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Lady in Her Father’s Garden
(Laws N42; Roud 264)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded 1980

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Tom Lenihan

There was a fair maid in her father’s garden
When a gentleman, he was passing by.
He stood a while for to gaze upon her,
Saying, ‘Fairest lady, will you marry me?’

‘I am no lady kind sir,’ she answered,
‘But a poor girl of a low degree.
So now my dear chose some other fair one
For I’m not fitting to wed with thee.’

‘Well I have houses, land and riches
And plenty of money to give to thee.
If you’ll come with me love, a lady you’ll be
With plenty of servants to wait on thee.’

‘There is seven years since I had a true love,
And seven years since I did him see.
And seven more I will wait upon him,
For if he’s alive he’ll come back to me.’

‘There is seven years since you had a true love,
And seven years since you did him see.
And seven more you will wait upon him,
And perhaps that young man you’ll never see.’

‘If he is sick, I wish him better,
And if he's dead, well I wish him rest.
And if he’s alive, I will wait upon him,
For he’s the young man that I love best.’

He put his hand down in his pocket,
His lily-white fingers being thin and small.
And up between them he drew a gold ring,
And when she saw it, she down did fall.

He took her up all in his arms,
And gave her kisses most tenderly.
‘I am your sweetheart and single sailor
That came from sea port to wed with thee.’

‘If you’re my sweetheart and single sailor,
Your face and features seem strange to me.
But seven years makes a long alteration,
And a raging sea between you and me.

If I had you in some lonesome valley
A thousand miles from your native home.
It is there sweetheart between two mountains,
‘Tis there sweetheart I’d call you, my own.’


“This is probably one of the most popular of all the 'broken token’ songs, in which parting lovers are said to break a ring in two, each half being kept by the man and woman. At their reunion, the man produces his half as a proof of his identity. Robert Chambers, in his Book of Days (1862-1864) describes a betrothal custom using a 'gimmal' or linked ring:

'Made with a double and sometimes with a triple link, which turned upon a pivot, it could shut up into one solid ring... It was customary to break these rings asunder at the betrothal which was ratified in a solemn manner over the Holy Bible, and sometimes in the presence of a witness, when the man and woman broke away the upper and lower rings from the central one, which the witness retained. When the marriage contract was fulfilled at the altar, the three portions of the ring were again united, and the ring used in the ceremony'.

The custom of exchanging rings as a promise of fidelity lasted well into the nineteenth century in Britain and was part of the plot of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. These 'Broken Token' songs often end with the woman flinging herself into the returned lover's arms and welcoming him back. Tipperary Travelling woman, Mary Delaney, who also sang it for us, knew it differently and had the suitor even more firmly rejected:

For it's seven years brings an alteration,
And seven more brings a big change to me,
Oh, go home young man, choose another sweetheart,
Your serving maid I'm not here to be!”

Reference:
The Book of Days, Robert Chambers, W & R Chambers, 1863-64.

Jim Carroll

See also

Lady in her Father's Garden sung by Peggy McMahon
Young and Single Sailor sung by Ollie Conway


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