20.

The chantefable must have arisen by the early nineteenth century, no doubt in Ulster. Originally, a fuller prose introduction, with the essential data of the Irish story of a woman abducted by fairies, must have introduced ballad verses beginning with the matter of Eddie’s and going on to the metamorphoses suffered by the enchanted mate (no longer Tam Lin but the woman) and endured by the ordinary mortal holding her in his arms. So much is adumbrated by the surviving versions, though each individually lacks elements of the whole.