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Caroline of Edinburgh Town
(Laws P27; Roud 398)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, September 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Tom Lenihan

Now gentlemen and maidens, come listen to my rhyme,
Tis of a lovely maiden who is scarcely in her prime.
She beat the blooming roses, she was admired by all.
She being once a lovely Caroline from Edinburgh Town.

Young Henry being a highlander, sure, courting her he came.
Her parents came to hear of it, they did not like that same.
Young Henry being a highlander, he stole her finest gown,
So away goes lovely Caroline from Edinburgh Town.

They being no longer in London Town, scarcely one half year,
When Henry proved to his true love, unkind and most severe.
He says one day, “You must go and see, for your friends, they did on me frown;
So be on your way without delay to Edinburgh Town.”

Oppressed with grief, without relief, this fair one had to go
Into the woods to pick some fruit that on the branches grew.
Tis there some friends would welcome her, and more would on her frown,
And some would say, “Why did you stray from Edinburgh Town.”

It was on a stone she wrote a note saying, “Alas, I am no more.”
A lock of her hair she did leave there to grieve him more and more.
She gave three screams for Henry and threw her body down,
And that was the last of Caroline from Edinburgh Town.

"In spite of the enormous popularity enjoyed by this song among traditional singers, it has come in for a great deal of criticism from collectors and scholars. Malcolm J Laws described such pieces as 'cheap, vulgar and journalistic' and, in a somewhat patronising note to the Dorset version, Frank Purslow compared it to the melodramas 'which tatty little theatrical troupes performed in makeshift theatres at the village fairs'. He suggested that it was so common that 'few collectors bothered with it'. Gavin Greig treated it more kindly in stating, 'This is a favourite ballad with the folk-singer', and had the insight to admit that 'the tragic element is managed with very considerable skill'.
Ref: ‘American Balladry From British Broadsides’, G Malcolm Laws Jnr., pub. American Folklore Society, 1957; ‘Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection’, Vol. 6, eds. Shuldham-Shaw/Lyle/Petrie, pub. Mercat Press, 1995.
Other recordings: Belle Stewart, ‘The Stewarts of Blair’, Topic 12T 138 / Ossian OSS CD 96."

The above commentary, lyrics and recording are taken from ‘Around the Hills of Clare: Songs and Recitations from the Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie Collection’ (2004) Musical Traditions Records MTCD331-2/Góilín Records 005-6.


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