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Banna's banks

Caroline Brennan

Banna's banks / Caroline Brennan

Banna's banks, song (As down by Banna's Banks I strayed one evening in May …) This 18th-century broadside ballad is more commonly known as “Molly Asthore.” Composition is credited to Wexford politician George Ogle (1739–1814). The protagonist of the song wanders by the shore (Co Kerry), thinking back on an estranged lover.  Caroline Brennan learned this song from her grandmother.

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Brennan on the moor

Patsy Judge

Brennan on the moor / Patsy Judge

Brennan on the moor, song (It's of a fearless highwayman the truth to you I'll tell …) Probably of Irish origin, this broadside ballad tells the story of folk hero and highwayman Willie Brennan, who was tried and hanged in Clonmel in 1804. Some versions of this song place Brennan in the mountains near Limerick; other versions depict Brennan on the highways of North Cork and South Tipperary.  Patsy Judge’s version references the Comeragh Mountains, perhaps a nod to the ancestry of the people of the Cape Shore, whose origins were mainly in Ireland’s southeast.

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Donald Monroe

Albert Roche

Donald Monroe / Albert Roche

Donald Monroe, song (Come all ye good men that's inclined for to roam, to seek for employment …) A variant of the 18th-century Scottish broadside, “Donald Munro,” this murder ballad tells the tale of a man who immigrates to America, leaving his sons behind as he cannot afford their fares. They follow in search of their father seven years later. They are attacked by highwaymen and killed. As they lay dying, their murderer realises that he has killed his two sons.  This song was widely sung in Newfoundland and several versions collected there, with the result that it exists with a number of different melodies and configurations of lyrics. Kenneth Peacock published three different versions in his Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 3 (1965:812–16). MacEdward Leach also recorded several versions.

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Fireman's story of a brave volunteer, recitation

John Joe English

Fireman's story of a brave volunteer, recitation / John Joe English

This recitation tells the story of the heroic deeds of a train engineer who rescues a woman from being run down by a train. He is grossly disfigured in the incident, but she nevertheless falls in love with him and proposes marriage.

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Jack was a sailor on board a whaler

Caroline Brennan

Jack was a sailor on board a whaler / Caroline Brennan

Jack was a sailor on board a whaler, song (Jack was a sailor on board of a whaler ...) This children’s son features a sailor named Jack. A friend asks him to pay a debt, and Jack responds, “You’ll have to wait till my ship comes in.” When Jack later survives a shipwreck and his friend makes the same demand, Jack gives the same excuse.  Though the song follows a standard verse-and-refrain form, the metric structure of the song is somewhat unusual: verses are sung in triple metre and choruses are in duple metre, matching shifts in the narration from third to first person.

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Me and me chum Johnny Riley

Frankie Nash

Me and me chum Johnny Riley / Frankie Nash

Me and me chum Johnny Riley, song  (One day as we went out for a walk …) Written by Newfoundland songwriter Johnny Burke (“The Bard of Prescott Street”), this song tells the story of two friends who share everything. While songs about a character named Reilly/Riley are popular in Ireland, England, and throughout North America, this song originates in Newfoundland (Partyka in Narváez 2006:11).

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Morrissey and the Russian bear

Denis McGrath

Morrissey and the Russian bear / Denis McGrath

Morrissey and the Russian bear, song (Come all ye gallant Irishmen wherever that you be …) This ballad relates the tale of 19th-century Irish prize-fighter Johnny Morrissey and a boxing match that lasted twenty-eight rounds between him and a Russian sailor

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My boy Willie

John Joe English

My boy Willie / John Joe English

My boy Willie, song (The sailing trade is a weary life …) This English broadside ballad is also known as “The sailor boy” or “Sweet William.” It is widely anthologised and recorded, with variant versions transforming Willie from a sailor to a lumberjack. It recounts the pain of a woman who is left behind when a loved one goes to sea and dies far from home.  This song was among John Joe English’s favourite songs.

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Only a face in the firelight

 Petchie Nash & Frankie Nash

Only a face in the firelight / Petchie Nash & Frankie Nash

Only a face in the firelight, song (I was seated one night by the hearthstone ...) Written by American composer Charles Shackford, this song was recorded by tenor James McCool in 1904 (Victor 2732). This sentimental song describes someone dreaming of a deceased lover while slumbering by a fireside.

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Patrick Reilly

Emma Doyle

Patrick Reilly / Emma Doyle

Patrick Reilly, song (My name is Patrick Reilly and the truth I will make known …) This ballad relates the story of a certain Patrick Reilly, who plans to emigrate to America to seek his fortune. His sweetheart asks him not to leave, and then accuses him of attempted murder when he persists in his intent. Reilly is charged and sentenced to die. He never sees America.  Variants of this song exist throughout Newfoundland. For example, a version was published by Kenneth Peacock in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 1 (1965:159–160). Another variant was collected by MacEdward Leach.

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Quigley and Picco

Bernard Nash ; Tom Murphy

Quigley and Picco / Bernard Nash ; Tom Murphy

Quigley and Picco, song (Ye sons of Erin please pay attention …) Originally published in the St John’s Evening Telegram on 24 December 1891 (vol. 13/291:19) and reproduced as “Quigley on Picco” in James Murphy’s Old Songs of Newfoundland (1912), this song was composed by Johnny Quigley—the “Bard of Erin” (for details about Quigley and the history of this song, visit the GEST Song Index). During the 19th century, sectarian tensions marked Newfoundland society and politics. Though tensions between Catholic and Protestant populations were dissipated through political negotiations, power sharing, and alliances between partisans, there were moments of violence during the 1870s and ‘80s.  When Aidan O’Hara recorded “Quigley and Picco” a century later, those present remarked that one had to be careful about singing such songs; there was a time when performing it would have been considered treasonous.

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The fair Fanny Moore

Patsy Judge

The fair Fanny Moore / Patsy Judge

The fair Fanny Moore, song (Yonder stands a cottage all deserted and alone...) This murder ballad most likely has its origins in the Irish or English broadside presses, though it is much more commonly heard in North American contexts. Newfoundland song scholar Anna Kearney Guigné speculates that the song gained “new life in the New World through its dissemination by way of oral tradition in such contexts as the lumber camps alongside such media as print and recordings” (2016:122).  In other versions of this song, the wealthy suitor is named Randal and Fanny’s true love (a poor shepherd) is named Henry. In Patsy’s version of the song, the names are used interchangeably; it seems probable that this was simply a memory slip.

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