Barbara Allen

Barbara Allen, song / Hazel Hornsby, singing in English

Barbara Allen, song / Hazel Hornsby, singing in English


Riddle answer

’Twas in the merry month of May
When green leaves they were springing
A young man on his sick-bed lay
For the love of Barbary Ellen

He took sick and like to die
So very bad was he
He sent his coach-man with full speed
To the place where she was dwelling

So slowly, slowly she walked along
To the bedside where he was lying
And when she looked into his face
She said ‘Young man, ye’re dying.’

‘I am not dying, my love,’ says he
‘One kiss from you will cure me.’
‘One kiss from me you never shall get
While my name ’tis Barbary Ellen.'

He turned his head and gave a grunt
Expression of his sorrow
He willed to Barbary all his b’longings
And then he died the morrow

As she was going down the street
She met his corpse a’coming:
‘Set ye down my little brae boys
And let I gaze upon him.'

The more she gazed the more she laughed
The further she drew from him
Till all her friends cried out, ‘For shame!
Cruel-hearted Barbary Ellen.’

He was buried in the old churchyard
When she dies lay her beside him
For in death she wished to be his bride
Though in life she couldn’t abide him.

Db Item A53 Musictr
Db Item A53 Musictr


Notes from Hugh Shields

Many straight versions of this common ballad are known in Ireland, as well as an apparent play-song variant (see Shields’s “Old British ballads in Ireland” in Folklife 10 [1972:90–93]; Shields Index no 35). The modern broadside was printed from Dr Hazel Hornsby’s singing and circulated locally (see Shields 1972:78). In verse 5 i, Hugh Shields suggests that she sings “groan.” In 6 iii, “brae” may represent “brave,” or perhaps “Bray”; the Hornsbys lived in Bray, Co Wicklow.