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Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold
(Laws N17; Roud 553)
Peggy McMahon
Cloonlaheen, Doolough

Recorded in singer's home, October 2000
Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

It’s about a rich nobleman's daughter,
Most comely and handsome was she,
Her father possessed a large portion,
Of thirty-five thousand a year.
He had but one only daughter,
Caroline is her name we are told,
One day from her drawing-room window
She admired a young sailor bold.

His cheeks were as red as the roses,
And his skin like the falling snow,
Caroline watched his departure,
Walked 'round and young William she met.
Said she, "I'm a rich nobleman's daughter,
Possessed of ten thousand and more,
I'll forsake my father and mother
And wed with my young sailor bold."

Said he, "My noble lady,
Your parents you’re bound for to mind,
In sailors there is no dependence,
They may leave their true lovers behind.
Be advised, stay at home with your parents,
And do by them as you are told,
Never let anyone tempt you
To wed with a young sailor bold."

Said she, "There’s no one to prevent me
One moment to alter my mind,
I’ll slip and be off with my true love
And he never shall leave me behind."
She dressed herself up like a sailor,
In trousers and jacket of blue,
Three years and a half on the ocean
She sailed in her jacket of blue.

Many times her lover was shipwrecked,
But he always proved constant and true,
Her duty she did like a sailor,
While dressed in her jacket of blue.
Till at last the wind blew in their favour,
They hoisted their flag in full glee.
Until they arrived safe in England,
Caroline and her young sailor bold.

Caroline went straight home to her father
In trousers and jacket of blue.
He received her that moment and fainted
When first she appeared in his view.
She cried out, "Dear father, forgive me,
Deprive me of silver and gold,
But grant me one request on contented
To wed with my young sailor bold."

When her father admired young Willie,
He vowed them in sweet unity.
"If their life should be spared until morning
Together they married would be."
They got married and Caroline's portion
Full thirty-five thousand and more.
And now they are happy and cheerful
Caroline and her young sailor bold.


"References to the drawing room in virtually all versions of this song suggest it was the composition of a parlour-poet or broadside hack rather than of the old ballad-makers; this is confirmed by the number of times it has appeared on broadsides. Its form has hardly altered down the ages and it has remained a firm favourite with country singers in Britain, Ireland and America. Its popularity is undoubtedly due to its familiar theme of a genteel lady, faced with parental opposition to her choice of sailor lover, going to sea in search of him dressed as a sailor, surviving the various dangers including many shipwrecks, finally finding him and returning triumphantly to her once outraged family – who could possibly ask for more? O Lochlainn got his version ‘from a young girl in the Roscrea area named Maírín, whose surname I forget’ in 1935; he amusedly commented that she sang ‘Caroline viewed his departments’ rather than Peggy’s ‘watched his departure’, or ‘viewed his deportment’ as found elsewhere.”

Reference:
More Irish Street Ballads, Colm O Lochlainn, Three Candles Press, Dublin 1965.
Jim Carroll


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