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Georgie
(Child 209; Roud 90)
Mrs Casey
Recorded in Conway’s Bar, Mullagh July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

As I roved out in a May morning,
A May morning so early,
Whom did I spy but a pretty, pretty maid
She lamenting the life of her Georgie.

I wish I were in London brave
‘Tis there I’d have sweethearts plenty
With a sword and a pistol down by my side,
Oh I’d fight for the life of my Georgie.

My Georgie never killed a man,
No, nor neither robbed a lady.
My Georgie is of real royal blood,
Oh, he courted a virtuous lady.

My Georgie never killed a man,
No, nor neither robbed a lady.
He stole a pair of the King’s pretty maids,
And he gave them to Lord Taily.

I wish I were in London brave,
‘Tis there I’d have sweethearts plenty.
With a sword and a pistol down by my side,
Oh, I’d fight for the life of my Georgie.

Conversation after song between Mrs. Casey, Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll:
Jim: You learned that from Joe Mooney?
Mrs. Casey: His mother, his mother, she’s dead, she was about ninety when she died and she’s dead fifty years ago and that’s a hundred and forty.

“We were staggered when Mrs Casey, whom we only met once, burst into these verses of the Child ballad ‘Geordie’ towards the end of a recording session in Ollie Conway’s bar in Mullagh. She said she remembers hearing it sung ‘years and years ago’ by a 90 year old woman neighbour. The ballad was fairly popular with English and Scots traditional singers in the early part of the 20th century and it continued to appear there in fragmentary form, but it has only once before appeared in Ireland, in Belfast in the 1950s. It has never been reported in either printed or oral form in the Republic of Ireland. Of the versions reported throughout the 20th century, the majority have been from the United States. The earliest reports of the ballad date back to 1610; down the centuries it has taken two distinct forms, most ending tragically, but with some having the wife buy the condemned man’s freedom; it has been argued that they were two different ballads. The plot remains basically unaltered; Geordie (or Georgie) is imprisoned for stealing the king’s royal deer and condemned by the court before his wife arrives to ransom him; because he comes of royal blood he is hanged in golden chains.
Francis James Child suggests an identification of Georgie with George Gordon, fourth Earl of Huntly. Collector Lucy Broadwood refers to a Roxburghe text: ‘A lamentable new ditty made upon the death of a worthy gentleman named George Stoole’ (who was actually hanged in 1610), and also another, “The Life and Death of George of Oxford” to a pleasant tune called “Poor Georgy”.’ Miss Broadwood said that there are a number of Scottish and English versions, totally distinct but with here and there a verse in common. Possibly there were in fact two quite distinct songs, with two distinct origins, but Kidson (a Yorkshire collector) thinks there was probably an early common source.

This is a version as sung by the renowned Norfolk singer Harry Cox in the first part of the 1950s:

As I walked over London Bridge
One midsummer's morning early.
And there I beheld a fair lady.
Lamenting for her Georgie.

"I pray can you send me a little boy
Who can go an errand swiftly?
Who can go ten miles in one hour
With a letter for a lady."

"So come saddle me my best black horse.
Come saddle it quite swiftly.
So I may ride to the King's Castle Gaol
And beg for the life of me Georgie."

So when she got to the castle door
The prisoners stood many;
They all stood around with their caps in their hands
Excepting her bonny, bonny Georgie.

"My Georgie never stole neither horse nor cow.
Nor done any harm to any;
He stole sixteen of the king's fat deers
Which grieved me most of any."

"Now six pretty babes that are born by him,
The seventh lay at my bosom;
I would freely part with six of them
To spare the life of me Georgie."

Now the judge he looked over his left shoulder,
He seemed so very hard-hearted;
He said, "Fair lady, you are too late,
Your Georgie is condemned already."

"Now me Georgie shall be hanged in the chains of gold.
Such gold as they don't hang many.
Because he come of the royal blood,
And courted a very rich lady."

Now me Georgie shall be hanged in the chains of the gold.
Such gold as you don't see any;
And on the tombstone these words should be wrote –
"Here lays the heart of a lady."

Reference:
The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (new edition) Steve Roud and Julia Bishop (eds.) 2012
Jim Carroll


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