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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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Bells of Shandon

Ellen Emma Power

Bells of Shandon / Ellen Emma Power

Bells of Shandon, song (With deep affection and recollection, I often think on those Shandon Bells …) This song was composed by the Rev Francis Mahoney (Father Prout, 1804–1866). In this nostalgic song, the protagonist remembers the sound of the church bells being rung in St Anne’s Church, Shandon, Co Cork.

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Dear old Newfoundland

Gerald Campbell

Dear old Newfoundland / Gerald Campbell

Dear old Newfoundland, song (Twas just a year ago today I left my Emerald's Isle …) Originally recorded by John Barr (also known as Little John Cameron) in 1967 under the title “Tribute to Newfoundland,” this song is an account of the similarities between Ireland and Newfoundland. The melody is similar to that used by Ewan MacColl for his song, “Come my little son.”

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Down by the riverside

Minnie Murphy

Down by the riverside / Minnie Murphy

Down by the riverside, song (When I was young and in my prime my age scarce twenty-one …) This song tells the tale of a man whose parents force him to marry a woman of higher social status, forsaking the woman he loves. He later murders his wife because he cannot live with his choice. He is sentenced to hang for his crimes.  After Minnie Murphy finished her performance, one of the men present in the room comments that he sometimes heard this song in the lumber camps of western Newfoundland. Little is known about the origins of the song, though the reference to Wexford Gaol suggests a possible southeast Ireland connection. Variants, including that collected by MacEdward Leach from John James of Trepassey, Newfoundland, have been recorded almost exclusively in Newfoundland.

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India's burning shore

Tom Murphy & Minnie Murphy

India's burning shore / Tom Murphy & Minnie Murphy

India's burning shore, song (As I strayed beneath those lofty pines on India’s burning shore …) Also known as the “Irish Patriot,” this song tells the story of a man whose wife and child are killed when he refuses to fight for his landlord’s rebel army. He takes revenge by killing his landlord and thereafter must forever live in exile, though he dreams of returning to Ireland to be buried beside his wife.  The origins of this song are unknown; Robert B Waltz and David G Engle note that it is found predominantly along North America’s eastern seaboard. The song seems to have had some popularity in lumbering camps during the early 20th century.

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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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Siúl a ghrá

Ellen Emma Power

Siúl a ghrá / Ellen Emma Power

Siúl a ghrá, song (Oh I'll go up in yonder hill …) Ellen Emma Power introduces this song as simply, “an Irish Song.” It tells the story of a woman whose lover has gone to France; she is left behind to wait for his unlikely return.  Though the Irish language had died out in Newfoundland by the early 20th century, certain words and phrases persist as evidence of the strong linkages between the two islands. In Ellen Emma Power’s performance, the pronunciation of the Irish words is phonetic only; the meanings of the words have been lost. 

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The Blackwater side

Caroline Brennan

The Blackwater side / Caroline Brennan

The Blackwater side, song (Ye lads of this nation of low and high station, I pray pay attention and listen to me …) Caroline Brennan introduces “The Blackwater side” with a story about her grandmother, “Irish Biddy,” and the time that she spent working in the Sweetman Company’s sail loft in Placentia. This was one of the songs that she sang to remember Ireland.  The song tells the story of a couple who court on the banks of the Blackwater. A variant version of “The Blackwater side” was collected by Kenneth Peacock in 1951 and published in Songs of the Newfoundland Outports 2 (1965:503–504).

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The girls from Newfoundland

Henry Nash

The girls from Newfoundland / Henry Nash

The girls from Newfoundland, song (There's a girl in St. John's Harbour that I'm longing now to see …) This wartime song is sung to the tune of “The yellow rose of Texas.” The protagonist is a soldier remembering his sweetheart in St John’s, Newfoundland.

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The Irish colleen

Jack Mooney

The Irish colleen / Jack Mooney

The Irish colleen, song (I went to a party consisting of four …) This song describes a party at which four toasts are proposed: a Welsh girl toasts a leek, a Scottish girl toasts a thistle, an English girl toasts a rose, and an Irish girl toasts a shamrock and Ireland.

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The lovely Irish rose

Eta Nash

The lovely Irish rose / Eta Nash

The lovely Irish rose, song (A winding welard winds its way out to a lovely Irish home …) Composed by Fred Kearney of Carndonagh, Co Donegal, this song was available widely on commercial 78rpm records during the 1930s and ‘40s (McBride 1988:114–15). In more recent years, it was recorded by well-known Newfoundland singers Harry Hibbs (More Harry Hibbs, Arc Sound, 1968) and Eddie Coffey (Live at the Newfoundlander, Country Records, 1978).  Eta Nash learned “The lovely Irish rose” in order to sing it at a school concert.

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The mountains of Mourne

Frankie Nash & Stephanie Nash

The mountains of Mourne / Frankie Nash & Stephanie Nash

The mountains of Mourne, song (Oh Mary this London's a wonderful sight ...) William Percy French (1854–1920) of Co. Roscommon wrote the lyrics to this song around 1896 on a postcard that he then sent to music-hall composer William Houston Collison. The song tells the story of an Irishman working away from home in London, recounting both the strange things he sees and his longing to be home. Newfoundland song scholar Anna Kearney Guigné writes: “The song’s mass appeal may be attributed more to modern media than tradition. The song was popularized by the Australian tenor Peter Dawson (1882–1961)” (2016:274). Dawson’s recordings apparently were in circulation in at least some Newfoundland localities.  To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Frankie Nash’s passing, his granddaughter, Stephanie Nash, used a field recording of Frankie singing “The Mountains of Mourne” in his kitchen as the basis of her version of the song. Her version, recorded in 2016, overdubs the original field recording.

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