Youghal Harbour, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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Oh, Youghal harbour on a summer’s morning,
I met my darling upon the way;
The sun was shining, she looked so charming
I stopped a while and she just did say,
– Oh, Jamie, Jamie, are you going to leave me
Or are you going where bullets fly?
A handsome youth and my dearest jewel,
I love you well and I can’t deny.

– Oh, Nancy darling, was I to marry you
What would your false-hearted parents say?
That they reared a daughter with such a fortune
And carelesslie she threw herself away.
Before that I would live at variance
All with your parents and brothers too –
It was them that banished you far from my arms –
Unto your charms I’ll now bid adieu.

As I walked up through the county Cavan
To view the sweet and the bonds of love
Who did I spy but a charming fair maid,
She appeared to me like a turtle dove.
I stepped up to her and fondlie asked her
Would she consent to be a dragoon’s wife;
With modest blushes she thus made answer,
– Kind sir, I mean to lead a single life.

Had I a-married I might have been married,
I could have been married many’s a year ago
To a man named Reilly lived in this country,
It was him that caused my sad overthrow.
– Don’t depend on Reilly for he’ll deceive you
But come with me unto yon Irish shore
Where we’ll sail over to Pennsylvania,
Bid adieu to Reilly for evermore.

– Was I to sail on yon brimy ocean,
The winds to blow and the seas to roar
I thought my very heart would have split asunder
When I thought on Reilly that I left on shore.
But youth and folly makes fair maids marry
And when they’re married then they must obey;
What can’t be cured must be endured,
So farewell, darling, for I’m away.


Eddie’s title is deceptive. The Munster Gaelic pastourelle ‘Eochaill’ – called ‘Fóchaill’ in Ulster – inspired broadside adaptations in English, one of which, our ‘Youghal harbour’1, begins with lines corresponding to Eddie’s 1.1–4 and also similar to the opening of a broadside favourite ‘Reilly from the county Cavan/Kerry’. All these songs are sung to the same popular air ‘Youghal harbour’; in Eddie’s, melodic similitude has led to a mingling of texts. V. 1.1–4 belongs to ‘Youghal harbour’, v. 3–5 to ‘Reilly’; the intervening text, 1.5–2.8, agrees thematically with ‘Youghal harbour1’ insofar as it describes a girl abandoned, but its exact source is unknown to me. Eddie’s song combines the theme of the abandoned girl with the inconclusive courtship of ‘Reilly’, in which a returning soldier fails to persuade a girl to give up her old love. The resulting lack of narrative definition recalls the lyricism of many songs in Irish; though the recurrent first person singular represents now the man, now one girl and now perhaps another, it binds together a strongly assertive expression of love unfulfilled.